Saturday, December 29, 2012

2012: The Collision of Politics and Pop Culture

2012 was arguably the year that pop culture – of which Hollywood is the gravitational center – and politics intersected and fueled each other more than ever before. The stories that defined America in 2012 were the ones that revealed just to what degree society’s movers and shakers now recognize how crucial Hollywood’s messages and pop culture influence are.

Here is just a partial list of notable pop culture/political collisions in 2012:

Hollywood icon Clint Eastwood delivered a quirky Republican convention address directed at President Obama, represented by an empty chair. It swiftly became a wildly popular cultural meme on both sides of the political fence.

In support of Obama’s reelection, Girls creator Lena Dunham narrated and appeared in an official campaign video called “My First Time,” in which she compared voting for the President to losing one’s virginity. Hers was only the most controversial of a slew of other pro-Obama videos put forth by Hollywood stars like Will Ferrell and Cher.

The music biz got into the act as well, whether intentionally or not. Just before his performance before our President himself, South Korea’s Psy, the “Gangnam Style” rapper behind the most-watched video in YouTube history, drew fire for an earlier rap in which he wished death upon American servicemen and their families. Megastar singer Katy Perry, wearing a skin-tight dress designed like a voting ballot with the box for Obama checked off, performed at his campaign rallies, and lesser music stars from aging rocker John Mellencamp to recording artist also assisted in the last-minute campaigning.

The Art of Class War

While many stunned Republicans still wallow in handwringing and second-guessing after President Obama’s stolen re-election, the progressive offensive is gaining momentum. The Democrats are stepping up the class warfare that is the heart and soul of their us-versus-them strategy to pit the oppressed 99% against the heartless capitalists of the 1%.

Check out, for example, the unabashedly named Wage Class War website, launched only a month ago and administered by longtime progressive activists Robert Borosage and Roger Hickey. A former New Left radical and Director of the Institute for Policy Studies, Borosage founded and currently chairs the Progressive Majority political action committee. He is also an editor at The Nation and a regular contributor to The American Prospect, both progressive publications.

If you click on Wage Class War’s “About” link, you are taken to the website for the Campaign for America's Future (CAF). Borosage and Hickey co-founded CAF in 1996 as “the strategy center for the progressive movement. Our goal is to forge the enduring progressive majority needed to realize the America of shared prosperity and equal opportunity that our country was meant to be.” Each year, CAF holds a “Take Back America” conference which the organization describes as “a catalyst for building the infrastructure to ensure that the voice of the progressive majority is heard.” “We are the 99%,” the conference page proclaims.

Blacks Enslaving Themselves

Separate incidents in entertainment news last week highlighted just how deeply blacks are in thrall to the divisive racism of identity politics.

First, ESPN commentator Rob Parker raised viewers’ eyebrows with his astounding musings about Washington Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III on the show First Take. Parker, who is black, openly questioned whether the black “RG3” is black enough:

Is he a ‘brother,’ or is he a ‘cornball brother’? He’s not really... he’s black, he kinda does his thing, but he’s not really down with the cause. He’s not one of us. He’s kinda black, but he’s not really, like, the guy you’d really want to hang out with… I want to find out about him. I don’t know, because I keep hearing these things. We all know he has a white fiancée, there was all this talk about ‘he’s a Republican,’ which there’s no information at all…

In other words, is he a race traitor? Because that’s at the heart of Parker’s blatantly racist suspicion. Black Democrats – and Parker clearly is one because he obviously considers a black Republican to be a “cornball brother,” which is very derogatory slang – put enormous pressure on fellow blacks to be “down with the cause” or else be written off as “not one of us.” The threatening message to other blacks is: Define yourself by your skin color first and foremost. Don’t think for yourself. Keep racial grievances alive. Then we’ll get along just fine.

Look at the vile, racist hatred spewed at actress Stacey Dash earlier this year when she tweeted about her political conservatism. This is what blacks face if they dare deviate from the statists’ victim-centered identity politics and vote Republican. This is how blacks keep other blacks in line, chained to the Democrat plantation – with the threat of unforgiving excommunication from the black community.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Never Let a Horror Go To Waste

“You never want a serious crisis to go to waste,” said President Obama’s former consigliere Rahm Emanuel, who is now the mayor of the strictly gun-controlled gun murder capital of the world, Chicago. So naturally the statist anti-gun utopians see opportunity in Friday’s Newtown school massacre to push the total gun ban they’ve been lusting after for so long.

Rather than pause long enough to grieve with the rest of us over the horrific murders of twenty children and six adults at a Connecticut elementary school; rather than wait for the media frenzy to subside so all the facts could be known; rather than honor the victims’ families and friends by refusing to politicize the nightmare, all the usual 2nd Amendment-hating suspects wasted no time pushing their agenda in the ghoulish media and accusing gun proponents of having blood on their collective hands.

