“President Obama, the sequel”
An off-line piece from Clayton Cramer, provided by geoff B, that advocates for conservatives to take a different approach to politics than merely dumping money into GOP coffers:
Going into the election, I thought that it was going to be a pretty tight race, not the blowout or even landslide victory for Romney that some conservative commentators expected. But I did not expect to see Obama not just win, but win so decisively that the election was over before I went to bed. How did this happen?
First of all; it happened for several reasons: One important reason is that Romney chose to make the campaign about jobs and national bankruptcy, Obama chose to make the campaign about abortion, free contraception, and other social issues. For a lot of Americans, unrestricted access to abortion, requiring employers to pay for contraception of their employees, and requiring states to recognize gay marriage, are more important than trivial little things like having a job, or making sure that the United States does not go bankrupt.
You-are probably scratching your head at this point saying, “Really? Mr, Cramer, do you really think that there are this many Americans who are this short-sighted?” Yes, I am always amazed at how many Americans could not tell you if the national debt is $16,000,000 or 16,000,000,000,000 — or even what the national debt is. Do not even think of asking them to explain what the longterm consequences of the national government continuing to grow the national debt will be. You might as well ask them to calculate how much time slows down as an object reaches 99% of the speed of light.
These are what are referred to by social scientists as “low information voters” (LIVs). Do not get me wrong: not every Democrat is a low information voter, nor are Republicans immune to this problem. Many Democrats are actually quite knowledgeable; they are simply prepared to risk national bankruptcy in the current game of budget chicken because Obama looks out for their interests.
It is no coincidence that Obama won eight of the 10 highest income counties in the United States and he won those eight counties by a larger margin than in the nation as a whole. This is no coincidence; when Democrats blather on about evil rich people that are not paying their fair share, this is equivalent to what happens when a pickpocket team approaches-you, and one bumps into you while the other lifts your wallet. It is a distraction, so you don’t realize what is really happening.
Unfortunately, there are a lot of voters out there who do not realize that when it comes to funding, Democrats not only get gobs of money from billionaires and multimillionaires — in some elections they get more than the Republicans get. If you have been following the many scandals involving “green” companies that received federal loan guarantees and then went bankrupt while Obama campaign contributors pocketed the loot you will not be surprised by this. But because there is effectively no coverage of this in the mass media outlets that LIVs rely upon, they believed the “We’re lookin out for you” rhetoric of Obama, and ignored anything that did not fit into this framework.
Okay, you ask: don’t these LIVs ever see any coverage that would make them doubt Obama’s wonderfulness? I mean, even CBS has seriously covered the Fast & Furious scandal. But unfortunately, it is not enough for there to be the occasional coverage. There needs to be enough to break through the bleating of the sheep from George Orwell’s Animal Farm, “Four legs good, two legs bad.”
Another example: if you see 1,000 .45 ACP cartridge cases lying on the ground at the range, how likely are you to notice two or three .40 S&W cases mixed in with them? If you are looking for the 40 S&W cases, sure, you will find them. But if you are not actively looking, you either will not see them, or your mind will emphasize the similarities, and ignore the differences.
Where do LIVs get their information? Amazingly enough, these are not even the victims of ABC, CBS, NBC, CNN, and (increasingly) Fox News. People that watch broadcast television news are actually higher information voters than the LIVs–which should terrify you. LIVs get their news from watching The Daily Show (and thinking it is news, not comedy) or The Colbert Report (ditto), or by watching Entertainment Tonight.
The really intellectual LIVs read Us or People. They do not read newspapers. Even regular readers of the New York Times or the Washington- Post are far better informed than LIVs — and I suspect are more likely to vote for Romney than a LIV. A far more important information source for LIVs than pseudonews programs is entertainment. You can immediately see how movies about current events might give a LIV the notion that they know something about a subject. I mean, it isn’t like Hollyweird would make movies that denigrate America or misportray terrorists as misunderstood freedom fighters, right?
One of the reasons that I have long been frustrated with how Hollyweird makes movies about history is how often they grossly distort events, sometimes in the interests of drama, but often with a political agenda. If the audience went home after watching a movie like Syriana or a pseudo-documentary like Sicko and actually did some reading, they would realize that they have been given at best a distorted view of the subject, and might actually learn something. But realistically, most movie audiences assume that they have been told the truth, at least in part, and LIVs especially so. Remember they went to have a good time, not to learn something.
If you question a LIV about the subject, many will acknowledge that yes, it’s just a movie, and that does not mean that it portrays the world as it actually is. But LIVs seldom get questioned like this unless some personal experience causes them to doubt the “facts” that they have been presented, they will operate as though. the movie was truth.
It does not help any that movies reach us at an emotional level that often completely subverts our reasoning capabilities. I am sure that many of you saw James Cameron’s Avatar (2009). It was a brilliant imagining of a world far away; it was also a propaganda piece intended to draw parallels to the conquest of the New World. (Since I teach U.S. History, let me emphasize that as tragic as the conquest was, the reality is far more complex and with more moral ambiguity than the propaganda version.)
Many Avatar fans started to experience depression at the realization that they had to return to reality, instead of staying on the beautiful planet of Pandora. Do you suppose that a film that can cause depression might have more dramatic impacts on political beliefs?
