June 12, 2020

Media, Hollywood, and The Protests

The New York Times’ editorial page editor resigned Sunday after the newspaper disowned an opinion piece by U.S. Sen. Tom Cotton that advocated using federal troops to quell unrest.” AP News

“HBO Max has temporarily removed ‘Gone With the Wind’ from its streaming library in order to add historical context to the 1939 film long criticized for romanticizing slavery and the Civil War-era South…  On Tuesday, the Paramount Network dropped the long-running reality series ‘Cops’ after 33 seasons.” AP News

See past issues

From the Left

The left generally supports the editor’s firing and canceling ‘Cops’ but is divided about Gone With the Wind.

“[Cotton was] calling for what would almost certainly amount to massive violence against his fellow citizens: an ‘overwhelming show of force to disperse, detain and ultimately deter lawbreakers’… on Twitter [he] called for ‘no quarter for insurrectionists, anarchists, rioters, and looters.’ As David French, a conservative writer who is, like Cotton, a veteran of the war in Iraq, pointed out, ‘no quarter’ orders — which mean showing the enemy no mercy, even if they try to surrender — are a war crime… The value of airing Cotton’s argument has to be weighed against the message The Times sends, in this incendiary moment, by including it within the bounds of legitimate debate.”
Michelle Goldberg, New York Times

“Cotton’s op-ed doesn’t meet the Times’s standards, not only because it contains inaccuracies but because it reflects a worldview incompatible with the baseline small-l liberal values that make the Times’s work, and journalism generally, possible

“Modern journalism was meant to play a political role, to expose the truth and hold politicians accountable to the small-l liberal values that make liberal democracy possible. It cannot remain neutral when those values are under threat… [The media] must sound the alarm, if only to defend the conditions that make it possible. The journalists injured and arrested so far would not be the last in Tom Cotton’s America.”
David Roberts, Vox

Critics, however, argue that “The most concerning thing about the Cotton episode is the logic that was given to pull the column in the first place: ‘Running this puts Black people, including Black @nytimes staff, in danger,’ a phrase repeated thousands of times on social media. The line of reasoning here is perfectly coherent. We can easily imagine a world where Cotton’s op-ed persuades Trump to deploy troops, who then kill protesters and reporters, many of them black. But we could envision a similar sequence resulting from any number of op-eds

“Suppose the Times had given an op-ed to an advocate of repealing Obamacare at the crucial moment, persuading John McCain to supply the deciding vote to eliminate it. Millions of people would have lost insurance, and as a direct result, tens of thousands of them would have died… Politics is a matter of life and death. If you start with the premise that one side has a monopoly on truth, you inevitably land on the conclusion that questioning its ideas is dangerous.”
Jonathan Chait, New York Magazine

Regarding TV shows, “From ‘Dragnet’ to ‘NYPD Blue’ to ‘FBI,’ the cop show is a prolific American institution that is immensely influential. In the 2019-2020 TV season, three of the top five dramas were cop shows…

“When we talk about representation in movies and television, we often point at the voices and faces that are missing. But we also need to look at the voices and faces that are overrepresented. Too often police are beacons of morality who never do wrong. Too often criminals are people of color, particularly black men. Too often victims are forgettable and laws optional when you carry a badge and a gun… we shouldn’t act as if they’re harmless entertainment, or ‘just TV.’ If TV didn’t have the power to influence and change the minds of viewers, there would be no point in selling commercials that fund your favorite shows.”
Kelly Lawler, USA Today

Regarding HBO’s decision, some say that “Even the most well-intentioned films can fall short in how they represent marginalized communities. ‘Gone With the Wind,’ however, is its own unique problem. It doesn’t just ‘fall short’ with regard to representation. It is a film that glorifies the antebellum south. It is a film that, when it is not ignoring the horrors of slavery, pauses only to perpetuate some of the most painful stereotypes of people of color… At a moment when we are all considering what more we can do to fight bigotry and intolerance, I would ask that all content providers look at their libraries and make a good-faith effort to separate programming that might be lacking in its representation from that which is blatant in its demonization.”
John Ridley, Los Angeles Times

Others note that “‘Gone with the Wind’ has been around for eight decades — and it’s been a fusty period piece for at least half that time. Relegating it to the cyber void is not like toppling Confederate statues into a river. And in no way does pulling the movie cleanse Hollywood or the entertainment industry of racial bias and inequity. WarnerMedia, which launched HBO Max, and all Hollywood companies would be better off working harder at diversifying their executive ranks than eliminating celluloid relics of another era… If you watch ‘Gone With the Wind’ and don’t get that it’s a piece of the past to be left in the past, then you’ve got problems that the contextual analysis won’t solve.”
Carla Hall, Los Angeles Times

From the Right

The right opposes the editor’s firing and the canceling of shows and movies.

