Here’s the latest from the crossroads of faith, media & culture: 12/08/20

Cultural Wokeism: An autoimmune dis-ease in which a society is triggered by a viral contagion (i.e. a genuine instance of racism and/or bigotry) to attack vital organs of its body (i.e. its culture, shared history, self-respect, faith and, ultimately, the very documents and institutions that it has developed to defend against the original contagion). While a healthy immune system (aka media) discerns between the actual virus (racism/bigotry) and its own body politic, a Woke-infected immune system, pumped with intoxicating sanctimony, mistakes destructive self-righteousness for social justice. It then ends up attacking everyone and everything that stands in its path by unleashing its inflammatory poison throughout the entire civilization.  At the same, the culture that is attacking itself fails to defend itself from predatory outside threats.  If left untreated, Cultural Wokeism leads to eroding rights that eventually gives way to deadly totalitarianism.  

Fortunately, as a new year approaches, there are hopeful signs that treatments are on the way in the form of alternative narratives and narrative delivery agents that challenge the foundations of Cultural Wokeism through age-old storytelling rooted in eternal truths. In essence, Cultural Wokeism (aka Political Correctness or PC) is a sort of wolf-in-sheep’s-clothing virus that takes hold of those truths, morphing and twisting them into disconnected cells at war with each other while, at the same time, disrupting the society’s healthy economic and spiritual growth. But, just as Cultural Wokeism inverts a nation’s positive ideals and values and weaponizes them against itself through narrative distortion, the treatments work by recognizing the distorted tropes employed by the PC virus and gently pushing back and untwisting them with anti-inflammatory doses of compassion, empathy, humor, logic and time-proven wisdom.

One caution: This is a treatment, not a cure. The price of freedom remains eternal vigilance. Any attempt to develop a vaccine (i.e. a reverse Cancel Culture) to wipe out all opposing viewpoints (from the right or the left) is liable to be a cure that is, indeed, worse than the dis-ease.  Like an eagle, a nation needs both its left and right wings to soar. The goal then isn’t to destroy one of them but to keep them working in balance.

And that’s straight from the Journal of the AMA. Okay, that’s not true. This is my personal diagnosis of what ails society but, IMHO, it’s true.

Now, as to those hopeful signs, I’ll touch on two here but, rest assured, there are others – and, to the degree they can find ways to work together, I believe they can serve society, as well as their own bottom lines, through creative cocktails that isolates the PC virus and allows society to heal.

The first hopeful sign is represented by the hit Netflix movie Hillbilly Elegy.

Synopsis (from Netflix): J.D. Vance (Gabriel Basso), a former Marine from southern Ohio and current Yale Law student, is on the verge of landing his dream job when a family crisis forces him to return to the home he’s tried to forget. J.D. must navigate the complex dynamics of his Appalachian family, including his volatile relationship with his mother Bev (Amy Adams), who’s struggling with addiction. Fueled by memories of his grandmother Mamaw (Glenn Close), the resilient and whip-smart woman who raised him, J.D. comes to embrace his family’s indelible imprint on his own personal journey. Directed by Ron Howard / Screenplay by Vanessa Taylor / Based on the book by J.D. Vance / Rated R

I caught this film over the weekend and I can straight up tell you it’s one on of the best and most-honest movies I’ve seen in years.

In the skillful hands of Ron Howard, Hillbilly Elegy is far more than a gritty version of Mayberry R.F.D. From writing to directing to acting, it renders a very believable, compelling and compassionate account of one real-life family’s struggles through poverty, psychological trauma, bad decisions and drug addiction to (Sorta Spoiler Alert) arrive at a place of forgiveness of the past, personal responsibility in the present and hope for the future.  There’s not a false or overly sentimental note in the entire movie. The acting, as noted, is beyond first rate – especially from Glenn Close and Amy Adams who really lose themselves in their complex but relatable characters. Highly Recommended. 

As I often do, I find myself at odds with the majority of Wokester critics, a measly 25% of whom gave the movie positive reviews on Rotten Tomatoes. Its score among the actual audience is a far more robust and positive 85%.

So, why the disconnect between ordinary viewers and the Woke class? Perhaps it’s because, while ordinary people connect to its universal story, the wokestream media sees a daisy cutter missile exploding the deliberately-divisive myth that privilege in America is a function of racial identity and not class identity. J.D. Vance’s family is certainly white and just as certainly not among the privileged. There is, to be sure, plenty of unfair privilege in our country but its foundation is built on wealth and access to the levers of information, communication and power. That power is concentrated in the hands of a few globalist corporations who much prefer that the poor and working classes squabble with each other over history than focus on present-day policies that enrich the lever pullers while throwing American workers and issues pertaining to current human rights violations under the proverbial bus.