What can we do? Spending money on political campaigns, while necessary, is a short-term solution–and as the Romney campaign demonstrated, not even an effective solution. Political campaigns spend all their money over a period of a few months to a year; the popular culture campaign runs 365 days. a year, every year. Political campaigns try to reach LIVs–but the Democrats are more successful at reaching LIVs, because the popular culture has already done the groundwork, promoting certain stereotyped views of gun owners, conservatives, and business.
If you have spent four years being soaked in the idea that capitalism is bad, Republicans are going to legalize rape (as actress Cameron Diaz claimed on Oprah Winfrey’s show in 2004), and anyone who disapproves of gay marriage wants to murder homosexuals, and bring back slavery, then Obama’s ads would be easier. to believe than Romney’s ads. We need to be softening up LIVs by infiltrating our messages into the popular culture every day of every year.
Another problem with political campaigns is that they spend.their money and then have to raise more. And unfortunately, each time they do so, there are usually strings attached. As much as I would like to believe that Republicans raise money from donors who are just looking out for America, I know better. Much of the big money has attached to it, if not literally an obligation to take care of the donor with government money, at least some expectations along those lines. Those corrupting effects damage the brand when it comes to election time, because even high information voters get cynical and start to say, “They’re all the same.” (And unfortunately, the difference between the Democratic and Republican Parties when it comes to corruption is more of degree than of nature.)
On the other, hand, popular culture is a chance to make money. If you make a mildly successful film that promotes “subversive” values (think of Act of Valor, released early in 2012) you will not only earn back your investment, but make it profit, which you can then use to make another movie to influence the LIVs, and make some more money. You might make an extraordinarily successful film because it strikes a chord in the American public, such as The Passion of the Christ (2004), which grossed more than $600 million in theatrical release, and was certainly a major money maker.
I have been trying to raise funding for a movie that I think could be one of those subversive injections into the popular culture. It is about a remarkable incident in American history in which a small group of religious fanatics (as the federal judge called them) decided that the laws of God took precedence over the laws of men–that regardless of the Constitutional rights that one group enjoyed, they were going to break the law, defy federal law enforcement, and rescue John Price, allegedly a runaway slave. It has guns. Lots of guns. It has action. It has a thrilling sequence as the runaways cross the frozen Ohio River on horseback. It has courtroom drama. It has powerful and stirring speeches by among other interesting characters, Charles Langston, the son of a white Virginian and a slave, who was given his freedom by his father and sent to college. It has sneaky legal maneuvering, as the Lorain County, Ohio District Attorney indicts a federal deputy marshal and two private slavecatchers for kidnapping and tries to arrest them in the federal court in the middle of a trial.
It is the sort of movie that will bring in a remarkably diverse crowd, I think: gun rights sorts who will have a chance to see firearms used in a way that was both unlawful and praiseworthy; courageous, morally centered sorts resisting a great evil by a corrupt, Democratic Party dominated judiciary and executive branch; blacks interested in this relatively, unknown but important piece of black history where blacks and whites worked together; liberals out to see the good guys go up against the bad guys; pro-lifers’ who will be encouraged by the moral convictions of those who refuse to allow federal law to get in the way of doing the right thing. And it will cause at least some LIVs to rethink what they “know” about history, and states’ rights, and the Constitution.
Investing money in entertainment that subtly educates and promotes conservative points of view is such an obvious strategy — and yet there is no interest from conservatives with money in pursuing this strategy. (At least, I have not been able to find them.) But you never know: perhaps Obama will lose interest in progressive politics, now that he does not have to win re-election, and learn to play nice with people that think like us. And soon I will get to work in a blimp propelled by flying pigs.
Part of the reason a show like “Firefly” had (and continues to have) such a strong cult following, I believe, is that it was so different in tone and message from so much else put out by traditional Hollywood guild workers. It was a show with a fiercely libertarian message — and that message, as with the classical liberal / constitutional conservative message — resonates with a people born in a tradition of self-reliance and rugged individualism, and is a welcome escape from daytime yenta-fests or predictable network comedies, which nearly all push the progressive viewpoint, sometimes quite overtly.
Putting money into a conservative / libertarian / classical liberal channel (or two or three), an investment that would include money for development of feature films, new shows, a real conservative news service (like, say, CNS), would over time be a potentially smart and productive means of pushing back against what has been the leftists’ long march through the institutions. I noted sometime back that we already see a bit of this in shows like “Pawn Stars,” or “Storage Wars,” or “Duck Dynasty” or “Swamp People,” shows that, by production standards, are cheaply made and can have a tremendous influence on the popular culture.
The problem with the idea is that, because conservatives / libertarians / classical liberals tend to be independent thinkers, creating a sustained herd narrative — even for the right reasons — is a difficult proposition. Which is why the challenge would be to outline a breadth of (natural rights) themes and then position creative work always to hit those themes without seeming forced or hamfisted or preachy. Show, don’t tell. Be opposite of the progressives in that very important sense.
Will the channels developed by conservatives (or the TEA Party News channel, etc.) be ridiculed and their shows panned by liberal critics? Likely so. But such is the way of the cult show or cult film, anyway. And it’s time we let it be known that the status quo of Hollywood is the Man, while the new indie outlaw scene is populated by those who truly believe in fierce independence, private property rights, and free-market capitalism.