LOS ANGELES — If politics is truly located “downstream” from culture — as the late Andrew Breitbart was fond of saying — then three editors from Breitbart News and one Hollywood screen legend spent the afternoon on Friday knee-deep in the water, wading upstream through the muck.
Three firebrand culture warriors–Breitbart Senior Editor-at-Large Ben Shapiro, editor Milo Yiannopolous, and actor/singer/director/Big Hollywood contributor Robert Davi–took the stage Friday at PolitiCon for a panel titled “The Hollywood Wars.” Led by moderator and Breitbart Editor-in-Chief Alex Marlow, the panel deconstructed Hollywood’s impact on politics and offered their own predictions for what that influence might look like in the future.
“I would think so,” Davi confirmed, before explaining: “You’re just not invited to the party. You’re not going to the card games, or the fundraisers… All business is social, especially entertainment. ‘We’re doing this film, do you wanna be in it?’ But then if you’re not in their group, you’re not going to get it.”
“Also, Hollywood is a bunch of thieves,” he added. “They’re just like politicians, they’re corrupt. You go in and say, ‘I have an idea.’ Two years later, you’ll see it on some cable network, your exact idea that’s been cannibalized in some way.”
Marlow asked Shapiro if the cultural landscape had changed significantly since the release of his 2012 book Primetime Propaganda: The True Hollywood Story of How the Left Took Over Your TV, which examines how liberal gatekeepers use television to shape culture in America.
“Obviously, there’s a tremendous amount of bias in Hollywood,” Shapiro said. “It’s quite open, actually. You just have to be a leftist in order to see it, because people who discriminate don’t typically tell people they’re discriminating against that they’re victims of discrimination.”
Shapiro added that in Hollywood, “it’s not a question of leftist versus conservative, it’s a question of human versus non-human.”
You either agree with the people in Hollywood, which makes you human, or you disagree with the people in Hollywood which means you’re somewhat less than human. And the typical kind of litmus test right now is gay marriage. If you’re pro-gay marriage, then you’re a wonderful and decent human being. If you’re anti-gay marriage, then you’re a Nazi. And you will not work. There are certain positions you can hold as a conservative, abortion is getting closer to acceptable in Hollywood if you’re pro-life, but if you’re someone who believes that traditional marriage is superior to homosexual marriage, then that is obviously springing from your inherent bigotry, and you must be cast out like a leper.
By now, the rather large room hosting the panel on the second floor of the Los Angeles Convention Center had begun to fill up.
The conversation swung to Lena Dunham and the notion that Hollywood insists on forcing Americans to care about hyper-liberal, “hip” actresses even when nobody watches their shows. Yiannopoulos said that millennials, the very target demographic that Dunham’s show Girls looks to capture, especially don’t care about her show, or about any TV, for that matter.
“[Millennials] are not in the slightest bit interested in tuning into her show,” Yiannopoulos said. “They’re not interested in anything, not Empire, not Breaking Bad. Hollywood doesn’t have the same purchase over them.”
Instead, he argues, they’re increasingly playing video games and creating content themselves, most of it on the Internet. But even video games have come under fire from leftist social justice elements, something Yiannopoulos has spent much of the past year documenting. And even though the video game industry is now bigger than Hollywood, Yiannopoulos lamented that, as with Hollywood, the political right is “letting it go” on video games.
“The left is engaged in this process of attacking gamers and readers for imagined sins like racism, sexism, and transphobia on the basis that playing a game online can you make you a worse person in real life,” he said. “[The right] is not fighting on video games.”
The discussion then focused on the tools of narrative, which the panel agreed have a conservative bias.
“The left has taken all these right-wing tropes that they reject, and then they turn around and use them in their films,” said Shapiro. “The left uses the right’s tools and the right uses the left’s tools, and the right loses with the right message and the wrong tools, and the left wins with the wrong message and the right tools.”
“I look at it through a whole different prism,” added Davi. “In the past you had films like Death Wish and Dirty Harry. There’s something I have to go back to, when Cecil B. DeMille made the Ten Commandments. That was a big cultural moment; Judeo-Christian values at its apex… When that Noah film came out, there was a secularization in that experience.”
Still, Yiannopoulos sounded an optimistic note when he suggested that “culture is moving in a good direction,” mostly due to the rise of video games. He argued that, unlike Hollywood, video games promote conservative and libertarian values that are “baked into” the experience.
“There’s very little you can do to break that, however much messaging, however many paraplegic Armenian lesbians you put on Level 17,” he added. “There is a limit to how many leftist tropes and messages you can shoehorn in to a game about killing prostitutes, or shooting space aliens.”
Because politics are truly downstream from culture, the conversation was destined to end up on Republican presidential frontrunner Donald Trump.
Davi praised Trump’s “authenticity” and said he’d recently been in New York City, where he’d heard both a Pakistani taxi driver with six kids and women in their 20s and 30s say they were for Trump.
“If I was looking at all these politicians like I was an acting coach, and they’ve all said the same thing; one speaks like a Harvard law degree that’s been well-prepped… and I’ve heard them say the right things, and do nothing! They get in office, and do absolutely not a thing.”
“Trump captures the imagination of the public,” Davi added. “There’s a likability factor that’s unconscionable.”
“His name recognition makes a massive difference, because when you know someone, you’re willing to cut them some slack,” added Shapiro. “Everybody feels like they know Trump. He’ll never sink below 15 percent in the polls, kind of like Hillary.”
Yiannopoulos said millennials particularly connect with Trump because his campaign has tapped into the generation’s defining characteristics of mischief, joy, and a ridicule of the establishment.
“He’s almost a comment section come to life, and I mean that as a compliment,” Yiannopoulos said. “What I mean is he’s feisty, he’s irreverent, he’s rude: I think the guy’s brilliant. He speaks the way we all speak, if only we could get away with it. Look at the [political] figures who are rising and who are more popular than ever: they reject the language policing of the left.”
Milo added that the left’s preferred tactic for ending debate, by branding their opponents “racist” or “transphobic,” is becoming increasingly ineffective as the cultural climate slowly changes: “When they come at you and call you a misogynist, or a racist, or a transphobe, nothing bad happens if you just laugh at them. In fact, people will like you even more. And I think Trump is tapping in to that natural sense of defiance and mischief and irreverence that people now feel.”
Check out more highlights from Breitbart’s PolitiCon panel above.