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Frontpage Interview’s guest today is Ben Shapiro, a Harvard Law grad who is now a Shillman Journalism Fellow at the David Horowitz Freedom Center. Also a board member of Declaration Entertainment and a syndicated columnist, he is the author of the new book, Primetime Propaganda: The True Hollywood Story of How The Left Took Over Your TV.
FP: Ben Shapiro, welcome to Frontpage Interview.
Congratulations on your new book.
Let’s begin with how you came up with the idea for Primetime Propaganda.
Shapiro: Thanks Jamie.
Actually, my editor at Broadside Books, Adam Bellow, approached me with the idea. He’d just read a piece I wrote back in February 2009 about Sean Penn’s speech at the Oscars. In that piece, I discussed the odd fact that Penn had shifted from Barack Obama’s worst foe in mid-2008 to his most ardent advocate at the Academy Awards. I linked that shift to the Obama Administration’s consistent elevation of Hollywood stars, their attempts to funnel cash to Hollywood, and their generous regulatory regime with regard to Tinseltown. Adam, who’s always been fascinated with TV, suggested that I write a book about television figures, their backgrounds, and their impact on America’s politics. That mission quickly became Primetime Propaganda.
FP: Share with us your background in Hollywood.
Shapiro: Both my parents work in Hollywood. My dad composes for film and television, and my mom runs business affairs for several reality television companies. I grew up with the business, but I grew away from it during college and law school, when I got into politics. This is one of the problems with conservatives in general: we begin to ignore culture in favor of politics, and that’s a big mistake. When I got back to LA, I began hanging out with some Hollywood folks again, and then of course with this book, my connections quickly exploded exponentially.
FP: Speaking of those connections, you have received a phenomenal number of interviews with high-ranking television figures both past and present. How did you succeed in doing this?
Shapiro: I emailed and called them. Believe it or not, it was as simple as that. People in Hollywood love talking about themselves for the most part, and many were very generous with their time. I approached them and told them exactly who I was: my name, my latest book, my Harvard Law credentials, and what this book was about. I also told them I was profiling the biggest names in Hollywood over the last 50 years. I assume that many of them bought into that last part – people in Hollywood aren’t exactly known for their humility. They must have assumed that with a name like Shapiro and a Harvard Law credential, there was no need to Google; I would have to be a leftist. When I spoke with them, I used certain liberal code words – “social justice,” “tolerance,” “diversity.” And they spoke freely with me, with permission to tape.
FP: And what did you discover?
Shapiro: Everyone knows that people in Hollywood despise traditional conservatives. They think we’re morons, bigots, and Neanderthals. Over the course of doing research for this book, I spoke with hundreds of people in Hollywood. Few are conservative; even fewer are openly conservative. There’s a reason for that – Hollywood insiders discriminate on a regular basis against conservatives. Many of them celebrate such discrimination. The same people who talk about tolerance and diversity have no tolerance for ideological diversity.
When I first started writing Primetime Propaganda, I thought that accusations of discrimination by conservatives in Hollywood were basically sour grapes. After all, as a conservative, I believe that discrimination creates market inefficiencies that cannot last the test of time.
How wrong I was.
I have tapes of several heavy hitters openly celebrating anti-conservative discrimination, and many others admitting that conservatives are treated with scorn in Hollywood. Beyond that, I’ve experienced just a taste of it myself. For the book, I interviewed Leonard Goldberg, producer of Blue Bloods and Aaron Spelling’s former partner. He suggested I write a pilot for him based on Harvard Law. I did that, and then found an agent. The agent was excited about working together. About three weeks later, he called me and told me he didn’t know if he could represent me. I asked why, and he told me that one of his agents had sent off my stuff to a producer in town. The producer had Googled me, found my politics, and told the agent that he would never work with someone of my political persuasion. Now, it’s not over yet – I’ve done interviews with USA Network, Sony Pictures and Warner Bros. among others, for shows like Damages and Harry’s Law – but there’s no question that conservatives have to overcome liberal presumptions that they’re jerks and idiots.
FP: How much influence do Hollywood liberals really have? How does their work affect us?
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