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Hollywood – another bubble world

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It’s not just the MSM who are living in a bubble, as described in yesterday’s post.

No, it’s also Hollywood and it’s really now right up in the faces of Disney executives in the wake of the huge flop that Disney/Pixar’s latest animated movie, Lightyear, has been.

It has earned just over $50 million in its opening domestic weekend when $100 million+ was expected, with an eventual year-long global target being a billion dollars, like Top Gun: Maverick. Instead, as the article points out, it may actually only make $300 million, meaning it will lose as much as it makes.

I’m past the age when I’d take kids to see movies, but Pixar holds a special place in my heart because of all their Golden Age stuff from 1995 to about 2015. I’d heard something about a “lesbian kiss”, which sounded like a big nothing – and is. But the real story is as follows:

The movie’s narrative revolves around the lesbian couple who become pregnant and have a family — to the point that Buzz Lightyear becomes the villain for attempting to complete the [time travel] mission and thereby (somehow) remove the situation in which the couple could come together. Parents were already going to be thrown for a loop when they needed to explain how two mommies can make a baby, the kiss was just Pixar’s coup maximus.

Can I also just say that I find it exceedingly funny that they released a movie that centers around a lesbian couple – and the bad guy is a man who might accidentally erase their relationship… on Father’s Day Weekend.

Geniuses: IN-YOUR-FACE geniuses, because I’m sure that was not a mistake but entirely intentional. A whole storyline that paints Buzz Lightyear as the Evil White Guy trying to break up the cool, interracial lesbian couple! Wow, that’s a twist on the old time-paradox-can-I-correct-past-mistakes concept. It’s a wonder that Pixar didn’t give him an Alabama accent just to underline the message. As that article further points out:

And the only reason they didn’t see this coming is because they’re in such a bubble with who they talk to and where they live that they didn’t even know about the thesis we’ve been presenting here at That Park Place for months. They would have rejected it if they had known, but that they didn’t is enough to show you how insular their lives are.

The cleanup for Disney will be hard. The company is overtaken with a California culture that is wholly separate and distinct from the rest of the country and even most of the western world. What do you do when your studio is filled with people who don’t know how to avoid their core beliefs because their core beliefs are at odds with most of the world?

No company, not even one as big and powerful as Disney, can take successive losses on this scale. Starting with their CEO they’re going to have to crack down on this crap out of sheer financial need. But as noted above, that’s going to be easier said than done given how embedded this all is across both Disney and Pixar.

Disney has lost 8 of it’s top animation directors since Jennifer Lee was made head creative executive there a few years back. She can’t tell a story to save her life, and doesn’t have a creative bone in her body.

Sounds like Kathleen Kennedy’s destruction of the Star Wars franchise. Already there’s another Pixar movie in the pipeline (meaning almost finished), Strange Worlds, that has, as its centerpiece … a romance between two teenage boys.

Yeah. That’ll pack them in.

Even if, by some miracle, they produce a kids animated movie that doesn’t try to pull the same stunts, what parents who refused to take their kids to see Lightyear, are going to trust Disney/Pixar again? The only promotion that might work would be word-of-mouth because nobody will trust the advertising and marketing of carefully edited trailers.

Every entertainment company can produce stinkers of plays, musicals, TV series and films and still survive. But what Disney/Pixar are doing here is stinking up their brands. Business history is littered with examples of outfits that tarnished a brand and could not recover it. Disney is not quite there yet, given their revenue power across multiple entertainment streams, but they’re a lot closer than I ever thought they’d be.

Running Up That Hill. Again

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Two years ago I posted about a strange event where a rather old song – then 43 years old to be precise – made it back into the charts at #1.

It would not have been possible…

… in my youthful years for a song from 1934 to suddenly land in a #1 chart spot in 1977, even for a day. It would have been incomprehensible. The laughter and scoffing from my peers, and the radio DJ’s and record shop owners, would have been more than sufficient to prevent such a thing.

Yet the equivalent happened just the other day when the single Dreams, a huge hit for Fleetwood Mac in 1977, hit #1 on the US iTunes daily streaming chart:

Well now it’s happened again. This time with a 37 year old song – and another of my personal favourites:

Kate Bush is on top of the hill right now, and busting records along the way. The enigmatic English singer has achieved the unthinkable, with her 1985 hit “Running Up That Hill” reaching No. 1 in the U.K. and Australia for the very first time, topping the Billboard Global 200 survey and entering into the U.S. Top 5.

Success has many parents. For Bush and “Running Up That Hill,” the Duffer brothers are the fathers of this unusual success story.

