Editor’s note: Below is the video and transcript of the panel discussion “Winning the Cultural War,” which took place at the Freedom Center’s 2013 Restoration Weekend. The event was held November 14th-17th at The Breakers resort in Palm Beach, Florida.
Jeremy Boreing: One of our complaints as we who actually work in the culture — and I think everyone up here, in their own right, works in the culture — is that quite often, it seems like people on our side of the political spectrum have never read a book that wasn’t nonfiction and have never watched a movie that wasn’t a documentary. I know it’s not true. At night, I know that Louie Gohmert goes home and watches “Real Housewives of New Jersey,” just like everyone else, and then pretends that he doesn’t, just like everyone else.
But unfortunately, as a movement, we seem completely unconcerned with the culture. Or, as someone said in the last panel when referring to our use of social media, it’s almost as though we think that social media is a tool where you need to go over and build up this aspect, instead of being a reflection, which is what the culture actually is. The culture is a reflection of where we are as a people. Pop culture is a reflection of what’s going on in the greater culture.
And so, it’s not so much that we need to learn how to engage the culture; it’s that we actually have to participate in the culture. We have to organically become a part of the culture, let the culture inform us.
And I think that it’s worth noting that the last time we ran a candidate who not only utilized the culture but came directly out of the culture, he won 49 out of 50 states. Ronald Reagan was not fundamentally a politician; he was fundamentally a member of the pop culture. He spoke to the American people in the language that they understood, which is the language of the pop culture.
You know, when you often hear Republicans talk about Mitt Romney and Barack Obama in 2012, they would say things like, you know, Barack Obama doesn’t speak the language of the American people. And when he speaks about the Constitution, he always bastardizes it and cheapens it, and uses it out of context. When he speaks of the Founders, he doesn’t speak of them reverently.
But that’s not the language of the American people. I mean, you know, when you get together with your friends over a game of golf, you don’t actually quote the Founders very often. And with the exception of Ben Shapiro, none of us here has actually memorized the Constitution.
The language of the American people is “The Simpsons,” and the language of the American people is “American Idol.” The language of the American people is pop culture. We drive around in our cars, most of us, actually listening to music radio, not talk radio.
And that’s why, until we come to understand and appreciate what’s going on in the culture, we don’t really understand why Barack Obama won. The reason Barack Obama won is because the culture has been prepping the battle space for his ascendancy for the last 40 years.
I know it’s popular to say that Americans are not a racist people. And certainly politically, we’re the least racist people functioning in the world today. But there’s a little bit of racism left in the culture, and it’s been cultivated in such a way that it actually favors the ascendancy of a Barack Obama, instead of penalizing the ascendancy of a Barack Obama. And I think that that’s hopefully something that we can get into a little bit today as we engage in this conversation about taking back the culture.
So thank you, guys, for being here with us.
I think to get us started, if we could just go down the panel? And everyone tell us a little bit about yourselves and your thoughts, and then we’ll kind of turn it into a bit more of a conversation, which I’ll moderate. And then in the end, we’ll take questions, for anyone who’s like to engage with us [then].
Unidentified Speaker: Ben?
Ben Shapiro: Okay, I guess we’ll start at the far end.
In order to kind of understand the impact that the culture has on the debate, I think it’s important to understand that people don’t even understand politics in terms of pure policy. People understand politics in terms of a moral narrative that Hollywood is best geared toward playing out.
That’s why if you talk to most people who actually voted in the 2012 election, most people were not closely following the issues of policy that Romney and Obama were laying out. Instead, what they were following was the moral narrative. And the moral narrative that was being played out was something like this from Barack Obama’s side — Mitt Romney is a horrible person, Mitt Romney’s the kind of person who puts dogs on tops of cars, Mitt Romney’s the sort of guy who wants to put y’all back in chains, Mitt Romney fires folks specifically so that their wives will lose health insurance and die of cancer six years later. That’s who Mitt Romney is. Mitt Romney is the black hat in this moral universe.
Mitt Romney was busy talking policy. He was saying Barack Obama’s a bad President. But fundamentally he’s a good guy, he’s just kind of a bad President. Obama was speaking the language of Hollywood. Mitt Romney was speaking the language of talk radio.
And the problem is that most Americans, on a fundamental level, understand moral narrative. And that’s what Hollywood truly is about, and that’s where the Right really goes wrong. The Right is shy about casting politics in terms of values. They’re shy about casting politics in terms of morality.
And so, I think there are two problems when we talk about the culture. The first is the problem of the culture completely lacking any semblance of balance, the culture being completely leftist. That’s nothing new. The culture has been like this really since the late ’60s in television, and really since before that in the movie industry. But the ’60s was really a turning point.
If you look at the culture, it’s no shock that it’s like this. Everybody thinks the same way. It’s an absolute echo chamber. When I wrote a book called “Primetime Propaganda,” which was about Hollywood — and I went undercover with all the folks in Hollywood, I wore a Harvard Law cap, my last name is Shapiro, I’m from Los Angeles — that means there’s a 99 percent shot I’m a liberal. So they assumed I was a liberal, and they spoke honestly with me about what Hollywood does. And people freely admitted that they were trying to put social messaging into what they were doing. They were trying to push a social justice agenda.
That’s one problem. I think that there’s a second, separate problem that I think pretty much everybody on the panel would agree with. And that is that the Republican Party has refused to learn the lessons of Hollywood. So in the same way that Hollywood doesn’t take any of the politics of the Right seriously, the Right refuses to take any of the narrative of Hollywood seriously.
And I think that’s almost the reason Hollywood is so replete with liberals. Because a good conservative doesn’t go into Hollywood; a good conservative doesn’t get involved in the culture. A good conservative sits at home and listens to Rush Limbaugh and then goes and writes whitepapers for the Heritage Foundation.
And that’s bound to be a loser. Because the fact is that as great as the whitepapers are at the Heritage Foundation, they’re going to get read by two people who are both staffers for Mitch McConnell.
And they’re never actually going to be seen by anybody outside of that particular space. If we want to start winning again, if conservatives want to be ascendant in the culture again, they have to make the case that our values are the right values, that the opposing values are actually evil and wrong and hurt people. And that’s a Hollywood narrative that has to be drawn out not only in Hollywood, but that narrative has to be extended into the realm of politics itself.
Ron Radosh: Let me pick up on some of the themes Ben just emphasized. Last year, we had a similar panel. And I’ll just start my brief comments with a point I made last year, and then move on to new things.
Coming from the old Marxist Left, I always start with — and I got this from my friend, the late Gene Genovese, a great conservative historian who used to be a Marxist, who called his book in Southern history “The Southern Front.” And he did that because he took a cue from the Italian Marxist Antonio Gramsci, who said that there’s a battle for cultural hegemony, and that we can’t change politics unless we wage a war of position within the culture to change the culture before there can be any political change. So that’s a great insight that conservatives have to learn from.
