Vinny v. Sorkin
My friend Vinny recently ranted on Facebook against Aaron Sorkin in general and the five-minute open to Sorkin's HBO series “The Newsroom” in particular. Apparently he saw the latter via Neil deGrasse Tyson's Facebook page. For the record, Mr. deGrasse Tyson posted the video because “One of the great forces of delusion is under-informed pride of country.” I.e., he was a fan of sorts. Not Vinny.
After watching this I‘ve finally decided that I just don’t like Aaron Sorkin. The clip pretends to rise above jingoism (but ends up falling hard for it), above a straw-man of liberalism, and instead presents a sentimental, white-washed version of US history. And it does so with the intent of rallying us all to ‘remake’ the US as the ‘greatest country in the world’... a misguided, foolishly competitive errand if there ever was one. ...
If liberals are so smart, how come they lose all the time? If you think this line is funny, enjoy it. Liberals look back at the last 100 years of politics and see huge, lasting victories: women's suffrage, major civil rights victories, winning the Cold War, creation and protection of Social Security/Medicare/ Medicaid, and the widespread acceptance of gay rights. What can conservatives be proud of in that time? Give me your list; ‘destroying the power of unions’ better be on it.
I'm judging Sorkin on seeing plenty of “West Wing” and “The Social Network.” It's feel-good, self-important drama, not drama that has much to do with the real world. His writing is catchy, like eating a bucket full of Skittles. It's juicy and gives you a little high; when it's over you just feel gross.
This bullshit about how America didn't use to be ‘afraid,’ and how we ‘used’ to make decisions based on facts, etc. is just nauseating. Look at the Japanese internment camps during WW2, look at the Sedition laws in WW1. Look at Joe McCarthy. Americans, throughout history, like every other country in the world, ever, have always had a wide streak of fear, paranoia and irrationality. Throwing pixie dust around about how we used to be soooo strong, and how that was based on the strength of our ‘core values’ that we‘ve somehow drifted away from is ridiculous. The US was incredibly strong following WW2 because we’d devoted our entire nation to the purpose of building up our military. We entered the war long after it was over, and lost a tiny fraction of our materiel and men after the rest of the major powers had crushed each other. We were the only one left standing. And we were able to do that because we basically had the Western Hemisphere to ourselves. If you swap the American People with the Russian People circa 1938, there is nothing inherently Awesome about us that would have dealt with Hitler any better than the Russians did.
We‘ve also had the luxury of starting modern life in 1700 on a fantastically huge, undeveloped treasure trove of natural resources. Every other major nation was surrounded by competitors, and had been developing their natural environment for hundreds if not thousands of years. The exploitation (some good, some bad) of resources in our 300+ year history has given us a titanic ’head start' in the race to become ‘the greatest.’ For a time following WW2, we were probably ‘the greatest’... not that I give a shit about which country is ‘winning’ that race, nor should anyone.
So... do I think the media should switch to reporting facts, and encouraging rational debate? Of course. It would make us wiser, and lead to better policies. Do I think Aaron Fucking Sorkin is contributing to this cause in any way? Nope. He's selling Hallmark cards.
Here's the clip that started it all: