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How Conservatives Can Conquer Hollywood

The Walt Disney method of becoming a billionaire: depict the battle of Good Vs. Evil with innovative technology.

Dave Swindle


March 4, 2014 - 4:00 pm

Dear Roger,

I’m sorry, but I’m going to have to disagree with two points from you piece last week, “How Conservatives Can Take Back (Some of) Hollywood for Oscar Time.” First, let’s take a look at where you place the goal posts for conservatives to aim:

But as you run your personal boycott of Hollywood, remember this. Almost everyone else you know — be it family, friends, business associates and, most especially, your children — is not. They are consuming Hollywood entertainment in mammoth gulps. And politics, as the late Andrew Breitbart said repeatedly (and he was far from the only one), is downstream of culture.

You give up Hollywood and you give up the country. Game over. And as we all know, it’s almost over already. Want that? Well, if you do, you can skip the rest of this article.

So… for those of you that are left… now more than ever is the time for conservatives and libertarians to take back at least some of the entertainment industry. Someone recently told me that Hollywood is like one of those football blowouts with a score of 90 for the liberals and 10 for the conservatives. We have to try to make it at least 70-30 (still a blowout, but there’s a glimmer of hope).

70-30? Come on. Settling for a pittance of the country’s entertainment industry is akin to aiming for a passing grade. Conservatives should proclaim bolder objectives with their efforts to enter the entertainment industry: to become billionaires and dominate the entire field through redefining it.

I’ve been studying and blogging on Walt Disney with Chris Queen here at PJ Lifestyle for over a year now to try to understand the secrets of his success. What did Disney do to make his name synonymous with a new art form? He innovated — a principle you as the co-founder of PJM know well. For Disney, his path — which is worth recounting visually since we can easily thanks to YouTube — made the first big splash with synched-sound cartoons in 1928:

Then Flowers and Trees, the first technicolor cartoon, in 1932:

Then Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, the first feature-length animated film, in 1937:

And after World War II then leaping to television and theme parks simultaneously, using one to support the other, with the Disneyland TV show in 1954:

Nowadays Disney’s TV and theme park divisions make much more money than the studio films. (BTW, from David P. Goldman, commenting on my Facebook: “Factoid: The market value of Disney Corp is larger than that of the whole Ukrainian stock exchange. So much for Marxists vs. Disney.”)

Conservatives should be looking to the future and to new mediums of entertainment. Humans are not going to amuse themselves by sitting around staring at screens forever. I still believe in the Breitbartian idea that the battle for the culture is more important than the fight over political ideology. Where I’ve changed is in realizing that there’s actually a force more important and powerful to affect and control. Culture is driven by technology. Movable type came before the Gutenberg Bible. Edison’s film camera came before Hollywood. The techniques of animation had to be discovered by Disney and his animators through years of experimenting with Silly Symphony and Mickey Mouse shorts before Snow White could be achieved.

So yeah, politics is downstream of culture. But technology has the power to carve the shape of the river itself.

And conservatives are even more behind when it comes to applying technology to winning elections. J. Christian Adams in the symposium last week spells out how now targeting the broad, mainstream culture isn’t even necessary for winning elections when it’s cheaper to churn out the base rather than work to persuade the undecideds:

Modern elections are all about energy. Energy wins. Period.

The left has developed an election data tool called Catalist. The GOP has no functioning counterpart.  This database allows leftist groups, the DNC, and the Obama campaign to activate the far left base in ways that were never before possible.

How do they do it?  They collect massive amounts of data about everybody.  What you read, what car you drive, what you said in a poll, everything. A consortium of leftist users pump data in, and a consortium of left-wing customers extract data.

The data about Democrat voters allow institutions to flip a switch and ensure a massive base vote.

So what does this have to do with Ted Cruz?

Democrats have realized that modern elections are won or lost by mobilizing the base, period.  Remember the treasured independent middle? Bah. Romney won them overwhelmingly but still lost the election.

The left swamped Romney using Catalist. Romney’s counterpart base mobilizer, “Orca,” crashed and burned on election day – literally. While Romney was spending one dollar to win one vote in the middle, Obama (using Catalist data) was spending a dime to get one vote in the base.

So the Romney campaign was doubly damned. They were outgunned technologically. But what were they shot with from all angles? Unrelenting images of Mitt the heartless corporate businessman, a symbol of the decadent 1%, lapped up by cultures and generations raised on the image of the evil executive. As I wrote about in the summer of 2012, “Why This Election Year America Is Carmela Soprano,” today people no longer know how to recognize good and evil in their leaders or entertainment. When Americans celebrate crooks at the movies they’ll surely vote them into office too.

