Saturday, April 18, 2015

Hollywood's Trans-Obama Partnership

The latest Wikileaks dump of SONY emails reveals that, among many other things, SONY executives are royally freaked out about Wikileaks. The release over a year ago of the top-secret intellectual property clause of the Trans-Pacific Partnership was so upsetting to the studio bigwigs that they demanded -- and got --  a personal meeting between their industry lobbyist (Chris Dodd) and Barack Obama himself. They needn't have worried. Since they'd been dictating terms of the "trade" pact all along, all the president had to do was reassure them, once again, that he'd always have their well-padded backs.

He already announced that a threat to SONY is tantamount to a threat to our national security. What more could they possibly want? (Don't even ask. They live in La La Land.)

As Wikileaks founder Julian Assange notes, the newly released emails are a window into the cozy, corrupt relationship between Hollywood and the Democratic Party. Quid pro quo is broadcast loud and clear throughout the leaked emails, as is a virtual orgy of mutual star-struck masturbation. We see Obama "First Friend" Valerie Jarrett, esconced in the Beverly Hills Four Seasons early in the first term, busily emailing studio honchos and stars with offers of an intimate dinner with the Obamas, at the same time cadging invitations to A-list Hollywood parties for Obama hangers-on.

We see two-tiered pricing arrangements for celebrity photos with Michelle Obama. If a star wants to bring the whole family along for a FLOTUS meet-and-greet, it'll cost them extra. Every TV ratings bonanza following an Obama appearance on late night TV is followed by a flurry of congratulatory emails on the audience share and more demands for cash by the Democratic machine.

Assange writes,
"This archive shows the inner workings of an influential multinational corporation. It is newsworthy and at the centre of a geo-political conflict. It belongs in the public domain. WikiLeaks will ensure it stays there."
Sony is a member of the MPAA and a strong lobbyist on issues around internet policy, piracy, trade agreements and copyright issues. The emails show the back and forth on lobbying and political efforts, not only with the MPAA but with politicians directly. In November 2013 WikiLeaks published a secret draft of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) IP Chapter. The Sony Archives show SPE's internal reactions, including discussing the impact with Michael Froman, the US Trade Representative. It also references the case against Megaupload and the extradition of its founder Kim DotCom from New Zealand as part of SPE's war on piracy.

The connections and alignments between Sony Pictures Entertainment and the US Democratic Party are detailed through the archives, including SPE's CEO Lynton attending dinner with President Obama at Martha's Vineyard and Sony employees being part of fundraising dinners for the Democratic Party. There are emails setting up a collective within the corporation to get around the 5,000 USD limit on corporate campaign donations to give 50,000 USD to get the Democratic New York Governor Andrew Cuomo elected as "Thanks to Governor Cuomo, we have a great production incentive environment in NY and a strong piracy advocate that’s actually done more than talk about our problems."
Sony Pictures Entertainment CEO Michael Lynton is on the board of trustees of RAND Corporation, an organisation specialising in research and development for the United States military and intelligence sector. The Sony Archives show the flow of contacts and information between these two major US industries, whether it is RAND wanting to invite George Clooney and Kevin Spacey to events, or Lynton offering contact to Valerie Jarrett (a close advisor to Obama) or RAND desiring a partnership with IMAX for digital archiving. With this close tie to the military-industrial complex it is no surprise that Sony reached out to RAND for advice regarding its North Korea film The Interview. RAND provided an analyst specialised in North Korea and suggested Sony reach out to the State Department and the NSA regarding North Korea's complaints about the upcoming film. The Sony documents also show Sony being in possession of a brochure for an NSA-evaluated online cloud security set-up called INTEGRITY.
Integrity, huh? Nobody ever accused the media-political complex of not having a sense of humor.

Speaking of integrity, there is indeed some occasional verisimilitude of it in No Drama-Obama World. Obama pal Henry Louis Gates (of "Beer Summit" fame) is seen bravely refusing to cover up Ben Affleck's slave-owning ancestry for a PBS "roots" special which also stars, surprisingly enough, Valerie Jarrett. According to Gates, Affleck's great-great-great grandpappy was one of the "good slaveowners," so therefore the Harvard prof found the attempted censorship weirdly misplaced.