Ah yes. The North Carolina brothers, Matt and Ross, the creators of the streaming series, Stranger Things, the “upside down” that has garnered tens of millions of fans around the world over four seasons. I watched only the first season and as great as it was it seemed like a one-off. I’ve ignored the rest, although critics and fans continue to rave about it. According to Beloved Daughter season 3 blew and although Season 4 is breaking records she refused to be caught out again. Judging by the escape scene where the song is used I stand by my reason for ignoring post-season 1 because, like all such movies, once the horror is revealed the tension is gone. All that’s left is to push further into CGI grotesquery and that’s actually not how horror works.

Come on, baby. Come on, darling. Let me steal this moment from you now

Of course it makes perfect sense that they’d haul up such a song from the depths of history, for the series has been steeped in 1980’s nostalgia from the beginning and it is regarded as one of the reasons – very much an underlying reason – for its success. And this is not some academic wank reasoning from a Media Studies PhD; my kids have shown me countless comments from their online worlds where tweens, teens and twenty-somethings have expressed an aching hunger for what they see as innocence in an innocent time.

The thing is that Bush’s ethereal mix of English, Celtic, and Gothic themes that have been apparent since her warbling chords were first heard in her 1978 debut single, Wuthering Heights, and which were never more apparent than in her Hounds of Love album, are perfect for a horror story. If you think that cover shot reminds you of something then you need to see the photo on the back cover (Yes, I still have the vinyl record) where she is obviously Shakespeare’s Ophelia.

I have to wonder how many more of the album’s songs they might pick since the opening lines of the very next song (in fact the album’s title track) after the “Hill” opener starts with a clip from a British 1957 horror film Night of the Demon:

 “it’s in the trees, it’s coming!”

I mean, come on, that is Stranger Things. The A-side (vinyl) is a collection of great, strange songs.

The B-side is where Kate goes insane.

From a deep and peaceful sleep (“And Dream of Sheep“) to a nightmare (“Under Ice“) the terror of her being tried as a witch (“Waking the Witch”), death (“Watching You Without Me”), the struggle to emerge from a watery grave (“Jig of Life”)…

Holding all the love that waits for you here
Catch us now for I am your future
A kiss on the wind and we’ll make the land

… complete with the sonar first heard in “Under Ice” that turns into the comms of Space Shuttle Columbia‘s maiden flight and then nuclear destruction (“Hello Earth”)…

Tiefer, tiefer
Irgendwo in der Tiefe
Gibt es ein Licht

(“Deeper, deeper, somewhere in the depth there is a light”.)

… and then into joyful life reborn (“The Morning Fog”).

There’s an entire Stranger Things episode in there, or perhaps a season, and in fact the B-Side was conceived by Bush as an album unto itself, sub-titled The Ninth Wave.

Now it would be fair to say that a lot of music listeners regard all this as total wank, including a good friend of mine whose taste in music I trust, who would change the car radio channel if anything by Kate Bush came on and who once berated me about how I could gleefully use Punk to trash 70’s Prog Rock – and then rave about Hounds of Love.

But I still think it’s one of the great albums, and not just from the 1980’s where the Duffer Brothers mine for nostalgia, but across all modern music. Even so, Gen Z tweenies falling in love with it all over again should be reminded of the old adage that you marry the spirit of the age and end up a widower in the next. I can recall plenty of things about the 1980’s that were far from innocent and I doubt many middle-aged men and woman with families who suddenly found themselves out of a job thanks to deregulation and re-structuring of economies across the Western World have fond memories of that time.

And it could well be not nostalgia but another aspect described by my co-blogger Psycho Milt’s comments in my original 2020 post:

If you think about it, fashion has basically stopped. The changes from one decade to the next are now pretty superficial.

I think it’s an outcome of the invention of the teenager in the 1950s. By the mid-60s pretty much every western country had pop culture, so kids born from the 1990s on have mostly been raised by parents who understood pop culture at least as well as their kids do. There’s nothing to rebel against.

That may be true, but the re-emergence of this strange song at the hands of teenagers, also speaks to something else.

P.S Her stuff is hard to cover but here are two great versions:
First Aid Kit
Ellevator

P.P.S. H/T to commentator Freedonas for finding this terrific mini-docu of the making the album.


Written by Tom Hunter

June 23, 2022 at 1:55 pm

Posted in Art, Reading, Movie, Music Reviews

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The skills of ordinary men

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I recently read two articles that actually cover some of the same ground, even though their topics could not be more different.

The first is from 2003, Electric Heroes, and it’s written by a lawyer looking back at one of his early cases where a woman sued an American power company over the death of her husband, who was a linemen.

They clambered up narrow steel ladders and then inched across four-inch-wide “angle-iron” girders made slippery with rain or morning dew, and when they reached out, they touched either the open sky or heavy steel cables whose purpose was to carry enough electricity to power the nation’s fourth largest city.

