A transcript of the “Assault on the Culture” held at the David Horowitz Freedom Center’s retreat February 22nd-24th, panel discussion video and transcript follows.
Mark Tapson: As your mutual friend, the late great Andrew Breitbart, was fond of pointing out, politics flows downstream from culture. And the results of the last election confirm that. Conservatives lost last November in the political arena because for decades the radical Left has laid the groundwork for it in the cultural arena.
There’s no way the radical and insubstantial Barack Obama would ever have been taken seriously as a presidential candidate, much less be elected to two terms in the White House, if the Left had not previously and successfully infiltrated the key cultural arenas — education, the news media and entertainment — and spent decades indoctrinating generations. Our task now is to retake the culture or create a parallel one, deprogram that indoctrination, and seduce subsequent generations to a renewed vision of American exceptionalism.
So, gentlemen, what are the symptoms of the assault on the culture? And what is the cure?
We’ll begin with Ron.
Ron Radosh: As the moderator mentioned — I started out, as David did, as a young Marxist. And let me take a page from Marx. Just [as] people have learned that the Left organizes around the Alinsky playbook, here’s another leftist we can learn something from — the brilliant Italian communist Antonio Gramsci, who developed a theory of hegemony. He argued that before there could be any radical change or revolution, which is what he desired, there had to be first a total change in and control of the culture, so that the dominant ideas that would emerge would be those that would lead to the potential for revolutionary action.
He was really onto something. He realized correctly that you had to wage what he called, in his Marxist terminology, a war of position to demand and create hegemonic control of the culture, so that the majority of people think alike and then would be ripe for and become vehicles for creating a revolution.
Well, the problem is, in this country — to make it very simple — that even if we win elections — and we are winning it in state and local level, but not in the national level — even if we win elections, the culture is at present controlled by the political Left. Have no doubts about that.
The first thing — look at the polls and the studies that have been done in the past year. I meant to bring it with me, but I can just mention it without reading through what this professor found out, from a very finely tuned study. He studied the majority of liberal arts universities and colleges in the United States. And he found out that almost 80, 90 percent of the faculty define themselves as liberal or radical and on the left. And you can be sure that in the humanities — history, philosophy, political theory — the professors there are almost entirely on the left.
Undoubtedly you’ve all seen the recent studies of how many faculty members in the major Ivy universities gave to the Romney campaign. They looked at Harvard and Princeton and Yale. And I think at Harvard, everybody gave — 98, 99 percent gave to Obama. And there were, I think, two faculty members — two people employed by Harvard — who gave to Romney; one was a janitor.
So, this is the reality we’re facing.
Now, I was supposed to talk — I’ve been on a one-man campaign. And instead of giving you everything I said — because there’s just no time — all you have to do is blog, put it on Google — Ron Radosh on Oliver Stone. And you will have maybe 10 recent articles come up. And I’ve been on a one-man campaign against what I think is a major turning point in the culture. Starting a few months ago, on the Showtime Network owned by CBS, Oliver Stone and Peter Kuznick have put together a 10-part documentary series that is now at an end, but you can still watch it on-demand. And that is now going to be shown throughout our high schools and colleges — Oliver Stone’s “Untold History of the United States.”
If you have seen any of it — and I don’t know how many of you want to be masochists and watch it — it is horrendous. It is — and I am not exaggerating — the exact KGB Soviet propaganda history of the United States as it was written by the KGB in the 1950s and ’60s.
Indeed, when I was growing up, the first book that said the United States was the evil power in the world and responsible for the then-ongoing Cold War was a little-known book by a Communist — who was one of the Communist Party members of the United States who infiltrated the OSS during the war and was a top officer in the OSS — a man named Carl Marzani, who was a secret member of the Communist Party and later, we found out, paid by the KGB, and actually a paid agent of theirs — he published a book subsidized by the KGB — this is how he got the money to publish independently — called “We Can Be Friends.”
And that book outlined the theory that the United States — there could’ve been peace with the Soviet Union if the United States had done what Stalin wants. Because Stalin was a good guy. Truman, who then President, was a fascist, which –
You have to remember, the Communists in America called Harry Truman a fascist. Not even a conservative Republican, but a fascist — creating a fascist America. And he outlined the theory in this book.
And, lo and behold — I watched Oliver Stone’s first five episodes; I couldn’t go beyond that. I know what’s in them; I read the [synopsis] in David Horowitz’s FrontPage. I’m not going to torture myself that much. But I watched the first five. It was exactly the argument, with the same quotations and the same facts, in the same order, as this 1952 book by this Communist KGB agent.
And they are — you have to realize this is a turning point. If something like this had been produced and tried to be shown when John F. Kennedy was President, or in the years after Kennedy — even, I think, when Bill Clinton was President — first they would not have been able to get it aired in a major network. It would’ve been attacked all over as outright distortions of history, as Communist propaganda, as an embarrassment.
What has happened? Just the reverse. They have been touring — up to the present, and still going on every weekend — college after college in the United States, where they speak to thousands of students, show them one episode, and then talk and answer questions. They are getting phenomenal attention. Both of them have been on every major TV and radio talk show you can think of, including, I’m sorry to say, Mike Huckabee, who sang their praises and thanked them for doing such a wonderful job in educating our students in the history of the United States. Either Mike Huckabee is dumb or he just got something handed to him by his staff and didn’t really watch it.
So this is what we’re against. Let me just give you one brief example, because I only have two minutes left. The hero of the Stone TV series is the late Vice President — before that Secretary of Commerce — Vice President and then Secretary of Commerce, who Truman fired for being an appeaser of the Soviets, Henry A. Wallace. The theory of their TV show is that had Henry A. Wallace successfully become President, there would’ve been no Cold War, we would’ve had peace with Russia, we would’ve had total income redistribution, we would have an equitable, fair, social democratic America. And everything would’ve been roses. As it was, this was failed because of the political bosses in the rightwing corporations who fought Wallace and stymied him.
Well, who was Henry Wallace? He was a naïve, classic dupe. And just to give you the one incident that says it all — when he was Secretary of Commerce, still in the President’s cabinet, he had a secret meeting with the head of the KGB, the KGB station chief in Washington, DC. And he went to see Anatoly Gorsky. And he said to him — you know, we’re having an internal battle in the administration. Truman and all these advisors around him want to get tough with the Russians, they want to stand up to Stalin. Can you help me out and give us support and ammunition, so we can defeat these anti-Soviet forces?
And he goes to the KGB station chief to ask for help in settling an internal administration dispute, while he’s in the President’s cabinet. The man, in other words, was either a fool or a traitor, or just a total idiot. Or maybe all three.
And this is the man that students and people in America are being told, week by week, is the unsung hero who should’ve been the President of the United States instead of all the reactionaries who followed him.
We have a fight to wage. It’s a fight to change the culture, to change the way the truth about our past is taught. It’s something that has to be carried out. It is extremely important. And if not, you’re going to see a whole new generation mis-educated, as Stone and Kuznick are doing now, with the most vile, old kind of Communist propaganda. And that will be what they think of the United States. They will come out learning the evil power in the world is the United States. And just as we should’ve appeased the Soviets then, we have to now reach out and honor the wishes of the Islamists who have something to say.
I learned yesterday, the great Iranian-American filmmaker who did — what’s the name of the movie about the woman who was stoned? Stoning of Soraya — he told me yesterday that he spoke to Stone and Kuznick, and they saw his movie. And Stone and Kuznick said to him, to Cyrus — you know, your film is very dangerous, because it would have the effect of turning the American people against radical Islam.
And he then said to them — what, you’re not against the stoning of women? He said — well, that’s their culture, and who are we to oppose it?
Now, that’s the people we’re dealing with. If we don’t fight this, and develop films like Cyrus’s movie — why can’t we develop a counter-series about the history of the United States to sell to HBO or Showtime that tells that truth about our past, rather than the kind of stuff they’re showing now?
And Howard Zinn was on Fox with his special before he died. Now we have Stone. This could not have happened years ago. These guys would never have got contracts for major television time. And this is a crisis that this has been received well. Look at the rave review it got in the Washington Post. This says something about our culture. It’s a dangerous time, and we have to oppose it.
Andrew Klavan: Well, on a lighter note –
Brought with me a quote, one of my favorite quotes from the lyricist/librettist, W.S. Gilbert, the lyric-writing half of Gilbert and Sullivan, who wrote in one of his operettas, “Iolanthe” — “I often think it’s comical/How Nature always does contrive/That every boy and every gal/
That’s born into the world alive/Is either a little Liberal,/Or else a little Conservative!”
And Steven Pinker, the science writer, uses this quote in his book, “The Blank Slate,” to put forward the idea that there’s a genetic component to our politics — that people are naturally liberal and naturally conservative, and I think there’s some truth to that. And it creates a kind of paradox for conservatives in the United States. Because in other countries and other cultures, people who are naturally conservative are naturally trying to conserve naturally conservative stuff. I mean, if you’re an English conservative, you’re really in favor of a sort of aristocratic class system. You know, the Russian conservative is in favor of state control over people. The Saudi Arabian conservative is trying to conserve seventh-century barbarism.
But if you’re an American conservative, you’re trying to conserve something revolutionary, and a kind of a revolution that is, by its nature, individualistic, kind of antic and freewheeling. And it’s going to be a little nutty. So you’re trying to conserve something that’s really not very conservative at all. And that paradox really comes to the fore when you hear conservatives start talking about the arts. When you hear them talking about — oh, there’s too much sex in the arts, and there’s too much violence, and there’s too many gay people, and there’s too much, you know, romanticism of gangsters and all this stuff. And I always tell them — don’t worry, when the jihadis take us over, all those problems will be solved.
Because as long as America is America, the America we care about, there’s going to be all that stuff in the arts. The arts is going to be a frontier crazy house. It’s going to be filled with naked women, it’s going to be filled with gay people, it’s going to be filled with guns, it’s going to be filled with gangsters. If you don’t like it, you stay home and read Shakespeare. Because all that stuff is in Shakespeare, too.
He just talks so funny, nobody knows what he’s saying.
The fact is, if you look at our cultural situation from a certain angle, things are going really rather well for our team. If you look at the most popular movies last year, the top three popular movies — one was “The Dark Knight,” the most conservative movie ever made, as far as I’m concerned. The reason Batman wears a mask in that picture is, if he took it off and people found out it was David Horowitz, none of us would be safe.
The other one was “The Avengers,” which was written by one of these fake Hollywood socialists and yet, all the same, is a very patriotic, heroic film. And then, “The Hobbit,” which of course was Tolkien’s Christian allegory. These are the top three Box Office films of last year.
If you look on TV, TV has become such a niche market that you can watch the Americans and root for the KGB, which is amazing. I was actually called in — when they were looking to create that show, I was one of the writers they called. And I said I’d be happy to do it, but I don’t want anybody rooting for the KGB, and they never called me back.
But you can also find “Downton Abbey” and all kinds of — “Blue Bloods,” and all kinds of conservative shows.
So if you look at it from a certain angle, the culture is really not as bad as conservatives naturally feel that it is. I mean, we have a natural feeling that they’re out to get us. But what Ron just said is exactly right. The place where the Left is moving most assiduously and most carefully, and is blackballing people and blacklisting people, is in the realm of recreating history and the facts.
If you take a look at what’s happening — the Oscars are tomorrow — the lead picture, the favorite for the Oscar, was “Zero Dark Thirty,” until the Left set up such a stink about “Zero Dark Thirty” for telling the truth about, you know, water-boarding. “Zero Dark Thirty” is a completely po-faced film. It’s like a piece of journalism. It shows you these things. It doesn’t make any moral argument about them, but it shows you that the CIA water-boarded people, got some information that helped in the 10-year hunt for bin Laden.
Dianne Feinstein, Carl Levin and John McCain have been complaining about this. And this caught on with the Left that they showed that water-boarding worked, and this is a terrible thing. Well, Dianne Feinstein is no stranger to this. Dianne Feinstein’s the one who hounded Joel Surnow on “24,” the television show “24.” When she found out that Joel was giving speeches to places like this, she went after the network on “24″ to tell them to tone it down, and tone down the anti-jihadi propaganda and pro-torture propaganda.
Meanwhile, “Argo” is now the favorite for the Oscar. I don’t know it’s going to win the Oscar, but “Argo,” about the escape from Iraq — Iran, sorry, the escape from Iran — is the favorite. And conservatives are saying nothing about this, whereas “Argo” completely rewrites history to whitewash the Carter Administration, makes Jimmy Carter sound like he handled this thing with brilliant nobility, edits Ronald Reagan out of the picture — you’ll remember it was the election of Ronald Reagan that ended that crisis — and basically blames the United States for the crisis in the first place, the United States and Britain for the crisis in the first place.
This is a pattern. This happens all the time. You mentioned Cyrus Nowrasteh. His film, “The [Road] to 9/11,” which shows that Bill Clinton let bin Laden get away because he was distracted by the Lewinsky affair — that was one of the most popular miniseries ever on television. It has been banned from DVD because the Clinton Administration reached Disney and got them not to release it on DVD. When I tried to write about this in The Washington Post, they edited it out of my article repeatedly. I kept putting it back in, and they kept taking it out.
Of course, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan — maybe a dozen to 15 films depicting our soldiers as idiots and rapists and killers, with really nary a one except for “The Hurt Locker,” depicting the enemy as they really were.
Now, here’s the thing. You know, why does this matter? About three days ago, Jonah Goldberg wrote a column saying conservatives don’t need a movie studio. That’s kind of been a meme that’s been going around — conservatives need to buy a movie studio, we need to buy women’s magazines, we need to buy magazines. And he said we don’t really need a movie studio, because look at all these films that they made against the war, and they all bombed, they all tanked. I hate to disagree with Jonah, because he’s such a brilliant guy, and he’s a great guy, and I agree with him 99.9 percent of the time. But he’s wrong about this.
The trick is, while we’re trying to win the next election, they’re trying to win the next generation. Because these films last forever. And nobody reads history books; they watch movies. They think that Oliver Stone’s “JFK” is how JFK was killed. They don’t know he was killed by a Communist. They don’t know he was killed by a Communist because he was a cold warrior; they think it was some incredible conspiracy involving everybody in America except for Oliver Stone.
Former Ambassador Joseph Wilson — remember the guy who wrote that article in the New York Times about how Bush was lying about weapons for mass distraction, right? To distract from the fact that he had lied, they created this kind of Valerie Plame scandal, which was every bit as important as Rubio drinking water in the middle of his speech.
They then made a movie of this, okay, recreating this whole thing as if Joseph Wilson and Valerie Plame were great American heroes. And somebody at the Times asked Joseph Wilson — look, nobody’s going to want to watch this movie. Nobody’s going to want to watch this movie, why are you making it? Joseph Wilson said — for people who have short memories or don’t read, this is the only way they will remember the period. That is absolutely right — art never dies. It’s on TV every night, people watch it all the time.
