I’ve been watching the first season of The Newsroom. It is on HBO, and it was created and is largely written by Aaron Sorkin, who gave us The West Wing. The Newsroom is about a news program, which is anchored by Will McAvoy, who (along with his producer, an ex-flame) has decided to shift his program from its less-than-serious nature to one that gives the “facts” and asks guests the hard questions.
I like the program because it is inspirational and funny, and McAvoy, while he is clearly an arrogant jerk, is still somehow loveable (as were all of the jerks on The West Wing). My problem with the show has been that it has presented conservatives as mindless dunces. When McAvoy has had conservative guests on his show, they usually had this deer-in-the-headlights look. In my opinion, that is not only unrealistic, but it also does not make for good entertainment. You may think that conservatives are not particularly bright and that their policies are damaging to the country, but I’ve seen and read plenty of conservatives who are well-read, who are able to convey an argument, and who do not have that deer-in-the-headlights look whenever they’re challenged. Moreover, it would be more entertaining to me to see McAvoy actually have to engage in rhetorical combat with formidable opponents rather than mowing his guests down on a regular basis.
I saw an exception to the rule in an episode that I watched last night, entitled “Bullies.” McAvoy has on his program an African-American homosexual professor who (surprise!) is an adviser to Republican Presidential candidate Rick Santorum. In the style of Lawrence O’Donnell, McAvoy ties to mow the professor down with the same questions over and over: How can the professor defend Rick Santorum’s comments regarding homosexuality? The professor meekly replies that Santorum has treated him with the utmost respect over the years, and that he does not agree with everything Santorum has said. As the professor is continually harangued by McAvoy, however, the professor eventually loses his cool. The professor fights back, saying that he is not defined by his race, his sexual orientation, or even by McAvoy, who in his narrow-mindedness presumes to know what someone like the professor should believe and do. The professor says that he does not need McAvoy’s help, and that he is supporting Rick Santorum because he believes that Santorum is the best candidate in the race when it comes to protecting the lives of the unborn.
To his credit, McAvoy is silent as he is taken to the woodshed by the professor, but, as is often the case in Sorkin’s political dramas, the left gets the last word. McAvoy then asks the professor if Santorum believes that the professor is fit to teach, and the professor quietly and solemnly responds, “no.”
When McAvoy is seeing a therapist, McAvoy eventually acknowledges that he was being a bully in that interview. McAvoy also remarks that he managed to upset the religious right, African-Americans, and gays in one interview, and I got a laugh out of that! In any case, I hope that there are more episodes of The Newsroom in which intelligent conservatives fight back—-and both sides (if we can truly reduce people to “sides,” which is doubtful) end up learning something in the process.
To watch the scene, see here.