In 'The Newsroom's' Alternate Universe, Insulting the Tea Party Is Controversial

In 'The Newsroom's' Alternate Universe, Insulting the Tea Party Is Controversial

The editors at Breitbart News love giving me onerous assignments.

While on staff, I’ve visited eight different Occupy Wall Street encampments, was in Lansing, MI two feet from union thugs as they ripped down the Americans for Prosperity tent and now I’m forced to cover the entire second season of the HBO/Aaron Sorkin drama The Newsroom.

I’ve been on assignment in Florida covering the verdict and aftermath of the George Zimmerman trial for the past two weeks, so I have some catching up to do. Debunking the liberal mythology embedded in each episode of The Newsroom is a full-time job and an important one. The HBO show further fictionalizes real news stories and, because of HBOGo and the home video market, will be around for years. It’s a misinformation storm that needs to be corrected.

If you aren’t familiar with the series–which I’ve written about previously–it’s an episodic, long-narrative drama series set at at fictional cable news network. It shows the lives, loves and backstage drama of putting out a nightly news show. The show is set roughly two years in the past, which allows Sorkin to gleefully write revisionist history of real news events like the run-up to the 2012 election and Occupy Wall Street. Both subjects are major plot elements in season two.

The show’s lead character, anchorman Will McAvoy (Jeff Daniels) is…wait for it…a Republican! But he’s a Republican who spends most of his time attacking GOP politicians and their positions, while ceaselessly fighting for liberal causes.

Just like Sen. John McCain.

I kid, I kid! Seriously, Daniels is totes different from McCain; he’s much taller. Imagine if McCain and Sen. Lindsay Graham had adopted Keith Olbermann and dyed his hair blonde.

This season, there’s an arching plot premise that runs through at least the first three episodes of The Newsroom that would cause any semi-sentient viewer to suspend disbelief right away. It relates to bizarro-world that Sorkin has created where obnoxious liberalism is something rare and brave.

The specific premise this season is that Will McAvoy’s Tea Party insult from last season would have created several plot lines worth of political blowback. In this alternate universe, a monologue comparing the Tea Party to the Taliban causes such a stir that McAvoy is forced to step down from hosting a 9/11 themed show and is condemned Congress. The July 28 episode also showed reporters not being allowed to ride on the Romney campaign bus for asking too many tough questions.

Yes, really.

Sorkin has created a world where the Mitt Romney campaign took revenge on a news organization after one of their anchors insulted the Tea Party. No, the show is not a comedy.

Back in the real world, insulting the Tea Party in an extreme and unfair manner was practically a pre-requisite for gainful media employment in 2010/2011. Tea Partiers have been targets for the mainstream media to the point where they felt the need to shout ‘Tell the truth!” and “No more lies” to a CNN reporter in the field. Would comparing the Tea Party to an American Taliban really have generated negative consequences? Not a chance.

Let’s start with the most glaring thing; DailyKos founder Markos Moulitsas actually released a book in September 2010 entitled (you guessed it) American Taliban with the subtitle How War, Sex, Sin, and Power Bind Jihadists and the Radical Right, where he spent pages attacking ‘teabaggers.’ Markos’s book got this review blurb from MSNBC host Rachel Maddow:

It isn’t possible to understand American politics now without understanding the worldview and arguments of Markos Moulitsas. If you still believe the beltway caricature of the squishy, compromising, conciliatory American left, American Taliban should disabuse you of that notion.”

There’s the unfortunately non-fictional Keith Olbermann, whose frequent screeds against the Tea Party were never the issue that caused his downfall. Olbermann played the race card and asked whether the Tea Party was a “White People’s Party?” In October 2010, K.O. warned that if the Tea Party wins, America loses, calling Tea Party candidates:

“a group of unqualified, unstable individuals who will do what they are told, in exchange for money and power, and march this nation as far backward as they can get, backward to Jim Crow, or backward to the breadlines of the ’30s, or backward to hanging union organizers, or backward to the Trusts and the Robber Barons.

CNN’s Piers Morgan compared the Tea Party to fascists and insulted their intelligence in June 2011, when he asked guest Ann Coulter:

Where is the similar mob to Mussolini’s and Hilter’s in the modern democratic era? The Tea Party?

These insults, and many more spread by news anchors, were echoed a thousandfold by entertainers. Apparently even HBO doesn’t exist in The Newsroom universe, since it ignores Bill Maher, the spiteful suit-wearing stoner who hosts HBO’s Real Time with Bill Maher. In an appearance on CBS’s The Late Show with David Letterman, Maher referred to Tea Party members as ‘corporate America’s useful idiots’, pondered ‘if any fact could get in that tinfoil helmet’ and said plainly, ‘I don’t have any respect for Tea Baggers.’

If Sorkin had wanted to create a controversial non-Fox News TV news anchor, he would have made him a supporter of the Tea Party, not a critic. This character would have faced real boycotts, protests and suffered the wrath of the Obama administration; like the IRS scandal has shown, this would have gone far beyond not being allowed on the campaign bus for a day.

This Tea Party anchor would have stood up against the mainstream media narrative and exposed the daily lies, bias and laziness of his colleagues and, of course, since he’d be the star of the show, he would have bested the liberal media complex time and time again.

Some things are too far fetched even for fiction, however.