Democratic Senators Dianne Feinstein, Dick Durbin, and Richard Blumenthal, among others, vowed to introduce gun-ban legislation immediately. New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, a man who never saw a human behavior he didn’t want the state to control, said in true totalitarian fashion that Obama has “to tell this country what to do.” Speaking of totalitarians, the Communist Chinese, who always have America’s best interests at heart, are now siding with the gun-ban fascists and urging Obama to “make preparation for a protracted war” to make it happen. Quelle surprise.

Long Live Chivalry!

The Atlantic posted an article last week by Acculturated’s own Emily Esfahani Smith entitled “Let’s Give Chivalry Another Chance,” a reconsideration of the old-fashioned medieval ideal. The piece has garnered, as of this writing, an astonishing 590 comments which devolved into heated debate about everything from the origins of chivalry to lifeboat etiquette on the Titanic. But most interestingly, they reveal a seething anger about the topic from both women and men. Why such a visceral reaction, especially from men?

The commenters largely dismiss chivalry as an outmoded term loaded with sexist and classist baggage. They confuse it with politeness and point out that courtesy knows no gender. “BOTH sexes should be chivalrous,” wrote one woman. But chivalry is more than merely opening a door for someone. It used to be understood as the expression of the noblest and most honorable qualities of manhood. Edmund Burke called it the “nurse of manly sentiment and heroick enterprise”; Irish writer Kenelm Digby called it the “spirit which disposes men to heroic and generous actions.”

And yes, that heroick, manly sentiment includes a gallant, respectful deference toward women and a devotion to protect them if necessary, because that’s what a real man does. Only cads and cowards do otherwise. A chivalrous man doesn’t shove women and children aside to flee danger like a panicked George on Seinfeld.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Inside the Muslim Brotherhood Torture Chambers

As New York Times critics wring their hands over the depiction of “enhanced interrogation” in Zero Dark Thirty, the upcoming film about the raid that eliminated bin Laden, the newspaper glosses over the very real torture taking place at the hands of President Obama’s allies in the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood, whom the Times continues to describe as “moderate politicians.”

According to journalist Mohamad Jarehi at the Egyptian newspaper Al-Masry Al-Youm, who spent three hours in the facilities with other journalists, the Muslim Brotherhood operates a network of torture chambers designed to violently intimidate President Mohammed Morsi’s opposition. This report comes a week after word surfaced that the Brotherhood is paying thugs to sexually assault women and beat men protesting in Cairo’s Tahrir Square.

In an English translation at the Middle Eastern media website Al-Monitor, Jarehi described iron barriers and the government’s Central Security Forces (CSF) standing guard in front of the Brotherhood’s central torture facility in the suburb of Heliopolis:

There are brigades and police officers in military uniforms, as well as others in civilian clothes from al-Nozha police station, who oversee the beatings, whippings and torture. Fifteen others from the group, distinguished by their strong bodies, are supervised by three bearded and well-dressed men who decide who will be in the chamber and who may leave, even if the person is a member of the Brotherhood.

Ed Asner’s ‘Occupy’ Attack on the Rich

Like other notable entertainment biz hypocrites such as race-baiter Russell Simmons, rapper Kanye “Bush doesn’t care about black people” West, and documentary propagandist Michael Moore, actor/activist Ed Asner threw in his lot with the anarchic Occupy Wall Street movement, supplying the narration for a cartoon condemning wealthy Americans for not paying their “fair share” of taxes.

Asner, 83, former gruff-but-lovable TV star of The Mary Tyler Moore Show and Lou Grant, and now gruff-and-hateful self-admitted socialist, narrated a nearly eight-minute video created and posted online last week by the California Federation of Teachers (CFT) called Tax the Rich: An Animated Fairy Tale. The site’s brief description of the plot includes the ludicrous claim that “Things go downhill in a happy and prosperous land after the rich decide they don't want to pay taxes anymore.”

You have to see this outrageous and amateurishly animated video to believe just how blatant and exaggerated is its class warfare propaganda. It’s shot through with the Occupy movement’s language about the decent 99 percent versus the insanely greedy 1 percent. It asserts that the heartless rich (all white men, of course, as opposed to the diverse commoners) became wealthy through tax loopholes, tax cuts and tax evasion; they are blamed for causing the decline of public services and crashing the economy, for buying politicians and suppressing votes, and for controlling the media which then hypnotizes the people into believing there is no alternative to capitalism. The rich are then depicted blaming the poor, public servants and teachers for the economic collapse of society.

Preserving Cold War History

Recently I attended a private fundraising event at the Wende Museum in Culver City in the Los Angeles area. The Wende website describes it as “a collections-based research and education institute that preserves Cold War artifacts and history, making resources available to scholars and applying historical lessons of the past to the present.” A Cold War museum in the heart of the entertainment world – who knew?

