Friday, May 31, 2019
It’s Hollywood vs. Georgia: The Sequel. The Major Studios Pile On
Yesterday on The Briefing, we looked at how moral transformation takes place, aided and abetted by major American corporations. And we saw the fact that Netflix had jumped upon the state of Georgia precisely because Georgia had passed a law restricting abortion or so called fetal heartbeat bill. We had seen that Hollywood celebrities and others had indicated that they were going to boycott Georgia precisely because of this legislation.
The big story a few days ago was that, even as several Hollywood actors and actresses, and directors and producers had threatened Georgia with this kind of boycott, no major studio had until just a few days ago when Netflix did. But then it’s as if the gates have opened and now all the studios appear to be ready to rush in. This is virtue signaling at the intersection of a crowd mentality. Now, you have the studios being fearful that they're going to be left behind being a day late and a few hours short with making their own announcement, getting on the right side of history just as quickly as they can.
So yesterday, the announcement came through NPR, that WarnerMedia that owns HBO, CNN and other channels, had told NPR in a statement, "We will watch the situation closely, and if the new law holds, we will reconsider Georgia as the home to any new productions."
Meanwhile, the even bigger news was that Walt Disney co-chief executive, Bob Iger, had told Reuters that it would be very difficult, in his words, “to continue filming and production in Georgia if the new law restricting abortion goes into effect.” This follows the announcement made by Netflix, and it is likely given the way Hollywood works, to be just a sign of the moral avalanche that is soon to come.
The big story here is exactly how big business works in this kind of moral change. It's not on the leading edge, but eventually it begins to read, what is in the best brand image? What is in the best interest of the corporation?
As we looked at yesterday, these companies almost never announced some kind of moral policy that will threaten their bottom line. It turns out that they make the kind of announcements that they believe will enhance the brand image, and also get them on the right side of the most important interests in their business. And when it comes to the creative industry of Hollywood, the most important interest to turn out to be actors, actresses, the writers, and those who are the directors and producers of the programs.
It turns out that the American people who watch the programs and buy the tickets to the theaters are actually of second or third importance. They're not really the primary consideration. The primary consideration is Hollywood pleasing Hollywood. That's been the way of that world for a very long time. Just consider the Oscar ceremony. There's actually a point of public pride on the part of the media elites in Hollywood that they choose to honor films that they believe make the right artistic statement. One of the things that's been noticed for a long time is that those movies often turn out to be commercial flops, whereas the movies the public likes, well, those movies turn out often to get very little attention in the award ceremonies at all.
The reason we have returned to this issue so quickly is because we have just seen this phenomenon, the gates have opened and the industry is now rushing through. You're looking at the fact that Hollywood has been for generations now, overwhelmingly liberal. That raises an important question, why would the cultural creatives, Hollywood in particular, be so generally liberal, especially on social and moral issues—political issues? Well, the answer to that is rooted in history.
For one thing, you're looking at the fact that the cultural creatives demographically tend to be exactly where liberalism is most intense. They tend to be on the coasts, they tend to be in metropolitan areas, they tend to be in relatively artistically inclined high income neighborhoods. They also tend to come from a defined social location, and that would be coming up through apprenticeships, and influences and academic programs, where the professors, and the faculty and the mentors are very much of the same mentality. And then, you're looking at a system that simply reinforces itself at almost every level.
Why Does Hollywood Lean Left? There’s a History
But now we arrive at another issue that needs to be publicly articulated, and very honestly. And that is the fact that, when you are looking at the social communities of those who are primarily invested in the arts, you have often throughout time been looking at communities that are at odds with the larger community when it comes to moral judgment.
When it comes to those who are now so often described in politically correct as sexual minorities, well, it turns out that this has been an old story in the arts. Now, let's be very careful. We're not saying that all the people who are involved in the arts are socially liberal, we're not saying that all of them follow a progressive line on these issues. We are saying that there has been a pattern here for a very, very long time.
Behaviors have been accepted in the artistic community that would not be accepted elsewhere. Why? Because artists do have great talents, and those great talents are often in big demand. So even just thinking about representational art, thinking particularly about painting and sculpture, there have been questions about the sexual and moral messaging of many of those paintings, and many of those sculptures throughout centuries. This isn't new.
Perhaps what is even more interesting right now is the fact that artistic expression when it comes to acting, and when it comes to drama, those have also been associated with the fact that there have been moral questions raised about both the art form, and the content of the art and those involved in the art. Again, it goes back very long in western civilizational history.
