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T*lerant, Resp*ctful L*berals Everywhere You L**k

November 20, 2013 By: Scott Spiegel Category: Media

alec-baldwin-angry-300x300Over the past week, we’ve been treated to the spectacle of prominent liberals calling a reporter a “c**ksucking f*g,” telling America to “f*ck the troops,” labeling Sarah Palin a c*nt, and advocating that someone sh*t in her mouth and p*ss in her eyes.

How on earth would Associated Press reporters ever inform us about the foibles of liberals if their asterisk keys broke?

After hurling antigay slurs at a reporter trying to interview his wife, 30 Rock star and f*t sl*b Alec Baldwin lied and said he hadn’t used the word “f*g” but rather “fathead.”  Baldwin later changed his story and claimed that it was “unclear” what he had said—even to him, apparently.  He never denied using the word “c**ksucking,” however, and feigned ignorance that it was an antigay epithet.

MSNBC suspended Baldwin’s new TV talk show Up Late for two weeks, but National Public Radio declined to touch his radio show Here’s the Thing, which interestingly featured lesbian guest Rosie O’Donnell last Friday.  (In a sign that his anger management classes are working, Baldwin lasted the entire hour without calling O’Donnell a “c*rpet-m*nching m*ff d*ver.”)

Nor did Capitol One alter its lucrative, long-running credit card contract with Baldwin.  The wink-wink pass Baldwin has been getting from these outlets is much more lenient treatment than Michele Bachmann or Rick Santorum got from their Wall Street backers and corporate sponsors when they referred to gays as “sinful f*gs.”  No, wait—nothing in the second half of that sentence is true.

Baldwin’s tirade followed another incident several months ago in which he called a reporter a “toxic little queen” and a “f**ing little b*tch,” and added, “If [sic] put my foot up your f*cking *ss, George Stark, but I’m sure you’d dig it too much”—comments for which he similarly received no sanction from his socially conscious business partners and no material disapprobation from Hollywood.

Self-described “radical f*g activist” and perverted sex columnist Dan Savage defended Baldwin by saying that he supports someone who advocates for gay rights and uses anti-gay slurs over someone who opposes them and speaks respectfully of gays.

Is that our choice?  In that case, Savage must be wild about Andrew Breitbart, a vocal supporter of gay Republican group GOProud who never insulted gays; or the libertarian site Reason.com, which has supported gay marriage since the 1960s and been respectful to gays since then.

Savage must also adore the following commentators and politicos who have expressed support for same-sex marriage and never disparaged gays: Bill O’Reilly, Glenn Beck, Megyn Kelly, Dick Cheney, Laura and Barbara Bush, Cindy and Meghan McCain, Arnold Schwarzenegger, S. E. Cupp, Margaret Hoover, and Ted Olsen, to name a few.

You’d think so, but not if Savage feels the same as fellow liberal Baldwin, who followed up his pseudo-apology with a tweet complaining about “libertarian trash” who defend gay rights.

Also, Savage frequently uses the term “teabagger” to refer to Tea Party members.  (It’s ironic that gay men on the left find it a high insult to accuse political opponents of sodomy.)  So based on his record, Savage not only prefers those who use anti-gay slurs and support liberal causes to conservatives who respect gays, he also prefers those who use anti-gay slurs and support liberal causes to those who don’t use anti-gay slurs and support liberal causes.

Meanwhile, serial suicide tweeter Cher demonstrated her feminist credentials and deep respect for women by labeling Sarah Palin “The ‘C’Word,… [the] DUMB C WORD”.  (The grammar- and punctuation-challenged Cher is also irony-challenged.)  At least she’s graduated from her suggestion last month that we engage in wholesale slaughter of Republicans: “WE R NOT HOSTAGES.If UR REPUBLIC IS FREAKING THE WHOLE WORLD OUT,MAYBE WE SHOULD DEEP 6 THEIR WEAK A**’S (sic),”.

Oprah Winfrey joined in the fun by advocating the genocide of seniors who predicted Obamacare would fail.  In an interview with the BBC, Winfrey offered the staggeringly original point that criticism of Obama and his health care bill is based on… racism!  She sputtered, “It’s the kind of thing no one ever says, but everybody’s thinking”—which is hilarious, because liberals have been saying it nonstop since before Obama was elected.  She added her own original twist that the country won’t heal until millions of old people drop dead.

Politico reporter Ian Murphy weighed in with an editorial reprinted from 2008 titled “F*ck the Troops,” in which he wrote, “So, 4000 rubes are dead.  Cry me the Tigris.  Another 30,000 have been seriously wounded.  Boo f*cking hoo.  They got what they asked for…  The nearly two-thirds of us who know this war is bullsh*t need to stop s*cking off the troops.  They get enough action raping female soldiers and sodomizing Iraqi detainees [asterisks added].”

But it was Martin Bashir who took the cake when he described cruel punishments invented by a 19th-century Jamaican slaveholder involving defecation and urination, then suggested of Sarah Palin, “[I]f anyone truly qualified for a dose of discipline from Thomas Thistlewood, she would be the outstanding candidate.”  (Bashir really needs to stop revealing his twisted sexual fantasies to the public.)

What’s galling about this recent spate of liberal foul-mouthed invective isn’t that conservatives say these things too, but only we get blamed for them.  It’s that we don’t say these things, and we get blamed for them.  We don’t even want to say these things.  That’s not how conservatives operate.

The left accusing the right of foul-mouthed, uncivil discourse is the DSM definition of “projection.”  Liberals feel guilty about their filthy slander and degraded standards, then hunt for remote signs of them in conservatives to assuage their guilt.