On the bright side, the public embrace of Hillbilly Elegy demonstrates that a strong audience exists for quality storytelling that enlightens and honestly sows hope that, through good choices and, yes, a little help (based on circumstance, not identity), individuals can be empowered to seize control of their destiny. We are not prisoners of history but students of it. We learn from our past (the good and the bad) and one consistent lesson of the human saga is that enemies seek to confuse and divide their prey. From Aesop to The Bible to powerful modern-day books and films like Hillbilly Elegy, through the ages good storytelling has clarified the basic truths that help us survive and move forward. Unfortunately, for the past several years most of our stories have been filtered through the globalist gatekeepers. That, as they say, has been a game changer. But the game isn’t over.

The second hopeful sign is represented by FOX Nation.

FOX Nation may well represent the future Fox of Corporation whose other media holdings include the US-based Fox Broadcasting Company, as well as the cable channels Fox News, Fox Business and Fox Sports. Its sister company News Corporation controls the Wall Street Journal, New York Post and the book publishers Harper Collins and newly launched Fox News Books.

Fox’s direct competitors include the media behemoths WarnerMedia (owned by AT&T and including CNN, Turner Broadcasting [TBS, TNT, Cartoon Network], HBO/HBO Max, Cinemax, DC Comics, New Line Cinema and of course, Warner Bros.) Among various other media enterprises, that company also holds a 50% stake in The CW broadcast network with ViacomCBS.

ViacomCBS, meantime, runs CBS, the CBSN online news network and the CBS All Access streaming service (soon to be renamed Paramount Plus, reflective of the company’s ownership Paramount Pictures and cable’s Paramount Network). Other cable networks controlled by the company are MTV, Nickelodeon, BET, Comedy Central and the Showtime premium channel. The streamer Pluto TV is also owned by ViacomCBS which is currently in the process of selling its Simon & Schuster publishing imprint to fellow multinational conglomerate (though not as big) Penguin Random House.

Also at the top of the news and entertainment food chain is Comcast which owns the NBCUniversal broadcast network and film studio, as well as the USA, Syfy, E!, MSNBC and CNBC cable channels, as well as the recently added Peacock streaming service.

Then, of course, there’s Disney which controls all things Disney (including Disney+), along with the ABC broadcast network, Marvel Studios, LucasFilm (Star Wars), 20th Century Studios, Searchlight Pictures, Pixar, 20th Animation (The Simpsons), Freeform, the Hulu streaming service and – let’s not forget – The Muppets. Additionally, with the publishing and television giant Hearst Corporation, Disney shares ownership in ESPN, A&E, History (fka The History Channel) and the trio of Lifetime networks.

All of these companies are notable for not only controlling enormous media empires but for sharing virtually identical globalist world views (and interests). As they also do with new media/tech giants Alphabet (which actually counts Google and YouTube as subsidiaries), Amazon, Apple, Facebook, Twitter and, honestly, the Democratic Party. Frankly, that’s a lot of power in the hands of a relatively small number of people who apparently fancy themselves as arbiters of what issues are still up for debate (a list that’s getting shorter and shorter).  Free speech and debate are at the heart of a free society and information cartels, whether of the left of right, make me uneasy.

Which brings me back to Fox Corporation and, specifically, FOX Nation which has just ventured into scripted entertainment programming and, therefore, I think has the opportunity to incorporate the various parts of the business into a competitive force capable of growing a huge audience starved for an alternative to the wokestream media. My optimism comes from the company’s history of doing so, at least on the news side of the equation.

Also, while Fox itself is a multinational, it also is still a somewhat family-run business and I think the Murdochs bring some of that entrepreneurial sensibility to their enterprise. There is a growing wariness, among people of various political stripes, about where unrelenting wokeness and Cancel Culture is taking us. It’s in the air and you don’t have to be a particular fan of President Trump to feel it. There is a real business opportunity here but, more importantly, standing strong as a bulwark for free speech is a patriotic imperative.

I’ll share some specific thoughts on this soon.

[Correction: This post originally listed Britain’s Sky TV as a Fox holding. The asset is actually now in the portfolio of Comcast.]

Encourage one another and build each other up – 1 Thessalonians 5:11

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