In today’s American two-Party system, there is no active opposition party to Conservative ideology or an opposition party with a pro-active message (despite the Progressive movement within the Democratic Party and other parties that are not “officially” recognized).
I used to watch Rachel Maddow and Chris Hayes on MSNBC. But I was so discouraged and disappointed – oftentimes shocked and outraged – by their behavior and what I saw as irresponsible “reporting” 1 (and both using the overwhelmingly biased and closed-minded Joy Reid 2 as their replacement host) during the election, that I simply had to stop tuning in.
With her recent show devoted solely to “connecting the dots between Trump and Russia,” Rachel Maddow has burrowed in even deeper (and reduced her credibility to being little more than the Democratic Glenn Beck) by continuing to embrace fear-mongering through irresponsible and agenda-driven speculation. By amping up a fear that the Clinton Campaign used to divert attention from her own campaign dealings and mistakes, Maddow and others are fanning the flames of war and, simultaneously, taking a gamble that, if they lose, will greatly aid Donald Trump’s ability to further convince the public that neither the Democratic Party nor the media can be trusted.
I hate seeing the Democratic Party continue to be its own worst enemy. I hate seeing Democratic news hosts become Democratic apologists and outright fear-mogerers. I hate seeing Democrats using the old Republican playbook as their guide and, in effect, becoming everything we used to fight against (McCarthyism, anyone?). The Democratic Party used to be a very real, very active and vocal alternative. We used to offer that desperately-needed balance. And hope. Continue reading “America No Longer Has A Viable Opposition Party To Conservative Ideology”→
As a writer and filmmaker, I have, for as long as I can remember, felt strongly about storytelling. I was also lucky enough to have grown into adulthood during the second golden age of cinema (the 1970’s). Therefore, my most cherished form of storytelling has been through movies. It is the medium that most speaks to me, the language I most thoroughly embrace that best articulates, for me, what it means to be human. So it seems I take the current state of cinema far more seriously than do certain others for whom films are a mere distraction or, at best, a simple pleasure.
Which leads my desire to draw your attention to an interesting article by Mark Harris in GQ magazine. It’s called THE DAY THE MOVIES DIED and it’s about Hollywood today and the state of films and filmmaking. I think Mark makes some terrific points and observations and they are in keeping with my feelings about the industry and the art form. That said, I think there are areas that are even more complex than Mr. Harris spells them out to be. Though he does an excellent job of offering some very appealing conversation starters. I would also state, as a criticism, that I wish Mr. Harris had offered up some more detailed information regarding his sources as they would have added even more credibility to his stories and insights (e.g. his stated industry reaction to INCEPTION). But all in all, it’s an article worth reading and it paints a picture that, in my opinion, has more truth to it than not. Which saddens me.
I would also turn attention to a book by Columbia professor Tim Wu titled THE MASTER SWITCH: The Rise and Fall of Information Empires. Here, too, you will find answers to why we are where we are, why the film industry is what it is, and where we might be heading. The book will also place those questions, answers and concepts onto a much larger stage. It’ll certainly equip you to handle just about any conversation on the subject that might arise and then some.
Here is David Siegfried’s Booklist review of MASTER SWITCH:
A veteran of Silicon Valley and professor at Columbia University, Wu is an author and policy advocate best known for coining the term net neutrality. Although the Internet has created a world of openness and access unprecedented in human history, Wu is quick to point out that the early phases of telephony, film, and radio offered similar opportunities for the hobbyist, inventor, and creative individual, only to be centralized and controlled by corporate interests, monopolized, broken into smaller entities, and then reconsolidated. Wu calls this the Cycle, and nowhere is it more exemplary than in the telecommunications industry. The question Wu raises is whether the Internet is different, or whether we are merely in the early open phase of a technology that is to be usurped and controlled by profiteering interests. Central in the power struggle is the difference between the way Apple Computer and Google treat content, with Apple attempting to control the user experience with slick products while Google endeavors to democratize content, giving the user choice and openness. This is an essential look at the directions that personal computing could be headed depending on which policies and worldviews come to dominate control over the Internet.
Bear with me now as I take you down a seemingly random path that, I assure you, will lead back to the overriding themes at hand. I once knew a man for whom the idea of eating food was nothing more than a means of attaining nourishment and proteins. So much so that after a workout, he would take a beautiful prime cut of beef and toss it headlong into a microwave. The fate of that particular portion of cow was to become a grey, rubbery slab of flavorless meat, with not so much as a sprinkle of pepper or salt to provide some modicum of dignity to the poor deceased beast.