 "And he wasn't even a bad guy," Gates writes of a man who declared ownership of human beings.  "We don't demonize him at all.  Now Anderson Cooper's ancestor was a real s.o.b.; one of his slaves actually murdered him.  Of course, the slave was promptly hanged.  And Anderson didn't miss a beat about that.  Once we open the door to censorship, we lose control of the brand." (*see update below.)

Welcome to the Madison Avenue "branding" of civil rights in the Age of Obama. Things have gotten so post-racial that even slave owners can be rehabilitated as  good guys. And props to multimillionaire Anderson Cooper for being so sanguine with how he came by at least some of his inherited wealth.

And then there's some back-and-forth emailing about which celebs to honor with a fake made-for-the-media/political complex civil rights award named after W.E.B. Du Bois. It seems that accused sexual predator and Hollywood mogul/Dem donor Harvey Weinstein was a controversial choice for the honor because of his "personality." When Gates asked SONY/RAND honcho Michael Lynton to personally bestow the award on Weinstein, Lynton retorted, "I would do many things for you, Bro, almost anything, but not that."

So thank god that at least some war-mongering plutocrats still have their limits and the remnants of a moral compass.

Meanwhile, back to the Du Bois Awards for the Rich and Famous. Among the other honorees at the ceremony was... surprise... the ubiquitous Valerie Jarrett! Also Maya Angelou, posthumously and pre-stamp scandal. Sidney Poitier apparently didn't even make the cut.

If it's any consolation, the Wikileaks dump also shows that SONY executives get hit with political spam as often as we proles, aka Everyday Americans, do. The aspirational "level playing field" of the rich and the rest of us is real when it comes to an equal opportunity to get splattered with the same foul-smelling bullshit. For example, there was this July 2014 missive slugged "Boehner Should Be Ashamed!" from the DCCC addressed to (now demoted) multimillionaire SONY executive Amy Pascal:
Amy --
It’s been quite the week:
Speaker Boehner announced that Republicans were bringing back the Paul Ryan plan to destroy Medicare. But then you stepped up. In fact, you smashed our February grassroots fundraising record! And earlier this week -- thanks to supporters like you who stood up and spoke out -- Arizona's horrendous "No Gays Allowed" bill was vetoed!
We can’t thank you enough! By the way, want to hear something crazy?

Speaker Boehner hand-picked the man behind Arizona’s “No Gays Allowed” bill to be on his list of premier U.S. House candidates. Seriously. Arizona House Speaker Andy Tobin was one of the architects of the discriminatory bill and led the charge to pass it. And now, Republicans have named him one of their “Young Gun” candidates for Congress.

It's inexcusable. Boehner must denounce Tobin. If he doesn't, he might as well put discrimination into the Republican party platform.

So can we ask one more thing? Help us reach 50,000 strong calling on John Boehner to denounce Andy Tobin and drop him from his list of top House candidates.
Poor Amy Pascal -- just like poor you and me --  was absolutely inundated with midterm election spam. Just like regular folks, Obama counts on her "grassroots support." Of course -- unlike poor you and me -- she has "people" to filter her spam. Here's another one, panic-titled "Boehner Wins Again!"
We don’t mean to nag, but this is urgent:
President Obama is under attack and we are in desperate need of your grassroots support.
As of yesterday’s House GOP hearing, Boehner’s lawsuit against President Obama is going full speed ahead. It’s critical that we respond now with an outpouring of grassroots power. Otherwise, we might as well throw in the towel for the remainder of his presidency.
Look, we are only 4431 away from hitting 200,000 donations since Boehner announced his lawsuit. If we don’t have a massive flood of support today to get us there: BOEHNER WINS.
We have to hit this goal to show Boehner what a horrible mistake he made when he decided to waste YOUR tax payer money on suing the President. Will you chip in $5 or more right now to get us over the top?
Name: Amy Pascal
Suggested Support: $5.00
If you've saved your payment information with ActBlue Express, your donation will go through immediately:
ActBlue is an asshole,asking only $5 from a multimillionaire like Amy Pascal. I suppose her check was triple-matched by a $15 check from Angelina Jolie in exchange for Obama protecting all their pseudo-intellectual privileges into perpetuity and slapping Everyday People with automatic fines every time they illegally type the word "SONY" into their computers.