Because they were so well trained, they were able to work safely, routinely, under conditions that would terrify you or me.

The writer points out that these men (in those days they were all men) were also very careful, which made the case a little strange since this particular linemen had fallen 120 feet to his death or possibly had jumped. Not even his workmates could figure out what had gone wrong.

As the young workhorse lawyer gathering two years of information for the trial, he got to know these men very well.

They had a strong sense of duty, and they had a natural dignity that was boundless.  They were modest men, but they had quiet pride by the mile.  Amongst each other, they were very, very funny.  They cussed a lot, and after work they’d go out together for a beer, or to hunt or play poker or catch an Astros game.  And they stuck up for one another.  You’d think twice about crossing any one of them.

They took the case seriously from the beginning because one of their own had died in their midst, for reasons they couldn’t quite explain or grasp, and they were being accused of having caused his death by their indifference. 

In the end the case was settled out of court and the jury dismissed. The young lawyer had become so bonded with these men that he was incandescent with rage at what he felt his senior lawyers had done to them: as much as admitting that they had been indifferent to their workmate, their friend. But one of the partners took him to lunch and, as he saw in hindsight, helped him grow up a bit:

“In the greater scheme of life, are you really furious that Mrs X is getting the fairly modest amount of money that will be left to her after her lawyers’ fees and expenses are extracted?  She’s not getting a huge windfall.  Our client can afford it.  It all goes into the rate-base, and ultimately it will be paid in tiny, tiny increments by all the families for whom Mr X helped keep the lights on during his twelve years with the company. Can you not see the justice in that result, even if it wasn’t the harsh and total victory you were gunning for?”

The second article is very recent and is written by a Captain Charlie Anderson of the Minnesota National Guard, describing their recent expedition to Kabul to extract American and Afghan civilians before the Taliban took over: A few good ‘Bastards’.

It’s a fascinating look at those events from a soldier’s view, but it’s also a good look at a component of the US military that’s often overlooked or disparaged, The National Guard. They’re part-time soldiers although equipped with the same stuff as the regular forces including, in this case, Bradley’s and Abrams tanks. Having said that I was surprised a few years ago to find out from a mate in the NZDF that the Hawaiian Air National Guard flies F-22’s!

But what shows here is that the training is also right up with the regular forces:

We’d practiced and trained for the past two years. The task force did a combat training rotation exercise at Fort Hood, Texas in 2019 and executed a successful rotation (the first post-Covid) at the National Training Center at Fort Irwin, California in 2020. While drilling at Camp Ripley, Minnesota we completed numerous tabletop exercises and worked the Military Decision Making Process repeatedly until it became muscle memory.

We had executed multiple iterations of gunnery tables and were continuing ongoing missions in Syria, Jordan, and Saudi Arabia. We were confident that as the CENTCOM Regional Response Force we’d be poised and prepared to project military power wherever it was needed to accomplish tactical and strategic goals.

When the time came to move out they were ready to go and got to Kabul promptly. Even so such units still endure scepticism from the regulars:

One captain I met from their brigade intelligence section told me he was under the impression that a senator had pulled some strings and got us deployed from Minnesota. When I told him about our task force and that we were already in the Middle East, postured for such a crisis event, he was speechless. Initially, there was an air of distrust, but we proved ourselves worthy partners, dispelling the myth about the perceived capability gap between the active duty and guard/reserve components. 

It was this paragraph that caught my attention in relation to the first article, as the commander of the unit, Lt. Col. Jake Helgestad, described:

He underscored the life skills the National Guard brought to the 82nd Airborne. “We provided capabilities to the fight beyond trigger-pullers that 1/82 never would’ve been able to — engineers, plumbers, electricians, welders, mechanics, heavy machinery operators – we enabled advanced operations that directly impacted the military’s ability to get people out.” 

No need to call up the US Army Corp of Engineers to build barricades and reinforce walls when you’ve got a bunch of people who do that in their everyday lives.

The article is lengthy but well written and packed with a lot of coal-face detail about what they dealt with in a horrific and rapidly deteriorating situation. Well worth your reading time.

Written by Tom Hunter

June 14, 2022 at 9:53 am

Midway

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Today marks the 80th anniversary of the Battle of Midway, where the US Navy destroyed four Japanese fleet carriers for the loss of one and turned the tide of the Pacific war in favour of America just six months after the disaster at Pearl Harbour.

There was still a lot of hard fighting required over the next three years, and in some respects it got harder as the US got closer to Japan, with the terrible fighting in the war’s final battle at Okinawa being a factor in President Truman’s decision to drop the atomic bombs on Japan rather than invading.