How to counter this? What sorts of stories can get people to understand that evil actually often appears harmless or even noble to try to deceive you? With films of military tough guys fighting wars in lands most Americans can’t even locate on a map? I have another idea, and Sunday night’s Best Picture winner victory speech inspired me.


Roger, our second point of disagreement:

Old Hollywood used to do that. The message of most classic Hollywood movies from the glory years was “America is A-okay.” That spread around the world. It could happen again, but we first have to tell it to ourselves, make ourselves believe it.

Hard to accomplish in the current atmosphere? Yes, but it can be done. In fact it was done in this Oscar year. The film I voted for in the nominating process — Lone Survivor – was just such a work. It said American servicemen in Afghanistan were the good guys, were “A-okay.”

The pro-American quality of classic Hollywood is an expression of a deeper underlying value system. Back in the ’30s and ’40s it was still fashionable to talk about good and evil. And I think that’s the key missing ingredient in much of today’s entertainment. As I’ve been obsessing over Disney’s classic movies, my working thesis: the more effectively a film depicts good vs evil the better it will be. Generally, in looking at the quality of a Disney movie, it seems that the scarier, more threatening evil of the villain, the stronger the dramatic tension and thus the deeper impression the film can make. (Duh!) But hence why I’ve been so obsessed lately with Fantasia, where Disney makes the fight the most explicit. The “Night on Bald Mountain” sequence at the end with the Chernobog summoning fire demonesses has some pretty wild stuff for a “kids” movie. Is there a scarier animated sequence in the history of film?

Shadows of sex and violence in family entertainment…

I’m going to explore more of the cartoons from this period at PJ Lifestyle over the next few months — and not just Disney. The dark side of the human experience shows up in comic works too.

Ever seen how the Middle East was depicted at the time?

In a future post I’ll unpack some of the themes in these: 1932′s “Mickey Mouse in Arabia,” and 1934′s  Willie Whopper short from former Disney collaborator Ub Iwerks, “Insultin’ the Sultan”:

Formalizing one of my blogging/research plans for this season... #disney #cartoons #history #art #technology marriage...

Odd: in both cartoons the sultan kidnaps the hero’s female companion and then tries to seduce them. The Iwerks short goes even further than Disney’s where the kidnapper just tries to kiss Minnie. (Iwerks was always a bit darker and creepier than Disney in what I’ve seen of them and read.) Gee, I wonder what the banana Iwerks’ Sultan tries to feed the little girl is suppose to symbolize?

I guess this was what America wanted its children watching in the 1930s. Today Hollywood won’t even direct adults’ attention at present-day evil. And as a result they cannot recognize the real scope of the threats really facing free societies today. From John Boot in his Oscar coverage yesterday, quoting Steve McQueen, writer/director of this year’s best picture winner:

“Everyone deserves not just to survive, but to live,” he said. “This is the most important legacy of Solomon Northup” (whose life story was the basis of the film). “I dedicate this award to all the people who have endured slavery. And the 21 million people who still suffer slavery today.”

I haven’t seen 12 Years a Slave yet; perhaps it really is the best picture of the year. It’s hard for me to get all that enthusiastic about seeing another movie rehashing the slavery America overcame in the 19th century when the modern slavery of the 21st century continues to advance all around the world today.

Twenty-one million people? That will be a great day when the human race is actually down to only that many still living enslaved. The actual reality of the world is that the majority of the world lives in a state of slavery under some combination of lawless dictator, 7th century barbarian religious law, or corrupt oligarchy. According to Freedom House’s most recent report, only 40% of the world’s population lives in free countries. Twenty-five percent live in “partly-free” states and 35% live in nations that are not free at all, like Vladimir Putin’s mafia state Russia.

But Hollywood wants to throw a party for itself because it has the courage to make films condemning white American slave owners from 150 years ago? Roger, one of my favorite quotes from your memoir comes to mind: ”I do think there is almost always a good and evil, a right and wrong–although often you have to look closely–and the relativist view of the world is at best lazy and at worst a stalking horse for fascism.”

I might as well just reprint the whole passage, from one of the graphics I made identifying its influence on my “counterculture conservatism”:

Roger, as Breitbart argued in word, and you have demonstrated in deed through your return to creative writing, it’s indeed time for conservatives to aim their arrows in the cultural realm. But as we do, the talk should include upgrading our art’s technological arms. Again, a classic Disney cartoon contains old-fashioned wisdom…

Disney’s cartoons perpetually argued this theme — consider “Three Little Wolves” from 1936, in which the father wolf stands in for Hitler. After the wolf clan has captured two of the pigs and they’re about to be stuffed into the oven to cook, the third “Practical Pig” rescues them with his new invention, an elaborate “Wolf Pacifier” machine.

