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Post 20

Thursday, March 3, 2005 - 9:57amSanction this postReply
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> Yes I admire the work ethic of the characters but what are they working for? [John]

1.) I get the feeling many of you stunned, horrified opponents of the West Wing haven't watched it all that carefully.

So often people see one thing that turns them off, then they slam shut against it totally without having seen it in totality or full context. This applies to Objectivists condemning people as well as esthetic experiences.

Whoa-Jefferson had slaves!
Whoa-Reagan was for abortion!
Whoa-Pres. Bartlett advocated a welfare state program!
Whoa-the "China Syndrome" was wrong about whether a core meltdown could escape the containment vessel...so I can't appreciate Jack Lemmon's honesty and courage as a whistle blower.
Contemptible, contemptible, contemptible.

2.) Tibor Machan at least had a better putative reason: that, he believes, West Wing systematically attacks less government or is for the welfare state. In rebuttal to this I forgot to make this point:

Liberalism like conservatism is a mixture of good and bad. It is for less freedom in economics, e.g. "the pocketbook". But it is for *more* freedom in the social and personal areas, e.g., "the bedroom".

So some of the "liberal" aspects of a t.v. program or movie may well be defending things we actually -agree- with. Last night on "West Wing" there were three such things:

i) not banning stem cells or cloning
ii) not having huge deficit spending (Pres. Bartlett in the very last seen, grudgingly is forced to agree with his right-wing Japanese economist rival who he had been fighting all through the program. The small government point of view wins)
iii) avoiding going to war with a neighboring country over a trivial dispute between a half dozen hunters.

So, even IF West Wing were promulgating liberalism and that were the only essential thing about the program, half the time the liberal ideas are good ones, undercutting the authoritarianism of religious and social conservatives in other ways.

The liberals on WW are good, honest, conscientious liberals, not totalitarian liberals or leftists or 'age of envy' types or Tooheys or Mouches. They are open to reason. And they have many good qualities, as do the very admirable characters on this show.

Ah! I've finally identified what I like most about this show: Openness to Reason. It appears as a recurring theme in these earnest, emotional, but conscientious characters. You saw it as recently as last night: Bartlett's angry rejection of the conservative anti-deficit view at first, then he slowly has to be rational and comes around.

And in the last scene admits in the full glare of a national press conference:

I failed on this in my two terms. I let the country slide deeply into debt. I will spend the rest of my lame-duck term arguing against deficits.

THAT is why I love Bartlett. Not because he's a liberal or he's Martin Sheen in real life, but because of the tremendous character and maturity it takes to do something like that.

(That's my answer to John's question: "what weight would we give to ideology vs dialogue vs plot vs acting?")

--Philip Coates



Post 21

Thursday, March 3, 2005 - 10:29amSanction this postReply
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Philip,

Well written and reasoned post.

I agree you with in general about people shutting down something based on thing, but I know if it's contemptable so much as pitiable. I mean - their loss. I don't understand the value in cutting yourself off from liking things, really. I understand not liking thing - it's wanting to NOT like thing that I don't grasp. Art, food, experiences - if you beleive that this is your one life, why not expand your interests constantly...




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Post 22

Thursday, March 3, 2005 - 11:03amSanction this postReply
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Great post, Philip.  Let me just add that one of the things that I like about the show is that ideas and intelligence seem to matter.  It's one of a small, rapidly decreasing, number of shows I watch now.

Lee said:
I understand not liking thing - it's wanting to NOT like thing that I don't grasp.
I'm not sure it's "wanting to NOT like" it that is the issue; I believe the issue is thinking that it's not RIGHT to like it.  When your emotions don't yet track with your philosophy, you may find yourself liking something that might, in some way, be opposed to your politics, for example.  So, a conscious decision is made to avoid this, since it is something you think you shouldn't like.

Glenn




Post 23

Thursday, March 3, 2005 - 12:22pmSanction this postReply
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I would like to commend Tibor Machan's post [15] to people's attention. I don't like it when people simply focus on the one thing they disagree with in -my- writing or thinking and then ignore many other interesting side points or supporting points or valid "wider issue points", so I don't want to do it with that post. While still having a different view from mine on West Wing, itself, that post is a wider analysis:

It has a number of thought-provoking things to say on the more more comprehensive issue of the nature of liberalism and American political culture. The points about Toby Ziegler are interesting--a speech writer, he could well be the character most like the writers of the show. Worth rereading.