But after Midway the Japanese were never on the front foot again and rather than expanding into their new Greater East-Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere, they were forced to fight a grinding defensive war, ultimately falling back on Japan itself.

Dauntless Dive Bombers

The victory involved some elements of good luck, but it was enabled by the bravery, skill and resourcefulness of pilots like Wade McClusky and Dick Best, and also of hundreds of men, lost to history, who showed the same abilities in places like ship yards, and the smarts of Admirals like Nimitz and Spruance.

But the real key to the American victory was that they had partially cracked the Japanese naval codes and, with some educated guesswork, were able to figure out where and when the Japanese would strike, and with what. As a result the Americans could lay a trap.

The battle technically lasted from June 4 to June 7, but the real action came on June 4 when the trap was sprung and the four Japanese carriers were destroyed, although it would take until the next day for a couple of them to sink.

Rather than reading that Wikipedia link however, you should honour this great victory by watching the movie Midway – not the plodding 1976 version which I saw as a kid, but the one made in 2019 by Roland Emmerich, who both produced and directed it. He’s better known for huge, splashy, trashy action movies like Independence Day and is also very much a Democrat and LGBT activist in the US. As such it’s surprising that this Midway is such an old-fashioned war movie, with no hidden messages about anything at all and one that openly celebrates courage, decency and honour. But apparently the movie was a passion of his and when big studios turned it down he raised the money himself. It is one of the most expensive independent movies ever made.

The surprise continues with actors like Woody Harrelson, who got his start in the TV comedy series, Cheers, in the 1980’s and who normally excels in “unstable” characters, playing Admiral Nimitz with all the sobriety and seriousness of the man himself. Similarly for singers like Mandy Moore, who portrays Dick Best’s wife with vulnerable but steely courage and love. The Japanese figures of Admiral Yamamoto , Admiral Yamaguchi, and ordinary Japanese pilots and sailors are also portrayed with compassion.

That’s not to say the movie is Politically Correct. In one scene near the end there is no hesitation in showing the cruelty of a Japanese destroyer captain as he brutally disposes of POW Bruno Gaido by throwing him overboard tied to an anchor after he refuses to answer questions.

In fact the non-PC quality of the movie slaps you in the face right from the start when it opens in Tokyo in 1937 with a British Admiral, annoyed at the “bloody ridiculous” Japanese custom of catching ducks with nets, telling his American counterpart, Intelligence Officer Edwin T. Layton, that he won’t miss Japan and that “The next time I see the little buggers I hope it’ll be over the sights of a 14 inch gun”.

That scene is also an example of one of the other great strengths of the film; it captures all the key elements of the story in quick, concise scenes that allow people utterly unfamiliar with the history to understand exactly what is going in. In that opening we see Yamamoto telling Layton that if Japan’s oil supplies are threatened they will have to go to war against the USA.

It took the awful movie Pearl Harbour (2000), three ponderous hours to cover what Midway does in about 30 minutes as we see the attack on Pearl and the Doolittle Raid on Tokyo (and the survivors experiences in China), while also cramming in the vital scenes showing Nimitz’s appointment as Pacific Commander as he is told how grim the situation is, and Layton’s struggle to recover from the intelligence failure – his failure – of December 7, plus the little known American attack on the Marshall Islands in early 1942.

Similarly we move through scenes of the constant training of the pilots, and the risks and deaths involved in that, the effect of the Battle of the Coral Sea on Layton and his Intelligence team as they try to convince Nimitz that the island of Midway is next, and then of course the Battle of Midway itself.

The main characters are steadily introduced in these scenes in the same quick, concise manner that makes you immediately understand what drives them and what they’re like. Best is arrogant and cocky (what naval aviator isn’t?) but is softened a little as he becomes responsible for more lives than his own; his wife, Anne, passionate in her defence of him (“I often wondered what sort of woman would marry Dick Best and… well you have not disappointed”); Admiral Halsey (played by Dennis Quaid) gruff and smart; McClusky carrying the weight of commanding the likes of Best.

But there’s also humor; the scene where Nimitz finally demands to meet Layton’s “genius” analyst, Commander Joseph Rochefort, clad in bathrobe and fluffy slippers, with his team of code-cracking “tuba players”. Similarly in scenes showing the camaraderie of the men.

Portrayed are men who strongly disagree with each other and piss each other off, but none of them are made out to be useless or a bad guy, another departure from many modern movies. For example the torpedo squadron commander Lindsey is often at odds with an angry Best who has little respect for him, but that changes as death begins to surround them, especially for the doomed torpedo bombers who completely failed, and were slaughtered, yet made a crucial contribution to the battle by completely distracting the fighter planes defending the Japanese fleet.