Liberals’ M.O. is to ferociously jump on the slightest conservative slip of the tongue, all in order to distract attention from the bile they can’t stop their out-of-control egos from spewing.

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Liberals Don’t Know What Politicization Is

May 15, 2013 By: Scott Spiegel Category: Media

imageTwo recent events—the Benghazi coverup and the IRS scandal—provide an object lesson in how liberals and conservatives view “politicization.”

Conservatives’ definition of politicization is: liberals treating them unfairly for partisan reasons.  Liberals’ definition of politicization is: conservatives pointing out something they did wrong.

Consider: When conservatives highlighted the Obama administration’s incompetent, deceitful, disastrous handling of the terrorist attack on our Benghazi embassy, Democrats dismissed the affair as no big deal and accused Republicans of politicizing it.

Actually, politicizing Benghazi would have involved, say, a Presidential candidate who pressed the issue during his foreign policy debate with Obama, or who mentioned it in campaign commercials leading up to the election.  Instead, Mitt Romney decided it would be more Presidential to bring it up once and then never, ever mention it again.

When evidence of their malfeasance becomes too overwhelming, liberals simply switch tactics and claim that, OK, sometimes they politicize their faults by downplaying them, but the other side is just as bad.

Thus, The New York Times’ Maureen Dowd recently confessed, “The administration’s behavior before and during the attack in Benghazi was unworthy of the greatest power on earth…  The State Department’s minimum security requirements were not met, requests for more security were rejected…  Obama aides wanted to promote the mythology that the president who killed Osama was vanquishing terror.  So they deemed it problematic to mention any possible Qaeda involvement.”

Nonetheless, Dowd ludicrously titled her piece “When Myths Collide in the Capital” and claimed that both sides are politicizing Benghazi.  She wrote, “Welcome to a glorious spring weekend of accusation and obfuscation as Hillaryland goes up against Foxworld…  Truth is the first casualty here when competing fiefs protect their mythologies.”

Except that it’s not a mythology if it’s the truth.  Exactly which part of the Republicans’ Benghazi charges has proven unworthy of investigation?  Did ABC News recently join the feifdom of Fox News?

And The New Yorker’s Alex Koppelman had to admit, “It’s striking to see the twelve different iterations that the [administration’s] talking points went through…  The mere existence of the edits seriously undermines the White House’s credibility on this issue.”

Yet Koppelman felt compelled to add, “For a long time, it seemed like the idea of a coverup was just a Republican obsession.  But now there is something to it.”  No—there always was something to it; the left was just too blinded by partisanship to see it.  It isn’t bipartisan partisanship when liberals finally start admitting what conservatives have been saying all along.

Meanwhile, conservatives actually are the objects of politicization.  Witness the IRS’s recent admission that it targeted dozens of conservative and Tea Party groups for extra scrutiny during the 2012 Presidential election, solely on the basis of having words like “patriot” in their names instead of “progress,” action,” or “organizing.”  The IRS was warned about its improper filtering criteria back in 2010 and briefly stopped using them, then started using slightly different ones in 2012.  Congress learned about the IRS harassment last spring, but, as with Benghazi, didn’t address it until after the election.  Last Friday the IRS lied and said its actions were carried out by only a few low-level employees, a claim it has since retracted.

How has politicization affected free-speech rights as a result of the scandal?  Numerous conservative and Tea Party groups had their tax-exempt status delayed for months or even years, some until after the 2012 election.  Some are still waiting for approval.  Many eventually had their requests granted only because the American Center for Law and Justice stepped in and helped fight their case.  And how many conservative grass-roots activists will be intimidated into staying out of politics for fear of government harassment or bankrupting fines?

Naturally, liberals’ response to these charges has been to accuse Republicans of politicizing them.

The right is also the target of politicization in the form of persistent media bias.  At least since the 1960s, mainstream journalists have reliably voted for and donated to Democratic over Republican candidates by an order of magnitude.

Conservatives know what it’s like to have their actions politicized; they experience it in the form of a constant stream of harassment from supposedly neutral organizations like the mainstream media and the IRS.  Politicization for conservatives means an endless maelstrom of invective and staggering odds against getting their unfiltered message out to anyone outside their base.

If media-coddled liberals ever faced any actual politicization, it would crush them.

Previously published in modified form at Red Alert Politics

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Florence Is No Jersey Shore

August 03, 2011 By: Scott Spiegel Category: Media

Florence

Image by Scott Spiegel via Flickr

Eurotrash Italophile snobs aghast over Season 4 of the MTV reality show Jersey Shore being set inside the pristine borders of teetotaling, sunscreen-loving, sexually Puritanical Italia need to get off their high horses.

Back when Season 1 aired, some reviewers of the show were appalled at the Italian-American stereotypes the Jersey clan supposedly perpetuated, including being muscular and energetic dancers (the guys), fashionable and flirty (the girls), and close-knit and family-oriented (the guys and girls).  Heaven forfend everyday folks should associate such ghastly traits with Italian Americans.

That paragon of fine Italian cuisine, Domino’s Pizza, huffily yanked its advertising from the show over feared repercussions from its silver-palated customers.

Season 4 of Jersey Shore, which premiers tomorrow night, was set in Italy, because the cast members are Italian American and the show’s producers thought it would be fun to send them abroad to learn a bit of Italian and explore their roots.

