Thursday, November 19, 2009

The Long March of the Media Whores

Recent weeks have seen some tragic misfires from right-wing media clowns. One can't help but wonder if, in their rush to appear on camera, these people didn't think things through in advance. Perhaps, they are simply incapable of applying critical thinking skills to their lives in general. Consider the following:
  • Appearing on Larry King Live, former beauty contestant Carrie Prejean (the devout Christian boob with fake boobs) kept admonishing King that his questions were inappropriate. Prejean then attempted to unhook her earpiece and microphone as a prelude to walking off the set.
  • After being thoroughly lambasted by Jon Stewart (who showed footage proving that Fox News had used footage from Glenn Beck's September rally to make it look as if Michele Bachman's November rally had attracted larger crowds than it did), Sean Hannity was forced to admit that there had been an unfortunate "mistake." A week later, Fox News repeated the tactic, using old campaign footage of a Sarah Palin rally to inflate the size of the crowd attempting to purchase her book.
  • A right-wing zealot who announced plans to burn Nancy Pelosi in effigy at a Teabag rally had to change his plans after the owner of the land where the rally was to be held withdrew his permission for use of the space.
  • After much hot air from his publicist, Levi Johnston failed to let his Johnson be photographed during an overhyped modeling session for Playgirl Magazine.
  • That didn't stop Sarah Palin (one of the biggest media whores of the decade) from stating during her appearance on the Oprah Winfrey Show that she felt it was sad that Levi had embarked on a career in pornography. Or that she acquiesced to Katie Couric's questioning because she pitied Couric for being so insecure. John Oliver found that New Yorkers with even a minimal education were far from interested in acquiring Palin's book.

Writing for Salon.Com, Joan Walsh opined that:
"Now that her Oprah appearance is over -- and boy, did Oprah let the liberals in her audience down; what a waste! -- let me confess to my own Palin fatigue. I just can't take seriously the idea that she'll ever be president, even after her moderately successful softball game with Oprah. Palin sealed that fate when she quit being governor (although maybe she can run with Lou Dobbs on the All Quitters ticket in 2012). She'll never obtain the record or the reliability she needs to run credibly for president now that she gave up the modestly challenging job of running Alaska. I don't see her ever having the self-discipline or the humility to admit how very much she'd need to learn to be remotely qualified."
What do all of these tragically misinformed media whores have in common: Perhaps the answer lies in this clip from Fractured Broadway 2007 (in which Leslie Margherita mocks jailbird Paris Hilton as she answers questions from tabloid reporters):

Compare all the ego stroking required by celebutards like Hilton, Palin, Johnston, Hannity, and Prejean to the simple, straightforward logic demonstrated by 10-year-old Will Philips (who may be smarter than all of them put together). In the following clip from CNN, not only does Philips prove that he has a brain -- and that he knows how to use it (he's smart enough to have skipped a grade) -- but that the truth can, indeed, set one free from parading one's ignorance before the public.

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For many people, the concept of "liberty and justice for all" (as recited every day by students swearing the Pledge of Allegiance in classrooms across America) has little meaning.. But for one attorney, the phrase embodied a life-long passion.

William Kunstler, who became famous as a result of his defense of the Chicago Seven, made clever use of the media in his never-ending fight for liberty and justice. A co-founder of the Law Center for Constitutional Rights, he was also a director of the American Civil Liberties Union from 1964-1972. Although his clients ranged from the Black Panther Party to the Weather Underground, from the Catonsville Nine to the rioters at New York's Attica State Prison, Kunstler always stressed that he only defended "those I love."

Kunstler's involvement in the civil rights movement began in the early 1960s, when he worked with the Freedom Riders in the South. His list of controversial clients includes Lenny Bruce, Angela Davis, Stokely Carmichael, Martin Luther King, Jerry Rubin, and Assata Shakur.

A new documentary entitled William Kunstler: Disturbing The Universe explores Kunstler's work as a civil rights activist and attorney from a unique perspective. Written and directed by Kunstler's daughters, Sarah and Emily, it asks what happens when children who always thought their father was right, begin to have doubts about his life's work.

In her director's statement, Sarah Kunstler explains that:
"When we decided to make a film about our father, we worried that the people we interviewed would see us only as Kunstler’s daughters. But rather than being an impediment, this inevitable framework became a strength. And we knew that many other children, especially those who were young when their parents died, take a similar adult journey toward reconciling the parent with the person.

Today, with the election of America’s first African American president, it is tempting to relegate the civil rights movement to a bygone chapter in a history book, and to celebrate our victories without acknowledging how much work remains. More than 50 years have passed since the Supreme Court ruled that separate schools for white and black children are inherently unequal. Still today, racism and bigotry cast ugly shadows on our schools, streets, and courtrooms. Emily and I wanted to bring our father’s story, and the battles he was a part of, out of the past, and to remind audiences that freedom is a constant struggle, and that the people who fight for it are heroes, not because they are without flaws, but because they see injustice and find the courage to act.

This is a film about and for people of courage. We hope that it communicates that the world we inherit is better because someone struggled for justice, and that those changes will survive only if we continue to fight."
Watching this documentary is an eye-opening experience for those with poor or fading memories of the 1960s. During the infamous Chicago Seven trial, the judge ordered that defendant Bobby Seale be bound and gagged while in the courtroom. With a black man occupying the Oval Office today, watching footage from the trial is simply mind-boggling.

Equally surprising are the images of Kunstler as a work-at-home dad. Although he may have been a media-savvy firebrand in the courtroom and in front of the media, Kunstler was a devoted and loving father who took his two little girls to watch him try a case before the United States Supreme Court.

As Sarah Kunstler recalls:
"This film grew out of conversations that Emily and I began having around our father and his impact on our lives. It was 2005, ten years after his death, and Hurricane Katrina has just shredded the veneer that covered racism in America.

Growing up, our parents had imbued us with a strong sense of personal responsibility. We, too, wanted to fight injustice; we just didn’t know what path to take. Even though I went to law school, I think both Emily and I were afraid of trying to live up to our father’s accomplishments.

It was in a small, dusty Texas town that we found our path. In 1999, an unlawful drug sting imprisoned more than 20 percent of Tulia’s African American population. The injustice of the incarcerations shocked us, and the fury and eloquence of family members left behind moved us beyond sympathy to action.

While our father lived in front of news cameras, we found our place behind the lens. Our film, Tulia, Texas: Scene From The Drug War helped exonerate 46 people, and this sealed our fate as filmmakers. One day, when we were driving around Tulia, hunting leads and interviews, Emily turned to me. 'I think I could be happy doing this for the rest of my life,' she said, giving voice to something we had both been thinking. It was years later that we realized our father had made a similar journey to the South and left a trail of breadcrumbs we had unconsciously followed. The journey had changed his life as well."
At a time when many liberals are feeling disheartened about the lack of true compassion in Washington, William Kunstler: Disturbing The Universe offers a refreshing crash course in the history of the civil rights movement as well as the lasting effects of the political upheaval of the 1960s. In addition to a wealth of astonishing archival footage, the film features interviews with Harry Belafonte, Daniel Berrigan, Phil Donahue, Jimmy Breslin, Tom Hayden, and Bobby Seale. Consider it a master class in media manipulation.

Like Carrie Fisher's one-woman show, Wishful Drinking, the Kunstler daughters' documentary shows the effect of a parent's celebrity and controversy on the mind of an impressionable child. Like Kunstler's life, their film is inspiring, disturbing, and profoundly touching. Here's the trailer:

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