Primetime Propaganda

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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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  • dobby

    The worst PC programs these days are the police and law shows – Law and Order and The Practice. Every single episode is an indoctrination into PC liberalism

    • Chezwick_mac

      This is reflective of the extent to which law itself has been corrupted by liberalism. The largest single donor to the Democratic Party is the 'Trial Lawyers of America'. The goal is to continue the litigation gravy-train…which, besides enriching lawyers, is paralyzing the conduct of business and commerce in America.

    • Gerry

      I tend toward being a moderate and have to say that I am surprised about the comments pertaining to Law and Order. I would think that liberal hollywood would actually find that show offensive for its strtaight forwardness and portrayals of both sides of a story. It is afterall, still entertainment.

  • welldoneson

    This insipid tendency is found in TV "documentaries" as well.
    Climate Change is simply assumed to be caused by man's CO2, with no analysis given.
    A while back CNN did a "documentary" on the Iraq war; the show was remarkable for its use of ominous, threatening background music every time Donald Rumsfeld was mentioned or shown. It was nothing but propaganda.

  • jaythehistorian

    The best example of what a cancer Hollywood liberals are is the show "Law and Order". It is on a number of cable channels , NBC and others. I have not watched it in years. The plots were allegedly based on real cases, except for one important change. The criminals which in the real cases were almost always black or hispanic were changed to white . White woman weren't spared. The chief of detectives was a black woman who probably in reality couldn't solve a murder even if it occurred in her office while she sat at her desk. Name one black female chief of detectives in this country who achieved their position on merit. But in sick liberal fantasy land the wisest are black while white males are invariably portrayed as stupid bumbling fools. Hollywood liberals are either too mentally ill or too stupid and uneducated , to admit 99.99% of every invention ,discovery , and development which is required for life in the 21st century is the result of white male genius.

    • ajnn

      this is a foolish comment.

      there are many fine and capable black people who have earned their status and authority.

      your tantrum is silly and childish.

      • StephenD

        I agree with ajnn. Take a look at Orlando, FL Chief of Police, Val Demmings and her husband Jerry Demmings who is Sheriff of the county. Both are very qualified and deserving and both are black. Listen, I have no problem with presenting the facts the way they stand, i.e. portraying criminals as they are instead of worry over their ethnicity, but when you make an issue where there ought not be one, well, I need to speak up accordingly. There is plenty I don't like about the state of race relations and reverse discrimination but your arguments do not contribute to righting these wrongs.

    • ReconRambo

      Most of the minorities in high level positions got there through affirmative action policies and are in those positions for "Window Dressings". Parmarily, the knowledge base and work load of these positions are supported and carried by the staff under them, but they get the credit. For that reason, I refuse to seek out and utilize these so-called porfessional bussiness. This new healthcare legislation is going to load up on this type of people. You can't trust there knowledge and abilities. I was visiting someone in a hospital recently and over heard this young minority doctor calling another doctor on the phone and relaying the patients symptoms and asking him for his the diagnosis of the problem. So much for "Affirmative Action"!

  • jacob

    Since the TV stations are also in tne hands of "liberals", then the only way of
    counteracting this brainwashing should be the advertisers to state they will
    not stand for this politization of people, an action which will have one hell of
    a sobering effect on this Hollywood "liberals"

    Of course, the governmet could make up for whatever they may lose but then
    it would get it in hot water and….

    I guess political correctness has gone already too damned far whuch has been
    this country's problem for years :

    IT EITHER FALLS SHORT OR GOES OVERBOARD……. and the proof is in the

  • Rifleman

    I wouldn't know about prime time, I gave up on it almost two decades ago, and the preaching has about weaned me from the science and nature channels. As soon as they start preaching nonsense, click. As a consequence, my TV goes weeks without being turned on, and when it is, it may not be turned on for more than 5 minutes. They won’t change unless people quit wasting their time watching it.

    They’re a lot less subtle and skilled with their propaganda than they used to be, which tells me the government education system is succeeding in dumbing down the general population.

  • Dan

    Gee, "Progressive" PC in the "vast wasteland". Would that "wasteland" be the media or our gubment? Two fitting shoes no less.

    • Jim_C

      They're whatever you don't like, Dan. Whatever you're feeling at the moment. It's all about you. Now go have a cookie.

      • coyote3

        Yeah, and he is correct, about both of them.