Now, the way that Jonah is right — and I want to finish up quickly — the way that Jonah is right that we don’t need to buy a movie studio is this — the movie studio paradigm is over. The publishing house paradigm is over. We are in the middle — you know, this hasn’t reached the general populace yet, but for people like me in the arts, we are in the middle of a revolution in the arts that is unlike anything anybody has ever seen.
Nobody knows how to deal with it. Nobody knows what’s going to happen next. People are going to be making movies on their laptops — I mean, really good, professional movies on their laptops — and distributing them through Netflix and YouTube. People can already write novels, press a button and publish them for everyone to see.
This is an amazing moment. This is a model that is particularly susceptible to patronage. This is a model where money will talk. Because the money that’s going to be needed is money for promotion — how do you make your book stand out from the other guy’s book if it’s self-published? How do you make your movie stand out from the next guy’s movie? It’s a moment when the Right should be all over this culture. As Ron said, we need to be fighting back against this complete distortion of history and reality, and especially moral reality. I mean, if you put on a show like “The Americans,” and you’re rooting for the KGB, you’re rooting for these guys who exterminated like 60 million people. You’re rooting for an absolute evil.
And so this is a moment when we need to be alert and awake to where to spend the money that we’re now throwing away on guys like Karl Rove. And I think that –
I think that it’s right there, and it’s really exciting moment. And we should be paying attention.
Ben Shapiro: It turns out “Big Bang Theory” is actually the number-one-rated show among conservatives. If you look at the list of shows that conservatives watch, “The Big Bang Theory” is number one. Now, that’s true because “The Big Bang Theory” is most watched by virtually everyone; it’s a huge show. Everyone watches that show.
The reason that this is important is because it means that we go to sleep on entertainment. And I think I agree with Drew on virtually everything. But on this one, I sort of disagree. I think the part that really is harmful is not the rewriting of history. I think the rewriting of history is massively important. But for me, that’s mostly done by the media in real time.
We watch it happen every day in The Washington Post, in the New York Times. We’ve seen it happen this week, we’ve seen it happen last week. As it now turns out, the sequester was entirely the Republicans’ idea.
No Democrat had ever seen this thing before. And now, those dastardly Republicans, who didn’t have a majority in the Senate and didn’t have the presidency — now these jerks, they’re trying to ram this thing through. And if they would just listen to Obama, they’d raise taxes and everything would be hunky-dory. And they do this on every topic. I mean, just ask George Zimmerman how he’s feeling today when you want to talk about the media’s ability to rewrite history in real time. Then Hollywood makes a movie of the rewritten history. And that’s how we end up with this false history for all time. It starts off with the media.
In terms of what Hollywood entertainment does, originally originally — you know, to be honest with you, I don’t watch TV. Now, I do have a TV.
And I do watch — a watch a lot of TV, actually. But one thing I really don’t do this listen to a lot of pop music. I listen to classical music; I’ve been playing violin since I was five. I grew up with a lot of classical music and opera.
So on the way down here, I figured — you know what? I’m going to speak about culture; maybe I’ll turn on like 98.7. Right? I’ll turn on one of these — some form of pop station on the radio. So I turn it on. And what I hear blaring at me is a very sophomore version of John Maynard Keynes. That’s what I hear blaring at me, and I’ll explain.
Katie Perry has a new song out — I don’t know the name of it. But Katie Perry’s new song — the entire lyric to it — it’s about, you know, basically — like most of these songs — about her having a one-night stand, right? And it’s no questions, no regrets, I feel like a teenager again. And don’t live for tomorrow, live for tonight. You know, John Maynard Keynes — if you boil down his philosophy, what it boils down to is that one line, right, that one line that he was asked about. People were disagreeing with his economic philosophy. And he said — in the long run, we’re all dead.
Right? That is the single most pernicious line the Left has ever spoken, and it’s also the single most true. It is — the entire appeal of leftism is the idea that we don’t have to worry about the next generation. We don’t have to worry about their education system, we don’t have to worry about cost. We don’t have to worry about taxation. We don’t have to worry about debt. In the long run, we’re all dead. So we might as well spend all the cash now. And then later, you know, they’ll deal with it, or they’ll kick it off to the future generations down the road.
Now, when people listen to Katie Perry, that’s not what they’re getting, obviously. They’re not thinking economic theory.
But what they are hearing is the idea — it’s okay to do things without any regard for the consequences. Right? You can see that [regard] from Katie Perry in “Footloose,” right? “Footloose,” the idea is you can do anything you want. And the bad guy is the guy who stands up and says — no no no, you can’t do anything you want. The religious guy who’s in the community, who’s the villain in the piece — they make him over-the-top, because otherwise you would be sympathetic to him. But they make him completely over-the-top, horrible — you can’t have, you can’t dance — what he’s really saying is you can’t screw around, right? But he’s a bad guy because he’s saying that.