Last week, The New York Times wailed that during their stay cast members had caused Florence residents “to despair that their elegant city had irrevocably become a party town,” and compared the housemates to the “hordes of drunken American junior-year-abroad students [who] have helped transform Florence into the backdrop of a 24/7 movida, or pub crawl.”

The Times admitted that during filming, Italy was caught up in the sex scandals of Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, who was charged with “dalliances with under-age women and hosting wild parties at his villas… in a real spectacle far more grotesque than anything to spring forth from MTV’s almost quaint cultural imagination.”  So it appears that guidos and guidettes don’t have a monopoly on bad behavior, and that libido doesn’t slow down for everyone over 30.

The Times quoted one souvenir shop owner who called critics of the show hypocrites: “Many people in Florence and in Italy have harshly criticized the city for letting the show film here…  But they forget that we have similar shows on Italian television.  What’s the difference between this show and Italy’s ‘Big Brother’ or ‘The Island of the Famous’?”

Lest we forget the disastrous economic fallout from the Jersey Shore invasion, Florentine tourism revenue supposedly doubled during the shooting of the fourth season, as eager throngs chased cast members all over the city and frequented establishments they had visited.

Then again, almost anything would give a jolt to Italy’s stagnant, moribund joke of an economy.  (Hey—what’s a more damaging label these days: guidos or PIIGS?)

As one blogger sensibly noted, “The filming of this reality show in Florence mirrors the internationalization and evolving culture of Florence.”

The real source of all the stateside Jersey Shore angst is that American liberals are resentful of stoopid Amurricans who don’t want to live the enlightened, leisurely, contemplative, espresso-sipping, government-dependent lives of Europeans.  Though liberals are always threatening to move to Europe or Canada to get away from the fascist, corporatist, workaholic U.S., somehow they never get around to packing their bags.

Here are a few things American liberals love about Old Europe and dearly wish they could force on us here: mandated six weeks’ vacation; mandated 35-hour workweeks; universal subpar health care; tiny useless militaries; a national sales tax; draconian limits on carbon dioxide emissions; cobblestone streets that discourage driving and force you to hoof it everywhere; an indolent café lifestyle free of tacky entrepreneurs and pesky businessmen; forgiving attitudes toward marital infidelity; and a millennia-long history they had no part in creating but can coast on and use to act superior to the rest of the world.

True, Firenze gave us the Italian Renaissance, the Medicis, Florence Cathedral, Ponte Vecchio, assorted palazzi, the Uffizi, and Leonardo.  What have they given us in the last 500 years?  Benito Mussolini?  The European Social Forum?  The House of Gucci?

I’m not comparing Renaissance Florence to present-day Jersey Shore.  I’m comparing present-day Florence—or any Italian city—with any present-day major U.S. city.

Florence is a museum city in a museum country on a museum continent.  Western Europe’s glory days are long gone, best viewed from behind velvet ropes in dusty antechambers from a distance of centuries.

The U.S., even with its recent economic woes, is vibrant and dynamic and forward-looking.

Which country’s population—Italy’s or the U.S.’s—is projected to decline 25% and which to grow 25% by 2050?

Jersey Shore star and eternal optimist Snooki’s self-declared hypothetical presidential platform, declared last season, is: “The economy would rise, everyone would be tan, and all of the radios would play house music.”  Sounds a lot better than the European-style decline into impotent unexceptionalism our Socialist-in-Chief envisions for the United States.

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NYT Charges for Content People Avoided When It Was Free

March 30, 2011 By: Scott Spiegel Category: Media

paywall

With the news that Frank Rich and Bob Herbert have left The New York Times, the selection of my 20 free Times articles a month couldn’t be less strongly affected if Paul Krugman and Maureen Dowd decided to quit.

Recently John Gruber of Daring Fireball deconstructed the imbecilic, overly complicated pricing structure the non-business-adept Times has spent a year-and-a-half and tens of millions of dollars devising to undergird its new digital subscription plan.

The Times’ business model, in addition to being extraordinarily confusing, includes the following giant loophole: “Readers who come to Times articles through links from search engines, blogs and social media will be able to read those articles, even if they have reached their monthly reading limit.”

So if you find a story on the Times site that looks worthwhile (suspend your disbelief for a moment), but you’ve reached your monthly limit, you can just copy the title, paste it in a search engine, and click on it from a site that links to it.

Admittedly, this is too much work for most people to bother to find out, say, Dowd’s opinion on the rise of Mormons in popular culture, but some tenacious fans will undoubtedly make the effort.

Perhaps The Times hopes its free backdoor policy will lead more social media outlets to link to their articles.  Maybe they’re afraid they won’t easily be able to regulate access from third-party sources.  But either way, doesn’t this aspect of their plan defeat the purpose of limiting content in order to make people buy subscriptions?

All articles from the Top News section will continue to be available for free via New York Times smartphone and tablet apps.

Also, purchasing just the Sunday print version will give you the most comprehensive tier of unlimited access to digital content, including online, smartphone, and tablet.  This leads Reuters’ Felix Salmon to wonder, “[I]f you get a Sunday-only subscription and then suspend delivery of the physical newspaper while you ‘go on vacation’ for a month or two at a time, how long can you drag out your free access to the website before the NYT gets wise to what you’re doing?”

I guess we shouldn’t expect a sterling business model from a paper whose editorial board believes the way to create wealth is to blow up federal spending and increase federal regulation of the economy by an order of magnitude.

Isn’t The Wall Street Journal’s model much more sensible: everyone has free access to most online content, but key articles require a subscription?  Isn’t it easier to tie access to content, rather than try to tabulate the ephemeral surfing activities of millions of users out there in the ether?

