Here’s today’s dispatch from the crossroads of faith, media and culture.
Good luck, Rob! “I’m announcing my candidacy today for governor of New York State because I’m tired of listening to the fairy tale that everything is just great when it’s just the opposite; I’m tired of watching New York’s decline; living in New York shouldn’t sound like a prison sentence, but that’s too often what you hear today.” With those words Rob Astorino, my former boss at SiriusXM’s Catholic Channel, announced his candidacy for governor of New York State. Rob has had quite the career trajectory since his days putting up with the likes of me. A Republican, he was recently reelected (by a solid margin) as county executive of Democratic-leaning Westchester County.
Here he is throwing his hat into the gubernatorial race:
Not that it’s likely to sway the outcome but, for what it’s worth, I endorse the guy. Watching him lead The Catholic Channel in its early days, I saw a man who is honest, manages leadership responsibilities responsibly and is tough but fair. It helps that I also tend to agree with his conservative (aka common sense) stands on the issues. And, like I said, he had to put up with the likes of me — which wasn’t always easy. Just ask Gus Lloyd.
More politics. I don’t usually talk this much politics but Dennis Michael Lynch’s new film We Ride to DC has caught my attention.
I recently had the opportunity to talk with the filmmaker about his sure-to-be controversial take on the media.
JWK: What is We Ride to DC about?
DENNIS MICHAEL LYNCH: I originally made two films about illegal immigration — They Come to America I and They Come to America II. I guess you could call me a ‘grassroots filmmaker’ in the sense that I’m a small guy and I’m trying do a lot of stuff myself. I’m often on Fox and when I am there I offer this package where if you buy one DVD I sent you five. The idea is that you take the other four and you spread them around to maybe people who don’t watch Fox or don’t listen to conservative radio.
Lo and behold, by doing that, I ended up getting an enormous amount of requests for me to travel the country and speak to different organizations and different parties, some of them Tea Parties. So, I did that. And in traveling the country for two years and doing these speeches, I would have as many as a thousand people show up. Somehow, someway, it transitioned into me attending and speaking at rallies and marches that take shape down in Washington, D.C. And the one thing I noticed time and time again was that no matter how many people showed up — it could be 50,000 people, 100,000 people — the mainstream media would never cover the rally or the march. And the things that were taking place there were simply amazing and something that Americans need to see. So, as I was capturing all this stuff going on across the country, I (thought), you know what, there’s a movie here that demonstrates how biased the mainstream media is and how it ignores the grassroots.
JWK: Why do you think that is?
DML: Because the grassroots movement is very powerful…It (showcases) what the real heartbeat is out there in America in terms of…the political landscape in terms of how it is that many Americans want it to be shaped. And that is in the form of the Constitution. That doesn’t (please) the mainstream media. They don’t want that message. They don’t want that narrative to get out…Ultimately, I think ultimately the mainstream media is just as much to blame — if not more — than the President of the United States when you look at why it is this country is in such a mess.
JWK: I guess my bigger question is why, overall, the media liberal so liberal? Why isn’t there more diversity of opinion in the newsrooms? Why is the media’s power so concentrated on the left side of the political spectrum?
DML: That’s a great question. One of the things that the movie explores is the unbalance that exists when you look at how big the liberal mainstream media is as compared to how big conservative media is. I mean conservative media is overshadowed by the liberal media. For example, Fox, on its best night, will grab maybe two to three-million viewers. Meanwhile, CBS, NBC and ABC News collectively pull in 25 million. So, it’s an unfair advantage that they have…(On the other hand) why does Fox have the 14 top shows on cable news when compared to CNN and MSNBC? In fact, Bill O’Reilly’s repeat beats the number-one show on the competing networks. So you say “Wait a second! The liberal media would be able to do better if they would replicate Fox!” I mean if NBC were to hire Rush Limbaugh they would pull in an amazing amount of viewership and ad money — but they don’t do it, which is very scare because it shows that media is driven more by its own ideology than it is by the almighty dollar. Why that exists I just do not know. The one thing that really hurts throughout the entire filmmaking process of We Ride to DC is that I have found nobody that is able to come up with the answer as to why.
