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The last time Aaron Sorkin had a high-profile political television show, progressives used it to cope with the decline and fall of the Clinton Presidency and the long winter of the Bush Years. The West Wing was a coping mechanism for the death of a leftist dream, and so is The Newsroom. Both are an escape into fantasy to avoid dealing with the harsh reality.
On an episode of Seinfeld, George is stung by an insult but is unable to think of a retort, so he spends days trying to come up with the perfect comeback, until he finally thinks of it and travels around the country to get the chance to deliver it. The Newsroom, set in the past, and jumping in right before the political balance tilted toward the Republicans in the mid-term elections, is the same thing.
The Newsroom is Sorkin’s sad attempt to win an argument by rewriting history and coming up with all the comebacks that his side couldn’t think of two years ago. It’s the sad and pathetic spectacle of an ideology creating its own fantasy version of its reality in which it won the argument. And the existence of The Newsroom is the greatest possible admission of leftist defeat.
The Newsroom is a safer outlet for leftist anger than Occupy Wall Street. It’s a miniature universe in which they are smarter, nobler and better than everyone else. And it’s not only an admission of defeat, but of emotional and mental fragility. Adults don’t need to build fantasy worlds to escape the effects of their failures on their precious self-esteem. That’s for overgrown children who are used to getting trophies for just showing up.
The Newsroom is the kid that everyone hated losing his race for class president and creating a fantasy world in which he won the election and everyone cheered on his obnoxious tantrums. It may not be good for him, but it’s good for us because it means he hasn’t learned to win. All he has learned to do is manage the emotional experience of defeat through delusions of superiority.
Propaganda that tells you that you won, when you actually lost, is corrosive; it inhibits any serious self-evaluation. And without some soul-searching and error-checking, the same mistakes are bound to be repeated over and over again. Seventeen years after the Clinton Presidency was nearly torpedoed by universal health care, his party’s successor, who defeated the woman who shaped the initiative, went down the same road, but with much less caution.
That kind of stupidity would not have been possible if the winners had learned any lessons from the past. But the winners had been living on The West Wing, where the progressives never lose, because the scripts are written that way. Rather than living in the real Clinton Years, many of them had been living in the imaginary version. Now, rather than remembering the actual Obama Years, they will remember The Newsroom‘s fictional version of them. And they will make the same mistakes all over again.
HBO, which has invested big in progressive propaganda, knows exactly what it’s doing. At a time when customers are dropping cable, particularly the high-priced packages, it is insulating itself with a built-in audience. Forget MSNBC or Comedy Central with their tantrums against real-life Republicans, on HBO, leftists can go on safe safaris to see experienced progressive hunters taking potshots at imaginary Republicans.
When the real-life Republicans are just too scary, the good progressive flees to HBO, where the Republicans are just waiting to be deflated with a smarmy line about school prayer, science or terrorism. Just as the family sitcom reassured viewers about the state of the nuclear family, HBO reassures leftists about the state of their ideology, nurturing them and coddling them, until they are ready to reemerge at the next political rally.
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