Sumner Redstone, it appears, is in the mood to do his Donald Trump imitation. Redstone just hollered — via the press — “You’re fired!” at wacko Tom Cruise. The Scientology star has been running around the world using his celebritude to try to get governments to be nice to Scientology, a notorious cult-racket.
That’s what Tom the Terror did recently when, on a visit to France, Cruise got a lengthy private interview with the man who will be the conservatives’ next presidential candidate, Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy — who also happens to be Ministre des Cultes, which in French means he’s Minister for Religion. Scientology has been having some legal difficulties these last years in France, where the secular tradition in government is a lot stronger than it is here. The froggies know the professional Scientologists are a bunch of escrocs (con artists to you.) So, I shed no tears for their front-man Tommy the Terror getting the boot.
But if Sumner wants to swing the axe, he should chop off the corporate head of CBS, Leslie Moonves. Why? Because Moonves has just approved a programming idea as loony as anything to come out of Cruise’s mouth, and a disgustingly dangerous one to boot.
You see, Don Kaplan of the New York Post reports today that CBS chief Moonves has approved a new twist for the “Survivor” program. “In a first for network-television game shows, ‘Survivor’ producers have divided up the contestants by their ethnicity and will let the groups duke it out for supremacy: blacks vs. whites vs. Latinos vs. Asians,” today’s Post tells us, adding: “You could call it ‘Survivor: Race War.’” (And Rupert Murdoch’s Post is a paper that knows a thing or two about fanning the flames of racial and ethnic conflict — it’s a been a circulation-building specialty of the Murdoch Post’s editors for years. As a lad I worked for awhile on the Post when it was still owned by Dolly Schiff and was America’s most liberal daily paper–one that had championed racial equality and integration even before the ’60s civil rights movement. What the paper has become since Rupert bought it never ceases to make me sad.)
Le mot juste about the Survivor race caper came from Lisa Navarrete, the Latino civil rights leader who is a vice president of the National Council of La Raza, and who told the Philadelphia Inquirer: “I can’t decide if the producers are completely naive and clueless or completely soulless.”
Navarette added, “They could think it’s no big deal, but the premise of Survivor is not a friendly contest. It gets very competitive and it’s tempting in that setting to nurture stereotypes.” Yes, indeed — it’s a cut-throat take-no-prisoners ethical sewer of a show. And this “race war” theme is a base appeal to the dark side of the American consciousness — setting up racial and ethnic conflict as a way to boost the show’s sagging ratings (Survivor dropped out of the Top 10 shows on the tube in the last Nielsens).
The late poet Charles Bukowski once observed that, “Bad taste has made more millionaires than good taste” (and if Bukowski didn’t become a millionaire, it wasn’t for lack of following his own maxim). Moonves’ lapse in taste in approving this Survivor appeal to gutter instincts and racial conflict is entirely mercantile in its motivation. Yeah, let the gooks and the spics and the macacas and the white-bread boys do each other dirt in prime time — hate sells.
This is the sort of thing one would expect from the Fox Network. Over at the Peacock Network, the honchos had some minimal brains and at least a modicum of sensitivity. The Post also reports that “a race-war edition of ‘The Apprentice’” was put forward by its producers last year “after its star, Donald Trump, suggested it during an interview. At the time, NBC put the brakes on the idea.”
By contrast, Redstone’s boy Moonves green-lighted Survivor‘s bald, ratings-driven appeal to race prejudice and ethnic strife. And for playing the race card, old Sumner ought to exercise his talent for defenestration on his unprincipled network chief, and deliver to Moonves that too-familiar Trumpism, “You’re fired!”
Doug Ireland, a longtime radical journalist and media critic, runs the blog DIRELAND, where this article appeared August 24, 2006.