The Newsroom

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People love "The Newsroom". And I have my left of center friends saying the opening monologue "is the greatest 5 minutes in Television".

They're entitled to their opinion, but ((sigh)).

I don't expect people to agree with me, nor do I mind if they don't. And I'm not trying to convert anyone. I just want to share another way of looking at those 5 minutes.

To me, this 5 minutes epitomizes the problem with Aaron Sorkin. I find the show a mildly interesting propaganda series, and I can see the appeal. But Sorkin tends to show two things, why the political left is right, and why the political right is wrong. The fast speaking prose is entertaining, it is really just leftist-dogma colonic, masquerading as bipartisan common sense -- and the reason it comes so fast, is so you don't have time to think about how insipidly wrong each of the points actually are. On the surface, it's great. Anything deeper and it falls apart. Since the reviewers avoid their jobs of analyzing what was being said, I'll do their job for them.

Line by Line

Here's the monologue, line by line:

Question about what makes America the greatest country in the world?

  • "It’s not the greatest country in the world professor, that’s my answer."

Shocking! The hero is supposed to be challenging the system: meant to bond you to him for speaking truth to power. But only if you don't notice that it's not truth, and he is the power. The majority of Newsrooms lean way left, and the majority of the left think this (1). When "non-partisan" Journalists retire, they have these revelations (that shock no one) about how they were far left all along: from Morrow to Cronkite to Jennings, ad infinitum.

There's been dozens of articles written by the left on how America is NOT exceptional, and we should be more like Europe. (And by this, they mean more trickle-down government programs). So it's not some counter-culture radical idea to spew what the herd thinks to the herd. Thus Jeff Daniel's, "we're not the greatest power [anymore], but we could be, if you just let us tax more", is about as shocking as bugs bunny claiming he likes dressing up in women's clothes and eating carrots.

Despite the false drama, to be courageous, he'd actually have to challenge the anti-exceptionalist view in Colleges and the Media, not regurgitate it. Oh, and the idiot is wrong about American Exceptionalism too:

The NEA is a loser

  • (To the liberal) The NEA is a loser, yeah, it accounts for a penny out of our paycheck but he gets to hit you with it any time he wants. It doesn’t cost money, it costs votes, it costs air time, it costs column inches.

The NEA costs 154M/year, since its creation it's cost us ≈$7B to give out $4B of our dollars to "art" that we may or may not wish to support, like the wonderful contributions to art such as the Jar of Urine with a plastic Crucifix knows as "Piss-Christ". Now is $7B real money? Depends if you think about what else you could buy with that, like maybe150,000 job-years (3,400 jobs for 50 years?) is that worth something? You can't take money OUT of the economy (even just $7B), without it coming from somewhere else. So in the grand scheme of government spending, it is insignificant (the shallow point the protagonist claimed) but if think deeper, and one of those people put out of work because we forced businesses and individuals had to sponsor Piss Christ instead of keeping/employing more people, or investing in their companies growth, I bet it matters.

NOTE: I'm being generous with the numbers, since I'm not counting the overhead, interest, opportunity costs, nor am I looked at the price paid vs. real value. So the deeper point is that it DOES matter, because it is a symptom of the bigger problem, or the fallacy that this is a useful service in the first place.

They want to drown the scale of the abuse, and pretend that forcing others to spend their money on things they disagree with, isn't a valid complain, and doesn't have a consequence. At best that's a lie of omission, or a distraction. At worse, it's disinformation/propaganda.

Do I think we should contribute money to the arts? Absolutely. But it's not voluntary contributions when the money is taken from you at gunpoint (forced taxes), administrated by mostly one party, and used to politicize the arts, in order to pander votes. And that's what the complaint about the NEA is about.

