book review of Primetime Propaganda
In this essay, we play the role of social critic. Reader discretion is advised.
We recently perused the book, Primetime Propaganda: The True Hollywood Story of How The Left Took Over Your TV, written by Ben Shapiro, 2011, Broadside Books (an imprint of Harper Collins publishers), 394 pages including appendix, notes and index.
The author makes 2 main points in his book, and we will address these at length. 1. Hollywood and the US television industry have a liberal bias and promote a liberal (leftist) agenda on the major issues of the day. 2. Many of the key players (writers, producers, directors, executives) are Jews. As the author is Jewish, he can expose this and not be labelled as “anti-Semitic” – although he leaves himself open to being smeared as a “self-hating Jew”, whatever that means. But there are other subsidiary questions raised in the book. Let us note these as well. Near the end of this essay, we will share some specific quotes from the book that are relevant.
the liberal bias
The author traces the history of television programming in the US from the 1950s to the present time. Please note that Mr. Shapiro actually interviewed many Hollywood insiders in the few years preceding publication of his book. Therefore, the reader gets a glimpse into the thinking of these insiders from their own words. In these personal interviews, many of these Hollywood insiders admit their bias and some admit that they have a liberal agenda to promote or push in the programs they write and/or produce. Such agendas are often contrary to traditional values.
A little historical context is needed here. After the debacle of 1968, the communists and radicals that presidents Truman and JFK had run out of the Democratic Party returned now calling themselves “liberals”. Television executives and writers opportunistically exploited the situation in the US, mainly the widespread opposition to the war in Vietnam. Programming began to include more treatment of various political or social issues. Prior to the late 1960s, television had only really weighed in on racism and civil rights in the US. The television industry was correct in condemning racism and supporting civil rights.
Mr. Shapiro’s principal complaint is that most social, or cultural issues that are treated in television, especially in the evening “prime time” programming, are not presented in a balanced way. If these issues are treated in a balanced manner, such treatment is very rare. (These elites do not want diversity in people’s thinking.) There is the presentation of all the major societal issues (since the 1960s to today) from a liberal viewpoint. The author cites many examples of one-sided presentations or treatments of various “controversial” issues in many different television series of various networks from the 1970s to the present.
The trivialization of sex and related issues is not good for children. Since the early 1970s, there has been more sex on US television. Much of this is implied or via innuendo, but now more of it is near explicit to explicit in a rather “soft-core” style. The author notes how the TV execs and producers kept pushing the limits of what they could “get away” with. While the government strove (in the 1970s) to reduce violence on television, it allowed more sex on the home TV screen. (Per the author, studies have shown that childhood exposure to sex on TV is more harmful to children than exposure to violence on TV.)
I think it tells a lot about us (Americans) as a people when you consider so many of our movies (our “entertainment”) are filled with violence and sex. Perhaps, these movies and television programs merely reflect a violent, promiscuous (and/or sexually frustrated) society. But all this exposure to violence and sex from early childhood can serve to make children and adolescents callous to the seriousness of sex and too accepting of, or indifferent to, violent behavior in society.
The author expresses, near the end of the book, optimism that Hollywood can reform itself, and present issues in a more balanced manner. He assumes the basic “goodness” of the liberals in the industry based on his personal interviews of many of these folks. Only time will tell, but it is hard to share this optimism. Why should these folks change? There are no serious pressures nor incentives for them to do so.
other relevant questions
Larger questions are raised by this book either explicitly or implicitly.
Is the programming (and the changes over time therein) on US television merely reflecting the changes that have occurred in society? Or, is the programming serving to reinforce and further those societal changes in mores, attitudes and behavior?
The question, perhaps not articulated early on, is what is the proper purpose of TV? Is its purpose to inform and/or entertain? Or, is the purpose to indoctrinate, at times subtly?
Or, looked at slightly differently: Is television in the US entertaining and informing the public or is a certain, subtle or not so subtle indoctrination or “re-education” going on?
Should we expect balanced treatment and fair and honest presentations of the various positions on the hot issues of our time?
Do we (in the consuming public) want a very liberal elite to be stifling open, balanced debate of serious societal issues?
the Jewish factor
Dear readers, we do not believe that any group in society ought to be above legitimate criticism. We have in earlier essays criticized the Communist Chinese (as a major threat to world peace), US doctors (for their abysmal ignorance and their refusal to admit errors), some Christians (for their cherry picking of Bible verses to legitimate their choices and actions that are often not moral), Muslims (for their wanton, blood thirsty violence across the world), radical feminists (for the destructive excesses of radical feminism), and US blacks (for their slavish support of President Barack Obama who has done nothing constructive for them, and for their own racism). And, we could criticize those white southerners who are still fighting the Civil War (or the War Between the States, or the War of Northern Aggression, if you prefer). As well, we have taken on Christian Zionists and Talmudic Jews before, in a lengthy essay in October, 2012. No doubt some readers may consider us as “racist” and/or “anti-Semitic”. However, name calling or ad hominem attacks only serve to stifle free and open debate. The blogosphere is, after all, a marketplace of ideas. Enough said.