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Post 24

Thursday, March 3, 2005 - 5:57pmSanction this postReply
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Not to get bogged down in details, but this is from Season Two.  Ainsley Hayes is a Republican Party ideologue who is hired on the insistence of the President after this point-counterpoint in which she kicks butt.

http://westwing.bewarne.com/second/26ainsley.html

A few shows later ("And It's Surely To Their Credit" #26: Season 2 Show 4), she changes the mind of Sam Seaborn.  The issue is a Dept of Commerce initiative to help small businesses by targeting employee theft.  Seaborn is afraid that this might open the door to discrimination.  Hayes demonstrates to him that employee theft is a significant killer of new businesses and that statistically the criminals are married White men with college degrees.  So. Sam changes his mind.  He takes the new proposal to the chief of staff who agrees and promises the support of the president. 
( And, yes, back in the hallways, Sam notes that this will help them get a higher minimum wage past the objections of small businesses.  Of course, the viewers have that expectation.  In Season One, Donna, a secretary says that she supports the Republican plan to return a $38 billion surplus as a tax cut.  Her boss, Josh, says "We don't trust you to spend the money wisely."  Why not? "We're Democrats," he tells her.)

Anyway, Ainsley wins her point with Sam et al., after she gets two Democratic party errand boys fired for being impolite to the Republican leadership.  Actually, Sam Seaborn fires them because they called her a bitch. 

It does not matter that this is or is not the Democrats or the Classical Liberals in a real or imaginary White House or the Emerald City of Oz.  It is how people are supposed to act -- and how we do act when we live up to the standards we set for ourselves. 

(Edited by Michael E. Marotta on 3/03, 5:57pm)




Post 25

Thursday, March 3, 2005 - 8:13pmSanction this postReply
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I keep getting the impression you're trying to set this show up as if a 'Hugoesque' kind - and this would be interesting, if true.



Post 26

Thursday, March 3, 2005 - 8:30pmSanction this postReply
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Philip, I have not seen even one minute of West Wing, so I can't comment on the show. But I do want to comment on something you said in one of your posts about it.

You wrote that the show often defends issues with which we would agree, such as allowing stem cell research and lowering the deficit. I certainly do agree that these are important issues. But there''s something I wonder about. We have to consider the context in which the show appears -- a context in which liberals such as Martin Sheen and Alan Alda consider George W. Bush to be one step lower than the devil and miss no opportunity to denounce and defame him. Is it not likely that such sincere, honest liberals -- which I believe, today, to be a contradiction in terms -- are choosing to discuss these issues precisely as a means of attacking Bush and, more importantly, the war in Iraq? I think it is very likely; in fact, I believe it is true. I think they care much more about this than about either stem cell research or the deficit.

Barbara



Post 27

Thursday, March 3, 2005 - 9:07pmSanction this postReply
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Barbara,

I'm really puzzled why you seem to like Bush so much.



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Post 28

Thursday, March 3, 2005 - 9:51pmSanction this postReply
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Barbara,

You and Tibor Machan both raised the question of ulterior motives on the part of the show's creators and principals. I don't know the answer to that question or a way to easily find out here. It's certainly true that attacking social or religious conservatism is attacking Bush and the Republicans. But I think they deserve to be attacked on these points.

Nonetheless for me, however they arrived at it or for whatever mixed motives, what's actually up on the screen are enjoyable and in many ways admirable characters. This may be a far-fetched parallel, but the fascists allowed "Noi Vivi" to play in Italy because their ulterior motive was to show something that was anti-communist. But what was actually up on the screen was anti-collectivist. (Of course in Rand's case that was obviously intentional.)

In many ways, what's emerged to be on the screen in West Wing is pro-integrity, pro-dedication, pro-hard work, pro-intelligence and allows to be seen an array of virtues which are anterior to and deeper than politics. Why that was created and produced is a separate question.

To me its a thousand times more important to see good characters (and character) up on the screen and I desperately need to bask in it and I can forgive ideological/political mistakes (within reason). I tend to believe the scope of honest error is far, far broader than Miss Rand did and than the vast majority of Objectivists do. And I grant it to many, probably most, liberals and conservatives.

This is in a strange way analogous to why I like Andrei far more than I do Leo in "We The Living"...the first is true to mistaken values (until the day he no longer agrees with them)... the second has no excuse for his weakness, the way he treats Kira etc.

--Phil





Post 29

Friday, March 4, 2005 - 1:30amSanction this postReply
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I enjoy this show but must miss some of the references (being in U.K.) to current political issues.  To a viewer from abroad it is high drama,well scripted,fast dialogue and witty (don't get all the jokes of course). As to actors politics, it didn't stop the Academy liberals giving Clint Eastwood an Oscar did it ?
Also its pretty flash .
Can you imagine a programme called "10 Downing St"?

If you ever get to see "Yes minister " you will see the difference in how we saw our government in 70s-80s. 

Finally, the episode at the moment involves Bartlett's daughter
and a French drug dealer! If that is a liberal idea.........




Post 30

Friday, March 4, 2005 - 3:15amSanction this postReply
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Phili;p, you've made me curious to see West Wing, and I'll watch it next week. And by the way, I quite agree that if what's on the screen is worth while, that matters more than the motives of those who put it there.

