There's still two days until The Dark Knight Rises arrives in theaters and already everybody's got an opinion on it. (Not to mention an opinion about those opinions.) Also contributing to the shouting match, as he so often does, is conservative talking head Rush Limbaugh, who said during his syndicated radio show on Tuesday that Christopher Nolan's hotly anticipated film isn't the final installment of his Batman trilogy, but left-wing propaganda aimed at making "brain-dead people...the pop culture crowd" (hey, that's us! Shout-out!) not vote for Mitt Romney.
Limbaugh, who says an awful lot of things, told his listeners that he thinks it's no coincidence that a movie in which the menacing villain is named Bane (Tom Hardy) is coming out at the same time questions about circulating about Romney's time at the investment fund Bain Capital. Coincidentally, the character of Bane has been around for nearly 20 years and the choice to use him as the baddie for The Dark Knight Rises was made in early 2011.
"Do you think it is accidental that the name of the really vicious, fire-breathing, four-eyed, whatever-it-is villain in this movie is named Bane?" Limbaugh — who took some artistic liberties by adding two additional eyes and a fire-breathing skill for Bane — asked his listeners on Tuesday. "So this evil villain in the new Batman movie is named Bane," Limbaugh said of the film, which has previously drawn comparisons to the Occupy Wall Street movement, "And there's discussion out there as to whether or not this was purposeful and whether or not it will influence voters. It's going to have a lot of people. The audience is going to be huge. A lot of people are going to see the movie. And it's a lot of brain-dead people — entertainment, the pop culture crowd — and they're going to hear Bane in the movie and they're going to associate Bain." Or, Rush Limbaugh just made the association for them.
"The thought is that when they're going to start paying attention to the campaign later in the year," Limbaugh continued, "and Obama and the Democrats keep talking about Bain, not Bain Capital but Romney and Bain, that these people will start thinking back to the Batman movies, 'Oh yeah, I know who that is!'" You know, how people are always confusing Tom Hardy and Mitt Romney and unable to decipher fiction from reality.
Of course, this isn't the first time that the right has theorized that mainstream movies are propaganda being mitigated from the Hollywood elite liberal left. As The American Conservative pointed out in 2008, the Oscar-winning animated masterpiece Wall-E was called out by conservative critics for its vision of a post-mass consumption Earth and heralded it as "a 90-minute lecture on the dangers of over consumption, big corporations, and the destruction of the environment," "leftist propaganda about the evils of mankind," and "an insult to its customers."
Kid-friendly fare like Wall-E often at the forefront of liberal brainwashing theories. In 2006, then-Fox News pundit Glenn Beck cried that the dancing penguins feature Happy Feet was "animated version of An Inconvenient Truth." Six years later his Fox News cohort Lou Dobbs warned that The Lorax and The Secret World of Arrietty were trying to "indoctrinate our children" with their messages about "sharing" and "anti-industrialism." And don't even get them started on those pinko commies The Muppets.
But no film may have felt the scorn from the right quite like James Cameron's Avatar did. In 2010 Slate discovered that the movie was called everything from "a big, dull, America-hating, PC revenge fantasy," "abhorrent New Age, pagan, anti-capitalist worldview that promotes Goddess worship and the destruction of the human race," and, of course, "cinema for the Hate America crowd." Somewhere, a VHS copy of Ferngully is tremendously relieved it came out in 1992.
What do you think of Rush Limbaugh's stance on The Dark Knight Rises? Do movies really have an "agenda"? Sound off in the comments section.
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[Photo credit: WENN.com/Warner Bros.]
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Several media critics have begun raising questions about the propriety of television news reporters "draping themselves in the flag" during their coverage of the current crisis. In a lengthy article, today's New York Times called attention to on-air comments by Fox News anchor Jon Scott, CNN financial anchor Lou Dobbs and CBS anchor Dan Rather, in which they seemed to voice their support for whatever response the U.S. government may take to retaliate against last week's terrorist attacks.
In an interview with the Times, Fox News exec John Moody justified the patriotic stance the channel's anchors have taken, saying "I think inasmuch as TV news often reflects America's mood at any given moment, that's what it's doing now."
But Harper's Magazine publisher John R. MacArthur faulted TV journalists for sending out signals that they are "acting as an arm of the government as opposed to an independent, objective purveyor of information." In today's Washington Post, TV writer Tom Shales accuses the networks of being "excessively zealous in pasting flags all over their pictures," noting that Fox News even included an animated flag on its screen as it aired part of a speech by Pakistan's strongman Pervez Musharraf.
And on Time magazine's website, deputy Washington Bureau chief Matthew Cooper, comments: "There's plenty of flag waving going on but our job isn't to join it. Our job is to report what's happened and to ask questions. It's to explore the war effort, not to be a cheerleader for it." Nevertheless, Cooper confesses, "I'm a hypocrite on this issue. Journalist or not, I'd probably put an American flag in front of my house if I could find one."
