Ayn Rand Redux: Atlas Shrugged Part 2 Set To Fizzle This Fall

The second installment of the threatened cinematic trilogy of Ayn Rand’s insipid novel Atlas Shrugged is set for release in October of this year, a month before the presidential election. The release date was deliberately chosen by the producers for its political significance despite the fact that they haven’t even begun production.

John Aglialoro and Harmon Kaslow, reprising their roles as producers, claim that part two is fully funded. And why shouldn’t it be? Part one, which ran for all of five weeks last year, was universally panned by critics and theater-goers, and earned back only one-fifth of what it cost to produce and distribute. This dismal performance was achieved despite a massive effort on the part of right-wing media and Tea Party activists to prop up the film.

Everyone from Andrew Breitbart, to the Koch brothers, and John Boehner, and, of course, Fox News, joined the hype campaign with the vain hope of turning this turkey into a hit. The day care kiddies at Fox & Friends spun the story so hard they must have gotten nauseous the next day when the producers contradicted their phony hoopla and publicly admitted that they had a bomb on their hands.

The hype has apparently already begun with an article by Paul Bond in the Hollywood Reporter that inexplicably describes Atlas Shrugged part one as having “earned a respectable $5,640 per theater.” Respectable to whom? That is an even lower take than the unmitigated theatrical disaster of Sarah Palin’s Undefeated, which pulled in only $6,500 per screen before shuffling off to an early video demise. By contrast, Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth did $70,000 per screen; Michael Moore’s Capitalism: A Love Story did $58,000 per screen; Banksy’s Exit Through The Gift Shop did $21,000 per screen.

Adding to the irony is the fact that under Rand’s philosophy this film project should be abandoned. The obedience to free market principles demands that failures such as this be relegated to history’s garbage heap. But conservatives always exempt themselves from the rules they apply to everyone else. So the [dog and pony] show must go on. Here’s a peek at the promotional trailer just released that features absolutely nothing from the actual film:

Wow. Compelling stuff. The promo begins with Glenn Beck and features snippets from six people who don’t do much more than mention Rand’s name. Five of the six are Fox News personalities (how did Phil Donahue get mixed up in this?). Who do you suppose this film is being targeted at? The rest of the promo shows a clip of Rand that conveniently leaves out her notoriously anti-American, atheistic views. Perhaps this would have made a better promo:

Jesse Watters Crashes GE Shareholders Meeting

The reigning weasel of news hackery, Stuttering Jesse Watters, is striving mightily to surpass his personal worst. At the GE shareholders meeting, Watters, who did not identify himself as Bill O’Reilly’s attack troll, or even as an employee of Fox News, commandeered the microphone and began lobbing antagonistic questions at GE brass.

Paul Bond’s column in the Hollywood Reporter reports that Watters asked GE CEO Jeffrey Immelt about Janeane Garofalo’s recent appearance on Countdown. There were reportedly several other “shareholders” who rose to ask questions regarding MSNBC’s alleged editorial slant to the left.

It seems somewhat suspicious that a spontaneous collection of objectivity-conscious investors would arise to complain about one of GE’s most successful assets – and one whose success can be directly tied to the work of Countdown’s Keith Olbermann. Would these shareholders prefer that the network had not increased its audience and revenue by record margins over the past couple of years? One complaint focused on Olbermann’s failure to challenge Garofalo’s remarks. Bond then recounts that…

“Immelt told the assembled he takes a hands-off approach to what is reported on the company’s news networks, which prompted a shareholder to criticize him for not managing NBC Uni more effectively.”

That’s a rather curious complaint. Would they prefer that Immelt intervene in the editorial decisions made by NBC’s news production teams? Were he to do so, they would probably complain that he doesn’t permit the journalists to do their jobs impartially. On the other hand, they may indeed have a preference for corporate executives who dictate the editorial content for their networks. Witness their affection for Rupert Murdoch and Roger Ailes, who run a tightly partisan operation at Fox News.

