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City & State or ZIP Tonight, this weekend, May 5th...
City & State or ZIP
City & State or ZIP Tonight, this weekend, May 5th...
City & State or ZIP

Ben Shapiro explores TV’s left-wing ways in ‘Primetime Propaganda’

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Television producers are considered a liberal bunch.

That isn’t surprising. But conservative columnist Ben Shapiro believes this doesn’t have to be. In his new book, “Primetime Propaganda: ’The True Hollywood Story of How the Left Took Over Your TV,” the Harvard Law graduate said conservatives need to break through this hegemony.

“I want conservatives to stop seeing entertainment as something to shy away from,” he said in a phone interview last month. “We keep saying TV is horrible. Let’s boycott shows! But you can’t boycott them all. You’re handing the weapons to the liberals. They can say, ‘Well, you’re not boycotting this show. It must be okay.’ ”

Conservatives do exist in Hollywood. Some even thrive. But they are often in the shadows, Shapiro said.

As a result, liberals, he said, have slipped their ideology into shows over the years from “The Twilight Zone” to “All in the Family,” from “Friends” to “Glee.” (Interestingly, he interviewed Earl Hamner, the creator of “The Waltons,” considered the epitome of conservative TV, who said he consistently promoted liberal messages of tolerance of everyone, even criminals.)

To market the book, published by Broadside, Shapiro posted audio of interviews he did with producers who freely admit and often laud their liberal ways. For example, Vin Di Bona, creator of “MacGyver,” was asked if there is left-wing bias in Hollywood. His response: “Well, I think it’s probably accurate and I’m happy about it.” [Since the interview came out, he later tried to clarify his position. He also complained to Daily Variety that Shapiro did not clearly represent what his book would be about.]

Shapiro, an aspiring scriptwriter, has direct experience. He was close to getting in the door with CBS’s “The Good Wife,” but then got a cold shoulder. He had no idea why until his agent told him another agent at his firm Googled him and discovered his political leanings.

“I’m not sure we can represent you because he thinks your political views will make it impossible for you to get a job in this town,” the agent told Shapiro.

This book is not revenge against Hollywood, he said. In fact, he is often complimentary of many of the producers who agreed to talk to him. Most, he said, were kind: “I don’t think Hollywood is made up of mean people. They’re just ensconced in their own bubble.”

He did admit that his Harvard Law cap and Jewish last name may have disarmed many of his subjects to be more honest than they might have been. Some have since said they were misled. “So does that mean if they knew I was conservative, they would have lied or not done the interview?” he said.

In the book, he talks about whether TV is a reflection of society or can actually shift attitudes. Many producers feel it’s heavily reflective. Shapiro argues otherwise. “For people in L.A., they feel TV reflects their lifestyles. But that’s not necessarily the lifestyle of Birmingham or Peoria,” he said. Murphy Brown two decades ago made being a single mom more acceptable, he said. And an openly gay teen on the show “Glee” could make people more tolerant of teens coming out.

He thinks the growth of reality television is a response to some viewers sick of liberal messaging in scripted TV. Most reality programs are assiduously apolitical, from “Pawn Stars” to “American Idol.”

Shapiro, who grew up watching tons of TV, believes cable networks (Spike TV and ESPN for guys, Oxygen and OWN for the ladies, MTV for teens) have splintered families. “It divides us,” he said. “It turns everyone into a perennial adolescent.”

Below, Bill O’Reilly interviewed Shapiro, where they discuss how the “Family Ties” creator wanted Michael J. Fox’s character to be a villain yet he was so lovable, he became a hero to many, including Ronald Reagan. They also talk about liberal messages in “Happy Days” and “Mary Tyler Moore.”

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By Rodney Ho, rho@ajc.com, AJCRadioTV blog

6 comments Add your comment

Dan

July 2nd, 2011
10:01 am

So we are now doing book reviews and taking the author’s spin on events as being factual?

