TV/media in the 2000s: 10 (or so) key voices in left/right political media

Politically speaking, the aughts have been one long, strange trip. Just think about what we’ve seen this decade: a disputed presidential election in 2000, the largest terrorist attack in world history occurring on U.S. soil in 2001, followed by two wars, the partial erasure of New Orleans and much of the Gulf Coast, a congressional changing of the guard, the election of the first African-American president as well as the first with a foreign-sounding name, and the probable passage of a health care package which, depending on your point of view, is either historic, a mystery, a bit of a sham, or the first step on the road to a Stalinist U.S. of A.

Bubbling beneath all of this has been a series of remarkable changes in the world of media — television, movies, radio, and this thing we call the Internet — that have had a fairly profound impact on politics and, therefore, on real life. What follows are my choices for the ten most interesting and/or influential figures in the realm of political media. To try and slightly compensate for my obvious liberal bias (my side is far more facty, I tell ya!), I’ve got five spots each for conservative and liberal media figures respectively and I’ll be alternating and counting down from the bottom.

#5 Conservative

Trey Parker and Matt Stone — It’s possible that most regular viewers of “South Park” have little idea that Parker and Stone are self-described Republicans and I’m sure most of you don’t think of it as that much of a political show, even though rather subtle and often quite penetrating and/or infuriating thoughts about politics run through many, if not most, episodes. That’s because, like all great satirists, they are just as good at poking holes in the pretensions of their own side as that of the opposition, and their social liberalism puts them so at odds with the increasingly extremist faction that now controls much of the Republican party that some could easily mistake them for liberals. Actually, right now it’s easy to imagine them ditching the party indefinitely, along with any number of smart fellow conservatives who have already done so publicly.

parker-stone

Still, conservative and/or anti-liberal messages are often found on episodes of “South Park,” including attacks on such personal friends of the pair as George Clooney. Indeed, as early as 2001, famed blogger Andrew Sullivan described himself as a “South Park Republican.” (Sullivan is now one of those smart conservative ex-Republicans I mentioned above.) And, of course, there was no stronger, and certainly no funnier, attack on the antiwar efforts of the American left than “Team America: World Police” which had marionette versions of Michael Moore, Alec Baldwin, Matt Damon, and Janeane Garofalo working in tandem with North Korean madman Kim Jong-il in his plans to destroy Western civilization.

Since the film’s release in 2004, more doctrinaire conservatives have tried to follow suit with such liberal-bashing comedies as “An American Carol” and “The 1/2 Hour News Hour,” a truly wretched attempt to craft a conservative alternative to “The Daily Show,” but only Parker and Stone have been able to bash liberals and their ideas and make targets like Alec Baldwin love it.

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Big news and not really so big news

Two items worth mentioning:

* In a move that could have an enormous impact on pretty much all media, Comcast has officially announced its long-expected, and highly complicated, deal which — if understand it correctly and its possible I don’t — will make NBC/Universal a joint venture between General Electric and the cable TV giant, with Comcast holding a 51% stake in the deal. Arguably, this is a more of a TV story and I’m the movie guy, but the dividing line between movies and television grows ever thinner and this surely will impact the movie world. After all, TV is still probably the single most dominant delivery system for movies.

I will say that, as someone who has been worried about media consolidation for a very long time, this deal makes me incredibly suspicious. For starters, a cable company will now be involved with one of the main providers of content, and there are not only consumer ramifications but also political factors here that could go to the  heart of our democracy and, no, I’m not really exaggerating. Though I don’t expect Keith Olbermann and Rachel Maddow to be frog-marched out of 30 Rock tomorrow, giving any company this much power could actually allow them to mold and shape the limits of debate in this country. Actually, corporations already do a pretty good job of that, but this could make it all that much worse.

Anyhow, a couple of days back, Josh Silver made a cogent, if wonkish, argument that I hope people will read. Serious stuff, but the good news, for what it’s worth, is that it will be subject to federal scrutiny. But there’s may be a turf war over which agencies will do it. Great.

I’ll feel a lot better if this marriage gets annulled.

* On a  much lighter, and more typical note, the eternally mysterious one hundred year old National Board of Review — which I suspect gets all its power from its quasi-governmental sounding title (it started as essentially a censorship organization supported by the studios as a sort of preemptive act) but which is always seen as an Oscar harbinger — gave out it’s awards today.  The awards where rather spread around, but the much touted George Clooney/Jason Reitman comedy, “Up in the Air” won for Best Picture and Clint Eastwood picked up a Best Director award for “Invictus.” Gee, who’d ever expect that guy to win a major award?

A real class act.

  

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