The right opposes the editor’s firing and the canceling of shows and movies.

“An ostensibly independent opinion section was ransacked because the social-justice warriors in the newsroom opposed a single article espousing a view that polls show tens of millions of Americans support if the police can’t handle rioting and violence. The publisher failed to back up his editors, which means the editors no longer run the place. The struggle sessions on Twitter and Slack channels rule…  

“On matters deemed sacrosanct—and today that includes the view that America is root-and-branch racist—there is no room for debate… Some of our friends on the right are pleased because they say all of this merely exposes what has long been true. But this takeover of the Times and other liberal bastions means that there are ever fewer institutions that will defend free inquiry and the contest of ideas that once defined American liberalism.”
Editorial Board, Wall Street Journal

“It’s disingenuous to argue, as have so many woke journalists, that the ostensible ‘paper of record’ should have refused to publish his argument. Admire or despise him, Cotton is an influential senator who has Trump’s ear. And though many in the U.S. military were appalled by the idea of deploying U.S. soldiers to quell domestic unrest, even as a last resort, his idea had some support on Capitol Hill and among the general public…

Publishing unpopular news and views is the business of great newspapers. Caving in to the public’s need for scapegoats and its own staff’s biases undermines that mission. Over time, the New York Times has increasingly permitted its talented staff’s views to permeate its news pages. Now it has apologized for publishing views in editorials that its reporters oppose. Sports columnist and veteran Times reporter Michael Powell, a lonely voice at the paper, called this trend an ‘embarrassing retreat from principle.’”
Judith Miller, Fox News

“Protestors and online trolls are coming for a show about animated animals who take care of their town by building, rescuing, and maintaining order and goodness… Portraying a good cop on the screen doesn’t dismantle or belittle the Black Lives Matter movement. On the contrary, it provides a reference point for education, reform, and the promotion of service by the police force. It brings the motto ‘to protect and serve’ into the limelight and gives a positive example to model changes after…

“If you think that removing ‘good’ cop shows, tearing down statues, and renaming Disneyland rides is going to solve racism, you’re wrong. Racism was not created in a day and isn’t going to leave when things get canceled or removed. Instead of lobbying for Chase the police dog to be euthanized, why don’t we instead focus on the ways he models how police can assist communities by protecting and serving… Or better yet, if you’re offended by a German Shepherd police puppy and his rescue pals saving someone from drowning, a snowstorm, or even just helping an older woman cross a street, don’t watch it.”
Jordan Davidson, The Federalist

Regarding HBO’s decision, “It is no longer sufficient to erase the Minstrel Show, now the performance that netted the first Academy Award for a black actor must also be toppled and hid away like some statue of a Confederate general. It is a very sad travesty. McDaniel was an artist, before anything else. Her life’s work was to bring characters to life and entertain, and she was a master at it. Are we really going to stop people from seeing her work because it doesn’t match up with contemporary mores about race?...

“HBO promises that the ‘Gone With The Wind’ will return, eventually placed in some kind of context. Perhaps a panel discussion appended to the movie, or a warning label, who really knows? But who are they protecting and from what? Americans know that slavery was brutal and evil; they aren’t going to watch the movie and suddenly think it was fine. Trust people to contextualize the material themselves.”
David Marcus, The Federalist

“HBO’s decision to remove Gone With the Wind from its new HBO Max streaming service is yet another troubling step toward erasing American cultural heritage. It is essential to preserve the film, not in spite of the fact that it runs counter to our current attitudes, but precisely because it does… Wiping away Gone With the Wind does not change the reality that people once had such perceptions. Instead, it makes it harder for people to understand how American perceptions of race in general, and the period surrounding the Civil War era in particular, changed over time

“People’s standards of right and wrong evolve over time, and to cancel works that don’t fit in with today’s times would mean constantly purging old works of literature, music, and movies every few years — or whenever they no longer match modern sensibilities.”
Philip Klein, Washington Examiner

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