On the superficial level this is all a lot of fun and laughs, but seen as a kind of cultural prophecy there’s an eeriness to it. Disney’s message was that superior technology defeats evil. And Harry Truman would prove him correct nine years later.

Turning 30 a month ago and thinking about the next decade of my life in the context of the past inevitably leads me back to thinking about my grandparents — 3 of 4 of whom are deceased now — when they were my age.

My father’s father was a pilot who flew in the Pacific during World War II. Among the ideas that he impressed on me was his belief that if Truman had not dropped the atom bombs he would not have survived the war.

So my whole family could be said to exist because a president had the moral clarity to use the technology America had developed. Is that a creepy thought to have?

Perhaps, but as I continue to read the news from our friends in Israel (alas, now through a Barry Rubin-shaped hole), it seems a necessary one to articulate. Superior technology and the will to use it means more families can live. Why can’t we find new ways to tell this story?

With appreciation and respect,

David Swindle

David Swindle is the associate editor of PJ Media. He writes and edits articles and blog posts on politics, news, culture, religion, and entertainment. He edits the PJ Lifestyle section and the PJ columnists. Contact him at DaveSwindlePJM @ and follow him on Twitter @DaveSwindle. He has worked full-time as a writer, editor, blogger, and New Media troublemaker since 2009, at PJ Media since 2011. He graduated with a degree in English (creative writing emphasis) and political science from Ball State University in 2006. Previously he's also worked as a freelance writer for The Indianapolis Star and the film critic for He lives in Los Angeles with his wife and their Siberian Husky puppy Maura.

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All Comments   (17)
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The way to conquer Hollywood is to stop going to their damn movies.
49 weeks ago
49 weeks ago Link To Comment
Excellent article with exactly the right "attitude". Let's not try to "fit in" with Hollywood, let's blow it up and do it right. Let's take the attitude Steve Jobs took when he had the ridiculous notion of taking the small market share computer company into the highly competitive cell phone market. He decided he could do it better and so he created a product that nobody was making with none of the features "conventional wisdom" said were absolute requirements. No physical keyboard, no carrier provided ring tones, no crazy low prices. He made what he thought would be good for people. I think that is what Dave is recommending here. An approach that provides a distinct undeniable alternative. Movies which relish moral clarity, not moral relativism.

And how about movies that reject the current "conventional wisdom" that terrible language is a requirement, and casual sex is also. Can writers of today create great drama and characters without profanity? Steve Jobs said "no tiny physical keyboard" against the history of the entire smartphone industry and the industry analysts laughed at it while the people voted with their dollars and now the entire industry has shifted to the quality vision Steve Jobs provided. Just like Walt Disney. Fearless innovators driven by a total commitment to quality.

Last - a comment about this line from the article - "The left has developed an election data tool called Catalist. The GOP has no functioning counterpart. This database allows leftist groups, the DNC, and the Obama campaign to activate the far left base in ways that were never before possible." The GOP does have a functioning counterpart to this. And it is a lot simpler. It is called Tea Party conservatism. American Freedom conservatism. 2010 brand Sarah Palin conservatism. Clear, honest, America loving, Constitution revering, freedom believing, small government advocating conservatism. When this solution is aggressively used, we turn out big numbers. But the "industry experts" of the GOP are as useless here as the idiots who told Steve Jobs to put a physical keyboard with the keys the size of pinheads on the iPhone. Steve was smart and he fired his version of the GOP Karl Rove, Steve Schmidt experts and he did what he knew in his heart was right. And he won and changed the world.