“Shapiro, an aspiring scriptwriter, has direct experience. He was close to getting in the door with CBS’s “The Good Wife,” but then got a cold shoulder. He had no idea why until his agent told him another agent at his firm Googled him and discovered his political leanings.” – consider the possibility someone else “got in the door” for that job becasue they were more qualified

“He did admit that his Harvard Law cap and Jewish last name may have disarmed many of his subjects to be more honest than they might have been.” = because Jews will lie to non-Jews but not to each other? – you are pushing some fairly nasty stereotyoes here Rodney

Care to explain hwo this book was brought to your attention andwhy yiou are devoting a blog erntry to it?

B. Thenet

July 3rd, 2011
2:14 pm

So creating a character that is a strong single mom is now part of the liberal agenda that made it OK for women to think they could be single mom’s? I would think the political groups that have made it harder for poor single women to have access to birth control and less access to abortions are more responsible for that than the liberal media.

I would wager this fellow isn’t concerned about how the conservative media has turned Bristol Palin, whose only notable act thus far in her life has been to get pregnant out of wedlock and milk that for a spot on a reality show and a book deal, into some kind of conservative superstar.

One of the most liberal shows on TV also happens to be one of the few shows that features a church going nuclear 2.5 kid family….The Simpsons.

Chief Wiggum

July 3rd, 2011
8:54 pm

Dan, and B. Thenet, stop whining.

Dan, who cares why he posted it? Why is that relevant? It’s a huge story when it comes to television, so it makes perfect sense to cover it. Seriously, dude…STFU.

Oh, and Dan…the Jewish comment is from Mr. Shapiro himself, he said that his name and school disarmed them, Rodney is reporting what Mr. Shapiro has said. It’s like you don’t have a clue that people do open up more to people they think are similar to themselves.

B. Thenet, you take ONE issue with the book. The problem is not one single character, it’s a systemic pattern, an attempt to put on TV what they (Hollywood) thinks we ought to accept.

If those are the best criticisms of this book and the revelations, well, ya ain’t got much.

Traffic Headache

July 4th, 2011
6:14 am

Conservatism could be accepted on TV if it were presented with some semblance of thought. But the right wingers presenting themselves currently use their bully pulpits for half-baked conspiracy theories and witless, disinformed kvetching about anyone with an opposing stance.

This isn’t to say that the left’s fare is more intelligent–there is so much out there I wouldn’t watch if it were in the kitchen. But Fox News already showed their colors when they had Jon Stewart on a short time back, claiming that Jon has a “liberal agenda” when he pokes fun at the right but is just trying to gain credibility brownie points when he pokes fun at the left. And when Stewart tried to make his point that he lets both sides have it equally and judiciously, he gets interrupted as per Fox News standards. The right can dish it out but they can’t take it.

Fred

July 4th, 2011
8:27 pm

Of course successful Hollywood creators are likely to be liberal. As an “older” American, I can remember many of the early days of TV, with clean cut shows like Ozzie and Harriet. But there are only so many story lines you can create for any given scenario, so the show gets stale, and viewers move on to shows that aren’t like that, that push the limits. Shows like All in the Family, or Big Love, or one of my all time favorites, the Smothers Brothers, become wildly successful. Now, what is the probability that a conservative creates one of these wildly successful shows that push the limits? Almost by definition, you know the answer; conservatives rarely push the limits, and frankly, I have difficulty conjuring up a sitcom with “conservative” values that would sell.

So in the end, successful Hollywood producers are going to be liberal because the viewing public watches shows that liberals are more likely to create.

Harold N

July 5th, 2011
12:26 pm

It’s one of the great ironies of the media business that the same corporation that sells conservatism through its news outlets sells
extreme liberalism through its much larger entertainment division.
Family Guy, the Simpsons, Glee, movies like Avatar, are what Rupert
Murdoch sells to the younger demos. Older folks get Bill O’Reilly and
his culture war. In both cases the Australian makes money. And money, not politics, is what it’s all about.