As one who genuinely loves and appreciates a great meal, watching this nightly parade of food abomination was distressing to me, to say the least. So, if you’re like me and you truly love a great meal, imagine what your food world would look like if most available meals were manufactured by McDonalds. Sure, the occasional restaurant might pop up here and there offering something lovingly concocted by a real chef, someone with a deep love of food and food preparation, but that establishment wouldn’t last long enough to build up much of a customer base. No, I’m afraid most of your dining options would be, well, off the McD’s menu. Now, by comparison, an occasional meal at the Olive Garden would suddenly seem downright luxurious, downright masterful in both its preparation and combination of flavors. Olive Garden might even become the Holy Grail of good cooking in the hearts and minds of many. But in truth, we’d be salivating over a plate of supreme mediocrity. To me, Hollywood is the McDonald’s of filmmaking. And occasionally something comes out of the system (usually as a result of a big favor owed) that wows people. And that, my friends, is a meal at the Olive Garden. If you were a chef, you would not want to ply your craft at either McD’s or “The Garden.” They are not designed for you to do what it is you love. And the people who would most appreciate your work, your passion, your gift, would not frequent these places looking for what you have to offer. Anyone who knew what a good Italian meal was –or a good burger, for that matter– would mourn the loss of something exquisite, something great. They would shake their heads in collective misery at the loss of such an elegant art, the loss of that cherished human capacity to create and recognize something that embodies both complex and simple flavors, something which excites the taste buds and satisfies in such a gloriously primal way.
And so we return to my feelings about the current American film industry.
The state of Hollywood today is not good for films, filmmakers or audiences. And it hasn’t been for a long time. We’ve been in a steady decline for many years. And that’s more than just sour grapes or being a curmudgeon. Film is an art, a language, a beautiful and complex animal that mirrors the human condition. But Hollywood today is far from being a place to nourish such desires or, worse, to even dream of them. Perhaps with the way technology has changed, there will be no need for Hollywood anymore. Or maybe there will be a resurgence of filmmakers who truly love film and want to push the boundaries of the medium once again. To explore, to grow, to seek, to touch. But for every one of those, there are still thousands of others whose final destination is Hollywood. And that will yield nothing but mediocrity at its best. I wish it were otherwise. But in a town inundated with accountants and frat boys at the helm, we must look elsewhere for the fruits of the medium. But all of this is in keeping sync with the state of the union, not just the state of Hollywood. The Tea-Party, hard-core conservatism, rabid anti-intellectualism, money over people. It’s why Netflix is becoming the new Blockbuster and corporate interests override human/customer interest or loyalty. It’s why universal health care is demonized and Workers Unions the enemy. All of these things are reflected in one another. Reagan fueled the fire and it’s been snowballing ever since. Not just in politics or the economy, but in every corner of our collective consciousness. Our own Capitalist sensibilities have turned around and bitten us square in the ass and we’re only now starting to comprehend that those are our own teeth embedded there.
Nothing reflects the moods and tone of a nation better than its art. Our priorities as a nation and our ability to fight to accept as little as possible has been a deepening, festering wound. We will either heal it or die from it. I’m rooting for the former myself. But in the meantime, one of the repercussions is that our artists must look elsewhere to create their art, while businessmen and women parade around as filmmakers. And as caring politicians. All of whom would very much like you to try that bold new Angus Burger at McDonalds. Really, you’ll love it.
It’s so easy to forget that not all people who ascribe to any particular political party, ideal or belief all think alike. During these past 8 years of Bush/Cheney, it’s been hard to keep that in mind as so much of what I personally value about this country was threatened. Some would say Bush’s intentions were good, but his decisions were bad. Others would say he had a personal agenda and simply lied to get what he wanted. I have no way of knowing where the truth lies, but I do know that I felt increasingly like I had found myself in a country I no longer recognized. Sure, most of the people around me shared my beliefs and fears, but I live in Los Angeles, a liberal city, and work in the entertainment industry–as an artist, not a businessman. So my experience of what people think and what they believe based on my personal experience does not very likely reflect the majority of this country.
When President Bush got reelected in 2004, my heart sank and a tangible layer of hope and optimism was stripped away; I no longer had faith that Americans as a whole could recognize what was happening to them; that our ability as a nation to be self-aware, to learn from past mistakes, had eroded. Or never existed at all.
But this election has given me a renewed sense of hope. And not just because I believe Barack Obama might move this nation toward a vision of America I personally share. I’ve seen too many politicians come and go, too many promises forgotten or pushed aside. I know that, even though Obama is unquestionably the most exciting candidate to come along in my politically aware lifetime, he could prove to be “just another politician.”