This is what has a damaging impact on the culture. It’s not the hard history. The hard history we can actually argue against. We have mechanisms for arguing against that. That’s why we have talk radio, that’s why we have Fox News. It’s easier to argue against Oliver Stone than it is to argue against “The Big Bang Theory.”
I was watching an episode of that the other day. There’s a guy, proposes to the girl. And the girl can’t believe that he’s proposing to her. Can’t believe it. Why would you propose to me? We haven’t even had sex yet. That’s her actual line.
Actual line. And, you know, it used to be in this country that that was sort of backwards. Right? For me personally, you know, the sex came after the marriage. That was one of the great benefits of being married. Right? This idea that the Left pushes — and they do it on a soft level — that has a [moderate] impact on the culture.
Now, people in Hollywood are not the ones who feel that impact. Most of them are very wealthy. Most of them, if you meet them — the ones who are successful — they live in nice areas off of Sunset Boulevard. They don’t live the liberal lifestyle. They live a lifestyle in which they live in huge houses. Many of them are married, a lot of them have kids. They’re really not different in lifestyle from many conservatives. If you meet a liberal, and you didn’t know they’re a liberal from Hollywood — if you ignore the views and everything –
– then what you would see is somebody who’s basically living a conservative lifestyle. Charles Murray has written about this, where he said upper-class white liberals live like upper-class white conservatives. The difference is they preach liberalism. And then people at the bottom rung of society economically pick that up and think that that’s okay. They think that it’s okay now. Okay, fine, I’ll screw around. There are no consequences; Katie Perry told me so.
And, truthfully, there are no consequences. Because then, the Left comes in. And they say — okay, we will take care of that kid that you just produced because you thought there were no consequences. Oops, sorry. Now it’s time for us to fix the problem in the short term. And, what the hell, there’s no tomorrow anyway. So if we spend all the cash, and it’s gone, so what?
This is, to me, the greatest danger of what Hollywood does. And yeah, there is a plethora of rightwing material out there, and there is a great variety. But overall, the culture has moved to the left. If you look at TV in the 1950s and you look at TV now, there’s no comparison. There’s no comparison. Not because there’s no conservative stuff on TV now; there is, and there’s conservative stuff in the movies.
I agree with Drew on this. “Dark Knight Rises” is the best conservative — is the most conservative movie you’ll ever see. There are actually Stalinist show trials in the movie. There are actual lines in the movie where somebody goes into a room — she’s a former Communist — and she goes into this room, and it’s been completely trashed. And she walks in. And she says — this used to be somebody’s home. And her friend, who’s still a Communist, turns to her and says — well, now it’s everybody’s home. And it’s completely trashed. Right? I mean, it’s a very conservative movie.
And you see this. And there are conservative movies out there — “The Lives of Others” — it’s a beautiful movie altogether, but it’s a beautiful conservative movie from Germany about the East German Stasi. You can find that. But overall, the kind of mainstreaming of the culture, we have moved left.
And it’s very easy to see this in one quick example. Look at — okay, in 1992, Dan Quayle says that Murphy Brown is mainstreaming single motherhood. Right? Gets raked over the coals for this — how dare Dan Quayle say any of this. This is so terrible. What kind of nonsense is this? Candice Bergen, of course, who played Murphy Brown, later came out and said Dan Quayle was exactly right.
This election cycle, Joe Biden comes out, and he says — you know why we have gay marriage in this country? “Will and Grace” and Ellen. And you know what? He’s exactly right — that is why we have gay marriage in this country. That is why we have gay marriage in this country. Because the Left doesn’t like to talk about good and evil except when they’re writing in Hollywood. They understand the draw of good and evil in Hollywood. Because every narrative has to have a good guy and has to have a bad guy. And the bad guy — invariably, invariably, with very, very (inaudible) exception, with rare exceptions, virtually every [villain] is a bad guy.
And I mean, Drew said it when he walked in for the meeting on the KGB show. Right? I mean, I had that same experience. I was talking to an agent in Hollywood. And I said — you know what I’d love? I’d love to write — you know, here’s a pitch for a movie — the bad guy’s the government. And my agent says — can you make the bad guy a corporation?
And I said — well, you know, I have a different pitch for you. How about — white guy drives into the middle of the Rodney King riots in the early ’90s and has to fight his way out? She didn’t like that.
That was a bad pitch to her.
The bottom line is this — when they pitch good and evil, there’s a reason that they’re pitching it in terms of conservative versus liberal. They are all liberal, they want to push that agenda, they have admitted to me they want to push that agenda. Some of them aren’t conscious of it all of the time. But they bathe in that milieu. That is the bath that they live in. They have never met a conservative.
And that’s why, when you meet a Hollywood liberal, and they meet a Hollywood conservative, they act as though you are made of acid –
– as though if you shake their hand, their arm will literally burn off. Because they think that we’re nasty human beings. And that’s the real impact of all of this. It has affected our politics.