We have to wage a war for the culture, for the whole way of life — the assumptions, the values, the themes that are inherent that everybody shares. And I think there’s no doubt that up to the present time — I think it’s beginning to change — the Left has been winning.
Let me give you a few examples. I just got an email from a friend of mine who’s a conservative social studies educator who works in curriculum for high school and elementary school. And coming up in two weeks is the convention of something called the — it’s the annual convention, the Social Studies Education Council. It’s the major professional organization of people working on curriculum and teaching social studies. Its membership is largely made up of not college teachers but high school and middle school teachers, and some elementary school teachers.
Who are the keynote speakers at the convention? Our old friends Oliver Stone and Peter Kuznick, who are giving the keynote address on how to teach the history of the Cold War. This is — they’re reaching thousands of educators at a national convention.
And I was on a one-man campaign virtually, with some people joining in, to fight against everything they said in various columns — the Wall Street Journal, Weekly Standard, other venues — PJ Media. And they were exposed in terms of the lies they told, the misinformation they were giving. His documentary is on Showtime. Now it’s been re-released. It’s going to be shown on regular cable channels because the Showtime contract is past. The DVDs are out. It’s going to be used by college teachers and high school teachers throughout the country who are going to take one or two or three episodes and show them in their classes.
You can’t over-exaggerate the impact this has in how our kids are being educated. If you thought Howard Zinn was bad, Stone has celebrity and he makes movies. Why isn’t there a conservative who can do an accurate history of the Cold War, knows how to make a film, and consult the conservative historians who will write a really truthful script to counter this? We don’t have this.
Years ago, PBS did a history of the Vietnam War which was totally distorted. Now, it’s going to be magnified. Because next year, when you have a new anniversary of Vietnam, you’re going to have Ken Burns’s history of the Vietnam War. And I tell you in advance, it’s going to be horrendous. And everybody loves Ken Burns. And that’s going to be the history of the Vietnam War that Americans learn and see.
Secondly, another example from Hollywood — I wrote about this in National Review Online a month ago, or a couple weeks ago, actually. Bryan Cranston coming out of “Breaking Bad” is the hot actor in Hollywood. He deserves all the plaudits. He’s a great actor, if any of you watch “Breaking Bad.”
The first major project he’s doing for Hollywood, already signed and starting to be filmed, is a movie called “Trumbo,” about the Communist screenwriter Dalton Trumbo. It’s based on a 30-year-old book that is pure hagiography, the author of which, Bruce Cook, totally bought Trumbo’s lies and did it in terms of his own narrative. None of the truth is going to be in this movie. Because it’s based on this book.
Now, I think from what I see — and Ben probably knows more about this, and I don’t know how successful the films are — the Left is good at old-style agitprop. And often, it fails. Robert Redford did a movie, a dreadful movie, about the Civil War that was really, evidently, about the Bush-Cheney terrorist policies. Totally flopped. It went right to video-on-demand in Netflix. I don’t think it lasted a day or two in the theaters.
Then he made the movie last year about the Weather Underground. Look at the film about this movie. He was on tons of talk shows, radio and TV. I finally saw the movie. Peter Collier wrote a great piece showing all its falsehoods. Peter wrote that in the weekly standard.
Now, I don’t know how the movie did. I suspect it did horribly. He tried to do it as a thriller. But the message was the following — all these leaders of the Weather Underground weren’t terrorists, they weren’t bomb-throwers; they were morally conscious, good young people who just used unfortunate methods which were understandable. Because the real terrorists and the real evildoer is the United States. So we have to excuse them, even if we don’t adopt their methods. In the interviews I saw Redford give, this is what he thinks, and this is what he agrees with.
Now, they make films like that. It’s agitprop. I think conservatives can make much better films. They don’t have to emulate their style, which they can get funded and they do these films.
I’ll give one good example. The most underrated — and I think it does very well, because it’s always renewed — is the TV show with Tom Selleck, “Blue Bloods.” Which is a great conservative television show.
And look at the themes. One of my favorite episodes a year ago was about a black mayor in — no, black hustler in New York, a race hustler, clearly modeled on Al Sharpton, who’s creating a phony incident in order to get support and enflame the people in the black ghetto. And my favorite line in that episode, when they confront the mayor — if you do, it’s going to be disastrous, there’s going to be riots, it’s going to bring down New York. We have to stop him and placate him. And speaking about this character, who is a reverend, Tom Selleck’s character says — oh, he’s just trying to get his own show on MSNBC.
Now, that makes the point. That’s a great line.
We have to have people writing things like that — maybe Andrew can write one — and not do agitprop. You can bring out the themes culturally. The reason I love “Blue Bloods” is it’s about a wonderful Irish-Catholic nuclear family that always meets together for dinner on Sunday night. They have really solid family values. Politically it’s conservative, without hammering home the theme. It gets into the politics of New York City so accurately. It’s absolutely wonderful. People like it as entertainment.
But the underlying message makes you think about it in not a ham-fisted way, which is the way — a lot of the Left’s stuff, because they’re written by old leftists, is all agitprop. So I think there’s opening for conservatives in Hollywood, like Andrew and Ben, to begin doing good things that they can get funded that will help change a whole culture slowly. We don’t have to give up in Hollywood, and we don’t have to give up on education. So those are the two areas.
And I think education — we really got to do something about getting some conservatives concentrating on the liberal arts. We can’t just leave it to the leftists. It’s just too dangerous to let them get away with it. I’ll stop now.
Unidentified Speaker: [Drew]?
Unidentified Speaker: Time.
Andrew Klavan: Jeremy’s an old friend, or otherwise I’d have to hurt him. But I’ve been making a living writing novels and movies for 25 years. That’s been, really, my only living. And I feel that the problem that conservatives have, entering this field and supporting this field — which is even more important, because we get no support — is that they don’t understand that conservative art doesn’t look like conservative life. Okay? Conservatives have been picking on the arts since men wrote on walls, okay?
Now, Ovid, one of the formative poets of my life, was banished to an island the size of this table for writing pornography. The Vatican painted drapery on the nudes of Michelangelo. “Ulysses” and “Lady Chatterley’s Lover” had to go through court cases to keep from being banned as pornography. Rock and roll, sex in the movies — conservatives have opposed them all.
As a result of this clever strategy —
— there are now no conservatives in the arts. I mean, the arts are so completely dominated by the Left that they can now blacklist us and, even worse, they can ignore and give bad reviews to good pieces and good reviews to bad pieces that support their politics, which they do.
Let me just make sure I say everything I have to say. Every week on “Law and Order,” they rewrite a political event that favored the Right to favor the Left. The movies that have been coming out for the last 40 years have been rewriting history and politics to do the same thing. “Argo” won the Oscar I think last year, and it — it’s a good movie — it rewrote the Iran hostage crisis as being America’s fault. And it rewrote Jimmy Carter as a competent President and a fine statesman who brought everyone out safely. Shoot me dead, please, okay?