Thank you Dave for suggesting the Audacity of Believing in America. And trying to save it in Hollywood. I think this is a great idea.
49 weeks ago
49 weeks ago Link To Comment
Fabulous post. There does seem to be a dearth of creativity these days, relatively speaking, in Hollywood. It appears that wholesomeness & good intentions are woefully out of style in this modern era. I really do wonder if this trend will ever come to an ebb (can't imagine it ever ending, as we seem to have gone beyond the veritable level of "no return").
49 weeks ago
49 weeks ago Link To Comment
Walt's "The Fifth Freedom".
50 weeks ago
50 weeks ago Link To Comment
I remember Steven Spielberg and George Lucas warning that a few successive big budget flops would radically alter the Hollywood business model. They suggested that this imminent implosion would be the end of Hollywood as we know it. Sounds like an opportunity to me!
50 weeks ago
50 weeks ago Link To Comment
David: As a conservative producer/writer in Hollywood I can report that conservatives (the ones I've come across anyway) seem to have very little sense of how to cultivate and support new talent, or as a matter of filmmaking how to tell stories with imaginative complexity and style. As a group, they have not impressed me much with their artistic dynamism or even their interest in the human condition as expressed in art at all. I've found more interest in having conversations about how to produce radical, counter-narrative projects among liberals (not quite classic liberals, but not leftists either) than conservatives in Hollywood. Conservatives just enjoy talking and kvetching amongst themselves.
51 weeks ago
51 weeks ago Link To Comment
rrpjr - you are quite correct sir! But if I may add they should help in getting these projects up, funded, & in production. This is a collaborative medium, it takes a team of people to create something worthwhile. Conservatives seem more interested in carping & caterwhauling about leftist dominance in Hollywood than actually getting active in doing anything about it. Roger L Simon had an excellent recent column on this. Having a project up now on indiegogo (can see it via and getting little or no support from the community. Am I surprised? Yes & No. Understand the economy is bad. Ok, then help spread the word; via word-of-mouth, tweet, FB postings, email, social media, etc. But Nothing. Just the usual "sounds like a great project. Good luck." And I come with a very credible production team: Emmy-winner & Academy Award & Grammy-nominated people. Even people here at PJ Media preach a good game, but do nothing. I call it the "Collective Ignore". If conservatives are going to complain about this subject anymore, they better be actively doing something about it (producing their own projects, etc) or they should just shut the hell up. With the revolution in technology it's never been easier to make your own film. To coin a well-known phrase, "If you're not part of the solution, you're part of the problem." Message to conservatives: get active or get the hell outta the way.
51 weeks ago
51 weeks ago Link To Comment
I think LOTR was a story, arguably an old fashioned good versus evil story - though it is much more than that, that was waiting a long time for someone creative enough to tell it.

I think there are gold mines of books waiting to be brought to the screen. The Foundation Trilogy, when it finally gets made, is going to have the same impact as LOTR and make as much money too. And it's a good parable for what's happening in our society right now.
51 weeks ago
51 weeks ago Link To Comment
Can we make a movie from The End of Eternity instead? That's the book Asimov wrote when he started having second thoughts about the advisability of technocracy.
49 weeks ago
49 weeks ago Link To Comment
Two thoughts for your consideration:

1. Want new technology? Start writing for gamers / simulations as a direct competitor for Hollywood.

2. In 2012, roughly 60 million voted for Obama. Roughly 60 million voted for Romney. And roughly 92 million chose to sit the election out. These include 4 million McCain / Palin voters who stayed home. Turn out an appreciable subset of that 92 million - as Nixon was able to do in 1972, Reagan in 1980 and 1984, and Bush 41 to a lesser extend in 1988, and you will win and win big. Let the dems turn out every dog, cat and dead person to vote, as their base is contracting as they abort themselves into oblivion.

Cheers -
51 weeks ago
51 weeks ago Link To Comment
Romney as a president was simply not worth the mayhem that a tight victory would have caused for people in the orbit of the inner cities - the specter of race riots had to be in the minds of some people, particularly in the swing states with appreciable black populations.
49 weeks ago
49 weeks ago Link To Comment
Yeah, and for the 2012 elections, and to a lesser extent 2008, there's more than a little evidence pointing towards voter fraud causing Obama to win. Heck, I live in a voter ID state, and Romney won that state.
51 weeks ago
51 weeks ago Link To Comment
I think the fraud was a factor too. There wasn't a big uproar over it though, I believe, due to electing Our Historic First Black President. It'll be interesting to see how they will react to future instances of voter fraud.
49 weeks ago
49 weeks ago Link To Comment
Well, that, and even if the RNC wanted to react to it, they were legally forced to look the other way with the passing of that law in 1982 and modified in 1987 as a result of a lawsuit regarding Republicans, in their zeal of fighting voter fraud, apparently violating the Civil Rights act by driving away minorities, and stated that any suppression of votes basically meant any attempt at investigating voter fraud.
49 weeks ago
49 weeks ago Link To Comment
The game angle is right on. Folks my age and younger tend to play a lot of games... spend more time playing games than watching movies or TV even. Introducing concepts in games is a great way to get the ideas out to the young that they were never exposed to in school.

Game companies can be large or small - some games I've purchased were made buy a single developer. Surely some of our wealthy can invest a little in game development. - Hell, I'd do it, and might do it, if I can manage to get reliable income.
51 weeks ago
51 weeks ago Link To Comment
Am I wrong, or was this what Peter Jackson was trying to invoke with the Elves heading for home?
51 weeks ago
51 weeks ago Link To Comment
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