I agree, too, that the scope of honest error is much broader than Ayn Rand believed, and that many Objectivists do, and I've been fighting against their position for years. But I find it difficult to grant to many of today's liberals that only honest error is involved in their position. Let me give examples with the issue of the war in Iraq. Chris Sciabarra opposes the war; he is an honest and good man and his opposition is for reasons that I think are mistaken but that nevertheless reflect that honesty and goodness. Justin Raimondo opposes the was; I cannot respect him or his reasons.So it is with liberals, but today, with the colossal failure of socialism, I find fewer of them whom I can believe are honest. It's especially interesting to see that many life long liberals are turning away from their colleagues over the issue of the war on terrorism.

Barbara



Post 31

Friday, March 4, 2005 - 4:40amSanction this postReply
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Philip Coates wrote: In many ways, what's emerged to be on the screen in West Wing is pro-integrity, pro-dedication, pro-hard work, pro-intelligence and allows to be seen an array of virtues which are anterior to and deeper than politics. Why that was created and produced is a separate question.

I wonder why it was created.  I wonder how it was created.  This is a show with many producers, and producers arrange financing, advertising, etc.  My next task is to identify the directors and writers. 

I have the first season and the start of the second on DVD from Blockbuster and I am in my second round of viewing.  Some of the DVDs have "commentary" from the creator and chief executive senior producer.  These guys are idiots.  If they have any thoughts in their heads, those thoughts are probably banging around in all that free space.

Someone has intelligence, drive, initiative, insight, and creativity.  When I figure out who that is and was, I will let you know.

We do not get TV, so we only see it at friends' houses. Not much else on TV comes close.  The show truly stands out.

(Preparing a set of counter-arguments as part of the process, Sam Seaborn picks an argument with a school teacher (daughter of Leo McGarry, the White House Chief of Staff).  She is floored.  He tells her that in 40 years, we have spent 1.7 TRILLION dollars on public education and it is only worse now than it was 40 years ago and her solution is 40 more years of this?  And you went to private schools, he continues, primary and secondary, so it is fine for you rich liberals to abandon the public school system but when the voucher system gives poor kids a chance to get out, that's different. ...  Well, it was a strawman.  Standing intimately close to her later, he says that just like national defense the government should devote massive resources to public education and that it should be free for everyone ... "... only I haven't figured out how to do that..."  And you know what? I have to agree with the sentiment.  I would like to live in a world where education never lacks for resources and to fund their militaries, governments have to run bake sales.  To me, that means laissez faire capitalism.  But all that means is that the West Wing TV White House Staff and I differ on the methods, but agree on the goals.)




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Post 32

Friday, March 4, 2005 - 5:13amSanction this postReply
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As if this might be a surprise to anyone, I'm with Philip on this.  I resisted watching "The West Wing" for four years because I could not even think of subjecting myself to one more hour of drippy, bleeding-heart welfare-liberal ideology.  Bah, humbug!  I said.

But everybody who watched it---people I knew who were not liberal, and who just appreciated good writing, and provocative, challenging scripts---implored me to sit and watch.  I made an excuse.  I said I couldn't just pick it up in the middle.  So I stubbornly refused.

And then.

Bravo-TV, an NBC-affiliated cable station, began running re-runs, in order.  And the first five seasons of re-runs finished right before season 6 debuted this year.  And I watched it.  All of it.  And I was hooked. 

And it's not all liberal mush.  There have been many people of principle portrayed on different ends of the political spectrum.  Even John Goodman was brought in (spoiler) as President during a crisis, and he promptly kicked ass in responding to terrorist attacks against the U.S.  Alan Alda, a Republican in this season's Presidential campaign, is one of the most principled men in this season's story-line.  In the episode, "King Corn," while all the Democrats are scurrying about endorsing subsidized Ethanol for political purposes, some knowing full well what a boondoggle it is, Alda's character stands on the principle of limited government, and opposes the corporate welfare program.  Reminded me of Goldwater going directly to the farm belt and advocating a "prompt and final termination of the farm subsidy program."

And for those who are thrilled with socially liberal positions, the show has provided some great moments, especially in opposition to the religious right (e.g., a classic dialogue between President Bartlett and Dr. Jenna Jacobs---who is a bit like conservative radio host Dr. Laura).

Does the show's welfare-liberal politics sometimes get on my nerves?  Sure.  Does the program project a utopia (translated literally as "no-where") insofar as it presents us with a government that might "do-good" with interventionist policies?  Sure!   But I try not to judge any dramatic art form by its political subtext.  At that rate, I'd watch nothing---because I am opposed to the message of programs and movies that project religious right-wing positions as well.  And let's face it:  It's rare that we'd find any program (dramatic or news-oriented) that is perfectly in sync with "Objectivist" or "libertarian" political positions (maybe "South Park"???  Or Penn and Teller's "Bullshit"???  Or John Stossel's "Give Me a Break" segments on "20/20"?)