Now, I just want to be clear about this. I live a very conservative life. All right? I’ve been a family man for more than 30 years. Maybe too much information, but my sex life basically consists of my wife and watching “Game of Thrones.” That’s it.
I live a life that could be a Hallmark movie. I don’t watch Hallmark movies. And I stopped watching “Blue Bloods” after awhile, because I knew what they were going to say. I knew they were going to confirm my values, I knew they were going to confirm my ideas. I want to see “Tosca,” I want to see “MacBeth,” I want to see “The Sopranos,” I want to see people commit adultery, I want to see sex, I want to see violence, I want to see murder.
Because that’s what the — those are the great stories, those are the great stories that tell what the internal life of man is like. That’s what the arts are for. They are for communicating what it is like to be a human being. You cannot do that on the Hallmark Channel. Okay?
So conservative art is art that tells the truth. Because conservatives are truth-based people. If the truth opposes conservatism, we change our minds. Okay?
What the Left has done is they tell — they make good art that tells lies. And that’s what we should be fighting. The Right does not need — we do not need another pundit telling us about Miley Cyrus’s backside. So help me, we do not need it.
What we really do need — and we need it desperately — is we need think tanks, grants, awards and, more importantly than anything else, review venues — venues that talk about the arts, that favor people who support the American ideal of individual liberty.
I mean, right now, if my wife wants to hear about the new jazz artist or the great, hot, new television show; or watch Bryan Cranston get interviewed or hear him get interviewed, she has to turn on NPR and get socialism with her culture. Where are we on this, you know? We just are not supporting the artists who believe what we believe and who know what we know. And that’s what we have to start doing.
Lee Habeeb: Thanks Drew, (inaudible).
I’ve been one of the rare people who’s worked both in creating an enterprise that makes money — I started — I went to law school with Laura Ingraham. And we had this idea — let’s talk to a lot of Americans. So we sort of syndicated our own show, put it out there, spoke to a lot of people. And, get this — we turned a profit. It’s a crazy idea.
And then, I met the people at Salem. And that’s Bill Bennett, Dennis Prager, Michael Medved, like my heroes. And now I oversee that operation. And, get this — we turn a profit. It’s a crazy idea again.
And so, I’m sort of a little tired of us on the right acting like we can’t own the media, too. Because we have two examples. We have talk radio, and it’s fantastic. It preaches to the choir. And then we have Fox News. CNN had a 16-year head start, and Roger Ailes and Rupert Murdoch beat them in two years. Two years it took them to match their audience.
So if you would indulge me — because I’m not a public speaker like this; I’m the man behind the scenes who likes making stars or working with stars, and making them better and getting them out — we’ve all talked together — that is, a lot of the big talk radio hosts. And we’re preaching to the choir. But the question is who’s getting the center.
And so, National Review asked me to write a quick column on this. This is why I was invited. So if you’ll indulge me, it’ll take about four minutes to read it. But I’ll serve you all better by doing that.
This is now an executive talking about what we can do as donors and funders to think about how we create more enterprises that tell stories and fund people like Andrew and Ben, and get stories out into the public. And the title of the National Review piece, which went all over the place and got me invited here, is called “A Deficit of Stories.” And I wrote this story in the government shutdown.
How did it happen? How did we wake up one day to find ourselves cast as the bad guys for trying to save future generations from a lifetime of indebtedness? Why are we punished for pointing out that if we keep spending more money than we take in, we won’t continue to be a great country? Why do Americans view Republicans more negatively than they view Democrats, when it’s Democrats who gave us Detroit? And Democrats who might soon turn America into Detroit?
Well, how did that happen?
It’s simple. We’re losing the debate about our deficits, and everything else, because we have the biggest deficit of our own — a storytelling deficit.
How did the Left accumulate all of these important media conglomerates, then get them to sing from the same playbook? And do the bidding of one political party at the expense of another?
It’s simple. The Left takes the business of media ownership and storytelling seriously. We don’t. That’s ironic, given that we take ownership of every other business in the universe seriously in every other walk of life. Serious people, if they want to dominate their field, own distribution pipelines. Ask the Koch brothers. Ask Walmart. They didn’t complain about a lack of pipelines or a pipeline bias. They built them, and they made fortunes.
The loyal soldiers of the Left have turned their pipelines, their meeting of pipelines, into political fortunes. They’ve reaped wins not only in politics, but in shaping how we Americans view themselves and the world — what they think about risk-taking, work, private capital, family, even God.
“Those who tell the stories rule society,” Plato said. Muriel Rukeyser said, “The universe is made up of stories, not atoms.” Stories are packed not with hard data but with something far more powerful — emotional data. That’s why we remember them and why they’re so easily transported, even through generations. Stories stir our souls.
If Plato were around today, he’d have added this caveat — those who own the networks rule society. What an advantage ownership confers.
Take the shutdown. From Jon Stewart to Wolf Blitzer, from ABC to CNBC, the story was the same — extremist Republicans held the country hostage for their own political advantage, while a heroic President Obama held steadfast to principle, refusing to negotiate with domestic terrorists — us.
The impact of this mass media advantage is incalculable. Indeed, it is so powerful that it creates an effect much like the Stockholm syndrome. We conservatives begin to feel as if we’re hostages and a beleaguered minority in our own country. But we’re not. We begin to placate those who hold power, or we fall to arguing among ourselves. And soon, our internal family squabbles themselves become fodder for the media. When we vent, we become the very caricature of ourselves that the media created — the angry, white, old guy.
That’s the power of media ownership. A small group of people can have a profound impact on the culture. Indeed, it is a form of asymmetric warfare the Left is fighting against our own country, and they’re reaping huge benefits from their investments.
So the question I ask this audience — where are our versions of these mass media platforms? We have a few. In ’96, Ailes, with the help of Murdoch, launched Fox. It didn’t take long for them to beat CNN.
We have success in talk radio. I launched Laura Ingraham’s show in 2001. I run some very big shows on Salem.
But we are not telling stories in these platforms. Mostly, we’re just preaching to the choir. Not a bad thing, because choirs need to be fed. But why we don’t own more distribution channels and content providers is beyond me. Do we believe we can reason our way to victory, using our superior arguments to win back our country?
If so, the factually inclined among us have forgotten two important facts — most human beings get their information through stories, and most Americans don’t like the smart guy in the room telling us what to think, even if that guy believes a lot of what we believe.
Regrettably, we have too few people communicating our stories effectively — the story of free enterprise and the American character. We’ve developed a bench of PhDs, invested billions in think tanks — nothing when it comes to telling stories, making venues where we can share those stories.