The statist undertone is, "if it wasn't for government, the arts wouldn't exist at all". But the NEA wasn't created until 1965, and we had plenty of arts before then. In fact, if anything, they've declined since government started "helping" and Americans figured "I gave at the paycheck". Still, Americans give about $250B/year to charity (2) (more than any other country -- something Sorkin forgets to mention in his rant against American exceptionalism. About 5% (about $13B) goes directly to arts and culture -- but 40% to religion, 20% to education, which are both big contributors to the arts. And even more is contributed to the arts by patronage and commercial purchases. So figure 500 hundred times as much money comes from private charity as from government... so much for the "needing government" undertone.

The point of this line is to dupe people that 3,400 full time jobs is far less important than Sorkin's cause: politicizing the arts, in order to create masterpieces like a jar of urine. Because after all, without governments nearly infinitesimal contribution to the arts (0.3% of all charity, far less if you add in commerce), why the poor arts would continue without anyone even fucking noticing.

So ironically I think his point is correct, "the NEA is a loser" cause -- but somehow I think Sorkin meant to imply the opposite.

You know why people don’t like liberals? Because they lose.

  • "You know why people don’t like liberals? Because they lose. If liberals are so fucking smart, how come they lose so god damn always?"

That's the dumbest line in the monologue. Liberals may hate liberals because they lose (or because when they win, they don't go harder left). But liberals are about 20% of the voting public. Conservatives and independents are about 40% each (3). So 80% are at worst apathetic when liberals lose -- and they're more likely to hate liberals WHEN THEY WIN. So that's NOT why "people" hate liberals, unless you think only liberals are people. (Hey Aaron, your bias is showing).

Liberals have a tough spot. The smart ones know their views are not that popular, so they HAVE to game people into voting for them with "I'm a moderate", or "if you think I'm bad, look at the other guy". And it will only lasts as long as people see through it.

So they have to choose:

  • (a) act like a moderate and piss of their base/party (but be electable)
  • (b) act like a liberal and get thrown out.

The exception is if you happen to be a liberal in a hyper-liberal area (demographic bubble) like Nancy Pelosi or Maxine Waters, then you'll be loved for winning (by the liberals), and hated by the victims of your abusive policies. When you look nationally? Only 14% will strongly favor these liberals, and 3 times as many will look on you strongly unfavorably (4). Which proves the point that liberals aren't hated for losing, it is their policies that are disliked. So Sorkin screams his bias by stating things from the liberal point of view, and is hoping no one notices (but I noticed).

Only Americans have freedom?

  • (Turns to Conservative) "And with a straight face you’re going to tell students that America is so star spangled awesome that we’re the only ones in the world that have freedom? Canada has freedom. Japan has freedom. The UK, France, Italy, Germany, Spain, Australia, BELGIUM has freedom. So, 207 sovereign states in the world, like 180 of them have freedom."

First a democracy doesn't make you free. North Korea and USSR used to claim they were "Free" democracies, as does the Democratic Republic of Congo: but you could vote for one party, or get thrown into a Gulag for not voting the correct way. Yeah, that's free. So if we know it isn't just democracies that make you free, and something bigger like individual liberties and more OPPORTUNITIES (less state powers, less collectivism), how many of those 180 countries suddenly aren't free? 120? 150? More?

Sorkin prefers the straw-man, and attacking the caricature, instead of looking at the issue. You get dumber, if you don't catch the spin, and digest the dogma.

No one doubts that other countries have some freedoms. But have you tried:

  • to own a gun in Japan or Canada?
  • to chew gum in Singapore?
  • to talk bad about your sovereign in the UK anywhere but in Hyde Park?
  • In France and the EU they use Napoleonic Law: guilty until proven innocent.
  • In France they briefly made the top tax rate 75%, meaning you're 25% free (economically).
  • How many of those countries really fought to help other people's gain their Freedom?
  • How much do they give to charity (and how much)?
  • How much class mobility is there in those countries?
  • How many of those countries can you start as a broke immigrant, and end up co-founding Google, or your son could become Steve Jobs?