The Times and Journal’s payment plans seem to reflect their ideological worldviews: The Journal, which leans right, offers general content funded via advertising and charges for premium content readers are willing to pay for, a typical capitalist arrangement.  In contrast, The Times, which leans left, will rely on a cadre of loyal followers willing to donate the equivalent of welfare to keep the sputtering paper going, regardless of how frequently the journal offers specific content worth paying for.

In the same way that liberal celebrities frequently announce how much they love paying taxes, soon I can imagine New York elites sanctimoniously defending the Times’ plan by declaring how much they adore shelling out for its superlative content.

Given the astronomical cost of the Times’ plan, only rich liberals will be able to afford it anyway.

At least the new digital subscription plan is an improvement over the short-lived TimesSelect debacle, in which the paper charged for online access to the site’s premium content—which included such must-read material as the repetitive, stale-as-a-cigarette-butt columns of Krugman, Herbert, Rich, and Dowd.

Borrowing language from President Obama’s State of the Union address, New York Times publisher Arthur Sulzberger, Jr. announced in a letter to readers that the new subscription plan is an “investment in our future.”

In other words, Obama implied that taxpayers should subsidize inefficient, underused high-speed rail—so more people will be forced to use something they didn’t use when they didn’t have to pay for it, and other options hadn’t been driven from the market.  Similarly, Times readers will now have to pay for biased, slanted content so more people will be forced to read something they didn’t want to read when they didn’t have to pay for it, and other options hadn’t been driven from the market.

Except that The Times won’t continue to dominate the news market the way government-subsidized boondoggles like high-speed rail and ObamaCare will take over their markets.  Does The Times really think they’re the only game in town?  The Times is one of those papers everyone reads because everyone else reads it.  That won’t be true once people start getting charged hundreds of dollars a year to read it.

Unless the federal government steps in and gives The Times a giant bailout, consumers are going to wise up and start getting their content elsewhere.  Not only does the sclerotic, past-its-prime paper’s poorly conceived paywall fail to invest in its own future, it indirectly invests in its competitors’ futures.

Which is fine with me.

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Rush Deconstructed for the Media Matters Crowd

December 22, 2010 By: Scott Spiegel Category: Media

Rush Limbaugh
Cover of Rush Limbaugh

The congenitally leftist site Media Matters regularly collects “controversial” quotes by conservative personalities and displays them on its website for liberals to gawk at.  It’s supposed to be self-evident to visitors how insane these statements are.

Evidently this soft-sell strategy works, as evidenced by the reams of snarky remarks dumped in the comments section by loyal readers.

Rush Limbaugh is of course a favorite target of Media Matters.  Please join me while I deconstruct a sampling of contentiously worded but eminently sensible recent Rush quotes (thanks to David Swindle for post idea):

“Continued unemployment benefits increases unemployment”

Rush bemoans the fact that recent Republican opposition to extending unemployment benefits has been based, not on the philosophy behind endless benefit extensions, but on the technicality of paying for them.  Rush points out the fact that it’s easier for people to accept a $325 a week check than to look for a job.  Subsidizing something (unemployment) gives you more of it; taxing something (working) gives you less of it.  Contrary to Nancy Pelosi’s claims, unemployment benefits do not increase employment.

Everything Obama has done has been “an attack on the greatness of this country”

Rush cites the following disasters in Obama’s first term: ObamaCare, intrusive financial regulations, a moratorium on drilling, bank and auto company bailouts, and the stimulus bill.  So where does Rush get it wrong?  Is it part of America’s manifest destiny to impose socialized medicine, constrict financial institutions, ban exploration of natural resources, keep bad businesses from failing by punishing good ones, and spend trillions of dollars we don’t have on projects we don’t need?

Requiring insurers to cover preexisting conditions “isn’t insurance, it’s welfare”

Eric Cantor recently announced that Republicans would not seek to completely get rid of the health care reform bill; some elements will be kept, such as coverage of preexisting conditions.  Rush argues that forcing insurance companies to accept people with preexisting conditions is welfare.  Insurance companies stay in business by getting many people to pay premiums; if they had to provide coverage to anyone who wanted it, people would simply wait until they suffered catastrophes and then purchase insurance.  Thus, coverage of preexisting conditions = free money = welfare.

“The Constitution is an obstacle to [liberals], it’s a Bible to me”

A caller wants to know how to bridge the gap between liberals and conservatives.  Rush tells him that the things the two sides want done are incompatible, and that the left is no longer on the same page as the right.  Rush is willing to compromise on policy details but not on the Constitution.  When you have Democrats being caught admitting they don’t worry about the Constitution, or trying to redefine it as involving more than protecting “negative liberties,” then there’s no room for negotiation.

Obama didn’t lobby for 2022 World Cup because he is a “guaranteed loser … talk to Chicago about that”

Obama failed to win the 2016 Olympics for Chicago, guarantee carbon emission reduction concessions at Copenhagen, help candidates in Virginia, New Jersey, and Massachusetts, and get G-20 members to agree to currency inflation.  He is, in every sense of the term, a loser.  Yes, he won the 2008 presidential election—and an electoral victory gives one power, but does not produce actual results.

Past terrorists have been “young male Muslim Arabs,” and now “everybody has to be groped”

Rush addresses dissatisfaction over the Transportation Safety Administration’s decision to use invasive full-body scanners and “enhanced pat downs.”  We know who the enemy is in the war on terror, what they look like, their national origins, their ages.  But for some reason we’re supposed to suspend logic and pretend anyone could be a terrorist.  Police officers profile suspects all the time, and residents of high-crime neighborhoods are grateful they do.  If a suspect is a young, African American male, should police waste time stopping middle-aged white men and Hispanic grandmothers to prove they’re not racist?