Imagine this — if we had our own NPR, for instance, an organization we love to mock — but, get this — it reaches 35 million people a day; Fox reaches two million — and, confess it, you’ve all listened to NPR. We’ve had it with the claptrap and the screaming and yelling. You go there because they tell stories. Crazy, Marxist, loony stories; but nonetheless stories.
If we had our own version of NPR, an organization we mock, we’d see storytellers coming out of the woodwork — guys like Andrew. Because we’d have distribution. We’d see an army of pundits. Just as the army of pundits came to Fox News, we’d have an army of storytellers coming to NPR.
Indeed, the power of owning our own version, our own distribution outlet, would be all-encompassing. Because the distributor has the power to shape content and train a generation of stars and storytellers. These stories could reach independents, a new generation of listeners and viewers. Because it wouldn’t take much to turn our version of NPR into TV, podcasts, apps and live streams.
So let’s challenge our most generous donors to dream big and reverse-engineer some of the Left’s most effective storytelling conglomerates. In the past two cycles of politics, GOP donors have donated billions of dollars on TV ads. And that’s a giant donation. What do we have to show for that investment? Worse, those advertising dollars filled the coffers of the very media conglomerates we hate. We’re funding the other team. We’re funding the enemy, and we’re the smart guys?
Don Hewitt, the genius behind “60 Minutes,” was asked why the show he created was so successful. He was on the Laura Ingraham Show when he said this in 2001. He said — tell me a story, one with a beginning, a middle, and an end. He added — stories have good guys and bad guys, conflict and resolution — what Andrew was talking about.
In the liberal universe, the bad guys are corporations, millionaires, Christians, Israel, the US military, billionaires, the Founding Fathers, energy producers; and that’s just a few. That’s us. The good guys? Journalists, trial lawyers, union leaders, Palestinians, and government agencies; and that’s just a few. They’re framing the moral universe with good guys and bad guys. And all we do is complain.
We need our big donors, most of them big dreamers and builders themselves, to invest in a few good men and women who will construct a new distribution platform of storytelling tanks. Invest big. Let those people hire people who know what they’re doing, who sound like America, who look like America, and who share America’s values. Then watch the audience come, and revenue, too. Watch us shape the cultural narrative for change.
Let’s stop complaining about our storytelling deficit and media bias. Please. It’s time to construct our own. How hard could it be? Liberals did it.
Jeremy Boreing: Well, I think that all four of you have such wonderful things to say. And I took a few notes, so that maybe we could touch on several of them as we go. But the one thing that everyone mentioned — and Lee so eloquently there — was with the idea of story, and the framing of the narrative in terms of good and evil. And that started with Ben and ended with Lee.
And something that I’ve said for quite awhile now is that the Left understands that stories have villains. And while David has written his “Go for the Heart” tract, and Ben, you mentioned this too, about us taking a page out of that book and doing the same — you know, when Mitt Romney says that Barack Obama’s a good guy who’s not a very effective administer of the government, it would be like if Obi-wan Kenobi had said to Luke Skywalker, Darth Vader is a pretty good guy, but he doesn’t administer the Galactic Empire very well. If he had said that, we wouldn’t go on the journey with Luke Skywalker after that; we’d be against — Luke Skywalker would seem like a terrorist for trying to kill all those nice people on the giant government space station at the end of the movie.
And that’s how we see Mitt Romney, right? In exit poll after exit poll after exit poll after exit poll, the American people agreed with Mitt Romney on every single question of policy. Not the majority of policy; all policy. But they didn’t vote for him. You know why? He’s evil.
Hitler probably had some good ideas about how to build better roads and bridges, but we wouldn’t vote for him. Because he’s evil. And the American people don’t want to see themselves as being aligned with evil. The American people don’t get their news from Fox News. Lee, as you said, two million people watch it; 20 million people watch “American Idol.” The average American person under the age of 35 watches 1,500 hours of film and television every year. That’s 40 hours a week. That’s a full-time job.
If you think about your kids who are under 18, they go to school for that same amount of time. Meaning for 80 hours a week, they have two full-time jobs of being indoctrinated by the story of the Left. I mean, does a good parent spend 15 minutes a day in meaningful conversation with their kid? I mean, does the most religious parent among us take their kids to church for two hours a week?
We’re never going to make any dent until we engage this concept of story. And so, Ben, since you started with the concept of story, I wondered if you’d expound on it a little bit. Tell us where you think the — what is the story of the Right? And how can we tell it more effectively?
Ben Shapiro: I mean, the story of the Right is that the Left is an obstacle to liberty. Period. The Left is an obstacle to freedom. The Left is an obstacle to a better life for everyone. The Left is an obstacle to opportunity. The Left is standing in between you and the future that you get to create for yourself.
What’s really ironic about all of this is that what has happened in Hollywood is the Left actually — we’re saying we want to hijack the methods of the Left. The truth is that the Left’s hijacked the ideology of the Right. The Left — they’re a bunch of moral relativists.
They don’t believe in the concepts of good and evil, except when they’re telling stories. When they’re telling stories, suddenly it becomes — there is a good, and there is an evil. And so they’ve hijacked kind of the moral tropes of the Right, and they’ve leveraged them into the properties of the Left. And that’s what’s so effective about it. Because if they told the morally relativistic story all in shades of gray, it would be entertaining, but it wouldn’t have the same moral impact, right?
This is why “Breaking Bad,” I think, which is a story about shades of gray, is not something that has a tremendous leftist impact. Whereas “Avatar,” which is a story about black and white, has tremendous moral impact for the people who are watching it.
And I think that the Right for some reason has been intimidated by all of this. There are folks on the right who are just scared of talking in terms of — the Left is evil. And the Left is evil. What they are trying to do is evil. What they are trying to do by quashing American freedoms, what they’re trying to do by destroying our values, is an evil thing. And that means that we have to fight it.
But you see too many folks on the Right — and I really believe that Ronald Reagan was wrong about this, when Reagan said that the folks on the left — it’s not really that they’re bad; it’s just that they’re ignorant. At a certain point, ignorance becomes sin. And if we refuse to make that point, if we refuse to go out and make that moral case, both in politics and in art, then we’re going to continue to fall behind.
And I also agree, to a certain extent, with what Andrew is saying, although not fully, with regards to kind of the content of movies. The things we want to see are very often stories of sin. But as long as we start with the right premises, you can show the sin, and then you can show the consequences of the sin.
Right? That’s actually how it worked during the years in the Hays Code, a voluntarily adopted code brought about by pressure from the Catholic Legion of Decency. And it said that if somebody committed a crime, they had to be punished at the end of the movie. Well, if the crime gets punished at the end of the movie, that’s a far cry from “The Godfather,” where the criminals are actually the heroes. So you can actually tackle the same material the Left is doing but from a different moral viewpoint and from a more satisfying moral viewpoint.