We also find out more about former Senator Christopher's Dodd's sleazy role in both HOP (the Hollywood-Obama partnership)  and the TPP. Never mind that the flaccid financial reform bill bearing his name potentially stands to get squashed like a bug by TPP's proposed investor state courts. Dodd also reveals that as a member in good standing of the Democratic Party, he is really not that into democracy itself.  And as president of the Motion Picture Association of America, he is also not into the so-called Fair Use doctrine, which allows content to be reproduced on the Internet as long as it isn't reproduced for someone else's profit.

As Tech Dirt lays out, one newly-leaked email by Dodd shows that he was royally upset over a speech given last year by Michael Froman, Obama's chief trade negotiator. Froman had paid some very bland and gratuitory lip service to Fair Use as a sneaky ploy to sell the TPP to a democracy-loving public. Dodd wrote,
As I know you are aware, the inclusion of “fair use” in free trade agreements is extremely controversial and divisive. The creative community has been, and remains, a strong and consistent supporter of free trade, but the potential export of fair use via these agreements raises serious concerns within the community I represent. Over the last 24 hours, I have received calls from my member companies questioning what they perceive as a significant shift in US trade policy and, as a consequence, the value of the TPP to their industry.

It may be that people are reacting to the subsequent press releases by private groups following your remarks. I am certain these concerns have been elevated by indications from the US government that the ISP liability provisions in the TPP are going to be weakened. Nonetheless, this issue is of enough significance that I felt I must reach out to you directly prior to your departure for Singapore to register our deep concerns.
Did you detect the plutocratic threat inherent in that email?  Hollywood movers and shakers are not mollified even when they're reassured that a certain level of bullshit must be first spread in order for democracy to be destroyed under cover of darkness. The export of Fair Use to the international entertainment marketplace might even be serious enough for them to seriously consider withholding their cash from Democratic politicians.

But not that $eriously.

*Update: The Guardian reports that "megastar" Ben Affleck ultimately did succeed in getting the segment on his slave-owning ancestor axed from the final version of "Finding Your Roots," which aired on PBS last fall. Henry Gates released the following statement after the censorship became public knowledge via the leaked emails:
“We are very grateful to all of our guests for allowing us into their personal lives and have told hundreds of stories in this series including many about slave ancestors – never shying away from chapters of a family’s past that might be unpleasant. “Ultimately, I maintain editorial control on all of my projects and, with my producers, decide what will make for the most compelling programme. In the case of Mr Affleck we focused on what we felt were the most interesting aspects of his ancestry – including a Revolutionary War ancestor, a third great–grandfather who was an occult enthusiast, and his mother who marched for civil rights during the Freedom Summer of 1964.”
In other words, they caved to the demands of a major Democratic supporter and  valuable liberal brand, and they "whitewashed" history. PBS praised Gates, saying it is clear from the email exchanges "how seriously Professor Gates takes editorial integrity."

Until someone richer and more famous than he made him an offer he couldn't refuse, apparently.

Meanwhile, Ben Affleck is reportedly a shoo-in for top honors in the next W.E.B. Du Bois celebrity civil rights awards. He's a nominee in the category of outstanding achievement in branding and revisionary history and also a finalist for self-aggrandizing excellence in the field of white liberal genetic purity.

1 comment:

Valerie said...

The Sony e-mail exchange are a real concern - but not a surprise. Obama is ALWAYS working for the best interest of corporations with a few scraps thrown at the working class on the side. The TPP is evidence of that.

WikiLeaks continues to be one of Democracy's best friends. It used to be that people felt if the truth could be revealed in the Press . . . but our Free Press has been hijacked. One can see why the United States is so hot to get its hands on Julian Assange.