Furthermore, when it comes to concentrations of the cultural creatives, take example, cities such as New York and Los Angeles, there's been a certain very public assertive kind of aggressive social liberalism that has marked those communities, especially since the 1960s. There's another important historical hinge here, and that goes back to the 1940s, and especially the 1950s. And that included open congressional investigations of the extent to which there have been communist infiltration in Hollywood.
This led to congressional hearings that became infamous, and it also led to the fact that there were some actors and actresses, and others in Hollywood who were blacklisted. It also meant that there were some actors who turned on other actors. It was deeply divisive within the community, and it probably had something to do with the fact that it turned the community in a far more liberal direction.
Something perhaps to keep in mind here or something of an irony, between 1947 and 1952, the president of the Screen Actors Guild, that's the major labor union for actors in Hollywood. The president of that major American union was none other than Ronald Reagan. He would become president again in 1959. The important thing to recognize now is that, it would be largely incomprehensible that someone as conservative as Ronald Reagan was then, that he would now be an officer in much less the president of the Screen Actors Guild.
It's also interesting to note that the statement that was made this week from Disney indicates, that the company said it would be very difficult to continue filming in Georgia. The statement there had to do with the fact that the Disney co-chief executive was saying that it will be difficult to film some productions if indeed there are actors and actresses, and others who refuse to participate. That appears to be the origin of the very difficult language.
It's interesting to contrast that statement with the rather aggressive tone taken by Comcast corporations, NBC Universal. The statement said, "We fully expect that the heartbeat bills and similar laws in various states will face serious legal challenges, and will not go into effect while the process proceeds in court." The company went on to say, "If any of these laws are upheld, it would strongly impact our decision making on where we produce our content in the future."
Here's the important issue on this story today: it is the fact that you now see Hollywood staking out ground. Sometimes its ground to that it says, "It's going to be very difficult for us to continue filming in Georgia." But in the case of NBC and Comcast, the statement was quite bold—quite bold taking out a moral stance, a moral stance against any law restricting abortion.
Now, let's just state the obvious question, how many Americans believe that they are making a moral choice when they decide to watch this channel or that, especially when it comes to the major networks? Americans in the past have not believed nor have they been forced to believe that they were in a situation of making a moral statement when they decided movie by movie what they would watch based upon the studio, or based upon the TV program and its network. But now, we see that many in Hollywood are deciding that now is the time to take up sides. It will be very interesting to see if America is willing to take up the same side with them.
A University and a Medical Center Go Their Separate Ways: Another Dimension of the Moral Revolution
But next we turn to a very different story in a very different industry, but it has a parallel kind of lesson. In this case, the report is from Healthcare Dive. It is a news source dealing, particularly with hospitals in the healthcare industry. The articles by Rebecca Pifer, it's entitled, “UCSF,” that's the University of California, San Francisco, “ends proposed affiliation with dignity over LGBTQ and reproductive rights.” There's a lot to unpack just in that headline.
Remember UCSF is the University of California, San Francisco. The headline says that it is ending a proposed affiliation with Dignity—that's one of the nation's largest hospital networks—over LGBTQ and reproductive rights. Now, what's the story really about?
As the summary tells us, “The University of California, San Francisco ended its pursuit of an expanded affiliation with Catholic health giant Dignity Health, citing community and staff push back against a closer relationship with a system that's restricted women's reproductive options, care for LGBTQ+ individuals, and end of life services such as physician assisted suicide.” Well, that should have our attention. These are big issues. This is a very big story.
Here you have one of the nation's major public universities, the University of California in San Francisco ending what every university with a medical school and health education program has to have, and that's affiliation with major research hospitals. You have this particular university announcing that it is going to end any discussion about a closer affiliation with one of the biggest Catholic hospital networks in the country precisely because of three issues: a woman's reproductive options, care for LGBTQ+ individuals, and end of life services, including physician assisted suicide. Before looking further at the story, let's just define what we're talking about here.
Once again, we see women's reproductive options. It's another euphemism for women's reproductive healthcare, which is another euphemism for abortion and also for contraception, which would include forms of contraception that may or may not cause abortion. It's a statement that says that any hospital the University of California, San Francisco is going to be affiliated with is going to have to conduct abortions.
The second issue is “care for LGBTQ+ individuals." Now, what would that mean? Well, the big issue here is not medical care in an emergency room. It's about care that affirms gender transition and sex reassignment surgery. And that's the big issue. It's really, in this case more of the T in LGBTQ that is an issue. And it's going to be an issue, not only in this situation, but in many others as well.