There’s superb special effects of course, as you’d expect from a film today. But it’s never overdone. Two terrific scenes last seconds only: one where a downed US pilot floating in the water looks up and cheers on the dive bombers as they fall upon the Jap carriers; the second where the camera looks up through the water from underneath an American submarine as it launches a torpedo while a destroyer passes overhead and depth charges descend.

And that’s another great aspect of the movie in that it introduces two small but vital stories of the battle that have been largely ignored.

The decisive moment of the battle came when McClusky and his squadrons missed the Japanese fleet and had to back-search for it. McClusky made a cunning guess and found a destroyer that was clearly trying to catch up with the main fleet, so they followed it and the rest is history, with three dive bomber squadrons arriving at the same time, in the right place and far above the defending fighters who were busy killing the American torpedo bombers.

But the reason that destroyer was catching up was that it had been driving off that submarine, the USS Nautilus (not the nuclear one of course), which had tried to attack the Jap carriers – and that too is shown in intense, quick detail. Had they not tried there would have been no destroyer for McClusky to find and follow.

The other little back-story that I was impressed to see in the film was the effort to repair the carrier USS Yorktown, which had been heavily damaged in the Coral Sea battle and was expected to take months to repair. Nimitz ordered it to be done in 72 hours – and it was. I would have liked to have seen a few shots of the artificers, machinists and welders making on-the-spot decisions on repairs and doing them, plus some reference to the brownouts that occurred in Honolulu because so much electricity was being drawn in the repairs (see Victor Davis Hansons book Carnage and Culture for the details), but that’s a quibble. The fact that it’s in the movie at all is great.

As a final tribute the film ends with the faces of each main actor morphing into the real-life men, together with a brief epilogue of each, and then ends with Annie Trousseau, getting to perform the entire song she’s briefly seen singing in the earlier Officer’s Club scene. The song was originally done by Frank Sinatra during the war but I love this version more: All Or Nothing At All is also entirely appropriate for this story; I suspect Emmerich selected it, Trousseau certainly loved the chance to be a 1940’s torch singer and she nails it.

If, on a Saturday night, you want to see a great war movie that is accurate to history, expertly told, that really does honour brave men and a famous American victory, get this one. You won’t regret it.

Written by Tom Hunter

June 4, 2022 at 1:15 pm

Changing messages on China

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A couple of years ago on this blog one commentator complained about my “tiresome China bashing”, the implication being that, as with so many other things, I was not in the middle of the crowd on this issue and needed to get with the program.

Part of this was the argument that Trump’s approach to China had been an aberration and that things would return to the Clinton-Bush-Obama normality of ever-increasing trade between the USA and China, together with ever more involvement of China in the USA across many spheres.

It turns out that it wasn’t just Trump: he was merely one of the first to raise the issue. Since Biden’s election it’s become apparent that the anti-China brigade is bi-partisan between Democrats and the GOP and although not well organised, exists in greater numbers than previously believed.

And it would appear that the feeling is spreading fast in, of all places, Hollywood, with the release of the movie Top Gun: Maverick, Tom Cruise’s sequel to the massive and iconic 80’s hit movie.

In a 2021 post, Hollywood’s ugly cost of catering to China, I noted a story that had been running since a 2019 trailer for Top Gun: Maverick had shown the Japanese and Taiwanese flags being pulled from Cruise’s 1986 fight jacket so as not to offend the valuable Chinese market. The movie was then held up for two years because of the ongoing pandemic, with Cruise in particular insisting to the production company Paramount, that it not be released to streaming as some other big movies had been.

My, but things have changed in just two years. Apparently the Taiwanese audiences were cheering when they saw this.

That also means this was edited late in post-production, which is not a cheap process even in the era of CGI, and certainly not something you do on a whim. The producers, Paramount, are sending a message:

To the joy of Taiwanese audiences hitting the theaters this week, Top Gun: Maverick features a prominent shot of the Japanese and Taiwanese flags—national symbols that were scrubbed from a 2019 trailer.

The flags were initially replaced by random symbols, drawing sharp criticism as an example of Hollywood caving in to China’s political demands. But in a rare U-turn, which has yet to be explained, they have reappeared in the film’s worldwide release.

“It is unprecedented,” Ho Siu Bun, a film critic in Hong Kong, told VICE World News. “Major film studios have never been shy about pandering to the Chinese market. And even if it is a simple scene, editing is very costly. So no one knows why they changed it back.”

The message was received according to the Wall Street Journal, with no less a reaction than the huge Chinese tech and gaming company Tencent, whose involvement had been an agreement that Paramount had boasted about during production in 2018.

The reason: Tencent executives backed out of the $170 million Paramount Pictures production after they grew concerned that Communist Party officials in Beijing would be angry about the company’s affiliation with a movie celebrating the American military, according to people familiar with the matter.

