A week ago, two big stories had just broken: "Senate Exposes CIA Torture" and "Sony Chiefs' Racist Emails Revealed."In response —and in concert— the National Security Apparatus denied the torture charge and Sony staged a boffo misdirection play. The hackers had made available documents exposing the workings of a major corporation. Presumably they revealed the extent of income inequality (who gets paid what), tax avoidance strategies, etc. Of primary interest to the media were the vile emails between Sony executives Scott Rudin and Amy Pascal. The assumption of these two Caucasian morons that Barack Obama would be especially interested in flicks with African-American characters is demeaning beyond words. Scott and Amy —and people like them at the other studios— decide what movies and TV shows get made and transmitted into the brains of the American people. The Scotts and Amies control the culture on behalf of the corporate chieftains who hire them. Their movies and TV shows promote the belief that the world is a very dangerous place divided into "good guys" (generally associated with law enforcement) and "bad guys." Ms. Pascal issued a pseudo-apology using a word —"insensitive"— that has been forwarded to Alexander Cockburn for guillotining Up There. Sony strategists came up with a brilliant line to cut off further exposure: anyone publishing the hacked material is an accessory to terrorism. The line was eloquently set forth by Aaron Sorkin in a December 14 New York Times op-ed. Sorkin, a super-successful writer, asserted his leftiness as he led the counterattack:
"As a screenwriter in Hollywood who’s only two generations removed from probably being blacklisted, I’m not crazy about Americans calling other Americans un-American, so let’s just say that every news outlet that did the bidding of the Guardians of Peace is morally treasonous and spectacularly dishonorable."
Aaron Sorkin was so adamant, and so obviously carrying water for Sony, that it got me thinking... They promoted the absurd "North Korean threat to U.S. moviegoers" story to stop the hacked material from getting published! The original statement from the so-called Guardians of Peace made no reference to blowing up movie theaters in America. The National Security Apparatus —eager to bury the CIA torture story ASAP— promptly announced that both the obviously real hacking and the supposedly credible threat to moviegoers at the Bijoux in Peoria emanated from North Korea! The ploy worked perfectly. Today, anyone who says that the racist creep Scott Rudin should be fired is doing the bidding of Kim Jong-Un. Amy Pascal, after a 90-minute meeting with the Reverend Al Sharpton, is going to be more sensitive in the future. The CIA torture story has vanished —John Brennan's denial was the last word. And paying to see "The Interview" —which preview audiences thought was snore bore—is now seen as a patriotic duty. Applied Leftiness
When Aaron Sorkin was head writer of West Wing, pro-cannabis activists eagerly watched an episode said to be based on the experience of Dr. Joycelyn Elders, the surgeon general who had been fired by Bill Clinton after acknowledging that marijuana has medical uses and masturbation is normal.
It turned out that any connection between the real Surgeon General Joycelyn Elders and the West Wing version was just name-dropping and p.r.
In the TV show, a female surgeon general (Caucasian, BTW) tells an interviewer that marijuana is "no more harmful than alcohol and nicotine" and "no more addictive than heroin or LSD." (Both comments contain misinformation. Marijuana is much less harmful than alcohol and nicotine, and LSD isn't addictive. Joycelyn Elders would not have misstated the facts.)President Martin Sheen is out of town when the Surgeon General does her supposedly outrageous truth-telling. Top aides tell her to resign immediately so that the Prez doesn't have to fire her. Meanwhile, one of the president’s daughters, a med student, phones a reporter and says her dad would never fire the surgeon general. The Prez returns from abroad, is furious at the surgeon general (who happens to be Godmother to the daughter now coming to her defense), and furious at the daughter, whom he feels doesn’t love him. Soap-a-roonie! The surgeon general explains to Martin Sheen that his daughter really does love him, and was showing filial admiration by saying that he would never fire her. The Prez is flattered and refuses to accept the surgeon general's resignation. It's a happy lending with the flag flying and the White House glowing and patriotic chords tugging at our sentiments.
In real life there was a female Surgeon General (Black) who spoke the truth in terms the President, a Democrat, considered impolitic. He offed her immediately and ignominiously.
When radical movements emerge, practitioners of leftiness —using NGO money and media access— start speaking for the movement. They pretend that they're helping, reaching a wider audience, etc.— but actually they're weakening the movement's message and demands.
The blacklisted Hollywood writers whose mantel Sorkin claims were not opponents of the North Korean regime, back in their day. They were opponents of capitalism and imperialism. After World War Two, the U.S. had propped up a regime in South Korea dominated by the former ruling elite, many of whose members had collaborated with the Japanese occupiers. "Our" regime in the South prevented Korea from being unified under leaders who had fought against the Japanese. Anyone wishing to understand how North Korea became so insular and anti-U.S. should read The Korean War by University of Chicago historian Bruce Cummings (Random House, 2010). And anyone wishing to understand McCarthyism —the taunting, firing and blacklisting of American dissenters — should review the coverage of Dennis Rodman's trip to North Korea with a team of ex-NBA players. Especially chilling for those who remember Senator McCarthy's voice and interrogation style was Piers Morgan's hounding of Kenny Anderson on CNN. It's almost as if Morgan, a teabag, had studied McCarthy's sneering inflection and cadence.
I knew Ring Lardner, Jr. slightly —he played in my in-laws' poker game, we talked about politics on several occasions— and you, Mr. Sorkin, are no Ring Lardner, Jr.
Empty Apartments, Theirs and Ours
At the Emerald Cup in Santa Rosa I ran into David Bienenstock, the writer/editor and cup impresario who left High Times for a job at Vice.com. I expressed appreciation for Vice backing Dennis Rodman's visits to North Korea. "To open doors and bridge a gap," was Rodman's stated intention, and who could not dig that? Bien said that Vice honcho Shane Smith was with Rodman's crew when they were driven to the basketball court, which was in a sports complex surrounded by tall apartment buildings. Upon his return, Shane looked at the site on Google Maps and noticed that the buildings were dark at night —nobody lived there, they were just for show. "They're so weird," said Bien about the North Koreans. I told him that one summer night I was walking along the shore in Palm Beach, Florida, and noticed that most of the high-rises looming above were completely dark; in a few the lights were on in a single apartment. The people who owned those apartments used them in the winter. In the summer they go to their places in the Hamptons or the Poconos. In September it's back to the apartment in Manhattan... North Korea's empty apartments may be a manifestation of foolish pride, but Florida's are a testament to material inequality... I sent Bien a song written to console Rosie (who was upset by the way Rodman had been ridiculed). I wish I could get it to him. Or to some musicians who don't aspire to a contract with Sony.
And the Winners are... Best slogan on a tee-shirt at this year's Emerald Cup: "Marijuana Cures Racism." Best slogan on a product —Kurova Chocolates' "You Can Always Eat More, But You Can't Eat Less."