Still, there is enough give-and-take on "The West Wing" to keep me coming back for more.  More importantly, it's a well-done, well-scripted show, projecting characters one can care about, who hold many good values, even when their articulated political positions are wrong.

(Edited by sciabarra on 3/04, 5:17am)




Post 33

Friday, March 4, 2005 - 6:57amSanction this postReply
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It was created to make money, like all the other shows. People are interested in politics, and there are shows set in hospitals and police stations and crime labs and so on. A show set in the White House was a good arena - full of conflict and interesting situation, like an E.R. or a courtroom.

Directors in television don't become TV directors because they have an ideological agenda. Same with writers or producers, except in documentries. TV isn't a good place for agendas.



Post 34

Friday, March 4, 2005 - 11:30amSanction this postReply
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I've never watched much of this show, largely due to the main characters' evident liberalism. However, given the many positive comments here I will try to see it in future.

MH




Post 35

Friday, March 4, 2005 - 12:20pmSanction this postReply
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Barbara said: "Philip, you've made me curious to see West Wing, and I'll watch it next week."

Great! I hope you hit a good one...it does vary somewhat but I don't think I've ever been sorry I watched.

You also raised the question how frequently liberals can be engaged in honest error. For example being in favor of the welfare state given the clear failure of socialism.

This would be a whole other subject (to some extent being discussed on the two praise-of-contempt threads), but given today's educational system, the brainwashing and bad arguments and poor thinking skills, the professors ever ready to give arguments distinguishing between what they propose and socialism, I do think that people who enter school non-ideological and emerge liberals can be honestly misled. I argued with many in my four years at Brown. Really bright kids but with huge blind spots, earnest, not evasive, but with riddled with lots of mistaken premises like a swiss cheese. I was immediately struck by that my freshman year, which was my first encounter with the West Wing type liberal.

My main impression was of people who were not dishonest and not social metaphysicians, but just not *careful* (or intelligent) philosophical or analytical thinkers. I concede that in -some- cases this can be evasion.

Phil

PS, Also, as on Iraq, liberals are often victims of poor -factual- information (don't get me started on the aluminum tubes, the original casus belli, the question whether Saddam was linked to terrorists, etc.)




Post 36

Friday, March 4, 2005 - 12:26pmSanction this postReply
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Barbara, It just occurred to me that on the liberals we may be talking about different groups here...the callow youth vs. the well-informed Senator. So one would have to concretize the individuals about whom one is questioning their honesty.



Post 37

Saturday, March 5, 2005 - 7:18pmSanction this postReply
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Philip:"Barbara, It just occurred to me that on the liberals we may be talking about different groups here...the callow youth vs. the well-informed Senator. So one would have to concretize the individuals about whom one is questioning their honesty."

That's an important point. I was not talking about young people who emerge from our universities brainwashed, but about adults who presumably have learned something about history and about the world.

By the way, if I were the ruler of the schools of the world, just before abdicating I would make the teaching of history mandatory for all grades and throughout university. This just possibly would make it occur to some liberals that their ideas have been tried countless times and in countless countries and in countless eras and have led to nothing but destruction.




Post 38

Saturday, March 5, 2005 - 9:03pmSanction this postReply
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[Barbara] "if I were the ruler of the schools of the world, just before abdicating I would make the teaching of history mandatory for all grades and throughout university."

Amen. You declare your candidacy and I'll be your campaign manager. I'm a bit troubled about the too early abdication, though.



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Post 39

Saturday, March 5, 2005 - 9:26pmSanction this postReply
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I have to deal with politicians sometimes in real life (Brazilian ones). But I don't like politicians in general. I certainly don't want to watch a TV program about them. However, I did see one episode of West Wing a few months ago. I remember being fairly surprised about how interesting it was.

From the commentary in this thread, this series seems to be a recent version of what Ayn Rand called "Bootleg Romanticism."

Or, due to the Liberal politics, maybe it is Bootleg Romanticism dishing out Sweet Poison to the unwary.

Barbara - I have been following certain "conspiracy" folks on the web for a while now, but I couldn't swallow Justin Raimondo either. Had to stop reading him after the first couple of times.

General question: Why was this thread posted with an advertising photo?

Michael

Later edit: I posted this before looking at the Lew Rockwell/anitwar.com post. Wow! Got to read Justin Raimondo again, this time in person at SOLO. He sure sounds better here than there.

(Edited by Michael Stuart Kelly on 3/05, 9:28pm)

(Edited by Michael Stuart Kelly on 3/06, 1:45am)




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