No, what’s renewed my hope and optimism is the McCain/Palin campaign. That’s right. McCain/Palin. To my mind, Sarah Palin was a supremely irresponsible choice for running mate on the part of John McCain. Though I understood the initial attraction so far as changing the political game by tossing in the unexpected and stealing some of your opponent’s thunder, I felt it would be a disaster for the country if she were to get elected. Initially, upon watching the Republican base embrace this woman, a familiar dread began to stir inside me.
As I continued to watch John McCain toss aside many of his own beliefs throughout this campaign, as I watched his desire to be president take him down paths I thought quite disturbing, I feared I would once again be in the minority and that I would end up in that Twilight Zone where no one seems to see what’s going on. But as John McCain’s campaign became uglier, nastier… as he himself showed us a man straining and failing not to come across arrogant, condescending and angry… As Sarah Palin proved over and over again that she was nowhere near ready to represent the best America had to offer, people started speaking up. And not just people like me, not just liberal Democrats who knew without question which way they were voting early in this campaign, but conservatives, Republicans, military personnel, political advisors, on and on… They too saw what was happening and began speaking out, voicing their concerns, sharing their thoughts. And so they started coming out against the candidate who represented the party that most closely epitomized their ideals and vision of America. Not because they had lost faith in the party, but because they realized that the man and woman heading the call of that party no longer represented them; they had gone to a place that was so clearly damaging, so obviously rooted in something other than the best interests of this nation, that to deny that would be to allow this country to slip deeper down the dark chasm it has been sliding down for eight long years. Only this time, the world was in an even more dangerous, even more vulnerable place. And so was America.
On October 20th, conservative diplomat, political writer, and policy analyst, Ken Adelman, came out for Barack Obama. Or, more precisely, against John McCain. Adelman was once an advisor to President Reagan and the Assistant to United States Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld. He was initially a big supporter of the Iraq War. In the most recent edition of THE NEW YORKER, Adelman discusses his reasons for not supporting John McCain:
“When the economic crisis broke, I found John McCain bouncing all over the place. In those first few crisis days, he was impetuous, inconsistent, and imprudent; ending up just plain weird. Having worked with Ronald Reagan for seven years, and been with him in his critical three summits with Gorbachev, I’ve concluded that that’s no way a president can act under pressure. Second is judgment. The most important decision John McCain made in his long campaign was deciding on a running mate. That decision showed appalling lack of judgment. Not only is Sarah Palin not close to being acceptable in high office—I would not have hired her for even a mid-level post in the arms-control agency. But that selection contradicted McCain’s main two, and best two, themes for his campaign—Country First, and experience counts. Neither can he credibly claim, post-Palin pick.”
“I’ve considered myself less of a partisan than an ideologue. I cared about conservative principles, and still do, instead of caring about the GOP.
“Granted, McCain’s views are closer to mine than Obama’s. But I’ve learned over this Bush era to value competence along with ideology. Otherwise, our ideology gets discredited, as it has so disastrously over the past eight years.
“McCain’s temperament — leading him to bizarre behavior during the week the economic crisis broke — and his judgment — leading him to Wasilla — depressed me into thinking that “our guy” would be a(nother) lousy conservative president. Been there, done that.
“I’d rather a competent moderate president. Even at a risk, since Obama lacks lots of executive experience displaying competence (though his presidential campaign has been spot-on). And since his Senate voting record is not moderate, but depressingly liberal. Looming in the background, Pelosi and Reid really scare me.
“Nonetheless, I concluded that McCain would not — could not — be a good president. Obama just might be.
“That’s become good enough for me — however much of a triumph (as Dr. Johnson said about second marriages) of hope over experience.”
In yesterday’s online edition of NEWSWEEK, ex-Bush official Nicholas Burns also came out against McCain and Palin. It should be noted that Mr. Burns, now retired, was the United States Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs within the Department of State, the highest-ranking American career diplomat. He was appointed to the U.S. Senate by President George W. Bush in 2005. Here is what he had to say:
“Are McCain and Palin correct that America should stonewall its foes? I lived this issue for 27 years as a career diplomat, serving both Republican and Democratic administrations. Maybe that’s why I’ve been struggling to find the real wisdom and logic in this Republican assault against Obama. I’ll bet that a poll of senior diplomats who have served presidents from Carter to Bush would reveal an overwhelming majority who agree with the following position: of course we should talk to difficult adversaries—when it is in our interest and at a time of our choosing.