JWK: Here’s my theory. Let me see if you agree. I think, because of cable bundling, these channels are getting money from consumers whether they choose to watch them or nor or whether they agree with them or not. Combine that with the fact that demographics are used to slice and dice the ratings to make it appear that certain favored segment of the audience is more important than the entire audience and I think you have the ingredients for the stealing of a medium and a culture. The powers that be in television have divorced themselves from the marketplace. Does that make sense to you or not?
DML: It doesn’t make sense to me to be quite honest because (of) the example that I had given you. In order to see Fox News Channel, you have to be a subscriber. In order to CBS, NBC and ABC News you don’t have to subscribe to anything. That’s broadcast television and they’re the people who are really reaching the mass audiences. In fact, one thing that comes back time and time again in We Ride to DC is the fact that President Barack Obama was really reelected because the mainstream media reelected him. And how did they do that? They did that by not reporting the facts about the president. They focused on the fact that he was a nice family guy and they made Mitt Romney out to be an evil Darth Vader sort of venture capitalist who was gonna take away your business and throw away your job. So, they really steered the (narrative).
I think if I were to come back to you, if you pressed me for an answer, I think the reason why the liberal media thrives is because Americans are (living) a social media, short-text sort of lifestyle. The bandwidth of the brain only goes so far. It’s sort of like we watered down (the difference between) what is important and what is not important…
…At the same time that doesn’t answer my original question which is why don’t they chase the money versus the ideology? Look, the fact of the matter is if you put Rush Limbaugh on ABC News at 7:00 o’clock every night their ratings would go through the roof. They don’t care. They don’t care because all of the people who aren’t subscribers — who cannot afford cable but who would watch Fox News Channel — maybe those are the people who listen to Rush because it’s free on their radio. They would then transition over to watching ABC News at night because they could Rush.
JWK: Does the media bias, in your view, extend to entertainment programming as well?
DML: Oh, my goodness!…When you watch movies you can always see that the liberal message is somewhere tucked in there. It’s one the (areas) where conservatives really fail.
JWK: Recently the title song for the Christian-themed film Alone Yet Not Alone had is Oscar nomination for Best Song rescinded over some allegedly technical violation regarding emails that were sent out to Academy members calling their attention to the song. Never mind the fact that studios with much higher marketing budgets are spending fortunes campaigning for Oscar nominations in the trades, it’s hard to imagine that a film dealing with a more politically-correct theme would have had its nomination withdrawn over such a petty issue. What are your thoughts on that? Is that a symptom of media bias against traditional values?
DML: Absolutely! Listen that is such a glaring example of the bias that is against anything conservative and anything Christian. It’s come to a point in time where they don’t even care that they look biased or that they look unfair. They don’t even care! They blow it under the rug and they just sweep it away and the reason why they get away with that is because most Americans do the same thing. I go back to the Fox crowd. You’ve got Fox News that has three-million (viewers). You’ve got 25 million on ABC News and those other (broadcast networks). 25 million versus three million. You’re never gonna win that fight. So, that’s why guys like myself and you have to work harder. That’s why I give away five DVDs when somebody buys one. You don’t get rich that way but what you do is you get the word out. I’ve had more people come back to me — specifically with They Come to America I and They Come to America II — and say “I’m so happy I had the opportunity to see your film. I would have never seen it if my friend didn’t hand it to me. What I (got) was an education (that helped me get) what’s going on out there.
JWK: Has it always been this way or has media bias grown worse over the years?
DML: I do cover this in We Ride to DC. I interview retired news anchors and what they do is they explain that in the old days the news director would come in and say “Look, these are the stories that America wants to know about.” And now, today, it is “These are the news stories we want to tell America.” That’s a fundamental shift. It’s no longer objective. Everything is subjective and driven by an ideology. That’s not what it’s supposed to be. Many people I interview in the film…feel that a lot of the reason why the country is as broken as it is because the media is no longer doing its job.
IMHO: Good people come in both liberal and conservative packages. I don’t think there’s any doubt about that. In fact, I think it’s part of God’s plan — that we come understand and not condemn each other. And, in so doing, we can come to balanced solutions to our problems. That said, I think any objective look at the media would have to admit that Fox News tilts to the right — but virtually every other major TV news outlet tilts from one degree to another to the left (with MSNBC really being off the chart). That makes Fox News — and Dennis Michael Lynch’s films — necessary.
Encourage one another and build each other up – 1 Thessalonians 5:11