So to sum up, as far as the morality that’s being drawn — this isn’t about us hijacking the methodology of the Left; this is about us taking back a methodology that was originally ours from a bunch of people who have bullied us into silence and tried to stop us from using our own methodology by saying that we’re nasty and coarse and vile if we state things like good and evil. Whereas they are allowed to say good and evil as often as humanly possible.
Jeremy Boreing: Turn it to you — I think that, like a presidential debate, you should be able to respond to what Ben just said. I do think it raises the question — if we don’t want to be in the business of making morality plays, how do you use art to tell the stories that we need to tell?
Andrew Klavan: The story of all Western art, all great Western art, is that the individual human experience of life has value. That’s the story of all Western art. I mean, if I could sum it up in one word, Shakespeare almost invented this idea. But he invented it out of this great tradition that had come up to him through the classics and through the world that he experienced during the reformation. The individual human experience of life has intense value.
Picture a story that takes place during the Civil War. And somebody in the North, a child, comes to his father and says, you know — is slavery — is it bad that they’re holding black people slaves down South? And the father says — well, that’s just their culture, you know. I mean, we have a culture that, you know, respects — feels that everybody should be free no matter what color — it’s their culture. That’s what the Left is saying about Islam right now. All right?
And it makes no sense. Because they can make movies about it, because they make movies in which individuals, good and bad, are respected and have a value. The days of the Hays office are gone. They are not coming back. Those movies were great; they’re not going to be made. And if they were made, they wouldn’t be relevant today.
See, this is the thing. The world of sex has changed. It changed. It’s not the same as it was. Certain moral aspects of sex will be the same forever, and we can make that case. But you cannot portray the world as it was portrayed in the ’50s, in the hopes that the ’50s will come back.
Remember this — the people who really ripped this culture to shreds in the ’60s — and by the way, the Redford book you’re talking about — the Redford movie you’re talking about was based on a novel by a guy who used to be a very good friend of mine. A very, very far-left guy who just thought we all — he said to me once, we all deserve to die. That’s what he said to me. Meaning the West, not meaning the Islamic East, but meaning the West. We all deserve to die — that was his belief.
And one day, out of nowhere, he just wrote me a letter telling me that he was not my friend anymore and he just simply couldn’t know me anymore. Which I would never have done to him.
So these guys — but these guys understand that the individual experience has all this power. We don’t have to show people being punished for crimes, if we show people what honestly happens to people who commit crimes. What honestly happens to people who commit crimes is beautifully portrayed in “MacBeth.” The fact that MacBeth dies at the end is not the point. It’s that he loses everything that he is. He loses all meaning. He makes one of the greatest nihilistic speeches in the history of art, where he says, you know, life is a tale told by an idiot, signifying nothing. Right? That’s what he says. Because he committed evil, and he destroyed his inner world. He destroyed his inner world through evil.
If we’re honest about the individual human experience, if we’re honest about the individual human experience, the morality will tell itself, for the simple reason that we live in a moral universe.
Jeremy Boreing: Yeah.
Ron, you brought up “Blue Bloods.” And I think that “Blue Bloods” is probably, as Drew said, the kind of art that he doesn’t think we should make.
Andrew Klavan: No no, I think that’s good for the base.
Jeremy Boreing: Good for the base. So there is room for the choir.
Andrew Klavan: Yes, absolutely.
Jeremy Boreing: Any good television show that’s made seems to be made on CBS. And they’re also the most watched shows on television. “Blue Bloods” has tremendous ratings. “CSI New York” had tremendous ratings. More people probably watch an episode of “CSI New York” than watch the entire Thursday night lineup of comedies on NBC. But it’s the comedies on NBC that shape the culture. If you ask the average American today, who’s more famous — Gary Sinise, or Steve Carell, or —
Unidentified Speaker: Amy Poehler.
Jeremy Boreing: — Amy Poehler, obviously they’re going to say Amy Poehler, they’re going to say Steve Carell; even though far more people engage the content that’s on CBS. How do we take the huge numbers of people that actually do engage with our value system and help move toward a younger audience, move toward a more relevant cultural penetration with those stories?
Ron Radosh: I don’t know if I can answer that. But I have one question. As Lee gave a wonderful speech, with the incredible suggestion of our own NPR — it’s a brilliant suggestion — possibly, too ambitious to pull off at the beginning.
But why — let me put it down a level — why don’t we even have a center-right “Daily Show?” We’ve read a million times that most kids under 30 get their news from Jon Stewart. Nobody watches the network news except people over 60, or 65. Dwindling numbers. This isn’t the ’70s, when Walter Cronkite was the most trusted man in America. As it turns out, we know from his biography, he was really a leftist all the time.
Unidentified Speaker: Yeah.
Ron Radosh: And nobody knew it. He wasn’t the great, objective reporter that everyone thought he was when they watched him, with that wonderful tone, the voice of authority. But we don’t have a center-right “Daily Show.”
Now, to Jon Stewart’s credit — I mean, I haven’t seen the new movie he made last summer. But that’s probably going to be — and I don’t know how well it will fare — a movie that alerts more people than anything else to the real evil nature of the regime in Iran.
Jon Stewart’s movie is about a British Iranian-born reporter who went back to Iran, was arrested; probably thought he’d die in a prison, where he was brutally tortured, and because of an international probe, this got out. And he filmed his story. That’s going to be — because Jon Stewart wrote and directed it from the guy’s memoire, is going to be the movie that most alerts people.
They didn’t watch “The Stoning of Soraya M.” Was written by one of our people.
Unidentified Speaker: Yes.
Ron Radosh: Limited response. But this movie is going to be a great aid to realizing the danger of Iran getting the bomb.
But look at “The Daily Show’s” ratings. Also to his credit, even he had to do an incredible sequence about Obama lying about — lying about lying. And when Obama’s ratings plummet, even he — and evidently, Jon Stewart saw Roger Ailes; stopped in his office and told him that he considered himself a socialist — but even Jon Stewart goes after Obama sometime. And, you know, as they say — the famous Cronkite quote — if you lose Jon Stewart, you’re losing America.
We need a version of that kind of satire he does that just doesn’t criticize Obama for putting up a bad website, but goes to the fundamentals. We don’t have that now.
Lee Habeeb: But to the point of distribution — and Andrew will bear this out, and I know so many on the right — I can’t tell you how many people want to just come on my talk shows and beg, so they can have some distribution just to talk to the choir. This is a matter of distribution. What we always end up doing is begging.
So, say I created my alternative to the Jon Stewart show. How would I get it out? You think the Comedy Channel’s going to take — I had an idea for something right now. We put Al Gore — we dress him in a Batman suit, okay? And he’s the environmentalist hero that everyone hates, because he’s always telling people what to do. And he’s saving the earth from [truth] and injustice, but only within 35 miles, because that’s as far as his little electric car goes.