Some Republicans are “gun-shy about defending the rich,” but “I, of course, do not have that problem”

Rush discusses a column in which Thomas Sowell expresses concern about the GOP losing the tax extension debate.  Sowell notes that tax cuts for the rich raise revenue and create jobs.  Republicans have that fact on their side, but they have to explain it to the public.  Decades of pounding from the mainstream media have left the GOP queasy about speaking up.  Sowell notes that we just won a landslide and asks, Why are we afraid to speak up?  Rush’s answer: The GOP does need to speak up, but in the meantime, I’m going to do it for them.

“Secondhand smoke is harmless”

A recent study by a Swedish health board claims that secondhand smoke kills more than 600,000 people each year.  Rush notes that the World Health Organization conducted a worldwide study in 2001 that found that secondhand smoke has no impact on health, but suppressed the study, because its findings were politically incorrect.  Rush observes that liberals lie about global warming, DDT, and other supposed health risks in order to control people’s lives, so until there is better evidence about secondhand smoking, we shouldn’t give them the benefit of the doubt on this.

To African-Americans: “The Democrat party is the party of keeping you poor and downtrodden”

A caller asks why the media don’t focus on the fact that if the Bush tax cuts are not extended, the lowest tax rate would increase from 10% to 15%, a 50% increase, which would disproportionately affect African Americans.  Rush points out that Democrats are not the party that is best for African Americans but rather the party of segregation, Jim Crow, and the KKK.  Until FDR used electoral strategies to turn African Americans his way, this voting bloc had consistently voted Republican.  LBJ expanded this strategy with his Great Society in the 1960s, and Democratic presidents from Carter to Clinton to Obama continued it, with the result that illegitimacy and dropout rates are now higher in African American communities than in the 1950s.  So remind me: how are Democrats the party that’s best for African Americans?

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Banksy Gets Bankrolled by “The Simpsons”

October 18, 2010 By: Scott Spiegel Category: Media

Banksy Krusty
Image by mysticchildz via Flickr

Anonymous leftist hipster graffiti artist Banksy has made a name for himself painting agitprop scenes on walls and bridges throughout his native Bristol, London, and other international locations.

Banksy is recognized for his mostly black-and-white, stenciling technique resembling that of fellow American artist Shepard “Hope” Fairey and old Soviet propaganda posters.  His painted scenes advocate the panoply of progressive causes, such as pushing for health care reform, climate change legislation, nature, and peace; bemoaning war, the police, corporate control, the commodification of art, poverty, the displacement of Native Americans, and Hurricane Katrina; and idolizing Charles Manson.  A recent series of wall paintings on the Israel-Palestinian border protested security measures Israel took to protect itself against suicide bombers.

To commemorate the Copenhagen Climate Summit in November 2009, Banksy painted four murals along Regent’s Canal in London, one of which declared “I DON’T BELIEVE IN GLOBAL WARMING” in red letters, the last two words partly submerged below the water line.  This was supposed to be a statement about man-made climate change, and while it likely had little impact, it arguably yielded more efficacious results than the summit itself.

Recently Banksy was invited to help storyboard the introductory “couch gag” for “The Simpsons,” which aired last Sunday.

The opening credit sequence begins with a few clues foreshadowing the Banksy material.  The bird that flies across the screen in the opening shot is carrying a rat, one of Banksy’s favorite icons.  “BANKSY” is spray painted over a billboard advertising Krusty the Klown’s funeral business.  Bart is writing “I must not write all over the walls” all over the chalkboard and walls of the classroom.  “BANKSY” is tagged on the wall outside the school.

After the Simpsons sit down in their living room, the familiar couch scene pans out and becomes a color image on the wall of a dreary, black-and-white factory.  Rows of forlorn, sickly Chinese women slave away hand-painting animation cels, while guards stand by and a sorrowful Communist-sounding melody with a chorus of wailing voices serenades them.  The completed frames are passed to a barefooted waif who carries them one-by-one to an oil drum, climbs to the top of the drum, and dips them in a bubbling, green, toxic substance to preserve them before hanging them on a clothesline to dry.  On the ground are a pile of human skulls and bones; a rat pulls out one bone and drags it away.

The camera pans through a hole in the floor to an elaborate, multilevel, wooden walkway leading downward into the cave-like depths of the factory.  Children push racks of brightly colored Simpsons T-shirts along the walkway, sparsely placed candles their only lighting.

In the basement, workers throw live caged kittens into a shredding machine that turns them into stuffing, which another worker uses to fill cloth Bart Simpson dolls.  The worker tosses the dolls into a wheelbarrow attached to a decrepit-looking panda, which wearily hauls the boxes away.

A man uses a primitive sealing device, consisting of the jaw and tongue of a massacred porpoise, to close up boxes of merchandise for shipment.  Finally, a child pokes holes through the centers of Simpsons DVDs using a sharp post that turns out to be the horn of a chained unicorn, which flops to the ground in exhaustion.

The view pans out to a dreary 20th Century Fox logo made of stained limestone instead of the traditional gold, and flanked by tall, barbed-wire-topped chain-link fences.