CNN originally asked Daily VarietyTV reporter Paula Bernstein, who had regularly appeared on CNNfn, the financial news outlet, to become a weekly contributor to Lou Dobbs' Moneyline, CNN co-founder Reese Schonfeld has revealed on his website www.meandted.com. Shortly after Bernstein responded that such an arrangement needed the approval of her boss, editor-in-chief Peter Bart, Variety contacted Dobbs, saying that Bart himself would be willing to appear on Moneyline, according to Schonfeld, who cited no sources. Although Bart was described as an unpaid contributor when CNN suspended him recently due to allegations of ethical improprieties, Schonfeld said that payment for Bart's services was made directly to Variety. There was no indication whether the publication kicked back any of that fee to Bart.
CNN's much hyped premiere of its expanded Lou Dobbs' Moneyline at 6:00 p.m. Monday was thrown into turmoil when much of the power at its New York studios was knocked out following an electrical explosion beneath a manhole at street level. Although enough power was available (presumably from backup generators) to keep the studio's lights and cameras working, air conditioners and computers that were needed to generate graphics for the show failed to function. "Please bear with us if this broadcast looks a little different," Dobbs remarked at the beginning of the show. "Sweat poured through Dobbs' makeup and down his face," today's (Tuesday) New York Post reported. Because building elevators failed to function, Dobbs' interview guest, Xerox President-CEO Anne Mulcahy, had to climb 22 floors to the studio. Although CNN's facilities in Atlanta were able to provide some rudimentary graphics before the show ended, one CNN spokesperson told the Post: "It's been a fiasco."
Daily Variety editor-in-chief Peter Bart has received a second suspension -- this time from CNN, where he is a weekly contributor to Moneyline, hosted by Lou Dobbs. A CNN spokeswoman said Monday that Bart did not appear on the program on Friday, the day that he was suspended by Daily Variety following the appearance of a lengthy article in Los Angeles Magazine alleging that he had engaged in ethical improprieties at the trade paper and had privately made racist and homophobic remarks. However, GQ magazine editor Art Cooper told today's New York Post that he does not intend to take similar action against Bart, who writes a monthly column for the magazine. Calling the content of the Los Angeles Magazine article "allegations," Cooper said: "Peter is and has been a good friend and a valued contributor to the magazine."
CNN announced Thursday that Tom Johnson will step down as the network's chief. Johnson, who held the post for 10 years, will remain as an advisor and consultant. The news comes just months after CNN and other Turner Broadcasting Network channels became a single unit consisting of the television properties at AOL Time Warner. Jamie Kellner, who was named head of the new AOL Time Warner TV unit in March, planned to turn CNN around after ratings dropped amid competition from Fox News Channel and MSNBC. Kellner was also behind the move to bring Moneyline anchor Lou Dobbs back and approved the hiring of former NYPD Blue star Andrea Thompson as an anchor for Headline News.
Lou Dobbs' return as CNN's Moneyline anchor last week drew an average nightly audience of 250,000, a huge improvement over the show's performance a week earlier when it attracted an average of 164,000 viewers, but still behind CNBC's Business Center, which averaged 356,000, the New York Times reported Monday. However, Monday's Wall Street Journal observed that Moneyline's total audience dropped to 121,000 viewers on Thursday night, below the show's average before Dobbs' return. On the same night Business Center drew 296,000 viewers. Responding to controversy generated by a Washington Post article last week indicating that Dobbs had received a $30,000 fee to address a meeting of Ford executives in Florida, a spokesman for CNN said that Dobbs would donate the fee to charity, as is his custom.
Despite CNN policy barring employees from accepting payments for speeches before any group that they report on, returning CNN Moneyline anchor is being paid for an appearance this weekend at a Florida gathering of top Ford executives, the Washington Post reported Friday. The newspaper noted that Dobbs interviewed Ford CEO Jacques Nasser only last Tuesday. "Lou made speaking commitments prior to his going to CNN, and CNN executives agree that he should honor those commitments," a network spokeswoman told the Post. "Any and all engagements that he now considers are submitted to the CNN ethics committee." The newspaper noted that before returning to CNN, Dobbs agreed to give up his position as CEO of the Internet site that he founded, Space.com.
With one fell swoop, CNN's Moneyline doubled its ratings Monday night. The returning Lou Dobbs administered the swoop as he averaged a 0.4 rating (356,000 households) in CNN homes, up from an average 0.2 rating last week. Rival CNBC's Business Center, which had regularly been beating Moneyline, also scored a 0.4 rating (366,000 households).
Beginning a game of corporate chess, CNBC is planning to expand its Business Center program by thirty minutes beginning Monday so that it will start at 6 p.m. instead of 6:30 p.m., a half hour before CNN's Moneyline News Hour featuring the returning Lou Dobbs. Reporting on the move, Thursday's New York Times observed that CNBC execs "hope to take hold of viewers before the start of Moneyline and make them less inclined to tune in to Mr. Dobbs on CNN." Since Dobbs' departure from CNN two years ago Moneyline's audience has dropped by about 112,000 while Business Center's has risen by 89,000 and now leads Moneyline 327,000-254,000. "They took a big hit when Lou Dobbs left," CNBC exec Bruno Cohen told the Times. "The question of the moment is how much of what they lost is recoverable two years later."