We could ridicule the Left all day, and America would love it. But they’re not giving us distribution. And when are we going to stop begging for people to tell us that we’re allowed to see what we want to do? If we owned a distribution channel, we could put it on ourselves. It’s that simple. I don’t want to beg. I’m sick of begging. I’m Lebanese; we don’t beg.
Andrew Klavan: And you know what drives me crazy, too, is when Jon Stewart attacks Barack Obama. When Jon Stewart attacks Barack Obama, the Right goes crazy. We say — oh, this is wonderful, he attacks — you listen carefully to every single time he’s done it — the Right, the Republicans, are always the evil guys. What Ben was saying, where he’s seeing the Left as the enemies of freedom — that’s literally true. But what every liberal knows is that we’re the bad guys. And so, sure, they argue among themselves, they ridicule each other, they’ll criticize each other. But we are always the bad guys.
And so it doesn’t help that Jon Stewart criticizes Obama. We need our own Jon Stewart.
Lee Habeeb: And getting to Andrew’s point — because this is one of the most interesting interviews Laura and I ever did — when we first signed national, we went to Westwood One, which was owned by Viacom, which is CBS. And so every Friday, we went to Black Rock. Because I wanted to get near Don Hewitt, and I wanted to come on our show.
And I wanted to come on twice. The first time, I wanted to come on for an hour, and I wanted to have a nice time. And the second time, I wanted to challenge him that he has bias in his shows. And he was going to say to us — oh, that’s ridiculous, we’re not biased.
And the beauty of how the Left handles their depiction of us is they don’t call us evil. They never use the word. It’s the stock characters in their plays.
And so we went back. I had my producers pull every single segment “60 Minutes” did in the last five years. Mr. Hewitt came back to our show. And he said — so, what about that bias? I said — well, okay, here we go. You did a whole bunch of exposes on bad corporate America. How many exposes on bad government? And by the way, Mr. Hewitt, do you think that corporate America on balance is more evil, or more prone to corruption; or government? Do you think that our ecosystem of corporate competition ferrets out corruption by its nature, as opposed to government, which doesn’t have competition? Long crickets. It was overwhelmingly plaintiff’s lawyer’s being celebrated and unions being celebrated. Rarely, rarely did he celebrate free enterprise.
And so that’s how Don Hewitt used “60 Minutes.” A nice little segment about the opera, a nice little segment about this, and then boom, the whammo, right in here in the middle segment, on unions and how they’re saving the day against X, Y and Z, big, bad Walmart. Four times they went after Walmart, in two years. Four times.
Andrew Klavan: And that’s what BuzzFeed is doing today — five girls in bikinis, five reasons why Kim Kardashian’s shoes are great, five reasons why Republicans stink. You know, and they do exactly the same thing.
Lee Habeeb: Yes, the S-H-I-T sandwich, I call it.
Ben Shapiro: Lee, when you talk about distribution — one of the problems in the movie industry is that to distribute a movie in a mainstream way in America cost $30 million. And it doesn’t matter if the movie cost $1 million or $100 million; the cost to get it out on 3,000 screens is $30 million. That leaves you in a position where you have to ask the question — how many million-dollar movies — I left out a step. To recoup your money on a movie, the theaters keep 50 cents on every dollar.
So just to keep the math super simple — a movie that cost $1 million plus $30 million of marketing has to make $62 million to break even. That forces you to ask the question — how many million-dollar movies make $62 million? Very few. How many hundred million [dollars], on the other hand, make half a billion dollars? The answer is very many. That’s why we see Hollywood moving almost entirely to the big-tent pole $100 million movie.
But when we talk about building distribution channels, and the kind of content that you need to push down those channels, we’re not talking about the budget of the Heritage Foundation; we’re talking about a billion-dollar industry to create one movie studio for one year, and the Left has a dozen movie studios per year.
Lee Habeeb: Well, movies are really inefficient. I mean, for my money, it’s the daily drip of hourly content by the networks, like CBS or NPR. NPR operates on about a — they do about $600 million in revenue now. And that money comes in. Salem — we do $550 million a year in revenue. This is not some pie-in-the-sky idea. Ed Atsinger, my CEO, started Salem in the year 2000, because he thought Christians didn’t have a voice nationally; didn’t think conservatives did. And we’re turning a profit.
So I think that’s the kind of distribution that matters. Movies, I think, have very little impact on the culture today. There aren’t that many, and they cost a lot of money to make. And it’s an hour and a half of someone’s time. I love the stuff that’s every day, every hour. That’s the stuff that’s really impacting the culture.
Andrew Klavan: Movies are pretty much over, you know, as the major art form. I mean, it’s mostly TV now that people talk about around water coolers. And kids, young people, aren’t even watching TV. They’re watching YouTube, and they’re watching — they’re sort of [force-feeding] stuff off Netflix.
Jeremy Boreing: But let me challenge that just by — if we accept the premise that television is a more powerful medium — and I think I would agree with that — you still face the same problem. And a season of “Breaking Bad” does 13 episodes, the budget is $4 million per episode. So you’re talking about $50 million to produce that. And then, the network that’s carrying it is a $500 million-a-year operation.
So the question of how do we — we’re not talking about a donor base that can make this happen, I guess, is where I’m going. We’re talking about a major corporate undertaking that’s going to require incredible capital to create.
Andrew Klavan: But my question is why — I mean, if Murdoch was so successful with Fox News, why aren’t there five Fox channels — one of them dealing with stories, one of them dealing with the young? Why doesn’t that happen? Why are we so dopey about this? I mean, Murdoch, God bless him, can’t live forever. And there’s nobody to replace him. There’s nobody who’s thinking like he is.
Lee Habeeb: We have 14 national brands of potato chips. I’m telling you, this is the Stockholm syndrome. We actually believe we can’t do this and can’t afford it. Yet, we’ll instantly go out to investors with a good book and a deck from Deloitte or somebody and raise $200 million to start X, Y and Z potato chip company. But we somehow think we’re not entitled to run distribution channels and run our own CBS’s, when of course we are.
Unidentified Speaker: Nobody’s bringing it out to us to buy the stock, or do the (inaudible). And then, can you talk about what Glenn Beck’s doing? And he’s doing it —
Lee Habeeb: That’s brilliant. Glenn’s the example. That’s one positive example. And there are going to be many more. That’s exactly right. Glenn’s doing it. And he’s leading the way, and more will do it.
Now, Glenn’s doing pay-per-view, and so his audiences are — he’s trying to get to cable. This is a very interesting thing that he’s trying, and I wish him the best, and I think he’s going to be able to do it.
But that’s what we need to be able to do. We need to be able to come to our people with investor books. And now you have to invest in people who have the experience to do it, who’ve done it before. And that’s the problem — we don’t have an executive bench that knows how to do this. We only have right now two media companies and a fledgling media company just starting. So we don’t have the bench.