There’s so much to laugh at in this ludicrously over-the-top montage that it’s hard to know where to start.  First of all, “The Simpsons” outsources most of its animation to free presidential republic South Korea, not communist state China.  Executive producer Al Jean pointed out for the literal-minded, “I have to say, [Banksy’s opening is] very fanciful, far-fetched.  None of the things he depicts are true.  That statement should be self-evident, but I will emphatically state it.”  (Meanwhile, The New York Times is covering up for its latest Jayson Blair protégé in the Foreign Affairs section, who saw the intro and wrote a story on sweatshops grounded in his “on location” reporting.)

In addition, there’s the hypocrisy inherent in the fact that Banksy, who once declared, “We can’t do anything to change the world until capitalism crumbles,” sells reproductions of hundreds of his works and uses various agents to represent his monetary interests.  Banksy is reportedly 36 years old, but demonstrates all the maturity and consistency of an 18-year-old trust fund brat who joins the college socialism club his freshman year.

Banksy ignores other unexamined questions and assumptions implicit in his work.  Who, for example, is responsible for working and living conditions being so awful in the China he depicts—the United States or the Communist Chinese government?  What other horrific jobs would these workers be doing, and for how much less money, if they weren’t painting cartoons and dyeing images on Simpsons T-shirts for an American company?

Did these workers take these jobs voluntarily, or were they forced into them via slavery?  Are they free to leave at any time, if factory conditions are so horrendous or if they think they can find better, higher paying work elsewhere?  Doesn’t the fact that they take jobs with American companies suggest that these companies’ conditions and wages—though understandably lower than in Western countries—are superior to those available in Chinese companies?

Is Banksy’s intro supposed to be some kind of statement on the evils of outsourcing?  The cultural imperialism of the West?  The drudgery involved in hand-drawn animation?

Like the rest of Banksy’s work, and that of most other hopey-changey “political artists” these days, the message is unfocused, emotion-based, incoherent, and specious.

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The Social Network: Glorifying Litigation Over Innovation

October 04, 2010 By: Scott Spiegel Category: Media

jesse-eisenberg-the-social-network_75
Image by Scott Spiegel via Flickr

Leftists hate movies about business, because they don’t understand its function and believe wealth is generated by redistributing it from rich people who “appropriated” it from the masses.

Leftists love movies about lawyers, because litigation is the primary means by which they can take down prosperous corporations and “spread the wealth around.”

No business venture was ever launched on the primary basis of deciding who would get what profits if the undertaking were successful.  No litigation to determine who gets what for his role in a venture was ever instrumental in helping an undertaking succeed.

“The Social Network,” the recent film about the founding of Facebook, could have been an exciting, uplifting, inspiring, rags-to-riches story about a young entrepreneur who started a $25 billion company and became the youngest billionaire ever, and the creative steps he went through in solving thorny design, implementation, and managerial problems.

Instead, Hollywood has given us a nasty, cynical, exploitative yarn about slimy people harassing and suing the pants off one another, excruciating and embarrassing depositions taken and disputed, and flimsy contracts and partnerships violated and dissolved.

To the extent that “The Social Network” is engaging, it’s like watching a 12-car pileup, where the cars are driven by obnoxious social climbers and rapacious lawyers.

The development of the Facebook site and its spreading use around the world should have been the main story of the film, with the ugly legal wrangling just blips in the background.  Instead, the film puts the malicious finger-pointing and backstabbing front and center, with details about the creation of the site mere interludes between the bickering.

Maybe a movie focusing only on the virtuoso creation of Facebook wouldn’t have been enough of a film—maybe Facebook simply isn’t that monumental an achievement.  But that doesn’t mean a film dwelling on the legal fallout is a keeper either.

Despite the conflicting accounts in the media, two things are clear from the film and its back story: Mark Zuckerberg is an enterprising, hardworking, ambitious, and talented young programmer, and he is arrogant.

Beyond that, nothing matters.  Would the public have preferred that Zuckerberg not develop Facebook but sing in the choir?  I don’t know Zuckerberg, and I don’t care whether I know him—I can enjoy the products of his success without having to interact with him.

Furthermore, people who don’t succeed are always tearing down those who do—witness the swarm of Bill Gates and Martha Stewart-bashers who crawled out of the woodwork to badmouth these titans after they became rich and famous.  To paraphrase one lawyer in the film, 85% of Zuckerberg’s opponents’ claims are probably exaggerated and the other 15% perjury.

As Debbie Schlussel notes, “Some reports say that Zuckerberg was even more loathsome than portrayed in the movies but because of potential litigation from him, his ‘character’ was toned down.  Others say it’s a hatchet job.  So, what was made up and what is real?  We won’t know for certain, and that’s the problem.  Zuckerberg and the Facebook people didn’t cooperate with the project—and who can blame them?”

The fictional Zuckerberg sums up the situation well in the following quote, the best speech from the film, in response to an opponent’s lawyer’s query as to why Mark is staring out the window: “I think if your clients want to sit on my shoulders and call themselves tall, they have the right to give it a try—but there’s no requirement that I enjoy sitting here listening to people lie.  You have part of my attention—you have the minimum amount.  The rest of my attention is back at the offices of Facebook, where my colleagues and I are doing things that no one in this room, including and especially your clients, are intellectually or creatively capable of doing.”

Some might say that director David Fincher and screenwriter Aaron Sorkin are simply giving moviegoers what they want: a juicy, insider, semi-improvised tale about parties viciously battling to take credit for a hugely popular invention.

But the public is certainly capable of appreciating well-made, non-contentious dramas about business, as evidenced by the success of Donald Trump’s “The Apprentice,” which is now filming its eleventh season.

Of course we need the law in this country.  Legal dramas can certainly be compelling.  But couldn’t there be just one business movie for every 10 lawyer movies that slither out of Hollywood?  (And I don’t include the “Wall Street” franchise in that count—I’m talking about movies that portray businessmen as something other than soulless monsters.)

It’s fortunate for the filmmakers that “The Social Network” came out now, because no one will care about the litigious story behind Facebook in 10 years.  The filmmakers have crassly capitalized on prurient buzz, and in doing so haven’t made a lasting film.

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SNL Mocks Obama, Pelosi for Their Eloquent Grace Under Fire

September 29, 2010 By: Scott Spiegel Category: Media

Tina Fey as Sarah Palin (left) and Amy Poehler...
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Saturday Night Live (SNL) is held up by “television historians” as a paragon of insightful, ruthless satire of the political scene.

Whatever merits SNL might have once had in that department, lately its level of political analysis has been about as deep as the shot glasses its writers undoubtedly empty before they pen each week’s program.

In its recent season opening skit—which was overlong and dolefully unfunny, like the rest of the show these days—SNL mocked Delaware Senate candidate Christine O’Donnell over—wait for it… her wacky background!  The tasteful, thoughtfully written sketch included an O’Donnell impersonator admitting that she masturbates constantly and an interlude in which the onanist pleasured herself off-set and returned to ask fellow performers for snacks.

Two years ago, during the 2008 presidential election, Tina Fey’s impression of Governor Sarah Palin was a hit, not because it was especially accurate, but because (1) it was amusing to watch the antics of this colorful, clueless, moose-hunting politician Fey had created out of whole cloth who bore no characterological resemblance to her real-life model, and (2) there was schadenfreude in seeing the snarky Fey gussy herself up and try but fail to imitate the classiness and charisma of the real Palin.

In a similar display of what passes for the evidentiary basis for Democratic public policy nowadays, comedian Stephen Colbert testified before the House last week on the plight of migrant workers.  Colbert cited as firsthand experience the publicity stunt whereby he recently spent a few hours in comfy upstate New York being photographed loading crates of vegetables for the United Farm Workers.  Colbert bored and abused committee members with his bottomless ego, then demonstrated his pro-gay credentials by telling a charming joke about Iowan “corn packers” that caused his audience to groan in revulsion.

Even Democrat John Conyers, Chair of the Judiciary Committee, had to ask Colbert to leave the hearing during the middle of his testimony, though his sponsor—nutty California Democrat Zoe Lofgren—urged him to stay.  House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer was later shamed into calling Colbert’s testimony “an embarrassment.”

And Jon Stewart, the number one hard news source for leftists under 40, is bringing his oh-so-clever Rally to Restore Sanity to the National Mall next month, where it will compete with Colbert’s isn’t-it-ironic March to Keep Fear Alive.  Both are supposed to be satires of Glenn Beck’s recent Restoring Honor rally and the massive Tea Party gatherings held in D.C. the past two Septembers.

So millions of sincere and patriotic Americans travel hundreds of miles to the nation’s capital on a heartfelt quest to show solidarity with fellow citizens who are disgusted with unprecedented government spending, regulations, and deficits—and the brightest and most influential minds on the left respond by pointing fingers and giggling at protestors’ clothes.  How about a Stewart rally defending the merits of the stimulus bill or ObamaCare instead of one poking fun at people for wearing tri-corner hats or dressing up like Benjamin Franklin?

Contemporary leftists have learned that one way to avoid sober analysis is to ridicule one’s opponents for personal quirks and fringe elements in their followings.  It’s true that laughter can be used to draw in an audience or emphasize a genuine point, but it can also be used to sidetrack discussion and win over sympathizers via a superficial, crowd-pleasing style rather than through probing facts and penetrating arguments.  As political communication expert and professor Lauren Feldman reports, “[P]olitical comedy suppresses argument scrutiny.  What this means is that when audiences are exposed to political humor or satire they are less likely to counter-argue the information contained in the message or question the fairness or accuracy of the message, relative to a non-humorous message.”

If comedy’s what the public wants, then a truly astute, non-PC SNL political satire would, say, chronicle the addle-headed trillion-dollar stimulus bill and its ludicrous, disproven Keynesian assumptions; the administration’s risible invention of the “jobs created or saved” metric; its snail-paced implementation of projects, tongue-tied lies about funded projects, and use of funds for ridiculous pork projects; and the bill’s predictably laughable failure to bring down the unemployment rate.

A series of hilarious sketches might skewer ObamaCare proponents’ side-splitting claim that the law will cover 30 million more Americans yet somehow bring down the cost of care; the preposterous Wile E. Coyote schemes Democrats plotted to pass the bill such as reconciliation, “deem and pass,” the Christmas Eve vote, and the Cornhusker Kickback; and Democrats’ kamikaze obduracy in passing the bill against the public’s wishes.

But no: having Kristen Wiig don a witch’s hat and fly away on a broomstick—now that’s getting to the heart of what’s wrong with the political system in America!

Since they’re so obsessed with the backgrounds of Tea Party candidates, let’s consider the history of various storied SNL actors’ fates: died from drug overdose (John Belushi), died from drug overdose and obesity (Chris Farley), murdered by drug-addicted wife (Phil Hartman), committed suicide (Weekend Update anchor and Reagan impersonator Charles Rocket), for starters.  These are part of the cadre of fine, upstanding thespians lecturing O’Donnell for having friends who dressed as goths in high school.