In the U.S., real freedom happens all the time. (Less and less the more progressives get power). But the freedom to disagree with the collective (and still be protected by law), is VERY rare in the world, and what makes us great, different and what rational people are talking about when they say, "now we're free". This is why the waves of immigration come towards our shores, and not away. So in some degree, either Sorkin is an idiot that doesn't understand this basic concept of "freedom" (and what people when they say it), or he's a brilliant propagandist that distorted the point to play to his constituents' ignorance, emotions or lack of skepticism.

(Faking being unbiased)

If you notice the lead character disagreed with both the liberal and the conservative, to give the appearance of balance and pretend that he's independent. (Make the audience bond with him). But if you think deeper, he blamed the liberal for being suckered by the conservatives into the fight, or not winning more (for not being progressive/left enough). And he blames the conservative for pretending our individual liberty and conservative beliefs exist at all (for not being progressive/left enough). So the message is that both are wrong for not being MORE liberal: the only way that Sorkin sees problems.

Greatest country in the world

  • "And you, sorority girl, just in case you accidentally wander into a voting booth one day there’s somethings you should know. One of them is there’s absolutely no evidence to support the statement that we’re the greatest country in the world."

None that he'll give you. I mentioned a few above: Charity, R&D, innovation, opportunity (class mobility), number of top corporations, history of growth, beating Hitler and Hirohito, still fighting for liberty of others, liberties like the second amendment, number of millionaires created, and so on. I could go on and on. But the brilliant Sorkin couldn't think of one of these, to offer any balance in his argument? Nope. Instead he'll try to back up his delusion with cherry-picking lies of omission and junk numbers.

We’re 7th in literacy, 27th in math, 22nd in science,

And any 1st year public policy student or statistician knows why. Because we measure different than most of those countries -- and these numbers are INTENTIONALLY not normalized to make us seem worse, so the next politician can come to the public with their hand out to, "fix" these non-problems.

Why does America test near the top until High School? Oh, because in Countries like Germany or UK, they have two tracks -- those going on to college, and those diverted to non-college or trade-school tracks, and they only test/measure the latter. We, of course, measure all. We can't kick kids out of school for non-performance or disruption, other countries can (and stop counting them). So naturally this skews the numbers against us. Thus the myth is being perpetuated by Sorkin, against those too ignorant to know better, and too non-skeptical to understand the points.

On those rare cases where there is valid data (that would survive normalization), you have to ask, "when did we start dropping in literacy and math?" Oh yeah, that drop started happening AFTER we federalized/centralized/politicized more of our education. Before that we were tops. Hmmm. So while America is the absolute top spender on education (another thing we're #1 at), we may be getting worse results, because we're trying to run schools from Washington D.C., instead of from the communities (like we used to), and instead, we killed school choice and competition and got the expected results.

Of course the protagonist/Sorkin is trying to imply the opposite: that it's because 'we don't spend enough', but the informed know that's not the case, the uninformed are Sorkin's base.

49th in life expectancy

Again, we count different, and we have problems many of the other countries don't have. When you adjust for racial differences, we go way up. When you factor out specific problems (immigration, gang or drug violence, etc.), we go up more. So there's lessons to be learned from our shortcomings -- like progressives lie (distort/cherry-pick), but those aren't the lessons Sorkin is trying to point people towards.

178th in infant mortality

Here's an example of infant mortality -- if an American goes to Canada and has a miscarriage, it's considered an American infant death (America counts it, Canada doesn't). If a Canadian comes to the U.S. and miscarries, it's considered an American Infant death (America counts it, Canada doesn't). This happens all over the world. Are you seeing the math problem? That's BEFORE we get into issues that we count 3rd trimester miscarriages as infant mortality, others countries can count babies up to a few weeks old as miscarriages (NOT infant mortality), and so on. (54)

Are these guys idiots and they don't know how the numbers are cooked? Or are they duping their followers for an agenda?

This isn't to say there aren't problems in the U.S., this is to say that if you have to base your argument on a fraud, then everything else you say should be suspect.

