PRIME TIME PROPAGANDA: THE TRUE HOLLYWOOD STORY OF HOW THE LEFT TOOK OVER YOUR TV
By Ben Shapiro
Broadside Books, $26.99, 416 pages
Hollywood is determined to transform America. This is the central theme of Ben Shapiro’s latest book. Mr. Shapiro is a nationally syndicated columnist and radio talk-show host. Unlike many on the right, he is a rare breed: a staunch social conservative who understands the importance of fighting - and winning - the culture war.
Mr. Shapiro convincingly shows that, for decades, television has been used by Hollywood leftists as a propaganda vehicle. Writers, executives and producers are not simply interested in making money and climbing the fame-obsessed ladder. They also are liberal ideologues pushing a radical agenda - abortion, homosexuality, higher taxes, big government, out-of-wedlock pregnancy, promiscuity, racial quotas, feminism, pacifism and secularism. In short, Tinseltown’s worldview can be distilled into one seminal idea: hatred of Middle America.
Social critics repeatedly have excoriated TV as “garbage” - meaningless entertainment consumed by the stupid masses. Mr. Shapiro disagrees. He points out that many programs are well-produced, well-written and obviously entertaining. And this is the real danger posed by television liberalism. Americans are addicted to watching TV. They are mesmerized and intoxicated by it. Nielsen statistics reveal that viewers spend an average of more than four hours a day in front of the tube. Hence, they are being bombarded regularly by powerful leftist messages.
Industry insiders consciously seek to attack bourgeois morality and patriotism. How? By constantly developing plot lines and inserting subtexts in shows that advance chic liberal causes. One of the watershed programs was “All in the Family.” The character of Archie Bunker symbolized the progressive caricature of conservatives - ignorant, racist and xenophobic. The show frequently denounced the Vietnam War and even celebrated draft dodgers as heroes. It also broke new ground in portraying the father figure, Archie, as a working-class bigot who was less enlightened than his anti-war, socially permissive son-in-law, Meathead (played by the odious leftist Rob Reiner). Other later shows, such as “The Simpsons,” intensified Hollywood’s assault on parental authority. The message is often the same: Adolescents know more than their fathers and mothers.
Mr. Shapiro examines numerous popular sitcoms. “Friends” championed postmodern liberalism. It celebrated lesbians, divorce, condom use and casual sex. Its animating theme was that friendship should replace family. The show’s characters embodied the bohemian rebellion against traditional America. “Seinfeld” - perhaps the most successful show in television - expressed a form of urban nihilism. The universe inhabited by the characters was one marked by a lack of moral absolutes. They were all self-absorbed narcissists focused on one thing: themselves.
Over the past decade, however, television has become more vulgar, perverse and coarse. “Sex and the City” is a case in point. The show glorified women obsessed with orgasms and oral sex. It presented masturbation and rampant promiscuity as not only normal, but healthy. It dehumanized women, reducing them to sex objects. The fact that the characters have become cultural icons reveals how far the women’s movement has degenerated. Feminism is no longer about equal pay for equal work; rather, it has embraced the destructive sexual revolution of the 1960s. Hugh Hefner trumps Gloria Steinem.
Other programs, such as “Skins” on MTV, are nothing more than child pornography masquerading as reality TV. The show depicts underage teens drinking, doing drugs and having sex. That this passes for entertainment is an ominous sign: America is in moral decline. We resemble the later stages of the Roman Empire - decadent, hedonistic and spiritually lethargic.
What are traditionalists to do? Mr. Shapiro seeks to galvanize the right by ringing the alarm bells. One strategy is for conservatives to penetrate the belly of the beast and alter its programming content. There is, however, one problem. Hollywood systematically discriminates against conservatives. Mr. Shapiro writes about his own experiences trying to become a screenwriter. At first, his talents are recognized. But when it becomes known that he is on the right, producers tell him openly: You’re not welcome anymore. This is common across the industry. Conservatives are blacklisted. The few who manage to find work must keep their views secret. McCarthyism lives on.
Succinctly written, rigorously researched and powerfully argued, “Primetime Propaganda” is a must-read. Mr. Shapiro is one of the rising Young Turks of the conservative movement. What he shows - beyond a doubt - is that traditionalists have ceded the culture to their sworn liberal enemies. The left has used television (along with public education) to indoctrinate Americans. Conservatives have one powerful weapon: They can flip their TV sets off. I have not watched television in years, sparing my senses - and soul - from the ubiquitous onslaught. Hollywood has declared war on Middle America. It’s time we declared war on it.
Jeffrey T. Kuhner is a columnist at The Washington Times and president of the Edmund Burke Institute.