Republican politicians need SNL, Colbert, Stewart, Bill Maher, and other leftist chuckleheads like an elephant needs a flock of blue-footed boobies picking nits off its backside—less, actually, since the birds provide a useful function by keeping the elephant clean.  These “comedians” feed on the right-wing political class like parasites, then pass off their antics to rubes on the left as serious political discourse.

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A War Movie for People Who Know Nothing About War

March 02, 2010 By: Scott Spiegel Category: Media

Last summer, NBC’s Brian Williams wrote a piece called “The Hurt Locker: Hurting for a Fact-Checker” regarding one of the top two contenders for Best Picture at this weekend’s Oscars.  Williams noted, “I found a slew of technical inaccuracies based only on my few trips to Iraq during the height of the conflict.  Seeing the movie made me go back over many of the positive reviews I read…  [I]t is now clear none of them was written by anyone who had spent any time with U.S. armed forces in Iraq.”

Williams suggested that the filmmakers botched the following minor details: the vehicles, the armor, the armaments, the helmets, the uniforms, the communications technology, the military jargon, the unit structure, the command procedure, and the mission logistics.

On the plus side, Williams noted that the filmmakers accurately portrayed soldiers’ fingernails being dirty and their eyelashes being covered with dust.  Score one for cinéma vérité!  Williams also praised the film’s lovely desert scenery.

Williams ended, “I’d like to watch ‘The Hurt Locker’ with a combat veteran, but my layman’s eyes found way too much to quarrel with.”

Fortunately for Williams, many combat veterans have already seen the film.  Unfortunately for director Kathryn Bigelow, their criticism of the film is even more scathing than that of Williams.

Paul Rieckhoff, Founder and Executive Director of the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, recently concluded in Newsweek that “Hollywood’s latest attempt to define the Iraq War and the American troops who have fought in it is just as disappointing as all the others produced so far.”

Rieckhoff, while pointing out additional and more nuanced inaccuracies than Williams, argues that the snowballing accumulation of gaffes in the movie is not trivial, but rather reflects an unforgivably sloppy rendering of the military that reveals profound ignorance and amounts to great disrespect on the filmmakers’ part.

For example, Rieckhoff criticizes the depiction of the highly specialized Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) group at the center of the film as casually putting on other military hats in their spare time, expertly carrying out sniper missions and kicking in doors and checking buildings for insurgents, jobs for which they would never have been trained.

Rieckhoff writes, “The scene with Jeremy Renner’s character sneaking off base to chase a boy he is worried about is as fictional as Jason Bourne…  The men in my platoon followed rules and orders, and they stuck with their fellow soldiers…  They don’t run around on their own unless they want to be court-martialed—or killed.”

The L.A. Times’ Julian Barnes cites EOD team members in Iraq who damn “The Hurt Locker” with faint praise: they call it “a good action movie if you know nothing about defusing roadside bombs or the military.”  (How about that sound editing!)

Barnes quotes EOD technician Sgt. Eric Gordon: “I would watch it with other EOD people, and we would laugh.”  (Then again, many people I know have had the same reaction to fellow Oscar nominee “Avatar.”)  Gordon compared one soldier defusing a bomb using wire cutters to having “a firefighter go into a building with a squirt bottle.”

An even more sobering criticism of the movie involves its portrayal of the main character, Sergeant William James, as a danger-loving, adrenaline-addicted, protocol-shredding commando who wantonly disrupts unit cohesion and endangers unit members with irresponsible, tough-guy playacting.

The Washington Post quotes Iraq veteran Ryan Gallucci stating that he had to keep turning the movie off “or else I would have thrown my remote through the television.”  Gallucci admits that he kept wanting to see James “blown up…  I wanted to see his poor teammates get another team leader, who was actually concerned about their safety.”

In an essay for The New York Times subtly titled “How Not to Depict a War,” EOD team videographer Michael Kamber adds that the film’s many factual errors “are mere details compared to the way Sergeant James repeatedly swaggers up to bombs…  [T]he chances of recklessly approaching even a single command-detonated bomb and surviving are quite small.  Yet we are made to believe that Sergeant James has disabled over 800 bombs in this reckless, cowboy-like fashion.”  (Yes, but will the film win Best Sound Mixing?)

The most damning indictment of the film, however, comes from American-Israeli journalist Caroline Glick.  As she notes, “There is no plot.  We don’t know anything about these soldiers.  We don’t know why they joined the US Army.  We don’t know how they feel about Iraq…  All we are given are GI Joes who defuse bombs.  Supposedly by watching them, we are supposed to achieve some deeper understanding of the war.  But really all we see is context-free violence which teaches us nothing about war.  Supposedly James is a hero.  But we don’t have any idea what he’s fighting for.  So why should we care about him?”

So why is “The Hurt Locker” nominated for a gazillion Academy Awards?  My theory is that the movie was made for people who either (1) know nothing about war, and are curious about what it would be like to be embedded in an Army unit, or (2) care nothing about war, and are delighted to see it depicted as a meaningless, nihilistic exercise that illustrates the futility of picking up arms to fight for one’s country’s security interests.

As far as the latter group, Glick writes, “The Hurt Locker works for them because its post-modern, context-free rendering of the war is a picture-perfect far-left portrayal of war.  No, the Americans aren’t terrible, they are nothings…  War is futile.  There is no purpose to war except staying alive.”

Glick counters: “[S]oldiers aren’t two-dimensional and war isn’t about nothing.  And the war in Iraq is neither futile nor meaningless.  The Hurt Locker was a two-dimensional film about a meaningless war and nothing soldiers.”

In other words: par for the course for Hollywood war films these days.

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