Once we have the bench — if I were to flip up a network, and then I train two other guys so they could flip up networks; in five to 10 years, we could have, along with Glenn’s, five or six networks. It’s just getting the bench.
I’m sorry, we’re going to have questions in just a touch.
Jeremy Boreing: Yeah. And I think it’s be appropriate to open up to questions, if no one else has anything that they’d like to add first. That’s a great question to start with.
Do you have the ability on talk radio to request these to us to bring money to a venture like that? And I have [run a news corp]. I’d be happy to invest in [something like that]. And so would most conservatives. If they’re talking to the choir, the choir would love to do it. Please do it.
Lee Habeeb: You bet.
Ben Shapiro: Well, I think there is one obstacle, actually. And I think that one obstacle is everybody in the conservative movement likes to say — if I had the option, I would put money into it. The truth is that if there were a conservative entertainment option that were billing itself as such, that’s the only thing that conservatives would invest in, and it would be bound to fail.
And the reason I say that it would be bound to fail is because the minute that you label entertainment conservative, you put a target on your back. That means that everyone will come and destroy you. And the content that you are making will undoubtedly be expected to be a Reagan biopic every other week. And that is not the stuff that is actually going to draw audiences.
I mean, even though Andrew and I argue sort of about the moral underpinning of what exactly these movies are supposed to look like, I think we both agree that if it’s overtly political, it’s done.
Unidentified Speaker: Yeah.
Ben Shapiro: And the problem is that too many — the first thing we have to overcome in order to get to the point where people are actually going to put money into something like this is that conservatives have to get over what I call the dolphin syndrome, which is — they have two sides — dolphins sleep with one half of their brain on and one half of their brain off.
Conservatives have two sides of their brain — the entertainment side of their brain, and the political side of their brain. When the political side of their brain is on, they don’t even want to hear about entertainment. And when the entertainment side of their brain is on, they don’t want to hear about politics. Until the two sides of their brain start to connect, and they start to realize that entertainment is politics and politics is entertainment, then the crowd that is going to invest in something that doesn’t bill itself openly as conservative media network that makes only Christian movies and Reagan biopics, is bound to fail, as opposed —
Lee Habeeb: Christians actually have to make entertainment that they don’t like.
Andrew Klavan: Yeah.
Ron Radosh: No doubt. No doubt.
And Ben, that just gets back to bad executive talent blemishes. We could do it. But, you know —
Andrew Klavan: Thomas Nelson — I write young adult — some of the books I write are young adult thrillers for Thomas Nelson. Thomas Nelson started out as a Bible company; it’s now a Christian publishing company. They called me. I had given an interview in a Christian magazine. They called me and said — would you write for us? And I said — do you know who I am?
And they said — we do. And I said — look, I’m not going to preach to anybody. It’s obnoxious, and it makes for bad storytelling. And they said — just write stories. Write them for young adults, so they’re not dirty or anything like that. But just write stories.
I gave them a bestselling series. On that alone. Because all I did was change the rules. I just told a great story. And the guy was a Christian, the hero was a Christian. That was the only thing about it. Jesus didn’t come and save them. There were no angels, there was nothing supernatural happening. It took place in the world as we know it. And I didn’t preach to anybody. And it works, because they let me do that. And I don’t think too many Christian enterprises would’ve done that.
Lee Habeeb: Was there an alter call on the back dust jacket cover?
Andrew Klavan: Yeah, exactly. You get a little card.
Jerry Hayden: I’m Jerry Hayden, a political activist from Scottsdale, Arizona.
There are two types of capitalists in our world that preach communism. And they make lots of money out of what they do, but still preach redistribution, but don’t redistribute what they earn. And that would be all of the entertainers. You’re talking about the entertainers, movie stars, athletes; who traditionally preach the communism. We also have a lot of new entrepreneurs, inventors, who make things and make millions of dollars, billions of dollars; but still preach this redistribution, but do not redistribute their own money.
A two-part question is — why are they such hypocrites? And two, how can we educate them or the population in how critical they are and how we can change their minds?
Andrew Klavan: One of the funniest things about working in Hollywood is talking to guys who say — I’m making a great, great new movie about a courageous unionizer who organizes a factory. And we’re filming it in Budapest, so we don’t have to pay the Teamsters.
I think the answer to your question is they’re so successful, they’re so isolated by their money from government craziness and government confiscation, that it makes them feel better. It makes them feel good. It makes them feel virtuous to make that movie, even though, as they make it, they squeeze every penny out of every worker they can.
Lee Habeeb: And I’ll just add one point to what Ben was saying about the storytelling. What has to happen is we have to have storytellers who happen to be conservatives and happen to be people who care about faith, and not the other way around.
You know, Johnny Cash had a great line. I wrote a really good piece on him for National Review when I was digging up some research. And he said — here’s why I think I’m so successful — I’m a songwriter who happens to be a Christian, not a Christian who happens to be a songwriter. I think that’s very important, and I think that’s why he drew so many people to his work.
Jeremy Boreing: That’s great.
Art Saltz: I’m Art Saltz, from Parrish, Florida, which is a small community north of Sarasota.
And sometime back, after the last presidential election, we had a victory party. And the community got together after all. We had empty chairs out on lawns all over the community and American flags. And we knew that Obama couldn’t win. And we spent an agonizing evening, because he outworked us, he outpolled the critical vote, he pulled the conservative vote in critical areas. And that’s the story of a victorious evening.
Now, how do we prevent having another victorious evening, as we’ve had in the past?
Jeremy Boreing: Ron?
Ron Radosh: I don’t know if I can — can I pass on that one?
Unidentified Speaker: (Multiple speakers) win in 2020.
Art Saltz: Now, this isn’t about the inarticulate Right.
Unidentified Speaker: 2016?
Art Saltz: The Right has been inarticulate since its beginning.
And we don’t know why. I sometimes think maybe the Right isn’t American-born, or there’s some reason.
But the point is, Obama outworked us and out-thought us, and out-organized us. And how do we prevent that in the future?
Ron Radosh: I don’t think Obama won because he outworked us.
First of all, I mean, he had the social media mastered. Ironic. He had the Internet. I mean, he had that guy who bought the New Republic and ruined a once-good magazine, by turning it far to the left, that nobody reads anymore. I mean, he ran the Obama Internet and media campaign, got all these kids who were into social media to use it for the Obama Campaign; while Republicans had that system they were waiting to use on Election Day that crashed, that they never tested.
Now, we got Obama’s healthcare system crashing. And the social media that put him in power suddenly disappeared. We didn’t compete in that. Republicans weren’t tuned to the use of social media. You had people like Mark Zuckerberg and his team — you can’t beat that.