Incorporated in Los Angeles ten years ago, the Wende was founded by young historian Justinian “Justin” Jampol to address the rampant destruction of Cold War artifacts in Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union in the years following the fall of the Berlin Wall (wende is German for “turning point,” a phrase often used to refer to that historic event and the subsequent collapse of the Soviet Union). “Evidence of this critical period in world history is quickly disappearing,” said Jampol. So he made it his mission to collect and preserve that evidence.

The result is an amazing collection of over 70,000 artifacts, archives and personal histories from Communist-era Eastern Europe, including furniture, paintings, sculptures, posters, flags, signs, political propaganda, clothing, tapestries, books, films, electronics, remnants of Checkpoint Charlie, and the longest stretch of the original Berlin Wall outside of Germany. Nearly 75% of the objects in that collection originate from the German Democratic Republic (GDR). The Wende uses the history and culture of the GDR as a “lens through which to observe the larger cultural implications of Cold War-era Eastern European and the Soviet Union.”

Friday, December 7, 2012

Patriotic Film Provokes PC Scorn

The radical left can’t abide expressions of American patriotism, which are an affront to their sneering conviction that this country is the fount of all oppression and evil. For them, patriotism = jingoism. They find the very image of the Stars and Stripes itself jingoistic, which is one reason they’re always trying to replace it with a variation featuring Barack Obama’s face, logo or name. Hence the director of 2009’s GI Joe: Rise of the Cobra, explaining why his movie featuring a patriotic American icon was scrubbed of any patriotic American symbolism like flags, said “It’s an Obama world now.” Indeed it is, and so it’s open season for the left on any movie that might display unabashed patriotism – like Red Dawn.

If you haven’t already heard, Red Dawn –a remake of the 1984 original – features a handful of young Americans in Washington State taking on an invading force from North Korea. Yes, North Korea – not exactly a credible invasion threat, but an enemy of America to be sure. The invaders in the Cold War era of the original film were Soviet Communists, and the remake’s original script replaced Russians with the Chinese – but concerns about rubbing China the wrong way prompted the producers of the updated version to switch to North Korea (at least Hollywood went with a real-world enemy instead of the politically safer option: aliens, as in Independence Day or Battle L.A.). “No one would distribute the film if the enemy was China,” says producer Tripp Vinson. That country’s investment money, booming film industry, and surging moviegoing audience are the looming future of the entertainment biz.

I haven’t seen the movie yet, so I can’t speak to its cinematic quality. But the film’s quality is irrelevant to the issue of the hostility directed toward it, for its apparent patriotism, by the community of left-leaning movie reviewers. And no reviewer I’ve read so far takes the complaint quite so ludicrously far as the Wall Street Journal’s Jeff Yang.

The Revolution Was Televised

The second of a four-part series

“The revolution will not be televised,” rapped Gil Scott-Heron in 1970, quoting a 60’s protest slogan. As far as television critic Alan Sepinwall is concerned, however, a revolution in television itself already has been. His new book, The Revolution was Televised: The Cops, Crooks, Slingers and Slayers Who Changed TV Drama Forever, chronicles what he calls a “big bang of sorts,” a creative upheaval that produced dynamic shifts in the ways people watch TV and in the entertainment business itself.

Once upon a time television was limited to a handful of channels with safe programming all aimed at the broadest audience possible (the phrase “don’t touch that dial” is a holdover from a time when TVs had no remote controls and so few channels that they could actually fit on a dial, which surely must seem comically primitive to young audiences today).

Then came the cable explosion and the splintering of that audience into segments that began seeking out fare more specific to their tastes. Sepinwall points out that instead of diminishing the business, however, “the fragmented audience was the best thing that could have happened to television.”

Ron Paul’s Middle East Delusion

In an op-ed at last week, former Republican presidential candidate Ron Paul addressed what he calls “the tragic-comedy of US foreign policy” and explained “How to End the Gaza Tragedy.” The real tragicomedy is that Paul continues to cling to his dangerously naïve foreign policy perspective.

In his article, Paul asserts his usual stance that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict will never end as long as the United States continues to support Israel. He quotes journalist Glenn Greenwald, who wrote that “For years now, US financial, military and diplomatic support of Israel has been the central enabling force driving this endless conflict.” Like Greenwald, Paul doesn’t hold Palestinian terrorists accountable for initiating and perpetuating the violence; he only paints a picture of American and Israeli collusion to oppress Palestinians in what Paul calls the “Gaza tragedy.”

Of the most recent Middle East conflagration, Paul writes in his op-ed that “it feels like 2009 all over again, which is the last time this kind of violence broke out in Gaza.” Note the convenient passivity of that phrasing, “violence broke out,” which enables Paul to avoid placing responsibility where it belongs. That violence wasn’t a nonhuman natural phenomenon like a thunderstorm; it didn’t just spontaneously “break out.” That violence, like the more recent one, was the result of relentless rocket attacks and terrorist activity by Palestinians, which necessitated a too-patient Israel to move in and put a stop to it. But that doesn’t fit Paul’s anti-Israel narrative.