Needless to say, this affair will likely end up on the O’Reilly Factor soon, and O’Reilly will use it in yet another attempt to bash GE (his proxy for Olbermann) and assert that Immelt should be fired for his poor performance. As usual he won’t acknowledge that both News Corp and GE’s stocks have declined about 60% in the past year. And he won’t call for Rupert Murdoch’s resignation either.

Update: As I predicted, O’Reilly spent the first ten minutes of his show tonight on Watters’ adventure in Orlando. Most of it was the typical tripe O’Reilly is famous for, but there was one moment in his Talking Points that was priceless:

“This is obviously a major story. When a powerful corporation which controls a major part of the American media may be using its power and the airwaves to influence politics in order to make money from government contracts.”

He is talking about Fox News, isn’t he?

Bill O’Reilly Controls The Stock Market, Part II

Last June Jed Babbin of the uber-conservative Human Events Magazine wrote a disturbingly ignorant article in which he contended that Bill O’Reilly’s asinine babbling about General Electric may have caused their stock to decline.

Now Paul Bond of the Hollywood Reporter has sunk to the same depths of dumb. Bond has a history of poor analysis and bias that would embarrass the editor of a high school newspaper. In this column he asks: “Could O’Reilly have been a factor in GE’s stock becoming a dim bulb?” Most of the article is a tired rehashing of the war O’Reilly has declared on GE/NBC/Keith Olbermann. But near the end of the piece he gets around to answering his own question:

“Despite the relentless nature of the tirades, there aren’t many on Wall Street who suggest O’Reilly has been the cause of GE’s free-falling stock. In fact, most experts dismiss it as partisan street theater, and they point out that shares of News Corp., parent of O’Reilly’s own network, also have been crushed.”

That would seem to settle it. The article’s headline was just Bond’s sensationalistic ploy that was summarily dismissed by more realistic analysts and experts. Except for the fact that Bond’s bias still manages to emerge as he cites stock performance data that he seems to have made up. He says that this year GE has declined 53% and News Corp only 32%, a 21% difference. Actually GE has only declined 45%, but News Corp dropped 39%, a mere 6% difference. It’s bad enough that he can’t write, but apparently he can’t do math either.

It hardly makes sense to keep comparing GE to News Corp in the first place. News Corp is an almost pure media play, while GE is a conglomerate that has a small media component along with much larger entities engaged in defense contracting, appliances, medical technology, electronics, and finance (which, in case Bond didn’t notice, has been having a very bad year). A better comparison for News Corp would be Disney, Time Warner, and Viacom, all of which outperformed News Corp this year. But that doesn’t stop Bond from drawing a conclusion that teeters on fantasy. In the very last line of his article he says:

“As long as News Corp. keeps outperforming GE, criticism of O’Reilly and his stockpicking prowess will ring hollow.”

All I can say to this is that as long as Bond keeps writing absurd articles that misstate facts and twist reality, allegations of his sanity will ring hollow – much like his pal O’Reilly.

Addendum: O’Reilly took to the megaphone to trumpet news that S&P cut GE’s credit rating one step from “AAA” to “AA+”. While O’Reilly announced that as if it were his own victory, he didn’t bother to mention that his employer, News Corp, has a lower credit rating of “BBB”. And what are the odds that he’ll mention that Warren Buffet’s Berkshire Hathaway just received the same rating cut that GE did?

More Fairness Doctrine Stupidity From The Media

Paul Bond, writing for Reuters, has produced an outstanding object lesson in how NOT to write responsible journalism. His article, that has appeared in the Washington Post, the Hollywood Reporter, and many other Reuters affiliates, is filled with novice mistakes – at least I hope they’re mistakes.

Bond’s very first sentence asserts that the end of the Fairness Doctrine…

“pav[ed] the way for talk radio to take the opinionated — and popular — form it has today.”

