Fresh off the contrived controversy of Michael Moore accusing Disney of censorship for refusing to distribute his anti-Bush celluloid screed comes another politically charged film. The Day After Tomorrow, a flick that purports to warn about destruction wrought by global warming, crashes into multiplexes across the land on May 28. Already, Al Gore and the lefty Internet clearing house MoveOn.org are planning to exploit the movie’s New York premiere with a rally the same day. MoveOn.org is calling it “the movie the White House doesn’t want you to see.”
The Day After Tomorrow is being released by Twentieth Century Fox, a division of the News Corporation — yes, that News Corporation, headed by Rupert Murdoch, the conservative Australian-American media magnate who serves as poster boy for scolds who warn about the dangers of the Federal Communications Commission liberalizing media ownership rules.
According to one popular just-so story being peddled by the anti-corporate Left, a small handful of media companies are currently buying up more and more outlets, reducing the range of opinions voiced in the major media — effectively blocking news and information unfavorable to, or contrary to the ideologies of, the media’s owners.
YET HERE IS A GIANT counter-example. The Fox Network, which is a vital part of the News Corporation, is helping to promote the film. On May 12, Fox featured a 10-minute preview of The Day After Tomorrow — on prime time. This film is being used as an overtly political project to promote a green agenda, as even a casual look at the “Weather Gone Wild” section of the film’s official website shows (it doesn’t feature meteorologists getting drunk on Daytona Beach, alas).
In fact, the movie’s very concept comes across as a forced attempt at a political statement. It’s the first time director Roland Emmerich, whose previous hits include Godzilla, Independence Day, and The Patriot, has delved into a moribund genre: the disaster movie. Remember The Towering Inferno, Earthquake, The Poseidon Adventure, and the myriad Airport movies?
Popular in the 1970s, disaster movies now fail to capture the public’s interest — few people want to see films in which the plot revolves around something big and impersonal going really wrong. Quite simply, these movies have no real plot — no villains, no moral conflicts, and no struggles beyond survival. Sure, we’ve had Twister and Armageddon in recent years, but reappearances of this genre are rare.
In his earlier movies, Emmerich recognized the need for conflict in a story: In Independence Day there were aliens to fight; in Godzilla a giant lizard; in The Patriot, redcoats. Who are the heroes of The Day After Tomorrow up against? An angry Mother Nature revolting to point out the folly of men (to paraphrase Blue Oyster Cult on the protagonist of an earlier Emmerich flick). A short list of such follies might include driving SUVs and failing to endorse the Kyoto Protocol.
Would anyone promoting such a film ever not expect Al Gore and MoveOn.org to try to exploit it to score political points? And yet, according to groups opposed to media ownership rule liberalization, controversial content will nearly always be trampled under the boot of the boss’s politics.
For instance, the Media Access Project, citing that other big-media bogeyman Clear Channel, argued that loosening up media ownership rules would allow the radio company to “select music based on whether artists pay Clear Channel promotional fees or” — here comes the kicker; italics added — “whether Clear Channel agrees with their politics or message.”
ACCORDING TO THIS VIEW, the power of someone like the conservative Rupert Murdoch would be overwhelming and decisive. However, the release and heavy promotion by the News Corporation of an enviro-left political film should prove that Murdoch, as chairman and CEO, is either (a) stupid, or (b) concerned with what’s good for business regardless of politics.
The first option renders Murdoch’s success an inexplicable mystery. So we are left, Watson, with the second option, which puts the lie to an awful lot of the yammering about media consolidation silencing anti-corporate opinions. Rather than censoring them, the News Corporation-owned Twentieth Century Fox is giving climate alarmists a golden propaganda opportunity. Don’t expect the greens to say thank you.
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