To win in 2016, I think what we have to do is bring — my wife and I are working on a book on a great Republican President who nobody remembers, Warren G. Harding. And what he did is bring — he came in — was running for President after the Republican Party had been split into two sides — conservative, and TR’s so-called progressive Republicans.
And what he did after the disastrous statist years of Woodrow Wilson’s administration that the country was fed up with — he managed to bring both sides of the party together to stop attacking each other and won in a landslide.
One of the things I think Republicans have to do is end this what I think is a disastrous split between so-called establishment Republicans and Tea Party conservatives. I think both have to work together, stop attacking each other, build on each other’s strengths, and fight the liberals and the statists and the Democrats, not each other. And if we don’t do that, I don’t think we’re going to win.
Jeremy Boreing: Ben?
Ben Shapiro: You know, I think asking about how we’re going to win in 2016 is actually, on some ways, the wrong question. The question is how do we change the American people, and change their minds, so that we win continuously. Because one election is not going to do it. This has been a continuous downward march for something like the last 80 years in terms of the growth of government, last hundred years in terms of the growth of government. That’s not going to be reversed in one election.
If Mitt Romney actually had won, I’m not firmly convinced we would’ve seen a massive cut in government spending. I think that we would’ve seen some cuts in government spending. But let’s face it, gang. I mean, we’re spending $4 trillion a year. If we go down to $3 trillion, which is a 25 percent cut, we’re still spending $400 billion more than Bill Clinton was spending the last year of his term.
So the goal here is — the first thing to note is, number one, if we’re going to win on a continuous basis, the people in this room are not the electorate. Meaning this is the only room in America where we actually got a round of applause for Warren G. Harding?
Most people in America don’t know who Warren G. Harding is, let alone whether to like him or not.
The only way that we’re going to continuously win — and this is really what this panel is about — is the culture is really where it’s at. Andrew Breitbart always used to say that politics was downstream of culture. And he was exactly right. The fact is the ground had been prepped for President Obama, the ground was prepped for Bill Clinton. The ground is prepped for Hillary Clinton going into 2016. In order for us to change how the ground is prepped, we have to start reversing the polarity of the morality tale that’s being told.
Earlier, Andrew, you were talking about kind of Shakespeare plays, and saying that they don’t exist in kind of the morality play mold, but that’s not really true. I mean, they sort of do. The fact is that Edmund doesn’t win at the end of Lear. MacBeth does experience guilt. Lady MacBeth does go crazy for no apparent reason.
Andrew Klavan: No, they exist in a moral universe.
Ben Shapiro: Right, they exist in a moral universe. So in the end — well, it’s not a morality play in the sense that there’s someone who’s there necessarily punishing them. They live in a universe where God is good.
Andrew Klavan: That is my exact (multiple speakers).
Ben Shapiro: Yeah, exactly. So you and I actually agree.
Andrew Klavan: We do agree about that.
Ben Shapiro: But the American people I’m not sure do agree about that anymore. Meaning the bad guy is allowed to win now. And the bad guy is supposed to win in many cases now. And until we change how the American people think about that — I mean, look at the case of abortion — how is it that the woman — last night on MSNBC, there was a really fascinating interview with this woman who wrote a column in New York Magazine about the abortion that she’d had and abortions that other women had had. And she said that abortion is for heroes.
And one of the people who was hosted was a woman who had had an abortion. Purely elective, it was not for medical reasons, it was not because of rape or incest. And she’d had an abortion at 28 weeks. Okay, 28 weeks is — my wife is 30 weeks pregnant right now. Twenty-eight weeks is seven months. Okay? We’re talking a fully formed baby that’s viable outside the womb.
This woman is a hero in the eyes of the Left. If you visit the Democratic National Convention, it wasn’t that they were cheering the right to choose; they were cheering abortion itself. Abortion is, in many cases, a moral good according to these folks.
So the question becomes how do you win back — the same thing is true of — the right wing worries about — what do we do on same-sex marriage on a state level? We lost the culture, folks. And that’s why we lost the law. Okay, you can’t to keep the law and them somehow win back the culture. We have to win back the culture first.
So if we’re going to win back what America should be, we’re going to have to convert America back to not only founding ideals but founding values in a certain set of morals and precepts that go far beyond whoever we nominate in 2016.
Jeremy Boreing: And I think that since we got an agreement out of Ben and Andrew that that probably means we’re wrapping up. So let’s take one more question, and then we want to move everyone over, so that you have plenty of time to get to lunch and the remarks by Ann Coulter.
Unidentified Speaker: Okay.
You know, you were mentioning that we needed storytellers for different things where you show that people don’t live perfect lives, but they have consequences. And you were talking about the culture of Hollywood.
There’s another culture that — I don’t know if it’s something you can tap into. But there are people that — there’s a culture that is more conservative. And I would just say what it is is country music. You could think — I was wondering if it’s something — you’ve thought about taking advantage of that to some degree of a different part of America. And it’s a big part. And there’s music all over the country, this kind of music that people like. So it’s just something I was wondering if you’d thought about utilizing in some way.
Lee Habeeb: I’d like to speak to that briefly before kicking it back. Because I’m a Texas boy and grew up listening to country music. And I actually believe there wouldn’t be a country today without country music. I mean, it’s the only mainstream art form that for the last 30 years has been able to celebrate American virtue, where hard work is actually a good thing in a song —
— and faith is a good thing in a song, America’s a good thing in a song.
But unfortunately, Nashville is not conservative even in the ways today that it was in the ’90s. And we’re losing even that one small bastion of the culture that we had held onto.
And I think for lack of any other advice today, for someone who has an interest in country music, is please support it. Because I think that when we lose it, we’ve lost the entire culture.
Ron Radosh: Yes. You know, the Brad Paisley song — I mean, not Brad Paisley — I forget — “There Goes My Life” — I forget who wrote that song. Darrell Mobley. It was a big hit for the guy with the — I’m forgetting which country star, but if you’ve ever seen the video. And it has like 30 million hits.
It starts with a guy who finds out — is a high school football player — that his girl’s pregnant. And he goes — there goes my life. What am I going to do? Next stanza, it’s him with pictures of his little girl, and she’s running up the steps. And now he says there goes my life. And it has a totally different meaning. And then at the end, there’s this beautiful passage where he now is taking her off to college, sending on her way. And he’s now absolutely weepy. And he says in the chorus, there goes my life.
And so it’s beautiful storytelling. It’s a pro-life message without really ever saying the word “abortion.” And 30 million views, one of the most viewed country hits of all time.
Jeremy Boreing: That’s great.
Andrew Klavan: What’s interesting is you can’t tell a good pro-abortion story. This is —
Unidentified Speaker: Exactly.
Andrew Klavan: Because there is a moral universe, you just can’t. They tried to do it that one John Irving story, “The Cider House Rules.” And it’s just a [dedactive] mess, and it’s really awful. But you can’t do it, because it’s killing people.