The way that is boils down now is that if you’re having — and I mentioned it earlier — if you’re going to have Thanksgiving dinner with your family, and you’re against gay marriage, it’s not because you have good reasons for being against gay married, like, say, a kid should have a mother and a father. Right? That’s not a good reason. It’s because you hate gay people. That’s something that Hollywood has pushed. Because every character in television history who has been pro-traditional marriage has been Archie Bunker pro-traditional marriage. Every character on TV who has ever been pro-low taxation — it’s because they’re Alec Baldwin in “30 Rock” pro-low taxation. Right? Meaning that they are pro-rich, and they hate the poor, and they can’t understand the poor. And they think that rich people are wonderful and poor people are stupid.
This is the narrative that has been created. And that to me is the real danger of Hollywood. That’s the background noise that has been created. When it comes to the rewriting of history — yes, in the long run, that’s dangerous. But on a day-to-day incremental level in our politics, it’s not the clear stuff, it’s not the stuff that’s easy to identify, where we can see, you know, in that “Family Guy” episode, where Stewie travels back in time, back to Nazi Germany. He pulls back the lapel of a Nazi, and there’s a Sarah Palin pin.
Right? That stuff — that happened. That is not as damaging, because you can spot it, and you can say that’s ridiculous. It’s ridiculous. What is damaging is the idea that if you’re against the concept of single motherhood becoming a broad national problem, it’s because you’re a nasty human being, a villain, a “Footloose” type uptight human being. That’s the real damage of Hollywood. And that’s the most difficult thing to fight. There are ways to do it. But just to put that, you know, on the board, that is — from my mind, it’s the hardest thing to fight, because it’s the most ambiguous. And it’s the thing that is going to make you least likeable when you go to fight it.
Unidentified Audience Member: I’d like you to respond to how the Right gets suppressed, and yet somebody like Molly has to live in fear for her life, like Lars in Sweden right now, and a lot of other people that are free speech advocates?
Andrew Klavan: Yeah. It’s a nightmare. The guy you’re talking about, Lars — he’s the one who was shot at, at his own door, right? And he’s a free speech advocate.
Unidentified Audience Member: And a Marxist.
Andrew Klavan: Yeah, and a Marxist. He really is. And as he pointed out, his concept of the Left was always in favor of free speech. And this kind of bizarre paradox that’s going on with the Left is backing these homophobic, you know, misogynistic, hyper-religious destroyers of freedom is kind of a nightmare, is kind of the Left showing itself, coming out into itself.
What are you going to do against gangsters except speak out against them? This is always the problem with gangsters is they come and kill you if you point your finger at them. That’s who these guys are, and I think we have to not only point our fingers at them, but we have to point our fingers at the people who facilitate what they do.
And the only thing that’s a little tricky about it, I would say, the only area at all that is a gray area, is mocking people’s religion in the first place is not something in general that I stand for. Opposing bad philosophy and bad ideas is something I very much stand for. And I think that Islam is basically a collection of bad ideas. And I’m willing to say that anywhere and any time.
But I do think that we have to maintain our own standards of behavior, and not — I don’t particularly like it when they mock my religion. I don’t mock other people’s religions. But if their response is to kill them, they’re gangsters.
Ron Radosh: I would just say that in culture, the people affecting — aside from that woman’s story — I don’t know what happened to her, either — but the greater capitulation was the episode a few years ago by Yale University Press that published a huge book about the cartoon controversy of Mohammad. And Yale published the book without any of the cartoons in the book. They took them out because of threats by the mullahs against the press. Now there’s scuttle.
But why did they do this? Why didn’t the university, dedicated to the idea of freedom of expression, defend the right and say — we’re going to print the book that was given to us with the cartoons? Well, the obvious answer is — though we can’t prove it — that the trustees met and said — if we do this, it’s not that they’re going to be attacked or bombed. But the Saudi money coming to many departments within Yale, where obviously they were going to be withdrawn, and they didn’t want to jeopardize the funding from Islamists and believers in the Koran who would withdraw their money.
So you can’t even depend on a great university like Yale to defend the principle of freedom of expression.
Ben Shapiro: These are all private institutions. And they have the right to be as stupid as they want to be, including Yale — especially Yale.
The bigger problem to me, and the best example of this, is the Obama Administration condemning a YouTube video for the murder of four people in Libya. And then, President Obama going to the UN and trying to make the case that a YouTube video — and our tolerance for a YouTube video, more than anything — sort of allowed this to happen.
Now, I agree. We don’t stand for mockery of other people’s religions on a private person-to-person level. As a government, that is precisely what we stand for. As a government, the First Amendment was created to protect this sort of stupidity. I mean, what, we’re supposed to say that the First Amendment stands for Larry Flynt’s ability to distribute his wares but not for a guy to make an anti-Islam film? I’m sorry, the Founders would’ve thought actually precisely the reverse. They would’ve — they probably would put Larry Flynt in prison, and they would’ve gave this guy — and the Founders certainly would not put the guy who made the anti-Mohammad film in prison. You should read what some of the Founders thought about Islam.