  • Questions

    Ben Shapiro is an artless twerp who peddles the usual "Hollywood vs. America" trope. It wasn't even interesting (or accurate) when Michael Medved wrote a book peddling it nearly 20 years ago. It remains cliched and dumb today.

    Neither Ridley Scott nor Clint Eastwood "hate traditional Americans." Nor do Ron Howard or Brian DePalma. Here's hoping we conservatives can move beyond this narrative and ignore people like Shapiro.

    • nina

      Actually, Shapiro is absolutely right, and so was Medved. Your calling Ben Shapiro names ,, isn't going to change the fact that television is full of subtle and not so subtle leftist propoganda. You may be a conservative or not, but either you don't think, or you are an apologist for the liberals. Anyone with a modicum of intelligence knows that Shapiro is absolutely right. In fact, I also thought that Obama was propelled to the presidency by Hollywood and shows like Ophra and The Vew, are were his propogandists, and I am "only" an independent.

    • Rifleman

      It was true then, and it's true now. You just don't like it when conservatives remind us. Narratives…Hey, isn't that what hollywood is all about?

  • Jim_C

    My favorite piece of irony in this insipid "Hollywood vs. America" tripe: Hollywood is about as pure an example of the free market, and the marketplace of ideas, as you can find anywhere.

    Criticism of "Hollywood" boils down to shooting the messenger. What you don't want to admit is that Hollywood essentially holds up a mirror to the culture. This is what America wants to see. They keep making the stuff and it keeps selling.

    Not everything you like and don't like fits into the "liberal vs. conservative" polemic.

    • William_Z

      I’ve what I’ve read, presently, Fox News is the most watched cable news outlet.

      According to TV Guide the Top tens shows are, presently,

      American Idol
      The Bachelor
      Dancing with the Stars
      The Game
      Criminal Minds
      Grey's Anatomy

      And as I recall, being that I did not see the episodes of the show, Sarah Palin’s daughter wasn’t treated with dignity. Insulted is the better word and ‘conspiracy theories’ popped up regarding her standing in the program.

      So, yes, the marketplace has much too do with the success of a program, but the behavior of the audience tells more.

      • Jim_C

        What's your point?

  • Jim_C

    The best shows out there–and there are quite a few, many on the premium channels but some on basic cable and network TV–approach art. In fact, shows like, the Sopranos, The Wire, Mad Men, The Shield are as good as any film, with their own cadences, vocabularies, resonances which go beyond what mere film can do. They approach great literature.

    Art, when it's working, raises questions. It puts something out there for you to think about, and makes you look at things from different angles. That's what these shows do, and if you can tell me there's something "liberal" or "conservative" about them, you're probably not really thinking.

    If Leave it to Beaver is really your speed, so be it. Maybe the Hallmark Channel is for you? (I'm not making fun, I like good wholesome stuff, too). But just because there's edgier stuff out there–that's the world we live in. Thank God we live in a free country where artists can do their work, helping us make sense of it.

    • Major Dick Bong

      Art = leftist propaganda. Oh, and boobs. lots of em. Please young ladies of the world, bare your breasts to us. Because that's what we we require of you. Because we're such great people.

      Mad Men? THE WIRE??!!!?!!!?!?1?!?!!?!!??!?!!1!1one!

      Are you trying to present The Wire as objective? And not the work of a marxist sociopath?

      And my mother was a college educated career woman back in Don Drapers day, so i don't need the past "re-imagined" for me by Pagan homosexuals and man-hating shrews.

      • Jim_C

        The reason you are an absolute dumb-ss, Bong, is that you could watch the Wire and actually not see that one of its major themes was urban democratic political corruption, union corruption, the failure of schools, minorities making poor choices…all the crap your dumb-ss loves to complain about

    • Chris Nelson

      Thank GOD that I don't need artists to "help me make sense of the world."

  • Jim_C

    You actually think Sarah Palin's daughter has something to do with anything? Make a point.

  • Jim_C

    Yes, I went back to review to see if you had actually made a point, somewhere, but all I found was a something you had merely heard about a show you never watched. I deduced that you mistakenly thought a point had been made, there.

  • tagalog

    It's been said since Michael Medved's book (if not longer than that) that Hollywood film makers (and presumably by extension TV show makers) would rather make a show with a liberal political message that is a failure than make a show with a conservative message that succeeds. This would explain the ongoing market inefficiencies.

    And of course, as pointed out, there are shows that broadcast a liberal message that are successful.

    I'm interested in what will happen to the The Unit's David Mamet now that Mamet has expressed dissatisfaction with liberal assumptions.

