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Why Aaron Sorkin is No Ring Lardner, Jr.

Two big stories had just broken: “Senate Exposes CIA Torture” and “Sony Chiefs’ Racist Emails Revealed.” Immediately —and in concert— the National Security Apparatus denied the torture charge and Sony staged a boffo misdirection play.

The hackers had made available documents exposing the  workings of a major corporation. Presumably they revealed the extent of income inequality (who gets paid what), tax avoidance strategies, etc. Of primary interest to the media were the vile, demeaning and literally racist  emails between Sony executives Scott Rudin and Amy Pascal. It is Scott  and Amy —and people like them at the other studios— who decide what movies and TV shows get made in Hollywood. The Scotts and Amies create the culture desired by the 1%. They make movies and TV shows promoting the belief that the world is a very dangerous place divided into “good guys” (generally associated with law enforcement) and “bad guys.”

Remember the tremendous hullabaloo last year when racist remarks by the owner of the San Diego Clippers, Donald Sterling, were made public? The nation could not rest until the old dementoid sold the team. Why is there no clamor for Sony to get rid of Scott Rudin and Amy Pascal?

Sony strategists devised a brilliant damage-control line: anyone publishing the hacked material is an accessory to terrorism. The line was eloquently set forth by  Aaron Sorkin in a December 14 New York Times op-ed. Sorkin, a super-successful writer, asserted his leftiness as he led the counterattack:

“As a screenwriter in Hollywood who’s only two generations removed from probably being blacklisted, I’m not crazy about Americans calling other Americans un-American, so let’s just say that every news outlet that did the bidding of the Guardians of Peace is morally treasonous and spectacularly dishonorable.”

Aaron Sorkin was so adamant, and so obviously carrying water for Sony, that it got me thinking… They promoted the absurd “North Korean threat to U.S. moviegoers” story  to stop the hacked material from getting published! The original statement from the so-called Guardians of Peace made no reference to blowing up movie theaters in America.  The National Security Apparatus —wanting bury the CIA torture story ASAP—  announced that both the hacking of Sony and the supposedly credible threat to moviegoers at the Bijoux in Peoria emanated from North Korea!  The ploy worked perfectly. Today, anyone who says that the racist creep Scott Rudin should be fired is doing the bidding of Kim Jong-Un. Amy Pascal, after a 90-minute meeting with the Reverend Al Sharpton, promises not to be “insensitive” in the future. The CIA torture story has vanished —John Brennan’s denial was the last word. And paying to see “The Interview” —which preview audiences thought was snore bore—is now seen as a patriotic duty.

Applied Leftiness

When Aaron Sorkin was head writer of West Wing, pro-cannabis activists eagerly watched an episode said to be based on the experience of Dr. Joycelyn Elders, the surgeon general who had been fired by Bill Clinton after acknowledging that marijuana has medical uses and masturbation is normal.

It turned out that any connection between the real Surgeon General Joycelyn Elders and the West Wing version was just name-dropping and p.r.

In the TV show, a female surgeon general (Caucasian, BTW) tells an interviewer that marijuana is “no more harmful than alcohol and nicotine” and “no more addictive than heroin or LSD.”  (Both comments contain misinformation. Marijuana is much less harmful than alcohol and cigarettes. LSD is not addictive. Joycelyn Elders would not have made such misstatements.)

President Martin Sheen is out of town when the Surgeon General does her supposedly outrageous supposed truth-telling. Top aides tell her to resign immediately so that the Prez doesn’t have to fire her.  Meanwhile, one of the Prez’s daughters, a med student, phones a reporter and says her dad would never fire the surgeon general. The Prez returns from abroad, is furious at the surgeon general (who happens to be Godmother to the daughter now coming to her defense), and furious at the daughter, whom he feels doesn’t love him.  Soap-a-roonie! The surgeon general explains to Martin Sheen that his daughter really does love him, and was showing filial admiration by saying that he would never fire her.  The Prez is flattered and refuses to accept the surgeon general’s resignation.  It’s a happy ending with the flag flying and the White House glowing and patriotic chords tugging at our sentiments.

In real life there was a female Surgeon General (Black, BTW) who spoke the truth in terms the President, a Democrat, considered impolitic. He offed her immediately and ignominiously.

When radical movements and leaders emerge, practitioners of leftiness —using NGO money and/or media access— start speaking for the movement and eclipsing the real leaders. They come on like allies —”we’re helping you reach a wider audience,” etc.— but actually they’re weakening the movement’s message and demands.

The blacklisted Hollywood writers whose mantle Aaron Sorkin claims were not opponents of the North Korean regime. They were opponents of capitalism and imperialism. After World War Two, the U.S. had propped up a regime in  South Korea dominated by the former ruling elite, many of whose members had collaborated with the Japanese occupiers. “Our” regime in the South prevented Korea from being unified under leaders who had fought against the Japanese fascists. Anyone wishing to understand how North Korea became so insular and anti-U.S. should read “The Korean War” by University of Chicago historian Bruce Cummings (Random House, 2010).  And anyone wishing to understand McCarthyism —the taunting, firing and blacklisting of American dissenters — should review the coverage of Dennis Rodman’s trip to North Korea with a team of ex-NBA players. Especially chilling for those who remember Senator McCarthy’s voice and interrogation style was Piers Morgan’s hounding of Kenny Anderson on CNN. If you can find it on YouTube… it’s almost as if Morgan, a teabag, had studied McCarthy’s sneering inflection and cadence.

I knew Ring Lardner, Jr. slightly —he played in my in-laws’ poker game, we talked politics on several occasions— and you, Mr. Sorkin, are no Ring Lardner, Jr.

Empty Apartments, Theirs and Ours

At the Emerald Cup in Santa Rosa I ran into David Bienenstock, the writer/editor and cup impresario who left High Times for a job at Vice.com.  I expressed appreciation for Vice backing Dennis Rodman’s visits to North Korea. “To open doors and bridge a gap,” was Rodman’s stated intention, and who could not dig that? According to Bien, Vice honcho Shane Smith was with Rodman’s crew when they were driven in limos to the basketball court, which was in a sports complex surrounded by tall apartment buildings. Upon his return, Smith looked at the site on Google Maps and noticed that the buildings were dark at night —nobody lived there, they were just for show. “They’re so weird,” said Bien about the North Koreans. I told him that one summer night I was walking along the shore in Palm Beach, Florida, and noticed that most of the high-rises looming above were completely dark; in a few the lights were on in a single apartment. The people who owned those apartments used them in the winter. In the summer they go to their places in the Hamptons or the Poconos. In September it’s back to the apartment in Manhattan… North Korea’s empty apartments may be a manifestation of absurd pride, but Florida’s are a testament to material inequality… I sent Bien a song written to console Rosie, who was upset by the way Rodman had been ridiculed and villified.  I wish I could get it to Rodman. Or to some musicians who don’t aspire to a contract with Sony.

And the Winners are… Most hopeful slogan on a tee-shirt at this year’s Emerald Cup: “Marijuana Cures Racism.”  Most useful slogan on a product (a cookie from Kurova Chocolates): “You Can Always Eat More, But You Can’t Eat Less.”

Fred Gardner is managing editor of O’Shaughnessy’s, the journal of cannabis in clinical practice, online at BeyondTHC.com

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Fred Gardner is the managing editor of O’Shaughnessy’s. He can be reached at fred@plebesite.com

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