Association with a pro-American story grew radioactive as relations between the U.S. and China devolved, the people added. The about-face turned “Top Gun: Maverick” from a movie that once symbolized deepening ties between China and Hollywood into a fresh example of the broader tensions forming between the U.S. and China.

Excellent news. Aside from anything else, recent Hollywood blockbusters have bombed in China despite all the groveling and Tencent has lost out on a movie that has already grossed $US 150 million domestically on Memorial Day weekend, the unofficial start to summer and the blockbuster movie season. It promises to do huge business in the coming weeks and is already Cruise’s biggest opening weekend in his career.

Sure, you can say that it’s just a movie, but given the way Hollywood so relentlessly followed other American businesses in kowtowing to China, and given the cultural impact and money involved this is perhaps the biggest public signpost to date of changing Western approaches to The Heavenly Kingdom.

Written by Tom Hunter

May 30, 2022 at 6:08 pm

The MSM through the ages

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Well the 20th and 21st centuries anyway.

As usual our former National Defense Minister has proven to be a goldmine for … interesting comments… in this case about the MSM coverage of the current nastiness in Ukraine:

However, BBC (I know, part of the dreaded and corrupt MSM) has been able to find satellite photos that show the bodies have been lying in the streets for at least 10 days. BBC, NYT, CNN have huge numbers of staff able to undertake this sort of research, they have teams of journalists, not just one or two, on the ground. And unlike some on this site, I don’t think the journalists employed by these outlets are corrupt and venal dupe

And later…

I know some commenters here view TV1 as simply the propaganda arm of Labour, but I am not one of them.
.

Okay. While I’ve long thought that Putin was an un-reformed KBG thug (and have argued with the likes of Andrei on this point across multiple platforms over the last decade), and while I think his invasion of Ukraine is total bullshit… (throat clearing done)…. Andrei is not entirely wrong about what goes into the MSM coverage of the conflict.

Which is to say that while they’re more than happy to diss Russian propaganda, they’re a lot less likely to do this with Ukrainian propaganda.

Here’s Ye Olde Leftie Chris Trotter – a self-confessed “Tankie” , who pretty much sides with Russia and China whenever they’re against the West and especially the Great Satan, but to his credit has said that Putin has committed a crime in launching the invasion – unloading on the MSM coverage of the war here and here. But it was that last from which I’ll pull a quote:

What you are watching is a carefully constructed narrative which, in its essentials, does not change from broadcast to broadcast. We are supplied with a cast of heroes and villains to cheer on and condemn. An occasional nod in the direction of fairness and balance may be inserted, but any serious challenge to the dominant narrative will be contradicted more or less immediately. Nothing is permitted to blunt the emotional impact of the coverage. The journalism to which we are nightly subjected is not intended to supply information, it is intended to be affective – that is to say it is aimed almost exclusively at arousing our feelings.

I’ve already responded to this, pointing out the parallels that could be made to the NZ MSM’s coverage of the whole Chinese Lung Rot story for two years now – with his full approval of all the things he condemns in that paragraph. But since Chris has a habit of dumping my comments with no explanation I’ll put this here.

This is nothing new. The Narrative is what’s been taught to journalism students for decades now: the idea that even before starting to write an article, a story must be created, a narrative the reader will receive, after which anything that goes against The Narrative – facts, witness testimony, anything – gets dumped, while the same things that support The Narrative are included.

But it’s even older than that. Here’s Tom Wolfe in The Right Stuff in 1979, writing about the US MSM coverage of NASA’s Mercury astronauts:

It was as if the press in America, for all its vaunted independence, were a great colonial animal, an animal made up of countless clustered organisms responding to a single nervous system. In the late 1950’s (as in the late 1970’s) the animal seemed determined that in all matters of national importance the proper emotion, the seemly sentiment, the fitting moral tone should be established and should prevail; and all information that muddied the tone and weakened the feeling should simply be thrown down the memory hole.

In a later period this impulse of the animal would take the form of blazing indignation about corruption, abuses of power, and even minor ethical lapses, among public officials; here, in April of 1959, it took the form of a blazing patriotic passion for the seven test pilots who had volunteered to go into space.

In either case, the animal’s fundamental concern remained the same: the public, the populace, the citizenry, must be provided with the correct feelings! One might regard this animal as the consummate hypocritical Victorian gent. Sentiments that one scarcely gives a second thought to in one’s private utterances are nevertheless insisted upon in all public utterances. (And this grave gent lives on in excellent health).

