Ben Shapiro on ‘Primetime Propaganda’

Matt K. Lewis Senior Contributor
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You probably remember Alex P. Keaton as the charming, witty, though slightly misguided conservative son from the 1980s NBC show “Family Ties,” but few would think there was something far more sinister at play beneath his dimples and business attire. In his new book, “Primetime Propaganda: The True Hollywood Story of How The Left Took Over Your TV,” Benjamin Shapiro argues that, within a liberally minded show business, characters like A.P.K. serve as antagonists that are to be demonized for their conservative views.

“The problem with ‘Family Ties’ from a political point of view,” Shapiro said, “is that it basically sees Alex’s conservatism as an adolescent stage of development. There’s something wrong with him. He has to be set straight by his older, wiser, hippie parents.”

Another example is “All in the Family,” “where the parents are conservative and the children are liberal, then the children are the idealists and the parents are a bunch of fuddy-duddies who are racist,” Shapiro said.

Ultimately, TV bias is much more insidious today. Shapiro explained that there has been somewhat of a methodological shift since the 1980s in the way that conservative views are dealt with on television.

“Liberals have learned to be more subtle,” he said. Rather than the former model of attempting to create unlikable conservative characters, the television industry abandons all conservative perspective, instead creating liberal characters that go unchallenged. “They create these characters that you really like, and then they have them do things of which you don’t approve,” he said. “But the characters are so winning and so interesting, that you want to stick with them and over time, you start to gradually accept their behavior as a given,” he said, citing “Will & Grace” as an example of this.

According to Shapiro (listen to audio of our full conversation here), the attempts at creating unlikable, conservative characters have largely backfired. “If you give Americans a taste of conservatism in a character, that character will immediately become immensely popular,” he said, citing examples like the characters Jack Donaghy from “30 Rock” and Ron Swanson from “Parks and Recreation.” “When they create conservative characters, these are supposed to be the heavies, they’re supposed to be the bad guys,” he explained, “and then they just end up being funny and witty and charming.”

Shapiro acknowledged that most television producers and writers are merely trying to represent what they see as an American reality. “The problem is that the people who create the shows don’t recognize that their lives are not reflective of all Americans lives,” he said. “They don’t actually thing they’re proselytizing. They think that they’re reflecting real life.”

According to Shapiro, this pattern is reflective of the larger attitude in Hollywood. “In Hollywood, the liberals are just not open-minded when it comes to politics,” he said. “They will not even contemplate having a rational discussion on these issues.” After talking to a number of people involved in the production of mainstream television, Shapiro has concluded, “There is such unbelievable scorn for people of conservative bents.”

(Listen to my full conversation with Ben Shapiro, subscribe to the podcast on iTunes, and check out Amanda Carey’s interview with Shapiro.)

Matt K. Lewis