“The more challenging and pertinent question, especially for the McCain-Palin ticket, is the reverse: Is it really smart to declare we will never talk to such leaders? Is it really in our long-term national interest to shut ourselves off from one of the most important and powerful states in the Middle East—Iran—or one of our major suppliers of oil, Venezuela?…
“The real truth Americans need to embrace is that nearly all of the most urgent global challenges—the quaking financial markets, climate change, terrorism—cannot be resolved by America’s acting alone in the world. Rather than retreat into isolationism, as we have often done in our history, or go it alone as the unilateralists advocated disastrously in the past decade, we need to commit ourselves to a national strategy of smart engagement with the rest of the world. Simply put, we need all the friends we can get. And we need to think more creatively about how to blunt the power of opponents through smart diplomacy, not just the force of arms.
“Talking to our adversaries is no one’s idea of fun, and it is not a sure prescription for success in every crisis. But it is crude, simplistic and wrong to charge that negotiations reflect weakness or appeasement. More often than not, they are evidence of a strong and self-confident country. One of America’s greatest but often neglected strengths is, in fact, our diplomatic power. Condoleezza Rice’s visit to Libya in September—the first by a U.S. secretary of state in five decades—was the culmination of years of careful, deliberate diplomacy to maneuver the Libyan leadership to give up its weapons of mass destruction and renounce terrorism. She would not have achieved that victory had she refused to talk to the Libyans…
“Rather than default to the idea of using U.S. military force against Iran, wouldn’t it make more sense for the next American president to offer to negotiate with the Iranian leadership?…
“The next U.S. president will have little chance of securing peace in the Middle East if he doesn’t determine Iran’s bottom line on the nuclear issue through talks. Similarly, there will be no peace treaty between Syria and Israel if we don’t support the talks underway between those countries…
“The next president needs to act more creatively and boldly to defend our interests by revalidating diplomacy as a key weapon in our national arsenal and rebuilding our understaffed and underfunded diplomatic corps. Of course he will need to reserve the right to use force against the most vicious and implacable of our foes. More often than not, however, he will find that dialogue and discussion, talking and listening, are the smarter ways to defend our country, end crises and sometimes even sow the seeds of an ultimate peace.”
We are still a young country. We are still trying to understand and define the soul of America. Who are we? As a nation? As a people? Are we destined for greatness, or are we to be yet another example of greatness gone awry, misled? Are these just growing pains, or is it a death rattle?
The process of that discovery is fraught with hardship and loss, with changes and growth both exciting and terrifying. It is a painful path, an uncertain path, a demanding path. But a path that if taken with eyes and hearts wide open, with a desire for self-awareness, self-criticism and self-respect, then America may just find its soul and learn to nurture it. And I believe the whole world would be a better place for it.
Someone once told me the closer you get to achieving your life’s goals, to becoming the things that you are most compelled to be, the more monsters and demons will rise up to stop you. And many of those monsters and demons will be of your own making. I have found this to be true. Both in my personal growth and in watching the growth of this country, both historically and presently. I hope we can face those monsters together and find ourselves, one day, on the other side.
Who remembers this 1984 election ad for Ronald Reagan?
Even though every quote in the ad was an out-and-out lie, the ad still worked and Reagan became president. According to Jeffrey Feldman of the Huffington Post:
Legendary ad man Bill Hillsman explain[s] why that ad worked. After seeing it, Hillsman said, Americans everywhere would get a warm, familiar, and comforting feeling — the kind of feeling that small babies get after they’ve just wet their diaper. It was a feeling that lasted for only a minute, and when it was over, you wanted it to happen again.
It was a funny description, but it was spot on. Hillsman’s point was simple. Sure the ad lied, but it was the lies that made it work — and it was not the ‘truth’ that could have beat it. What made that ad work was the way it made Americans see and feel something ‘familiar,’ ‘comfortable,’ ‘warm.’
The Republicans are currently doing the same thing: they are rewriting the American story to reflect something that simply isn’t true, but appeals to our deepest desires of what we so desperately want it to be. We want to believe. But the reality is that in order to achieve our dreams, we have to face our reality. And the reality right now is that things are not good. Not here, not abroad. Not culturally, not economically, not socially. We are in a dire place and we need to redirect ourselves, our country. To continue on the current path, which is what McCain is offering, is to live a dream that is actually a nightmare. The Economy is not okay, as McCain would have you believe. We are not safer today than we were 7 years ago. The unemployment rate is not stable. Most Americans do not have health coverage. Our standing in the world is not one of respect, but of fear and ridicule. We are not the America we once were, and we’re certainly not the America we long to be. I can’t say that Obama will take us there, but he is currently the only one expressing an interest in doing so.