In a shocking development, Jonathan Chait of New York magazine has finally admitted what I and other conservatives have been claiming for decades: Hollywood is a leftist town, and they ladle their leftism into their programming. As I wrote in my bestselling book, Primetime Propaganda: The True Hollywood Story of How The Left Took Over Your TV (Harper Collins, 2011), the Hollywood left doesn’t even try to hide this fact from their friends; when I wore a Harvard Law baseball cap and a Jewish surname into their offices and they assumed I was a liberal, they were all too happy to tell me about how they had used their medium for “social justice.”
But Chait has now broken the taboo as an actual member of the left. “You don’t have to be an especially devoted consumer of film or television (I’m not) to detect a pervasive, if not total, liberalism,” he writes. “In short, the world of popular culture increasingly reflects a shared reality in which the Republican Party is either absent or anathema. That shared reality is the cultural assumptions, in particular, of the younger voters whose support has become the bedrock of the Democratic Party.”
This must be a shock to many on the left who have somehow convinced themselves that Hollywood bias isn’t real – and to many on the right who assume it doesn’t matter. It is real, and it does matter. There’s an episode of The Twilight Zone, “The Howling Man,” in which a wayfarer discovers a monastery. In that monastery, he stumbles on a cell with, he is told by a guardian priest, Satan inside. The man doesn’t believe that Satan is real, and so he releases the prisoner. Sure enough, it’s Satan. The man’s conclusion: man’s failure to recognize Satan has allowed him to wreak havoc.
America’s failure to recognize Hollywood for what it is has allowed Hollywood to do its business in the dark. Now Chait has shined a light.
Chait even gives the litany of how Hollywood has backed the Obama campaign foursquare:
A member of President Obama’s reelection team recently told New York’s John Heilemann that it plans on painting its opponent as a man out of time–Mitt Romney is “the fifties, he is retro, he is backward.” This may sound at first blush like a particular reference to Romney’s uptight persona, but the line of attack would have been available against any Republican nominee–Rick Santorum, Michele Bachmann, Rick Perry, or any other of the dour reactionaries who might have snatched the nomination. The message is transmitted in a thousand ways, both obvious and obscure: Tina Fey’s devastating portrayal of Sarah Palin. Obama appearing on Late Night With Jimmy Fallon to “slow jam the news,” which meant to recite his campaign message of the week. The severed head of George W. Bush appearing on Game of Thrones. An episode of Mad Men that included the odd throwaway line “Romney’s a clown,” putatively to describe George Romney, who was anything but.
Unbelievably, Chait even admits that conservatives have a right to be upset:
When Joe Biden endorsed gay marriage in May, he cited Will & Grace as the single-most important driving force in transforming public opinion on the subject. In so doing he actually confirmed the long-standing fear of conservatives–that a coterie of Hollywood elites had undertaken an invidious and utterly successfully propaganda campaign, and had transmuted the cultural majority into a minority. Set aside the substance of the matter and consider the process of it–that is, think of it from the conservative point of view, if you don’t happen to be one. Imagine that large chunks of your entertainment mocked your values and even transformed once-uncontroversial beliefs of yours into a kind of bigotry that might be greeted with revulsion. You’d probably be angry, too.
And, of course, Chait is eminently correct. Hollywood wasn’t always liberal – it was started, in large measure, by conservative Jewish schmatta salesmen who believed in the power of entrepreneurship and the goodness of the American system. But it became liberal with the advent of Mad Men types taking over the industry. Now, its scorn for conservatism is evident in nearly every show, almost every movie.
And it has an impact. As Chait points out, television has dramatically shifted the social mores of Brazil, which has seen a dramatic drop in family size thanks to the inculcation of a more liberal value system by television honchos. In the United States, the effect isn’t quite so pronounced, but it’s certainly major.
Liberals often deny the presence of a liberal bias in Hollywood. This is sheer bunk, as those in Hollywood with whom I spoke admitted on tape. Chait agrees: “The market in popular culture is free, but for the liberal defense–no propagandizing here!–to be true, studios would have to be single-minded profit-maximizing machines. Most of them aren’t. Making money is their main goal, but they do blend profit with their artistic sensibility, which is heavily influenced by their ideological perspective.”
A broken clock is right twice a day, and Chait is right on the money here. Hollywood is left and has been for decades. It is the greatest tool in the arsenal of the left, in fact, because most people don’t even understand that it is a tool of the left. If culture is upstream of politics, as Andrew Breitbart posited, we’d expect Hollywood to wield outsized influence. And it does. As Chait writes:
For the most part, your television is not consciously attempting to alter your political beliefs. It is mainly transmitting an ethos in which greed is not only bad but the main wellspring of evil, authority figures of all kinds are often untrustworthy, sexual freedom is absolute, and social equality of all kinds is paramount. Within the moral universe of this culture, the merits of these values are self-evident. But to the large bloc of America that does not share this ethos, it looks like a smug, self-perpetuating collusion against them.
That’s because it is smug, self-perpetuating collusion, tempered by market forces. “We liberals owe not a small measure of our success to the propaganda campaign of a tiny, disproportionately influential cultural elite,” writes Chait. The American people have been lied to. We’ve been told that our entertainment was just that – entertainment, as opposed to propaganda. That was false. And Americans, by ignoring the problem, have allowed it to fester. Until conservatives wake up and realize that they won’t win back their country without winning back their culture, they will continue to lose their country to those who know how to manipulate emotions with script, lighting, and camerawork.