3rd in median household income, Number 4 in labor force and Number 4 in exports,

Since the "war on poverty" did this go up and down? Turns out "the why" is the exact opposite of Sorkin's lead characters conclusions or implications. The problem isn't that "we used to invest", it's that when we started socializing poverty, healthcare, research, exporting our energy, and so on, we started dropping (quickly), and eventually that caught up to us. And don't get me started on adjusting household incomes intelligently (how single parent household has divided the incomes over more households), or how when you adjust for purchase power parity (adjusted costs of living), we leap back up. Again, dogma trumps facts to knee-jerk bleeding-hearts -- facts are distractions to be abused for your agenda.

Incarceration rates

  • we lead the world in only three categories: Number of incarcerated citizens per capita, number of adults who believe angels are real, and defense spending where spend more than the next 26 countries combined, 25 of whom are allies.

Really, only 3? Does anyone else smell bullshit? I've already given dozens of other areas where we lead -- so its not that they aren't there, it's that Sorkin want's to distract you from any of THOSE positive things that don't support his hyper-liberal view of the world, and wants to pretend he's injecting balance on what we do lead in -- by adding more liberal dogma.

Do we subsidize the defense of most of our Allies? Yes. The problem isn't how much we spend, it's how little they are spending. We also spend more on healthcare, education, social programs, and 1,000 other things (also #1). Turns out your spending is relative to income, since we're a rich country with high salaries, we pay more for everything in dollars. Duh! But when you look at purchasing power, we still often have more. So his bumper sticker sloganeering might have a few points buried in there. (I do think we spend too much on incarceration, prisons, etc). But you're not going to get ANY depth of understanding or balance from one of Sorkin's shows.

worst generation ever

  • "Now none of this is the fault of a 20 year old college student, but you none the less are without a doubt a member of the worst period generation period ever period, so when you ask what makes us the greatest country in the world, I don’t know what the fuck you’re talking about. "

Is Sorkin saying:

  1. that he prefers the rampant racism and sexism of "the greatest generation"?
  2. Does he prefer the honor duels of our founding fathers?
  3. How about the crime waves during prohibition or reconstruction era?
  4. How about the poverty of the Great Depression?

The ignorant in every generation thinks the past was better, and things have gotten worse than ever. Mature and informed (skeptical) adult would know that, and point that out, instead of attacking an insecure college coed for asking a vapid question. So again, Sorkin is playing to people's ignorance, instead offering anything that adds value.

To counter his point more:

  1. The prior couple generations stole more from the future (borrowing) than any before them, and this generation MIGHT be coming to terms with that, and addressing it. (Social Security reform).
  2. This generation is more educated than any before (in years of school at least).
  3. Much of the rest of the world wants to come to the U.S. to get education or medical treatment, or for the business opportunities. Why the fuck would they do that, if this was the worst generation ever PERIOD!?

Of course the answer is obvious. If you aren't thinking or doing exactly what Sorkin thinks you should, then you have to be the worst/dumbest ever. It couldn't be because he might not know what he's talking about, right?

Loss of morals

  • "It sure used to be. We stood up for what was right. We fought for moral reasons. We passed laws, struck down laws for moral reasons."

Ah, so calling blacks 3/5ths of a human or tolerating slavery, interning Japanese, democrats founding the KKK was for moral reasons? The Spanish American War or Mexican American War were for moral reasons? And today's actions, like trying to stop Iran from Nuking Israel, or trying to lower taxes and increase opportunities have NO moral reasons at all? Or he just has a problem because they aren't his reasons?

War on poverty

  • "We waged wars on poverty, not poor people."

The war on poverty was an invention of the 1960's (nearly 200 years after our founding) and it failed miserably, and created more poverty, more single moms, fatherless children, and trapped more people IN poverty, then they ever helped out. Oh wait, that's math or morals that Sorkin doesn't count. There's the liberal view of this, or the other side which doesn't care about people. Is he saying we never had wars before, or we were immoral before that? It's a dim-witted feel-good point, that's a liberal dog-whistle.

I'm the humblest person I know

  • We sacrificed, we cared about our neighbors, we put our money where our mouths were and we never beat our chests.

