Aaron Sorkin is an Academy and Emmy award winning American screenwriter, producer and playwright, whose works include A Few Good Men, The American President, The West Wing, Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip, The Social Network, and, his newest, The Newsroom. He was also a cocaine addict for many years but after a highly publicized arrest in 2001 and receiving treatment in a drug diversion program is reported to have recovered. Aaron Sorkin is also a limousine liberal who uses his productions to further liberal agendas and bash conservative ones.
Sorkin is like David E. Kelly, American TV writer and producer, creator of The Practice, Ally McBeal, Boston Legal and Harry’s Law, who uses his productions to push liberal ideas, or American filmmaker and director Oliver Stone, who never lets historical facts get in the way of his telling a good, liberally biased story.
The Newsroom, appearing on HBO, features cable news anchorman Will McAvoy, played by Jeff Daniels and described as a “moderate Republican” (or what real conservatives call a RINO), whose news savvy brilliance is equally matched by his crusty exterior, his deep down heart of gold and his aggressive pursuit of real, true, professional journalism. Uh-huh. And Emily Mortimer plays Will’s ex-girlfriend and new executive producer (EP) MacKenzie McHale, who, like Will, is equally and deeply dedicated to getting the real news and getting it right. Uh-huh, again. Daniels does a good job playing an arrogant TV news anchor (a little this side of Keith Olbermann, a little the other side of Brian Williams) and Mortimer does a good job, too, except when she becomes what I call “British female screechy,” which I guess she can’t help because (a) she is British, (b) she is female and (c) some scenes require her to be upset, which comes across, to me at least, as screechy. In other words, fingernails on a chalkboard.
I watch Newsroom because the writing is good, the acting is good, the characters’ repartee is good and it’s entertaining, especially when Sorkin doesn’t intend it to be and his liberal bias is on full display. Sorkin could easily be the real-world head of one of the alphabet networks’ “news” rooms. He would fit right in. Or one of those cable news giants, like CNN or MSNBC. No, wait, cable news giant, that would be Fox News. But speaking of CNN reminds me of its founder Ted “Mouth of the South” Turner, which reminds me of his former wife Hanoi Jane Fonda, who (amazingly) has a recurring role on Newsroom as Leona Lansing, CEO of Atlantis World Media (ACM), parent company of Atlantis Cable News (ACN), which is where Will and the others of Newsroom work. And, of course, she too, like Will and his new, sometimes screechy EP, is all about bringing the public only the real news and getting it right. In fantasyland all these people are dedicated, thoroughly professional “news” people. In real life, it’s easy to see that liberal looney birds really do flock together. But I digress.
This week’s episode was set in February 2011, which gives Sorkin the benefit of 20-20 hindsight because he already knows how the episode’s “breaking news stories” turned out in real life, and is centered around the Arab Spring demonstrations in Egypt’s Tahir Square, with the side-story of the public union protests against Wisconsin governor Scott Walker’s efforts to save his state’s economy.
The liberal bleeding heart part of the storyline is ACN needing an on-the-ground “stringer” to report what’s actually happening during the demonstrations in Tahir Square. The ACN “brown member” of the team (diversity, you know, although I don’t recall seeing any Asians yet) knows how to contact an Egyptian youth who agrees to work as a stringer for ACN and gets them coverage nobody else has. Woo-hoo for fantastic journalism! Unfortunately, he is then captured and a ransom is demanded but corporate’s mean, old, legal office won’t authorize it (you know how cold and impersonal corporations are, even the “good’ ones who support gay marriage, etc.), so Will, the only millionaire at ACN because of his anchorman’s salary and perks, quietly pays it himself. Oddly, by episode’s end, everybody in The Newsroom‘s news room seems to have found out what Will did and, to prove their own dedication to good journalism in their own, smaller way, they each come into Will’s office and lay their small, individual, we-can’t-really-afford-this checks on Will’s desk. There wouldn’t have been a dry eye in the house if it hadn’t been so sophomorically sappy.
Meanwhile, the side-story of the demonstrations in Wisconsin highlights Sorkin straining to draw parallels between the Egyptian and Wisconsin demonstrations, while getting in a shot at the conservative, billionaire Koch brothers, first by Will asking for someone to find the connection between them and the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision, with separate digs at Justices Scalia and Thomas, then Will talking about them pouring money into the supporters of Governor Walker, and a video clip which Will has replayed no less than three times of one of the Koch brothers saying something about something.
First, there was no parallel to be drawn between the two demonstrations. The one in Egypt was about hundreds of thousands of people overthrowing a dictator and wanting freedom. The one in Wisconsin was about a governor, who ran and was elected by the people on a platform of fiscal conservatism, having the state Capitol Building occupied by protesting, public union teachers who said they cared about their students but who used some of their students as protest props, who spent weeks out of the classroom in protesting to protect their own bloated entitlements, instead of teaching their students, and who occupied the Capitol Building for weeks. (Yes, the first of the modern day, American “occupiers,” well before the Occupy Wall Street crowd, which devolved into the Occupy Anywhere and Everywhere crowd, which devolved into the pee and defecate anywhere crowd, all with no specific message, except raging and staging against “the Man.”) But no mention of OFA (Obama for America — Obama’s election campaign) also pouring money into the state, to support the protestors, or billionaire George Soros’ liberal “news” outlets fanning the flames of protest, or the use of David Axelrod’s Astroturf tactic of bussing in additional protestors from out of state.
Second, after tossing in the rhetorical question of what governor needs to call in his National Guard to deal with peaceful protestors, Will then went on a rant about average wages of different types across the country being in the mid-$40,000 range, predictably ending with the average wage of teachers being about the same, which of course was supposed to make us all feel sympathy for the poor, hardworking, underpaid teachers who were just being bullied by the mean, old governor of their state. However, the teachers’ salaries was never the point of the Wisconsin governor’s measures to get his state’s economy back on track in the first place. It was not teachers’ wages but their inflated retirement and health entitlements which were the problem and which were bankrupting the state. Governor Walker instituted changes which broke those public union contracts, so they could be renegotiated, and he simply asked the public union teachers to “pay their fair share” (you’ve heard that somewhere else, haven’t you?) toward their own retirement and health benefits. In the process, he probably saved many teachers’ jobs, because he could avoid the drastic layoffs which were the only other alternative to bringing costs in line. And the Wisconsin National Guard was only called in after weeks of protestors occupying the Capitol Building, causing damage to public property and disrupting the conduct of the state’s business, and being finally told they had to leave and refusing to do so.
But then, all that would have been “context” to more fairly telling the “news” story, the “real news” and “getting it right,” wouldn’t it, Mr. Anchorman Will? Wouldn’t it, Mr. Writer and Storyteller Sorkin? And as much as liberals talk about it, even preach about it, they just can’t seem to really do it — either at the fictitious ACN, or the real ABC, or CBS, or NBC, or CNN, or MSNBC. Funny — and sad — how that is.