Then you have end of life services. Well, does that mean care of persons in the last stage of life? No, it really means participation in euthanasia or physician assisted suicide.
So, those are really the three big issues. It's abortion and contraception, it's the full endorsement of the LGBTQ+ spectrum, and it is euthanasia and assisted suicide. Those are really the three issues that ended the proposed affiliation between this public university and this health care system.
Later in the article we read, "Catholic health systems have been in the spotlight over denying medical care to LGBTQ patients and women seeking contraception or abortions." Pause here for a moment. We are told that these Catholic healthcare systems have been in the spotlight, because the language was, denying medical care to LGBTQ patients. Again, you have to ask the question, what does that mean? Does that mean denying service for some kind of injury or acute illness? No, that's not really what it's about.
It means, refusal to participate in the kind of sex reassignment surgery, and therapy and the other general treatment that is affirming of LGBTQ+. And remember, that + is going to be filled in with more letters.
Later in the article we're told, "Catholic affiliated hospitals follow a series of ethical and religious directives restricting access to services, counseling and referrals, including for procedures such as elective abortions, surgical contraception, in vitro fertilization, gender affirmation surgery for transgender people or end of life care, such as physician assisted suicide, which is legal in California." By the way, the words “ethical” and “religious” were put in scare quotes as if we're supposed to know that those words are contentious.
We're looking here to collision of two worldviews, the worldview held by the Catholic hospitals and the worldview held by the University of California at San Francisco.
Lori Freedman, identified as a medical sociologist and Associate Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology at the university said, "The specialty care at UCSF is world renowned. So, Dignity would have name recognition attached to their facilities along with the promise of UCSF quality of care. But,” she went on to say, "UCSF also promises a full spectrum of care. Not religiously exempted care. So, it gives an image that wouldn't be transparent or fully realized."
Here's the amazing fundamental meaning of that statement. The University of California at San Francisco doesn't want to lend its good name to a Catholic hospital system that is on the wrong side of the moral and sexual revolution. And the university was bold to say, here are the precise issues which are restricted, their word “under the religious and ethical guidelines by which the Catholic hospital system works.”
Here's where you see an entire moral system or worldview turned upside down. The entire calculation and the culture has now been transformed. Whereas in previous ages, an organization such as the University of California in San Francisco would have sought to enhance its moral reputation by identifying with a religious hospital. Now you have this major public university saying, it will damage our reputation if we are associated with the Catholic hospital or by extension, with any kind of hospital system that would restrict this medical care." That's how it's phrased, "in any way."
But there's another huge worldview issue here that becomes very apparent. It is the increasing use of a phrase like “medical care” to become an umbrella term for the entire moral and sexual revolution. It's now treated as if this isn't a moral issue. Remember, the words “ethical” and “moral” were put into scare quotes. Instead, it's now merely a medical issue. This is analogous to how there's a shutdown of so much conversation in our society by invoking the word science. If you can say this is science, then who dare to argue against it?
If you can say that this is medical care, then how can you refuse to offer the full spectrum of what would be defined as medical care? That's exactly the logic of the world around us increasingly, and pervasively. And you might think that a news story that is, at least at first, mostly of interest to the hospital community can turn out to be a story with vast worldview implications and meaning for all of us.
Are Siri and Alexa Tools of the Patriarchy? The United Nations Comes Out Against Gendered Speech
Next, we turn to the United Nations. Yes, the U.N. is back in the news. This is that international body that is supposed to be guaranteeing peace and justice around the world speaking up on behalf of freedom. It's the very same organization that continues to allow North Korea, as just for one example, a member state.
The United Nations, one of the most morally confused institutions on Earth has decided that it has made an important new moral judgment. And it is against Alexa and Siri. Megan Specia of the New York Times reports, "Why do most virtual assistants that are powered by artificial intelligence like Apple's Siri and Amazon's Alexa system, by default have female names, female voices, and often a submissive or even flirtatious style?" Well, the story continues. "The problem according to a new report released this week by Unesco of the United Nations stems from a lack of diversity within the industry that is reinforcing problematic gender stereotypes."
Unesco's director for gender equality said in the statement, "Obedient and obliging machines that pretend to be women are entering our homes, cars and offices. The world needs to pay much closer attention to how, when, and whether AI,”—that's artificial intelligence technologies—“are gendered and crucially, who is gendering them." Again, we just make the observation that, if you rewind history, just say five years and try to explain that sentence, the person to whom you're speaking is not going to comprehend a word.