Read a fucking history book you revisionist simpleton.

Our greatness is only surpassed by our humility

  • "We built great big things, made ungodly technological advances, explored the universe, cured diseases, and cultivated the world’s greatest artists and the world’s greatest economy. We reached for the stars, acted like men, we aspired to intelligence, we didn’t belittle it, it didn’t make us feel inferior."

In other words, we did the opposite of what this actual monologue is doing?

Because we didn't question newsmen

  • "We didn’t identify ourselves by who we voted for in the last election and we didn’t scare so easy. We were able to be all these things and do all these things because we were informed, by great men, men who were revered."

And here's the meat of it. We listened more to hyper-partisan liberals like Morrow and Cronkite. We didn't challenge, we didn't think. We glorified the liberal newsroom, instead of thinking for ourselves, challenging and questioning. This is what Sorkin and his character are mad at -- that some people are now informed enough that instead of blindly following their dogma, they'll talk back and make it a fair fight, that there are channels out there giving the other side of the story. That people don't bleat with the liberal flock as much.

Americas won't be the greatest, until Americans stop thinking for themselves

  • "First step in solving any problem is recognizing there is one. America is not the greatest country in the world anymore. Enough?"

And the second step in solving any problem is asking why, and when/where did we go wrong? If it turns out that the policies we bought into by liberals, cost us more than they gave, what then? The fallacies and myths we believed and were sold by them, were bullshit.

  • We borrowed from our future, but eventually those debts came due -- and the cost was less growth and opportunity, now.
  • We spent so much helping the rest of the world, by buying their goods, subsidizing their manufacturing, providing for their defense, tolerating them ripping off our innovations (ignoring our patents), and so on, that eventually the well is running dry.
  • And what we failed to do, is teach them to be responsible citizens of the world.


If you watch the rest of the show(s), you get Sorkin's dogma. He says it, "Journalism can only return when you speak truth to stupid". I kind of agree with that, the problem is his views are stupid, and he doesn't realize it. He spews it line after line, "Is government going to be a tool for good". Why start now? It rarely has been before. Government is near absolute power (and political power), and we know what happens when you mix politics with absolute power.

The rest of the episodes point is that government could have prevented the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill, but the companies shortcut the processes the government put in place. It blames BP and others, despite studies that showed the opposite (they were absolved of fault) (6) But again, the truth doesn't matter to liberal feelings. So again, Sorkin leaves people dumber by perpetuating myths. Of course it ignores that the Obama administration gave waivers and failed to do its job of inspections in the first place. And like it or not, accidents happen -- sometimes no one is at fault (or everyone is at fault). Finger pointing against BP (or others) by the Newsmen BEFORE they get the facts or verify them, is the problem. Sorkin is celebrating the half-informed sensationalism that he's trying to criticize.

And BTW, what happened with the worst ecological crisis in human history? The event that was going to leave the gulf a post-apocolyptic toxic waste dump that wouldn't recover for dozens or hundreds of years? It was a fucking yawner that much of the gulf coast barely noticed (despite predictions by left-leaning newsmen). And in fact, most of the damage caused to the area (jobs lost, etc) was not by the spill itself, but by federal governments reactions to it, and the Obama policies that did things like put moratorium on drilling or pumping (7) Sorkin either didn't know the facts, or didn't think it was worth sharing them with plebes.

Which gets me back to the point. I wouldn't mind a balanced political show, that shows the debates that go on with both sides opposing views to educate the public on the balances and tradeoffs. But that not what Sorkin, or this show, does -- probably because that isn't what goes on in real Newsrooms either.

This show is about big egos, gullible liberals, and ignorant anti-establishment kids trying to break a big story about how "it's all big businesses fault", and how, "government should have done more" (not how their doing more, and failing to do their jobs, made it worse). There's more honesty in the show than intended, but only if you know where to look. And the sad part is that many people aren't skeptical enough, or don't have enough critical thinking skills, to get the real messages. And those that do, probably won't find this show very entertaining.


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Written: 2014.12.16