In fact, talk radio was already opinionated and popular prior to 1987. Its opinions just became less diverse as radio stations consolidated under fewer owners who had their own political agendas to peddle. But Bond contradicts himself a few sentences later saying that reinstating the Doctrine would result in…

“government-mandated programing restrictions that [could] hobble an already struggling industry.”

Make up your mind Paul. Is the industry popular or struggling? In Bond’s second paragraph he asserts that…

“House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and such influential Democratic senators as Barbara Boxer and Chuck Schumer are pushing for its return, or something like it.”

In fact, while those people have expressed positive opinions of the Doctrine over the years, none of them are “pushing” for its return. There are no bills pending in either house and no recent public comments calling for the Doctrine’s reinstatement. And Bond didn’t bother to contact any of them to find out what their current views are.

Bond’s use of the phrase “something like it,” is vague and unexplained. Most likely he means something he later refers to as “so-called localism.” First of all, the adjective “so-called,” is an editorial device meant to dispute the meaning of localism, and it was inappropriate for Bond to use it. More to the point, localism is a program that calls for the FCC to gather information from consumers, industry, civic organizations, and others on broadcasters’ service to their local communities. It is nothing like the Fairness Doctrine, which requires the holders of broadcast licenses to present controversial issues of public importance and to do so in a manner that is honest, equitable, and balanced.

Then Bond drops this…

“With the year drawing to an end and Barack Obama moving into the White House, talk about the Fairness Doctrine has heated up. Obama likely will name a new FCC chairman and make Democrats a majority on the five-person panel for the first time in eight years.”

Talk about the Fairness Doctrine has only been heating up in conservative circles and on right-wing radio shows. They are hysterically fuming over an action that nobody knowledgeable thinks will occur. Obama himself is on record as opposing its reinstatement. Plus, Bond makes it sound unusual that the new administration would result in a new make-up for the FCC when, in fact, every administration appoints new commissioners that tilt the majority to the President’s party.

Bond isn’t through misrepresenting the situation. His next target is an advisor to Obama on technology issues. Bond says that Obama tapped…

“…Henry Rivera, who was a commissioner in the 1980s when the Fairness Doctrine existed, to oversee the FCC transition process. Rivera is a supporter of bringing back the provisions.

This may be the most egregious example of Bond’s absence of journalistic ethics. He says Rivera was a commissioner in the 1980s when the Fairness Doctrine existed. So what? Rivera was also a commissioner in the 1980s when the Fairness Doctrine expired. The truth is, Rivera was no longer on the panel in 1987 when the Reagan-controlled board let the Doctrine lapse. But he was there in 1985 when the FCC produced the Fairness Report, a study that was the basis for the ruling in 1987. And, once again, Bond offers no proof of the claim that Rivera supports “bringing back the provisions” today. There is no statement from Rivera. Did Bond even try to reach him? Finally, Rivera is not even overseeing the FCC transition process as Bond says. He is on the “Science, Tech, Space and Arts” team. Dale Hatfield is overseeing the FCC group.

As for journalistic balance, Bond quoted five individuals for the article – every one of them vested opponents of the Fairness Doctrine. He also noted that radio executives are arguing against the Doctrine because…

“Shares of such publicly traded radio companies as Salem Communications, Citadel Broadcasting and Cumulus Media are all down more than 90 percent in the past year…”

To me that sounds like an argument in favor of doing something radically different than whatever it is they’ve been doing so far. It certainly doesn’t suggest that anyone should be listening to the radio execs presently in charge.

To be clear, I am not in favor of reinstating the Fairness Doctrine. I think it is an anachronism in a media era where so much less of the content distribution occurs on public airwaves. But I am also not in favor of manufactured outrage from disingenuous blabbermouths. And I am not in favor of using innuendo to tarnish positive reforms like localism, market share caps, and effective enforcement of anti-trust law.

And most of all, I am also not in favor of shoddy journalism and hack reporters spreading disinformation to promote their own unscrupulous agendas.