The fact is that we now live under a government that is unconcerned with the First Amendment. And that is the scary thing to me. The parts of the First Amendment that they want to protect are the parts of the First Amendment that are least valuable. And the parts of the First Amendment that they most want to protect, especially in terms of political speech — this is why they’re so against Citizens United — especially in terms of political speech, are the ones that they are attacking with alacrity. And they’re undermining the very basis of what it means to be an American by doing this.
If Yale University doesn’t want to print Mohammad cartoons, that’s their prerogative. What is not the prerogative of the President of the United States is to go in front of the United Nations and make the case in front of the entire world that the future does not belong to those who would mock Islam. That is nonsense. The future belongs to those who would allow mockery of any religion on any basis. As an Orthodox Jew who’s not using a microphone today, I promise you that the First Amendment was created so that Jerry Stiller can make fun of Judaism on “Seinfeld.” That’s okay. It’s not the end of the world.
And so I think that, you know, when we see cases like this Seattle person, the fact that our government has not come out in strident defense of people like that and their right to do it is the most telling aspect of this, not the fact that our enemies happen to be scum-of-the-earth pieces of human garbage who want to kill people for insulting their religion.
Andrew Klavan: And, by the way, just to be clear, I certainly agree with you (inaudible) –
Andrew Klavan: But –
Ben Shapiro: I didn’t mean to (inaudible) –
Andrew Klavan: Yeah, I was simply talking about our behavior, and our expectations of our own behavior, yeah.
Mark Tapson: Yes, sir?
Unidentified Audience Member: Andrew, I think I’d like to have you clarify a little bit about the “Zero Dark Thirty.” It’s my understanding that when the Bush Administration water-boarded people in Iraq, they had a doctor present who was taking the vital signs of people whom they were interrogating. I didn’t notice any doctor present in “Zero Dark Thirty.” So my question is — was that really an accurate description of water-boarding?
Andrew Klavan: Well, except it’s not their obligation to make an accurate description; it’s their obligation to make an entertaining and good movie. You know, if “Argo” rewrites history so that Jimmy Carter knew which way was up –
– I don’t see why this guy can’t rewrite history to get rid of the annoying doctor character who might’ve just muddied up the scene. The question is the response and the outcome of their showing torture as an efficacious thing. Think about the next guy who’s going to make a movie who wants to win an Oscar. Just think about that guy. Because you know he’s not going to do that. And that’s always the way they’re thinking, especially Dianne Feinstein, who’s very, very sophisticated about this, and really goes after the arts a lot.
So in other words, I’m not saying it’s an accurate depiction; it’s a movie. As we always say in Hollywood, it’s just a movie. And so I’m not defending its accuracy. I just think it was a really good movie and deserved to win or lose on its own merits.
Ron Radosh: The interesting thing — the guy who made — there was a long interview, I think it was in the New York Times — is that right, Drew, with Neil Gould?
Andrew Klavan: Mark Gould.
Ron Radosh: Mark Gould? And he said he’s a leftist. He says he’s on the left. And he is furious. He said — look, we wanted to make a movie, it wasn’t literal truth. He said — if I wanted to make a movie that said Osama bin Laden was killed by space aliens, that would be my right. And he is furious at all his fellow leftists who are ganging up on him.
The other strident thing about the attack on “Zero Dark Thirty” — it was started by two people — I forget the actor’s name. Twenty-five years ago, when he was on “Thirtysomething” in a minor role — he’s not a big actor — he and Ed Asner — Ed Asner, an old Communist –
These two guys alone started the whole campaign against “Zero Dark Thirty.” Why is everyone listening to them?
Andrew Klavan: It’s amazing to me, by the way, how shocked leftists in Hollywood are when they get shut down by the Left. The guys who made “The Path to 9/11″ — stone leftists. They were total leftists. When the Clintons stomped on that, they were shocked.
Ben Shapiro: It’s amazing to me that the Left was even all that upset with “Zero Dark Thirty,” considering exactly that point, which is that they were making that torture appear as though it was morally questionable.
Andrew Klavan: Yeah.
Ron Radosh: Yeah.
Ben Shapiro: Right? I mean, it makes it so much less bad, or even morally nuanced –
Andrew Klavan: Right.
Ben Shapiro: — if there is a doctor there trying to revive something and making sure you don’t kill the guy. So they took that out, so the torture scene is actually pretty brutal. And they show that. And so, you know, the idea is supposed to be — okay, here’s the cost, here’s the benefit. Except they make the cost way higher than it was in reality.
Andrew Klavan: Right.
Ben Shapiro: So the fact that the Left was even upset about that shows just how ideologically corrupt they are.
Andrew Klavan: I personally believe water-boarding jihadis should be an Olympic sport.
CIA agents in sequined outfits –
Mark Tapson: I believe we have a question over here.
Unidentified Audience Member: Ben, you mentioned that Obama conducted a campaign against that YouTube clip. You didn’t mention that this so-called filmmaker was thrown in jail.
Ben Shapiro: Yeah, he’s in jail.
