Switching TV to the Right
A long-term project to reclaim the culture



In his new book Primetime Propaganda: The True Hollywood Story of How the Left Took Over Your TV, young Hollywood native Ben Shapiro takes on the culture in the way conservatives in Hollywood are truly beginning to: upfront and confident, informed and resilient. He talks about it here with National Review Online’s Kathryn Jean Lopez.

Kathryn Jean Lopez: Dude, my TV set is on the right side of my living room. It is on Fox News. The Left can’t get to it. How can your book possibly be relevant or news to me?

Ben Shapiro: If Fox News is the only thing you watch, you’re probably cool — but then, you’re paying a lot of money for one cable channel. The chances are that you watch a lot more than Fox News. There’s nothing wrong with that, but I can guarantee that if you watch anything other than Fox News, you’ve felt the Left’s ideological magnet tugging at your heartstrings. Virtually every major television comedy and drama of the last 40-odd years has been biased to the left, and the creators of the shows admitted as much to me.

Lopez: Is TV really “awesome”? God is great. TV rots your brain.

Shapiro: TV may rot our brain, but it’s tremendously entertaining. Scientific studies actually show that it’s addictive. Beyond that, television can actually forge communal bonds — what else do we discuss at the water cooler? I know that in my family, watching Lost every week became a ritual where everyone would gather from around Los Angeles to sit and discuss whether the island was in fact purgatory.

As a general matter, I think it’s supremely important that we recognize that we’re not going to get anywhere with the “TV sucks” argument. We can rip it all we want — at night, we go home and watch it. Conservatives like to pretend they don’t flip on the boob tube, but we do it just as often as liberals. Pretending that TV isn’t important isn’t productive — it’s counterproductive, especially since TV has become such an effective weapon in the Left’s arsenal.

Lopez: What’s so awesome on TV that you’re watching now? Anything conservative or otherwise redeeming about it?

Shapiro: Used to love Lost, obviously. Still ticked about that ending, though, even though I dedicated about 3,000 words to trying to decipher it. Now, I watch Parks and Recreation, which is hysterically funny — and a show with a breakout conservative character in Ron “Freaking” Swanson, the man who explains, “I think that all government is a waste of taxpayer money. My dream is to have the park system privatized and run entirely for profit by corporations, like Chuck E. Cheese.” As you can tell, he’s the butt of the joke, and often has to apologize for his conservatism by episode’s end — but in the meanwhile, he’s a cathartic character for conservatives.

Lopez: “Laughter is a weapon to be wielded, not an ultimate good,” you write. Do you see any conservatives wielding it effectively?

Shapiro: In the political space, absolutely — Jonah Goldberg, Ann Coulter, Dennis Miller, Andrew Breitbart. In the entertainment space, not one whit. Conservatives are by nature more serious than liberals — we take lifestyles seriously rather than making jokes of them, we take our politics seriously. When we do make comedies, we tend to go over the top in our denunciations of liberalism, making it unfunny (this isn’t unique to conservatives, by the way — liberals did the same in comedy throughout the 1970s). By the way, this is something that Republican candidates should recognize — showing a little humor goes a long way, which is why Huckabee and Chris Christie are so popular, while Tim Pawlenty and Mitt Romney remain dull as ditchwater. Reagan knew that humor worked. So, to a certain extent, did [George W.] Bush. Conservatives need to up their games on this one.