Art, Propaganda and Evil's Easy Way – UPDATE

At 50th Annual Academy Awards bash of 1977, Vanessa Redgrave thanked the Academy for giving her an Oscar (for “Julia“) despite “the threats of of a small bunch of Zionist hoodlums.”

The respected screenwriter Paddy Chayefsky wasted no time in responding to Redgrave’s provocation: “I am sick and tired of people exploiting the Academy Awards for the propagation of their own personal propaganda,” he said, memorably.

Chayefsky was speaking to the wind. Why wouldn’t the people who lived and worked in Hollywood use any public occasion to spout their ideologies? The propagation of a point of view is part of art’s attraction, in any medium. Paddy Chayefsky, of all people, would know this, as his brilliant satirical screenplay, Network was a pointed (and prophetic) look at the inevitable devolution of tv-news into ratings-obsessed infotainment, and a critique of the combined mindsets of ambition, greed and madness that would speed the decay. Hollywood has always had a point of view and — particularly since the social revolutions of the 1960’s — movies and television have enormously impacted social trends and opinions. As I wrote in The Art of the Painless Coup, even can be made to go down easy:

“. . .all the while they have been busily pulling things apart, they have kept the rest of the family distracted with the television, with the radio, with the cinema – any or all of which have instantly been called into service whenever someone got a little bored and looked around, wondering what these kids were up to. “Abortion?” says Aunt Sally, “Abortion is a terrible thing!” Suddenly every news story is about the grim circumstance of illegal abortion. Suddenly sitcoms are showing the way. “Well, if Maude had an abortion…maybe sometimes it’s a good thing…”

“Free love,” sputters Uncle Jim, “it’s immoral! It’s damaging to the family!” Suddenly every film hero or heroine is having free, uncomplicated, un-damaging sex, and flashing some gratuitous T and A at Uncle Jim in the process. “I dunno,” he smiles to Aunt Sally as he settles back, “maybe it’s not all that bad…”

Film and TV have enormously influenced social thinking, but in a weirdly inconsistent way; the same media that held up long-standing prejudices to scrutiny and ridicule with All in the Family is the one that also reinforces prejudicial ideas about black and Latino households. The same industry that promotes diversity in the workplace discriminates among its own, and for the most part, this is both acknowledged and unremarked upon. The same media that quite rightly extols the virtue of reading and decries the sexual exploitation of women and children also grows rich promoting the voyeuristic viewing (and sheep-like emulation) of vapid young sleep-arounds like the Jersey Shore-ites. Guess what gets emulated in the populace? Hint: it’s not reading.

Considering all that, it’s not surprising that Catholic screenwriter Barbara Nicolosi is losing patience with Christians who consider it a badge of honor when they tell her they “never” engage the popular culture by watching television or going to movies. To Nicolosi, engagement with the popular culture is quickly becoming a true matter of life or death:

I cannot count the number of Christians who have come to me almost bragging that they never watch movies or television, that YouTube and Facebook are to be spurned, and that they haven’t gone to a play or concert in years.

“Great,” I always think. “Let’s leave the masses to the whims of people who scorn our God and His gospel. Let’s pretend that our kids won’t eventually be drowned in the waves of their age. Let’s see how that works out.”

It is yet another paradoxical inconsistency of Hollywood that it is the place where art — which originates within humanity via the author of human life and possibilities — so willingly serves the Culture of Death and Nothingness. Nicolosi is particularly concerned about the way film and television have been quietly promoting euthanasia within our collective subconscious:

How many parents realized, when you sent your teenagers to James Cameron’s latest 3D extravaganza Sanctum (2011), that there was a matter-of-fact mercy killing of four characters at the end? How many Christians are even aware of the pro-euthanasia messages in critically acclaimed films like Pedro Almodovar’s Oscar-nominated Talk to Me, and the Oscar-winning best picture films Million Dollar Baby and The English Patient? Most strident was the highly lauded Spanish film The Sea Inside, in which, shortly before he is euthanized by a group of loving friends, the paraplegic hero played by handsome star Javier Bardem, proclaims, “I’m just a head stuck to a body.”

The evidence is undeniable: Somewhere in the middle of the Terri Schiavo tragedy, Hollywood and the cultural left climbed aboard the latest human-killing bandwagon and have since thrown the weight of their talent and creativity behind it. As with abortion, the forces of darkness are outmaneuvering the forces of good on what will certainly be the moral issue of the 21st century.

If we lose the fight on euthanasia, we lose our souls. By removing suffering and the meaning of suffering from our culture, we make the final step in denying and defying our creature-hood. Once again, the seductive lie of Eden will trip us up: “If you will do this thing, you shall be like God.”

The fact that Nicolosi’s article went live on the same day Dr. Jack Kevorkian, perhaps the most “celebrated” promoter of euthanasia (or the euphemistic “assisted suicide”) of the last forty years died a natural death seems like one of those wonderfully ironic synchronicities that make you wonder about Providence.

This week, too, saw the much-anticipated release of Ben Shapiro’s Primetime Propaganda:

As Ben documents in exquisite detail, the conservative blacklist operates both directly and indirectly. In some cases, television industry bigwigs simply refuse to hire conservatives because they hate conservatives – the late Bruce Paltrow comes off here as a particularly obnoxious jerk, which goes a long way toward explaining his half-wit daughter Gwyneth. But much of the reason is simply affinity. As Ben documents, the industry has always been a very small community of like-minded individuals who dwell not only within the physical confines of the same LA/NYC world but, equally importantly, share the same world view. If you are not one of them inside the bubble, they will never see you to hire you.

Sounds like an interesting book.

And an interesting trifecta, if you think about it: Kevorkian dies; Shapiro’s book exposes; Nicolosi champions engagement. The battle is visible and invisible, and this week it seems to be stepping up!

UPDATE: Instapundit has more on the fallout from Shapiro’s book

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