It was the greatest Oscar moment since they gave the golden statue to Al Gore, the Greatest Ham of All Time. (Idle thought: Should they change the name of the cold-cut company to “Gore’s Head?”) The irony of that wondrous occasion had been made even more delicious by the title of his mock-u-mentary: “An Inconvenient Truth.” But Sunday night’s epic snafu topped even that, the botched Best Picture Award quickly blamed on an accounting firm that had somehow misunderstood the import of “May I have the envelope please?”
The wonderfully inconvenient truth of Sunday evening was that, until the final Oscar was fumbled on the goal line, the TV audience and Hollywood’s high-and-mighties-in-conference-assembled had been monologized, soliloquized and homogenized around one key idea: that all the world’s troubles are Donald Trump’s fault. That world hunger, global warming, the right of every immigrant to cross every border and contravene any law, the right of every woman to abort her baby up to age 5, the right to indulge every form of sexual expression even if it spooks the livestock and, of course, the Universal Right of Health Care Paid for by Someone Else. All these are Hollywood’s core values. Should you oppose any one of them, you will never work in this town again, bucko. And if you oppose all of them, why then your name must be Donald Trump.
(Cue the booing to begin here).
Until the ghastly wardrobe malfunction of “Envelope-gate,” the glittering disinformation package had gone off without a hitch. Even afterward, you had to give ABC News credit for wonderfully smooth spin control. With perfectly straight faces, they insisted on “Good Morning America” that the snafu was proof-positive that Hollywood is in reality a supportive, loving community. Somehow, they must have missed seeing “Argo,” the 2012 movie that won Best Picture for its portrayal of a CIA deception operation during the Iranian hostage crisis. Among its spot-on cast: John Goodman as a Hollywood insider who insisted that the CIA deception would fit in perfectly with a culture where everyone routinely lied to everyone else and truth was defined as anything appearing in the script.
Speaking of lying: While “Argo” was showing at your local theater, UCLA political scientist Tim Groseclose published “Left Turn,” a pioneering effort to quantify the “PQ” – or political quotient of the major media outlets. Not surprisingly, he concluded that “all major media outlets have a liberal bias” that offsets the conservative slant of The Washington Times or Fox News. While those findings may have only confirmed your most recent conversation with your spouse over morning coffee, professor Groseclose also found that this consistently leftward slant had shifted popular attitudes to the left, perhaps by as much as 20 percentage points. This growing body of evidence began with Bernie Goldberg’s, “Bias,” in 2001 and was most recently joined by Sharyl Attkisson’s expose, “Stonewalled,” in 2014.
Our media establishment resonates and reinforces Hollywood values – an interlocking directorate of the new American left. Given their near monopoly over the public discourse, the wonder is that Donald Trump ever won, the flood tides of disinformation still dominating every news cycle. But is that current strategic advantage permanent, making our constitutional republic the first great casualty of the Information Age?
No, but it will take a lot more than occasional presidential Tweets to set things right. Moviemakers and press moguls share a common vulnerability: They expect other people’s money to pay their salaries, a long-accepted verity that may be changing:
- The classic American ideal of First Amendment freedom has always assumed that shoddy journalism was best answered by better journalism, not heavy-handed suppression. Both radio and television license the public airwaves – an important common birthright – in ways that try to guarantee the free expression of our political values. But how well is that freedom protected in the new age of institutional media bias? In particular: Should the Federal Communications Commission worry more about insuring media objectivity?
- Movie and press moguls sometimes behave as if the socialist agenda had already been realized, their box offices and program sponsors immune from the free market. In fact, Hollywood is a business exquisitely attuned to changing popular tastes. Nearly a decade ago, they were shocked when overtly religious movies like “Facing the Giants,” “Fireproof” and “Courageous” succeeded in head-to-head competition with the usual filth.
- Finally, the greatest potential application for social media may be as a counterweight to mass media. Ordinary Americans may even be able to fight back against political and moral choices now being dictated in New York and Hollywood. Why not use this highly disruptive technology to level that playing field?
A version of this piece also appeared on Washington Times