They/Them certainly does, and in fact the training of The Narrative in journalism schools plus Post-Modernism, PC, Identity Politics, and Woke has pushed the singularity collapse further and faster. “White male power structures”, “objectivity is bullshit”, “advocacy journalism” and so forth. Insert those viruses into the Gent and we certainly have something from the Victorian era – Mr Hyde.

Later in the same chapter Wolfe gave a specific example of how this narrative control worked in a situation when facts confronted the proper emotion, in this case when one of the greatest American test pilots (and a rocket pilot), Chuck Yeager, casually screwed the MSM’s message:

As a matter of fact, today, in Phoenix, what was it the local reporters wanted to ask Chuck Yeager about? Correct: the astronauts. One of them got the bright idea of asking Yeager if he had any regrets about not being selected as an astronaut.

Yeager smiled and said: ‘No, they gave me the opportunity of a lifetime, to fly the X-1 and the X-1A, and that’s more than a man could ask for right there. They gave this new opportunity to some new fellows coming along, and that’s what they ought to do.’ ‘Besides,’ he added, ‘I’ve been a pilot all my life, and there won’t be any flying to do in Project Mercury.’

No flying?

That was all it took. The reporters looked stunned. In some way that they couldn’t comprehend immediately, Yeager was casting doubt on two indisputable facts: one, that the seven Mercury astronauts were chosen because they were the seven finest pilots in America, and two, that they would be pilots on the most daring flights in American history.

The thing was, he said, the Mercury system was completely automated. Once they put you in the capsule, that was the last you got to say about the subject.

Whuh! –

‘Well,’ said Yeager, ‘a monkey’s gonna make the first flight.’

A monkey?-

The reporters were shocked. It happened to be true that the plans called for sending up chimpanzees in both suborbital and orbital flights, identical to the flights the astronauts would make, before risking the men. But to just say it like that!…….Was this national heresy? What the hell was it?

Fortunately for Yeager, the story didn’t blow up into anything. The press, the eternal Victorian Gent, just couldn’t deal with what he had said. The wire services wouldn’t touch the remark. It ran in one of the local newspapers, and that was that.

And so it ever has been.


Written by Tom Hunter

April 8, 2022 at 6:30 am

The Happiest Place on Earth?

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When I was a little boy one of my TV highlights every week was The Wonderful World of Disney.

An hour long program screened on early Sunday evenings, just as it was in the USA, it had everything from classic Disney cartoons featuring Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck (my favourite because of his bad temper) and their mates, to documentaries on nature and science (some of them also animated), some of which were hold-overs from earlier days but didn’t seem to suffer for that.

Here’s a classic example from 1958, The Future of Transport, which I came across in falling down Interwebby rabbit holes because of the opening of Transmission Gully.

I doubt my parents ever had a concern about me watching such stuff while they got on with other things. It was Walt Disney after all.

But in the year 2022 I find that Disney has gone woke and as former President Trump said, everything woke turns to shit.

Just the other day I briefly covered Disney’s opposition to some legislation in Florida that prevents teachers from talking about sexual matters with kids aged 4-7. The MSM jumped in as well because GOP Governor Ron DeSantis headed up the bill and has defended it – and is seen as a huge threat to Democrat hopes in the 2024 election, so has endured endless amounts of MSM hit jobs. However, Disney and the MSM are truly on the wrong side of this issue:

The Florida bill doesn’t influence parents on how they, as parents, can instruct their own kindergartener on gender. Parents are still free to tell a child who can’t keep crayons inside the lines that “There are 20 genders.” The vast majority of parents will leave that discussion for when their child isn’t just starting to read Cat in the Hat.

Also, the majority of even Democrats agree with Ron DeSantis and the Florida legislature. The general public, by a wide margin, sees no valid reason for a stranger to teach a six-year-old girl that she’s “in the wrong body” and needs to be called a boy. That polling is for the voting Democrats. If pollsters asked just parents, the percentage in favor of allowing children to remain children would skyrocket.

But that has turned out to be the least of it. Journalist Christopher Rufo – who has led the charge against woke poison across the USA in the last two years (and has thus incurred the wrath of the Far Left, who blame him for “creating” this particular culture war) – was sent a recording of an in-house, all-hands-on-deck video meeting that shows just how far gone the company is in its senior management levels. You can check out some of the videos at this link, plus more on Rufo’s own Twitter account, but here’s just one example:

Christ! Is there anybody there in management that’s not gay or trans, with gay and trans kids? Is there any limit to how far those assholes will go in pushing their Far Left woke agenda on everybody else?

Is the point of representation not to be representative? Yet, making 50 percent of [animated] characters some mix of LGBT and minority is not that when looking at the demographics of the country. Rather, it’s purposeful indoctrination that is meant to condition children to certain lifestyle choices these adults approve of and want to promote.

