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Archived: Big Plus Rich Equals Evil

This article originally appeared in Capitalism Magazine on October 19, 2002

Big Plus Rich Equals Evil: How Hollywood Dug Its Own Grave

As executives from almost every studio chatter nervously about the need for better "content protection" technology, those responsible for piracy continue to hide somewhere Hollywood hasn't bothered looking: the mirror.

"Piracy is a huge issue," warned John Mass, Senior Vice President at William Morris Consulting, as he addressed the audience at the Digital Hollywood conference in Beverly Hills last month. "Billions of dollars are lost every year." And he's right: An estimated 2.6 billion songs are illegally downloaded from the Internet every month. Piracy doesn't end with music either, as Napster variants offering movies continue to flourish. The online file-sharing service Kaaza, for example, recently celebrated its 100 millionth download. Not to mention the pay television industry, which has suffered from rampant piracy for years; there are an estimated 2 million satellite TV pirates nationwide.

But strangely enough, Hollywood executives can't seem to understand why one of their favorite demographics (teenagers and college students) has turned against them en masse. Karen Randall, the Executive Vice President & General Counsel for Universal Studios, told Digital Hollywood attendees that she didn't know "how the music industry alienated their customers." And for some reason, she mused, customers "think the movie industry is big, rich, and therefore bad."

Apparently, she hasn't seen any movies lately.

It should come as no surprise that people think of the movie industry as big and rich; it is. But Karen Randall and other executives at big, rich, studios seem a bit perplexed over why the American public thinks that "big" plus "rich" equals "bad." Suddenly, they find themselves at odds with pop culture, wondering why studios face a potential battle over the legitimacy of profits and the sovereignty of property rights. After all, if the United States was built upon the ideas of individual rights, property ownership, and capitalism, how did its youth manage to forget that music and movies are something one buys, not steals? The answer is that they didn't forget all by themselves: Hollywood told them to.

For decades, the music industry has been promoting every form of socialist tripe it could lay its hands on. Almost every artist--from John Lennon to Eminem-has had some woeful axe to grind against capitalism and individual rights. John Lennon hawked socialism under the guise of "peace" with songs like Imagine and Working Class Hero--despite the fact that socialist idealists have ruled some of the bloodiest regimes in recent history. Taking his message to its logical conclusion, the former Beatle was urging Americans to "imagine" the peaceful havens of Nazi Germany and Soviet Russia. At the other end of the spectrum, Eminem uses his fame to glorify stealing, killing, and raping women. Interscope promotes this as "art," and then feigns incredulity when listeners cheerfully steal songs via Napster.

The movie industry has been even more consistent in vilifying corporate America by portraying executives as lying, cheating, money-grubbing bastards who don't understand the real value of money--or of anything else. Almost every movie from It's a Wonderful Life to Monsters, Inc. features some nasty corporate tyrant at whose demise the audience is encouraged to cheer gleefully. Hollywood has spent billions of dollars teaching Americans that in order for a corporate executive to succeed, he or she must be evil. Seldom is the middle-aged rich guy a hero who has earned and rightfully deserves his wealth. Movies like Anti-Trust are more blatant propaganda than others, but Hollywood has been pushing the same message for years: "big" plus "rich" equals "bad."

And so, the youth of the United States view big, rich studios as evil monstrosities to be tramped upon with every new piece of Napster-esque technology at their disposal. Instead of taking responsibility for its carelessness in the realm of ideas, Hollywood has responded by viciously blaming technology and reasserting its commitment to collectivist principles. Studio lobbyists push legislation such as the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, which outlaws various technologies in an attempt to cover up the intellectual and moral cesspool that studios helped to create. Executives attend conferences like Digital Hollywood, where leftover socialists from the UN give them worn-out suggestions for content and pithy reminders that capitalism (and property rights) should be abolished.

Instead of defending Hollywood against Silicon Valley, studio executives must defend Hollywood businessmen from Hollywood "intellectuals." Studios need to realize that businesses can't survive by promoting an anti-business philosophy.

Wake up, Hollywood: ideas matter, and bad ideas help to create an evil culture. Silicon Valley didn't teach kids that it was okay to steal. Hollywood did.