One could view this book as a catalog of Jewish producers, writers, executives, etc. within the US television industry during the past 60 years. I had to put the book down at one point having read of so many individuals the author identifies as Jews. One after another after another being identified as “a Jewish kid . . . . “. It was becoming tiresome to read of this continuing litany of Jewish individuals with their respective axes to grind. One thing to note is that I was surprised to find out that some outspoken and politically active actors and actresses on TV were Jews that I had not known to be Jews.
Why the author’s seeming obsession with identifying so many key players in Hollywood and the television industry as being Jewish? I think that it is an attempt to account for the liberal bias in the industry. Basically, from the book, the industry is pretty much run by liberal Jews and they decide what content gets in to the programming. They decide how major social and/or political issues are presented on television.
A note of clarification is appropriate here. Many ethnic Jews, raised in an atheist or agnostic home, who do not have nor share what many would call “traditional values” are called “non-Jewish” Jews by more religiously minded Jews. (Another perplexing issue: “religiously minded Jews”. Many Orthodox rabbis are fighting, in the current culture war in the US, for a return to traditional family values and are opposed to the destructive licentiousness that has gripped US society since the 1960s. However, those rabbis who are immersed in the extremely chauvinistic writings of the Talmud are another issue all together.) These secular Jews are thus not religious Jews and cannot be expected to promote religious or traditional values.
(Now, there are conservative Jews in the media in the US. One thinks of 2 widely known radio talk show hosts, Mark Levin and Michael Savage – both of whom are conservative (both are social and political conservatives), and both men are Jews. Ben Stein is a conservative in Hollywood. (We heard Mr. Stein speak on a conservative cause at a dinner in the late 1990s in Oakland, California.) David Horowitz, a former 1960s leftist, has been for many years a conservative writer and speaker (after his rejection of leftist ideology in the mid 1970s). Horowitz is very critical of the Left, and of academia in the US.)
These liberal Jews of the television industry have undeniably contributed to altering or transforming the social fabric, the values and mores of society during the past 5 decades. Depending on your personal point of view, what they have helped to bring about is either “progressive” or “regressive”.
But, we can put this into an even broader context. The sad fact is that Jewish liberals or radicals have tended to be more aggressive in pushing their agenda. Many Jewish individuals are driven to want to transform society. But, these individuals are not guided by traditional moral values. They do not seek to reform society in an effort to curb abuses or social ills, but rather want revolutionary change. They are social revolutionaries, not social reformers. Equity feminism, which is a good thing, got hijacked in the 1960s by a few radical Jews, and now it is radical feminism which fosters antagonisms between the sexes. One thinks of 3 radical judicial activists currently on the US Supreme Court (Ginsburg, Breyer and Kagan). There are 3 strident, very aggressive US senators who seek radical change to our society and the gutting of the Bill of Rights (Schumer of New York, and Feinstein and Boxer of California). A little known fact, as it is not in the standard history texts in the high schools and the colleges, is that the Bolshevik Revolution in Russia was largely a Jewish affair. Not every Russian Jew was a communist, but the vast majority of communist leaders and agitators were ethnic Jews. (The same was true of the communists in Weimar Germany in the 1920s and very early 1930s.) And, much of the top leadership in the first 25 years of the Soviet Union was Jewish (including of its security services).
So, what are we to conclude from all this? What can we do?
The main thing to be aware of is that we cannot expect traditional values to be portrayed positively, or at all, in television programming given that the individuals who control and manage the television industry do not share those values.
For those who believe that society would suffer less social ills if more individuals lived more responsibly (as in personal responsibility), you may want to counter these messages on the TV that your children are exposed to.
Americans do spend too much of their free time watching TV. As Mr. Shapiro notes, TV for many acts as a desensitizing narcotic. Watching less television is an option many never seriously think about. But, you can opt out. (For the past 12 or so years, I have not watched much television, and have more time for other activities/interests.)