Unidentified Audience Member: I’m wondering if any of the four of you feel chilled because of that.
Ben Shapiro: Well, you know what’s hilarious? When I did my book on Hollywood, “Primetime Propaganda,” I talked to a bunch of folks in Hollywood. And I said, you know — what did you hate so much about Bush? And they said — well, I felt a chill wind. Right? They gave this whole Tim Robbins chill wind blowing throughout Hollywood routine. And I said — did you, really?
Of course you feel a chill when you see the President of the United States go out there and rip free expression. Of course you do, when the President of the United States, in order to shift blame from himself to essentially — basically, what he just said is that anybody who makes a YouTube video can now be blamed by the federal government if a Muslim gets offended. I promise you this — if those people — if somebody had made the case that that attack had taken place after [AG Hoddy] watched an odd episode of “Will and Grace” –
– President Obama would have been nowhere near it. It would’ve been — these people are absolutely evil, these people are horrible, how dare they, this is a violation of our First Amendment rights. The First Amendment is all about “Will and Grace.” But the fact that they did something anti-Islam directly — that, you know, in and of itself upset President Obama. Of course there’s a chill wind. This President is not interested in freedom of speech. This President is interested in freedom of speech for him, and he’s interested in destroying everybody who’s on the other side of the aisle personally, politically, and in any way he possibly can.
Mark Tapson: By the way, you know, there is an Arab production, an Arab film production company, that is creating a biography of Mohammad. It’s a $100 million picture — so far, the budget is. And they’re doing it in conjunction with a Hollywood producer, a big Hollywood producer. I can guarantee you that it will not be critical of Mohammad, like the trailer on YouTube was. But the Arabs want to do their own version of the life of Mohammad.
Andrew Klavan: Should get Mel Gibson to direct.
Mark Tapson: Yes.
Okay, one more question. Over here?
Unidentified Audience Member: Much of what you’ve been talking about is basically sort of conflict — a chess game amongst the intelligentsia. These are people at the upper levels, the controllers, of the media. Not unlike what was happening leading up to the French Revolution, the elites of France were playing a game of chess using the masses as their cannon fodder in the streets. It simply got out of control.
What is really ominous about what President Obama has been putting out to the masses, in terms of his support of Occupy New York, Occupy LA; identifying the 1 percent; and turning then to the 99 percent, just as Mao did in the Cultural Revolution, saying — you, you individual, any of you, can turn in your parent, can denounce a hero of the Revolution, and we will take care of them.
Ben Shapiro: Well, I mean, look, (inaudible) [have led] down. But I do get a little bit annoyed when people boil this all down to President Obama. This is about Obamaism, and it’s been a movement in the making for the last 100 years. We didn’t get here overnight. It wasn’t like President Obama suddenly sprang up out of the ground, and everybody just went and bowed at his altar.
This has been a long time in coming, and this is why culture matters. The reason culture matters is because that emotional up-swell that came with President Obama’s election was years in creation. It was years in creation, and it was all about emotion.
See, the Left operates on the plane of emotion. This is where David Horowitz has this exactly right, and he’s great on it. The Left operates on the plane of emotion. That’s where Hollywood operates. That’s why Hollywood is effective. Most of the big decisions that we make in our life are based on emotion. You get married based on emotion, you have kids based on emotion. These things are not based on reason; they’re based on, you know, love, and they’re based on respect, and they’re based on all of the things that we deal on a daily basis — anger — I mean, all of these things are what the Left is professional at manipulating.
They’re very good at it. Underestimating them — you know, I see a lot of folks on the right — these people in Hollywood, they’re hacks. They’re absolutely not hacks; they are fantastic at what they do. They are real craftsmen. They’re real artists. Now, they may have no clue what they’re doing politically; they’ve just been bathing in this kind of bathwater, this lukewarm bathwater, of leftism for a long time. But they’re extraordinarily good at what they do, extraordinarily good at manipulating emotions in the American people.
And what you saw in President Obama was a President who took the values of Hollywood and really, more than any candidate in human history, integrated those values into his campaign, into everything he does. Stage managing gun control — he’s got a bunch of kids standing behind him for imagistic purposes. Stage-managing immigration — so he flies out to a high school in Las Vegas — which, by the way, is a massively underperforming high school, which is [pretty bitchin].
He flies out to that high school. There’s a bunch of Hispanic kids in the crowd. And then he, you know, has the cameras taking pictures of him with the hero shot, you know, from that upswing. Taking pictures during the all-star game, but making sure, making sure, there’s no camera right behind him to show that he throws like a girl. Right?
All of this is designed specifically to appeal to the emotions. And that’s why Obama won in 2012. Everybody felt he was a bad President, everybody felt that his policies were wrong, and everybody also felt that he was a good guy and Mitt Romney was a nasty guy. And you have to be prepped for years in the art of only feeling and not thinking in order to vote the way that Americans just did.
And they’re going to continue to vote that way if we don’t engage in the battle of emotion. And that’s where Hollywood is Ground Zero.
Mark Tapson: And I think on that note, we’re done.
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