What the Sony hack & the Pentagon Papers have to do with dinner at my house

Celebrity gossip and pop culture are two of my guilty pleasures, and I follow world affairs and politics the way some people follow sports. I even have an unofficial list of Celebrities and World Leaders Welcome in my Home (it’s very short).

Unsurprisingly, last week’s news about the alleged North Korean hack of Sony felt like an early holiday gift. Also, its release of e-mails between executives discussing their opinions of stars’ talent and behavior (Angelina Jolie – on the list, Leonardo DiCaprio – not on the list) and tacky jokes about President Obama’s (on the list) taste in movies (must have Black character or African/African-American subject matter) got people talking.

About the wrong things.

This was particularly driven home in a Facebook post by a former editor. She’s a thoughtful and delightfully opinionated woman who now runs a non-profit.  Its mission is to train community volunteers as advocates for abused and neglected children  needing safe and permanent homes. She said, in part:

“The racist joking about the President had news value to the extent of exposing racism, but does showing it publicly do any more than that? Their personal conversation – racist or not – has no real implications on the general public, IMO, as they made no plans to carry out hateful acts against others.”

I disagree.

To put it in newspaper terms, the Entertainment Industry’s op-eds are liberal (in the form of political affiliations and donations) and say all the right things about fairness, justice and equality. But its articles support a status quo that keeps us so mired in class- and racially-based divisiveness that it might as well just save its money and ditch the op-ed page altogether.

People like Amy Pascal (as an Amy, I have wondered aloud whether there is there a whiter name, but that is another topic for another day) and Scott Rudin regularly commit hateful acts against all of us. They’re just the latest links in a long chain of industry executives who’ve acted similarly. (They’ve also joined my “not on the list” list.)

People in their positions have tremendous influence. They control the stories we hear. They control the faces of those stories and the voices that tell them. They control the message, its volume and when and how that message gets released, heard and processed.

They frame the narrative of our culture.

It’s all about green at the expense of black and brown – and, I’d argue – white, too. That’s no surprise to anyone with a working brain. But Pascal’s e-mails really illustrate of the degree of insidiousness, denial of and willful obliviousness to past, current and future damage.

From that standpoint, the Sony hack, in its own way, is no less important than the Watergate scandal or release of the Pentagon Papers.

The Entertainment Industrial Complex has made lots of money selling us its sanitized version of reality for public consumption. Maybe it’s time we stopped buying.

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