If you read the early reviews of The Newsroom, Aaron Sorkin’s new HBO series, you will have discovered that people in the news business don’t get fiction and really, really hate to be criticized from their left flank.
The show is good, as everything Sorkin writes is good, provided you are willing to indulge the beliefs that news people are good, despite Dan Rather and all his brothers-in-lies, and that government is good despite all those mountainous piles of corpses. Even so, Sorkin actually thinks about the things he writes, so he manages to land near the truth, now and then, even in spite of his prejudices:
The issue is a specious dichotomy, the Fallacy of Many Questions: Is government good, or is self-reliance bad? It’s absolutely necessary to ignore those piles of corpses, of course, or there is no debate at all: How many people fail at self-reliance and then perish through no fault of their own?
In the action of the drama, we learn that oil companies would not cause environmental disasters if only they paid for their own oil-rig inspections — this because they could not possibly bribe the inspectors they would be compelled to pay for.
This is all just dumb, self-admittedly-Capraesque hagiography of historical thugs whose crimes are hidden behind the mists of time. “We” can do better, because “we” have done so very well up to now.
But the idea of the conversation humanity is having is a good one, even if Sorkin is squarely on the wrong side of the issue. There is no “we” — you are in this all alone — and every time you delude yourself with the idea that “we” “must” “do something,” your are simply licensing a new set of thugs to rape and despoil you, ultimately tossing your corpse to the top of the nearest pile.
This is me on the idea of “The Conversation,” a video I made two months ago:
Government kills innocent people by the hundreds of millions and rapes and despoils everyone it suffers to live another day. Self-reliance, by contrast, is where the incredible wealth and the ineffable art Sorkin celebrates in his overture come from — along with every other human value. Humanity will have this conversation, but Sorkin’s side of the debate has already lost.