Why Was Chris Dodd Chosen to Helm the MPAA?

The Motion Picture Association of America's selection of Chris Dodd as its new head is a puzzling move.

Obviously, Dodd brings no industry expertise to the table, but this is immaterial. The job was shaped by the long tenure of Jack Valenti, LBJ’s political fixer par excellence, who functioned as the industry’s ambassador to Washington, using its wealth to influence the tribunes of the people and its glamor to seduce them.

Valenti’s successor was former Democratic Congressman and ex-Secretary of Agriculture Dan Glickman, who decided a year ago that he wanted to spend more time on other interests, without waiting for the end of his contract.  The stories at the time said the industry thought his anti-piracy efforts insufficient, but it is hard to know in what way, and he did last six years in the job.

Glickman’s unglamorous Kansas demeanor seems a more probable friction point, and Politico speculated that his reasonableness may have hurt him. Valenti was fiercely partisan and the industry liked that, and may have grown impatient with anything less. This explanation makes sense. Hollywood is a land of emotion and illusion, not logic and reality, and on the intellectual property and social issues at the top of its priority list, it is fiercely self-righteous and contemptuous of all dissent.

In this framework, Dodd makes sense, because he certainly fits the mold of being self-righteous, contemptuous, and devoted to emotion and illusion rather than logic and reality.

No one is more loathed by Republicans, whether of the Tea Party stripe or from the intellectual free market wing. Both groups regard Dodd as bearing unique responsibility for the corruption that is Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the consequent national financial disaster, and a financial reform bill that was an ill-considered, interest-group driven hodgepodge for which we will be paying for decades.

For those who focus on social issues and the moral decline of America, Dodd is remembered as the bottom slice of bread in Ted Kennedy’s waitress sandwich, together with other escapades of the congressional rat pack. It was a long time ago, but search engines have good memory.

Big Government was the first conservative blogsite off the mark with “Corrupt Government-Hollywood Complex Worsens With MPAA Appointment of Chris Dodd,” which emphasized Hollywood’s political imbalance and various past favors the government has done for the industry.

The story did not mention the two big areas, though. One is the issue of subsidies given for motion picture production by various states. Michael Kinsley wrote this week in Politico:

New Mexico under Gov. Richardson was a pioneer in this field. In 2002, it began offering a credit of 15 percent — later increased to 25 percent — of the cost of making a movie in New Mexico (not counting star salaries and the mite paid to writers). Now, 42 states have followed its lead. New York has gone as high as 30 percent. These credits can generally be transferred, saved or used for other things, so it’s no problem if a particular movie doesn’t make money.

For the Tea Parties, or for Republican governors, such programs are the equivalent of trolling a steak though a dog pound. So let’s see, who shall we send out to defend the steak? Why not Chris Dodd? What could go wrong?

Beyond its greed for direct subsidies, Hollywood’s big issue with the government is the protection of intellectual property. On this issue, progressives are split. The world of legal academia, lefties to a man/woman, is quite anti-IP. Silicon Valley and its clones like patents, with some reservations, but are skeptical of copyright because the more material people can access the more hardware and bandwidth they need. The 800-pound gorilla Google wants everything, including content, to be a commodity so that money is made only by attaching ads. Its position is to talk about how much it loves intellectual property in content, while opposing all efforts to make enforcement of IP rights practicable.