Lopez: “There is no more subversive social force than culture — and there has been no more powerful voice in our culture than television. Television has been weaponized by those who would use it to cajole, convince, and convert. Until now, we have been ignorant of what goes on behind the curtain of that Great and Powerful Oz.” You write about our need to story-tell, made possible by TV. But does primetime television matter that much anymore? With all our other distractions? Stories are told on YouTube and Facebook and maybe even Twitter. TV isn’t the end-all.
Shapiro: TV isn’t the end-all, but primetime television still matters on a scale far greater than anything else we watch together. The worst primetime network series’ ratings still draw a minimum of 3 million viewers as a general matter; high ratings can draw well in excess of 10 million viewers. The highest-rated cable programming draws about the same amount. That’s orders of magnitude larger than what you’ll see on YouTube, where you can’t get a consistent viewing of a series of videos of more than a million, if you’re unbelievably successful. There will always be appetite for longer-form entertainment than five-minute clips. The Internet does offer us the opportunity to make alternative programming, but that takes funding — and that will take renewed commitment from conservatives to entering the new media wholesale.
You write, “The propagation of liberal values was endemic to the industry. While Ross was busy walking his lesbian ex-wife down the aisle for her wedding to her new lover, Samantha was chatting graphically about oral sex with Charlotte on Sex and the City
; Shavonda and Sarah were going topless and French kissing each other on The Real World: Philadelphia
; a gay man and a single woman were considering whether to have a baby together on Will & Grace
; Kate was deciding in favor of abortion on Everwood
; and the city of Springfield was legalizing gay marriage on The Simpsons
.” What’s so wrong with that, one might ask?
Shapiro: What’s wrong with all of this is that entertainment shapes us, whether we like it or not. People tend to decide on their politics on an emotional level rather than on an intellectual level — we think about our friends and our families when deciding on political stances. That’s why it’s an illogical but effective argument for gay-marriage advocates when they charge that you can’t oppose gay marriage if you have a gay relative.
Television uses the same tactic. TV is designed to integrate new friends and families into our lives — after all, we spend hours upon hours with these characters. When Lost ended, I felt like I’d lost people I knew. That’s what good writing does. Television writing always starts with character — you have to create people that audiences will identify with and want to watch. What TV’s creators do, however, is insinuate these wonderful people into our lives, and then spoon-feed them a liberal agenda to preach about. Next thing we know, we’re accepting that agenda more easily. This is subtle and effective stuff.
Beyond that, liberals suggest that all of the above elements are “representative” of everyday America. They aren’t — they’re representative of the lives led by Hollywood creators, who simply assume that their America is everyone’s America. They reflect their own lives and transform everyone else’s.
Lopez: You write: “‘One of our agents Googled you and found your website,’ he told me. My stomach dropped. ‘I’m not sure we can represent you, because he thinks your political views will make it impossible for you to get a job in this town.’” Did you truly appreciate the plight of the conservative in Hollywood before that?
Shapiro: Not at all. In fact, I went in believing that allegations of discrimination were overblown. As a conservative, I’m generally suspicious when people talk about discrimination, since discrimination is market inefficient and usually overcome relatively easily via competition. That simply isn’t true in the TV industry, and to have somebody say it to me so clearly was emotionally wrenching.