    • Jim_C

      What would a show be with a "conservative" message? That is the problem. And the other problem is that conservatives have plenty of money; therefore, they must enjoy playing the victim and whining about "Hollywood" more than getting "conservative entertainment" made.

      That said, there is plenty of wholesome entertainment out there, including Christian entertainment.

      If you want entertainment that says "homosexuality is wrong, abortion is wrong, minorities need to learn their place," good luck with that, sounds "entertaining."

      If you want entertainment that says "free market uber alles," see how well the recent Ayn Rand movie did. LOL!

      • tagalog

        Actually, the principal reason Atlas Shrugged did poorly at the box office was the bad-mouthing it got from conservative reviewers. In truth, it was a poorly-done movie, made hastily and on a shoestring.

        Conservative values, what are they? Acknowledging that America is a free-market society that values hard work. Putting our criticism of our leaders aside once Americans have left the shoreline. Giving due recognition to the wealth-producing engines of our society, business, instead of crinkling our ever-so-sensitive noses at the thought of labor and management. Trying to find the positive sides of the settlement of our country. Celebrating our heroes instead of trying to find just how much clay their feet were made from. Et cetera, et cetera.

        Now, I would think that more than a half-century of liberal policies on race would have taught you that "minorities need to learn their place" was a policy more likely to be espoused by the liberals of our society than the conservatives. Conservatives would say something more like "let each individual get as far as his abilities can take him."

  • 080

    I don't think that television is a total loss. There is always Sponge Bob Squarepants.

  • ice9

    "They think we’re morons, bigots, and Neanderthals."

    No, no, no. We do not think you are a Neanderthal.


  • USMCSniper

    Ohhh, did you miss the point! Once again you are too stupid to even suspect you are stupid. He was talking about what are called, for example, the "Jackass Ads" where the white male is some bungling idiot who is lucky if he can tie his shoes like the underwaer guys in Michael Cool Guy Jordan, or the guy with a black boss who is toldto make a copy of the backside too and goes and sits on the Xerox machine and copies his backside at its worse and all the governers or the presidents, or the head of the Chicago police and US Marshals are women, and all the men are idiots or thigs regardless of color. Then we have anime where only the heroine saves all the helpness castrati men. And of course The Event also has the head of the Aliens as a woman. As for colored people in power. Oba,a is a real prize isn't he – goes golfing on memorial day.

  • USMCSniper

    Ohh you really mean that the communists now call themselves progressives or liberals, don't you?

  • WilliamJamesWard

    Television has very little that I find of interest but what there is, it is for
    entertainment. Knowledge in it's truer form is still found in books where
    there is from no to little propaganda. I like some foolish programing
    for the laugh factor, some programs I am opposed to and find
    scandalous. TV is a new beast from what it was in the "50's and
    both deserves it's title "Boob Tube" and is a creative window to the
    World. For the in real time ability it affords us, it can not be replaced.
    We all have programs that are for us and as we are different there is
    something for everyone…………………………………………………….William

  • ReconRambo

    Buddy, you hit the nail on the head and knocked the ball out of the park. This is the very reason that I gave up watching these network and cable TV shows about 30 years ago. I watch some news and some very old movies made back in the 30's, 40's, 50's and 60's. Starting around the mid-seventies the movies began to fall victim to today's status quo. Have you noticed that even the commercials are propagandize with an "Affirmative Action" color and sexist flavor.

  • aspacia

    Yawn. I only watch television while on the cross-trainer at the gym.

  • fleedo

    People in positions of power should be capeable and have the requisite abilities those positions call for. We got rid of discrimination a long time ago – now its all about merit, you cant have it both ways. If it isnt about merit and you want some kind of tilted playing field – tilted in favour of non whites then okay you can have that – as long as we can re introduce discrimination against non whites. Go ahead and choose how you want it to be.

  • artcohn

    Joe MCarthy did not find any real commies. He was solely trying to get favorable press and power. He reached too far when he accused Eisenhower and the Army of being pro-commie, and they cut him down eeven with his being backed by the Kennedys. That does not mean that there weren't any commies that infiltrated the government. Just that McCarthy was in-effective in uncovering them.

    • Steven

      Untrue, there were numberous communists either arrested for perjury or contempt of congress. With the release of info in the Venona Project we have found that Julius Rosenberg was guilty of espionage, not to mention the verification of Alger Hiss' guilt.

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