SCARBOROUGH FAIR (AND BALANCED?): I’ve been watching a lot of MSNBC lately, due mostly to “Hardball” (where a presumably drunk Chris Matthews last week asked a guest if the WMD evidence was “bullshit”), and my new favorite cable news show, “Countdown With Keith Olbermann.” Funny, irreverent, and refreshingly non-ideological, “Countdown” is clearly the best utilization of KO’s talent since he left SportsCenter 6 years ago. Keith even beats the blogosphere to offbeat stories at least a few times a week.
After that one-two punch I often find myself catching the late-night replay of “Scarborough Country,” the unabashedly conservative show hosted by former Florida congressman Joe Scarborough. In it’s first few months the show was a note-for-note carbon copy of “The O’Reilly Factor,” right down to the opening monologue, closing mail segment, and literally all of the host’s mannerisms. But more recently “Scarborough Country” has carved out a new niche- virtually non-stop Hollywood-bashing, taken to a logical extreme when Joe took the show out to LA for a week earlier this month to interview many of his “enemies” face to face.
Hollywood-bashing has always been a popular, crowd-pleasing conservative cause. Even beyond its pandering to the family-values crowd, it allows righties to play the “liberal elite” card, and pursue the fiction that an evil cabal of elites in “Manhattan and Malibu” is actively seeking to subvert “the rest of America.” References to nefarious “cocktail parties,” by the way, are always- always– included in such rants.
Right-wing anti-Hollywood arguments fall into several general categories: Hollywood has a shocking, shameless “liberal bias” that’s “out of touch” with the rest of America. Hollywood liberals are idiots who should “just shut up,” because “no one cares what they have to say.” And their movies suck anyway- especially Tim Robbins, Susan Sarandon, Janeane Garofolo, etc.
To that I’ll answer the charges question by question. And no, I’m not a Hollywood person, nor a lefty by any stretch of the imagination. But I know idiocy when I see it…
Does Hollywood have a liberal bias?
Of course it does. But unlike, say, the news media, the motion picture industry is under no professional obligation to be “objective” or “apolitical.” A majority of Hollywood is liberal because creative types tend to be left-leaning- accusing Hollywood of having a shameless liberal bias would be like accusing Wall Street of having a shameless conservative bias.
Are Hollywood stars “out of touch” with “normal Americans”?
Sure they are- but not just when it comes to politics. Most Americans, for instance, don’t make that kind of money or have that kind of lifestyle. You could also say, again, that CEOs, or athletes, or astronauts, are out of touch with “normal Americans.” Since when was “being in touch with normal people” part of the job description for being an actor?
Okay, so are Hollywood stars out of touch with the politics of “normal Americans”?
Depends which stars, depends which Americans. Many Hollywood stars are liberal, some are conservative, most are apolitical. I’d say, yes, that Michael Moore is “out of touch” with most normal Americans, but he’s hardly representative. But is the average Hollywood liberal out of touch with the average American? They’re out of touch with conservative Americans, sure, but this line of reasoning implies that no one in the whole country outside Hollywood is a liberal. If that were the case, the Senate would be 98-2 Republican, as opposed to 53-47.
Hollywood people should just shut up. Who cares what they have to say?
Apparently, Joe Scarborough does, because he seems so obsessed with the subject that he devotes about half of his show each night to the political stances of the Hollywood left. Clearly, anything celebrity-related is a ratings bonanza, which is why it’s on TV whenever Martin Sheen or Tim Robbins has something to say about President Bush.
And if it doesn’t matter what actors have to say about politics, why do the O’Reillys and Hannitys of the world always make common guests of minor and/or has-been celebrities (Dixie Carter, Bo Derek, Lee Greenwood, etc.) who happen to be openly Republican?
Obviously, nobody cares more about Hollywood liberals have to say than hard-core conservatives. I mean, does anyone else but looking-for-outrage righties read Barbra Streissand’s website rants?
Are Hollywood liberals idiots?
Clearly, people like Streissand and that lunatic Garofolo, with their al-Saeff-like counterfactual vituperation, aren’t doing their cause a whole lot of good. But others, like director Rob Reiner and actor Ron Silver, are intelligent and articulate spokesman for the liberal cause. Buried in this is the deeper question of whether liberals or conservatives are more likely to be idiots- and I’m not touching that one with a ten-foot pole.
Is there some correlation between being a Hollywood lefty and making bad movies?
O’Reilly has tried to argue that George Clooney has had some kind of career meltdown since “coming out” as a liberal, though the facts don’t bore that out- and besides, I can’t wait to see Bill humiliated on Ludacris’ upcoming album. Sure, a lot of the major lefties have made bad pictures, but three of the most vocal (Robbins, Sarandon, and Sean Penn) collaborated on a masterpiece (“Dead Man Walking”). Before his recent descent into madness, Michael Moore directed the near-legendary documentary “Roger & Me.” And many of the great directors of the ’70s were closeted, if not open, Marxists.
The careers of Garafolo, Alec Baldwin, and others have suffered lately, but that’s not necessarily ’cause of their politics.
In his book Hollywood vs. America Michael Medved made many of the same points, but did it in a much more balanced, less mean-spirited manner than Scarborough, O’Reilly, etc. Ripping Hollywood on TV makes for effortless, fun, preaching to the choir, with high ratings to boot. But a huge blind spot for the American right remains its utter inability to understand popular culture- and this phenomenon of symptomatic of that.

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