The report goes right at the gendered nature of Siri and Alexa, and other technologies. The report by the way is entitled, “I’d Blush if I Could.” This statement is made, "The more that culture teaches people to equate women with assistance, the more real women will be seen as assistants and penalized for not being assistant-like."
An editorial in yesterday's edition of The Wall Street Journal put it this way, "Perhaps, you've read that robots will eventually rule over humanity. But in the meantime, the United Nations has discovered a more pressing digital catastrophe. It seems that Siri, the Apple voice assistant, is a tool of the patriarchy."
The editorial continues, "And here we thought she, it, whatever it was, was an artificial intelligence tool to make modern life easier to navigate. But this isn't the first time," said the editors, "we've had our identity politics consciousness raised. The revelation about this digital plot for male dominance comes,” they remind us, “in a 146 page report from the U.N. Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, that's Unesco in cooperation," said the editors, "with the German government, and the EQUALS skills coalition,”—that's E-Q-U-A-L-S skills coalition—“a partnership of governments, businesses and nonprofits."
Speaking of this new problem of patriarchy that the United Nations has uncovered, the editors conclude, "All of this is apparently a symptom of a lack of women in tech jobs. The UN wants countries to redress this with a combination of compulsory tech education for women, gender quotas in tech industries, and of course, government funding. The tech firms behind these voices assistants," they write, "are some of the most politically correct places on the planet. So, we confess some amusement to see them called out as sexist." The concluding words, "Perhaps Sheryl Sandberg will lean in to make Facebook's voice assistant male."
So, what do Christians think about this? Well, just very quickly, we're looking at a form of political correctness that's so ethereal, only the United Nations could come up with this. Does that mean there's absolutely nothing to it? No, Christians understand that in a fallen world, there can be sinful dimensions of just about anything. In fact, we're only not surprised when we see it, we should expect it.
But when you're looking at something like this, is this really an indication of patriarchy and male oppression? Well, it turns out that in some other studies, it is not only men but women who prefer women's voices on this kind of technology. Is there a sinister plot of patriarchy behind this? Well, the answer to that is, no. But there are gender differences, and Christians understand they're not by accident and gender isn't just a social construction.
It turns out that if this kind of message is going to be given, the voice that people would rather listen to is a female voice. The complaint has been made in some of the same studies that there are other forms of gendered speech, such as the fact that both men and women often gravitate towards male voices in such things as a newscast. And as a Christian theologian, I want to point out, I believe the same thing is true in Christian preaching.
A Christian biblical worldview wouldn't deny that there are gendered differences, that there are differences between men and women, males and females, even boys and girls in speech patterns. Frankly, for Christians, the most important thing to recognize is that, we didn't need Unesco and the United Nations to tell us that. But what we're watching in the larger world is the fact that, any kind of difference that is ascribed objectively to male and female, even to male and female voices is now, we are told, forbidden. It is beyond the boundaries. It is a form of disguised oppression. Somewhere out there somewhere, the reason has to be patriarchy.
By the way, while we're speaking of differences in voice, you may remember a controversy that emerged just a couple of years ago when complaints were made by feminists, that it is overwhelmingly male voices that appear in movie previews. Those announcers voices are almost always men. But then it turns out upon closer review, it's not just that they are the voices of men. Instead, they are the voices of a very, very few men, who evidently have a particular skill and a dramatic style that absolutely fits the movie preview.
One interesting dimension of that controversy was Hollywood. As politically correct as Hollywood is, it wasn't changing the pattern even with the criticism. They were continuing those male voices on the movie previous. Why? Because they know what sells. And once again, we're back to the fact that companies, even though they want to be involved in signaling their virtue, they don't want to do it in such a way that harms their bottom line.
Thanks for listening to The Briefing.
We are living in a time of deep moral and cultural confusion, but Christians know that even more basic confusion is theological. One of our main responsibilities is helping to distinguish Christianity from its counterfeits. That's why I wrote the book entitled The Apostles Creed: Discovering Authentic Christianity in an Age of Counterfeits. This is not a new Christian responsibility, but it is particularly acute in our own times. You'll find the book at Amazon.com, Barnes & Noble, or other places that books are sold.
For more information, go to my website at AlbertMohler.com. You can follow me on Twitter by going to twitter.com/albertmohler. For information on the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, go to sbts.edu. For information on Boyce College, just go to boycecollege.com.
I'll meet you again on Monday for The Briefing.