Ironically, in the same meeting, Disney’s “diversity and inclusion manager” then brags about de-gendering all of their theme parks, which is actually erasing representation. In other words, if you are a normal person who embraces the sex you were born with instead of entertaining the delusion it can be changed, you don’t deserve any representation. In fact, you need to be completely erased.

The videos also make it quite clear that their objective is absolutely to condition little kids into LGBT ideology at an age when they still believe in Santa Claus and the Tooth Fairy:

Do you know what I’ve never thought about doing? Injecting sexuality into children’s programming in order to reinforce my adult views on the topic. I’ve never thought about that because I’m not a groomer, and I don’t use that word lightly, but really, what else would you call this? “Adding queerness” into shows that small kids watch is the kind of activism that should shock and appall everyone. Children are not pawns to be used in the pushing of adult sexual ideology. Yet, Disney employees like Latoya Raveneau are consumed by the practice.

I’d like to think that Disney is going to take a big hit over this, if not over their ugly, shitty obeisance to the Chinese Communist Party (which didn’t help them financially anyway). What “mother” or “father” will want to take their kids to Disneyland or DisneyWorld now, knowing that it’s less about fun than about ideological sexual indoctrination.

But it’s just another Culture War that can be ignored, correct?

The blood of the mind

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That’s a quote from an Indian economist, Madhav Das Nalapat, who was writing about some of the cultural aspects of the so-called “Anglosphere”, the English-speaking world.

India, because it was colonised for about two centuries by Britain, is part of that world. Every Indian IT person I worked with told me that English was one of the unifying aspects of the nation; in many cases they literally could not understand their fellow Indians native tongues.

The quote comes from an interesting essay which argues that many of the freedoms we associate with the world today are actually rooted in the English language itself, where concepts that started as natural parts of the lives of people in Britain, became encoded into the language.

An Australian philosopher named David Stove analysed a number of catastrophic ideas from the likes of Plotinus, Hegel, Foucault and others and noted something strange:

He quoted his examples in translation, he acknowledges, but notes that “it is a very striking fact . . . that I had to go to translations. . . .  Nothing which was ever expressed originally in the English language resembles, except in the most distant way, the thought of Plotinus, or Hegel, or Foucault. I take this,” Stove concludes, “to be enormously to the credit of our language.”

Given the ongoing and growing disaster in the West that is Foucault’s Post-Modernism, I’m not so sure we can be confident about the strength of traditional ideas of freedom in English. Still, the following gave me hope:

Andrew Roberts, reflecting on the pedigree of certain ideas in the lexicon of freedom, notes that such key phrases as “liberty of conscience” (1580), “civil liberty” (1644, a Miltonic coinage) and “liberty of the press” (1769) were first expressed in English. Why is it that English-speaking countries produced Adam Smith and John Locke, David Hume, and James Madison, but not Hegel, Marx or Foucault? “The tongue and the philosophy are not unrelated,” the philologist Robert Claiborne writes in The Life and Times of the English Language. “Both reflect the ingrained Anglo-American distrust of unlimited authority, whether in language or in life.”

All very nice but – paraphrasing Bill Clinton – it increasingly seems to depend on what the meaning of “unlimited” is.

Written by Tom Hunter

March 30, 2022 at 4:25 pm

Free Range Kids

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An extraordinary story that, as the author of the article says, should be better known:

If you want a single dramatic example of how much America has changed in the last century or so, stop talking about trips to the moon and super computers and start talking about this: in 1910, two brothers, Temple and Louis Abernathy, saddled up a pair of ponies and rode alone from their home in Frederick, Oklahoma, to New York City, almost 2000 miles away, to see Teddy Roosevelt give a speech. At the time, Louis, called “Bud”, was 10 years old, Temp was 6.

They get to meet Teddy Roosevelt and then have to go back home:

For an encore, the two pre-teens shipped their horses home by train, bought an automobile and drove it back to Oklahoma. And that’s when things got really crazy.

I guess it should not be surprising considering that their father caught wolves by hauling them out of their dens with his bare hands!

The really crazy thing is that this wasn’t the only such ride they did, but read the whole thing at Substack, The Abernathy Boys Go for a Ride.

Written by Tom Hunter

March 29, 2022 at 9:18 am

We need more cuteness

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I also wonder about the title of this Twitter piece: are Pandas surviving in the wild?

They are still bears after all, and I have to think that in the somewhat tougher conditions of surviving using their own abilities, that they’re somewhat tougher in the wild than when they’re being taken care of by humans in zoos.

It must be really nice having everybody think how cute you are and then doing nothing during your day except things that make everybody think how cute you are.

Written by Tom Hunter

March 21, 2022 at 3:37 pm