Ed Driscoll

Easy Riders, Raging Stasists

Twenty years before he died at the age of 597 years old*, legendary Stalinist Pete Seeger told the New York Times, “I like to say I’m more conservative than Goldwater. He just wanted to turn the clock back to when there was no income tax. I want to turn the clock back to when people lived in small villages and took care of each other.” He’s not alone amongst his fellow leftists for harboring such back-to-the-future reactionary beliefs. Economically, the entire ideology is hard captive to a cargo cult mentality that ping-pongs back and forth between the let’s break out the shovels and build the Hoover Dam and roadways mentality of the FDR era, and the build nothing nowhere, save the snail darter and and delta smelt mentality ushered in by 1970’s first “Earth Day.”

In the late 1990s, when cable modems ushered in 24/7 Internet access, I used to find Salon and Slate virtually interchangeable; they were both establishment liberal, but the veneer of literary competence helped to make the socialism relatively palatable. However, while Slate has remained relatively sane, particularly after it was bought by the pre-Bezos Washington Post, in recent years, Salon has gone completely off the rails, personified by the non-stop racialism of “editor at large” Joan Walsh, whose recent book was titled, What’s the Matter with White People?

Perhaps Joan should ask that question about fellow Salon denizens. Like Seeger and the FDR cargo cult, Salon also harbors turn-the-clock-back fantasies of their own: Last month, the publication called for the nationalization of the news media because it was uncomfortable with the glut of right-leaning news and opinion led by — you guessed it! — Fox News. (Hmmm — I wonder if someone in the FCC read that article?) Now the Website wishes to turn the clock back on the film industry because of a perceived glut of independent films.

In his latest post, Moe Lane has lots of fun fisking this notion:

Somewhere, there is some poor person whose job it is to sell the concept of ‘bidets’ to the American public.  That person is right now feeling an inexplicable kinship to the author of this article: look, another advocate for a nice idea that does not sell!  Seriously, it’s been my experience that when you start talking about pursuing a marketing strategy that have First, reeducate the public into liking your product as a hidden first step, things are unlikely to end well.

Perhaps it lies in updated vertical integration models inspired by the old studio system — say what you will about the old system, but everyone working within it got paid and lots of great films got made.

Say what you will about the old system, but people were chronically underpaid, the top brass running things routinely trampled quality into the dirt, and a godawful amount of utter dreck got made.  Which, astoundingly, is more or less Salon’s complaint about the current system.

And perhaps none of these suggestions hold the answer, but we need ideas because, whatever the answer is, it can’t simply be to unquestioningly make more features.

…Leaving aside the fact that the first part of this sentence effectively alerts the reader that he just wasted five minutes of lifespan that could have been more profitably spent watching Adventure Time, the question is duly begged: why can’t people unquestioningly make more features?

Pro Tip: Analyze the free-market dynamists and regulation-obsessed stasists model essayed by Virginia Postrel in her 1998 book, The Future and Its Enemies. Don’t be a stasist, no matter how tempting the impulse.

As Peter Biskind documented in his own book from 1998, Easy Riders, Raging Bulls, the old, conservative film industry — aka, Hollywood’s golden age, the craftsmen who gave us films such as Casablanca and Singing in the Rain — was permanently destroyed by a group of young leftwing turks led by Francis Ford Coppola, Martin Scorsese, George Lucas, and Steven Spielberg, and sympathetic critics such as the late Pauline Kael of the New Yorker. Having successfully stormed the barricades over 40 years ago, I wonder what they would think about a leftwing Website such as Salon calling for a return to the old film system, and being told that less films, and more industry regulation, is the answer?

* That’s just an estimate. I’m not sure if anyone was able to actually count the rings.

Update: Talk about going Barack to the Future: While Salon is calling for a return to the old Hollywood studio system, Bill Maher wants a return to the old days when cities were served by one or two newspapers:

After calling Sen. Ted Cruz a “slippery boob” (for some reason), Maher got to his point. Showing a black-and-white picture of people on the subway from “back in the olden days,” he said:

Amazing, isn’t it? Everyone’s reading a newspaper — and no one’s masturbating. Here’s a subway car today. Everyone’s playing ‘Angry Birds’ and no one is getting news or if they are, it’s their Facebook news feed, which is now how a third of adults get their news. And this month Facebook unveiled an app called ‘Paper,’ which Mark Zuckerberg calls ‘the best personalized newspaper in the world.’ Yeah, I suppose the Washington Post is OK, like when it uncovered Watergate.

Taking aim (again, for some reason) at Facebook, Maher complained, “Hey, if one of the richest companies in America can get richer by making you a little stupider every time you look at your phone, small price to pay.”

And boy, does it make you stupider. ‘Paper’ tracks the news you’re interested in and gives you more of that and less of everything else, never burdening you with contradictory information or telling you anything new. That’s what makes it ‘news.’ But only seeing the stuff that already confirms the opinions you already have isn’t news — it’s Fox News. The reason so many Americans, for example, think climate change is a hoax is that their only source for science news is Glenn Beck, Fox and Matt Drudge, the cracker trifecta.

Newspapers may be old-fashioned, but here’s what we’re losing if you never see one; they are trying to tell you what’s actually important, not just what’s important to you. You may not read the whole paper but you at least see headlines, making you aware that something’s going on outside of your micro-targeted world of fashion or music or wiccans or zombies or whatever you’re in to.

That’s a curious rant from a man whose opinion show is narrowcasted on a pay-to-view premium niche cable channel that’s a cog in the sprawling Time-Warner-CNN-HBO media conglomerate. But it’s yet another reminder that, as Andrew Klavan noted back in 2009, the goal of “liberalism” ultimately boils down to two simple words:

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