Parents may want to monitor what their children watch and make adjustments where necessary as to appropriate programming. There is too much illicit sex (implied or explicit) in much of the programming on TV. And, younger viewers are especially vulnerable as sex is often trivialized in its potential and real consequences. Talk to your children about values at appropriate ages as they are growing up. Do not let the popular culture and television form or unduly influence the formation of their values. As well, peer pressure can be effectively countered as children still look to their parents hoping for parental concern and guidance (even if they do not say so)!
relevant quotes from the text
From the prologue, pages XI to XII:
“It hit me that I was watching the culture being changed before my eyes. These weren’t just television episodes – they were pieces of small-scale, insidiously brilliant leftist propaganda.
And they weren’t merely anecdotal incidents. . . . .
The overwhelming leftism of American television was too universal to be merely coincidence. It had to be the product of a concerted effort, a system designed to function as an ideological strainer through which conservatism simply could not pass. And the more I investigated, the more I saw that Hollywood was just that: a carefully constructed mechanism designed by television’s honchos to blow a hole in the dike of American culture. . . . . ”
From pages 3 to 4 in the introductory chapter:
“At the same time, many of these artists were cultural outsiders in their original small-town communities and therefore rejected the values of mainstream society as a defense. This is to some extent the nature of the artistic beast: Artists of all sorts consistently engage in the self-aggrandizing “outsider” delusion that their job is to “speak truth to power.” The result is a liberalism that continually attacks the prevailing power structure.
. . . . For today’s artists, however, it’s not just about rejecting the status quo – it’s about shock value in toto. It’s not enough to reject society – they must forcibly enlighten the society that rejected them. They do this by shocking middle-class sensibilities. . . . . . But shocking the public is no longer merely an incidental hallmark of liberalism – it is the dominant goal for the television left. . . . . ”
From page 6 of the introductory chapter:
“Based on the testimony of hundreds of writers, producers, actors and television executives – the most important figures in television over the last 60 years – it is abundantly clear that television has evolved from a medium for entertainment and advertising into a funnel for socially liberal messages. It is controlled by a small coterie of largely like-minded executives who are geared to pleasing a like-minded cadre of advertisers who seek to cater to a like-minded corps of consumers. Content is provided by a like-minded clique of creative artists who have generally studied under like-minded mentors and interact with like-minded colleagues. . . . . Almost all of them think alike, too. . . . . The political and ideological purity in the television industry is almost awe-inspiring. Hollywood, in the cultural and democratic sense, is no longer American.”
Seems there is not much diversity of thought in the television and movie industry.
From page 7 of the introductory chapter:
“Meanwhile, I would encourage liberal readers to focus on the broader point of my critique: the television industry is completely dominated by liberals, as even most liberals agree, including the television figures I interviewed. Many will admit that their liberal values seep into their work – and some openly boast of it. . . . . ”
From page 14:
” . . . . Since the very outset, many of television’s power brokers have seen their mission as something larger than pure entertainment: they’ve seen it as promulgation of “progressive” social values. . . . . And so they began to push the envelope of culture, consciously or unconsciously, trying to open and liberalize the American audience just a bit at a time.
Because they were crusaders who thought alike, they hired alike.”
From page 25:
“Liberalism remained a subtle phenomenon on television in the late 1950s and early 1960s, but it was there. Hollywood types pushed consensus issues ranging from racial tolerance to a more overt role of government in the economy; all of it was relatively uncontroversial. As the decade progressed, however, television leftists began to embrace more subversive and dangerous politics. Where the liberalism of the 1950s had aspired to a better world, 1960s liberalism sought to set the world aflame, tearing down the status quo through vulgarity and shock value.”
It is rather surprising what we have come to accept as the norm in American society in just the past few decades, or more accurately, the past 45 years or so.
From pages 32 and 33:
“The Vietnam War burst the dam wide open.
. . . .
On a societal level, this disenchantment with America’s military foray combined with the sexual revolution, the civil rights movement, the drug subculture, and the growing socialist movement on college campuses to form a powerful counterculture. Early on, television contributed to the counterculture in relatively minor ways . . . . But once television picked up the current of the counterculture, it elevated it to new heights in the public consciousness; the honchos on television realized that for the first time, the counterculture had an element that received majority approval – namely, opposition to the Vietnam War – and they capitalized.”
From page 281:
“In the beginning, members of the television industry had a thoroughly contrarian view toward government. They wanted as little of it as possible. They wanted to be left alone to pursue their profit making. They objected to governmental regulation. But as the industry matured – as the honchos began to protect their territory – they began to realize that governmental relations could benefit them. The networks, the creators, the producers all began to work hand in glove with the government and government officials. Instead of the industry being purely capitalist, it became corporatist.
. . . .
Liberals in Hollywood support liberal interest groups who support liberals in government. That’s because Hollywood is being paid off by the government on a regular basis, as we’ll explore next.”
The above tea cup is older than I am. It is rather delicate or fragile.
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