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tv   Book TV  CSPAN  January 7, 2012 8:45pm-10:00pm EST

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[applause] now a panel presents a history of politics in the film industry examining the impact hollywood has played on the american political landscape. >> good evening and welcome to the central library. a measures to see her tonight for a discussion of "hollywood left and right." we have a distinguished panel and we will be introducing the amendment. i am the curator for aloud and a culture programs director for the library foundation of los angeles which presents all of these three programs. some of you are members of the library foundation we want to thank you very much. the library foundation% over
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almost 80, 90 aloud prague ramzi year, some letters he programs, teen reading programs and if you're interested in becoming a member in supporting the great work of the los angeles public library, the seamier one of our staff members tonight and if you join we also have one of steve ross' book we can give you. i'm sure he will sign it for you if you join at the 100 level tonight and we really appreciate your support. it goes where really great cause. our format tonight is you can see is a panel discussion. after our panelists chew this over we will open up to you for questions and we will be circulating a microphone. we ask when you receive it, and wait until you do receive it because we record for podcast, to please stand up so we can see where you are and please make any question, in fact, someone recently challenged our audience, see if you can make your question and eight words or less.
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no one has yet risen to the challenge but feel free. no rants please. and afterwards, our guest, some of them will be signing their books in the lobby courtesy of our library store. so tonight we are going to discuss what is hollywood's influence on american politics. most americans who pay attention to politics believe hollywood's political influence in american life and culture is heavily weighted on the left. but in his terrific new book, "hollywood left and right" stephen j. ross begs to differ. he believes the evidence shows why the hollywood left, the hollywood right exercised electoral power. so overall, which side was more adept at winning the hearts and minds of americans? was at the hollywood right with factors like schwarzenegger's seamless transition from action blockbusters to the governor's mansion or was it the hollywood left which followed marlon
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brando's -- if actors can sell deodorant they can sell ideas especially when they movie goers political guard is down. so our panel tonight will continue to open up a conversation about the intersection of hollywood and political activism. so our panel consists of stephen j. ross who is an eminent film historian and professor of history at usc, has written several books including working-class hollywood, silent film in the shaping in america which was an l.a. times best book in 1998 and his new book, "hollywood left and right" how movie stars shaped american politics received the academy of motion pictures arts and science film award and the academic equivalent of an oscar. mike farrell to steve's left is best known for his eight years on m*a s*h and life seasons on providence. he is also a writer, director and producer and also a well-known human rights activist. he traveled the world for the last 30 years as part of
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prominent international human rights and peace delegation. he is now working to abolish the death penalty in our state. he helped establish the california committee of human rights watch. and his opposition to the war in iraq resulted in the cofounding artists united to win without war. war. and he is the author of just call me mike, two books including just call me mike, a journey to actors and activists and -- amen. roger simon on our panel is a local offer of screenplays including the prize-winning moses wine detective series and enemy, love story for which he was nominated for an academy award. in 2090 published his first nonfiction book, blacklisting myself, no more of the hollywood apostate and in the age of terror, which was recently republished as turning right and hollywood and vine titled the perils of coming out conservative in hollywood. and art distinguish moderate tonight is allen taylor,
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wonderful film critic, a book reviewer and feature writer. she is the author of time time families, television culture in post-war america. she is written for village voice media. i know you you have read here for years, los angeles weekly come ballet times, "elle" magazine and many other publications a is a regular conjure bidder to l.a. weekly's film review of show, film week. please welcome our panel and take it away à la, hollywood left and right. [applause] >> so, let's take off from what luis said. is not the most significant finding that certainly one of the most significant findings of your book is that conservatives have always been a robust and i think you argue in your book, perhaps a more effective presence in hollywood than the left even though this is the popular perception of the left.
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a bunch of commie loving's. you say that that's not the case. >> luis knows, can't get it under 800 words. read a paragraph where i lay out the thesis more eloquently maybe that i could have hand and it talks about fears about, talks about the fbi starting the investigation of radicalism in hollywood in early as 1918. j. edgar hoover had his agents trailing people making radical films at the time. such fears about radicalism in the movie industry reflect long-standing conventional wisdom that hollywood has always been a bastion of the political left. conventional wisdom however is wrong on two counts. first, hollywood has a longer history of conservative -- conservativism and liberalism. it was the republican party, not the democratic party, that
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established the first political beachhead in hollywood. second and far more surprising, although the hollywood left has been more numerous and this herbal, visible, the hollywood wright led by ronald reagan, charlton heston and arnold schwarzenegger, has had a greater impact on american political life. the hollywood left has been more effective in publicizing and raising funds for various causes, but if we ask who has done more to change the american government, the answer is the hollywood right. the hollywood left has the political glitz but the hollywood right saw it, one and exercised electoral power. >> would you agree with that? >> more or less, yeah i do. when i say i am on the right, on economic matters. i'm not really on the right socially at all. as far as marriage issues, i
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don't really care who i marry, so coming to your point, if you withdrew ronald reagan from the equation i'm not sure could be so true. the only one of those people who had real -- i mean schwarzenegger was a -- and a second rate actor. >> i would agree. but reagan was a very successful president. you may agree or not agree. i think he did some great things. he tore down that wall and if you don't think i was a great thing, well -- >> inquiring minds may differ but if he did have tremendous impact, don't think the other people had.
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all i am saying is that i agree with you, but it would feel different. >> i would say ronald reagan would went on to ben ronald reagan without louis b. mayor and george murphy and frankly the biggest surprise for me doing the research was that everything ronald reagan did george murphy did earlier. he was the true pioneer in figuring out media, how to use media and particularly television. he perfected the reagan strategy of going from discontent blue-collar democrats and 64 and what murphy learned, he learned from luigi mayor. so there really is -- reagan was simply the best of all of them. there's no question about it. ronald reagan was a master performer but his conversion to the right, which i talk about in the book from those of you who may not know his past is both
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george murphy who is our senator in 1964 and reagan word liberal new deal democrats when they first entered hollywood. and murphy converted around 38 to republican conservative of. ragged end of world war ii as he writes in his autobiography is as a bleeding heart liberal and was in fact in many of the organizations even blacklisted for it. but for a series of reasons he began a movement from liberal democrat to liberal anti-communist democrat to conservative anti-communist republican. and it wasn't part his long-term friendship with murphy, who they were very good social friends as well as political friends. that slowly changed him and pushed him that way. so i think you really do need to see a continuum because the one thing they all have in common is
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they were far more effective in their democratic counterparts in understanding how to reach a mass audience. they understood that voters were no different than movie audiences. you have to have a concept to sell and you had to sell it well. if you could reach them with your concepts you could win an election. >> let me ask you one question to follow-up on that. because this has ours interested me. i noticed the same thing, not being a historian but just being in film. is thinking about, back in the early '90s i was teaching in sundance. i met robert redford and spend time with him and also warren beatty who wasn't there but i'd known baby beaty over the years. these are two liberal democrats, people who have said one of a going to run for the senate? of course neither of them ever did and i think it's highly
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unlikely they are going to do it now but what you think it is that stops them other than they would take a pay deduction of astronomical amounts? from doing it? >> warren beatty said to me, i don't want to take the abuse. when i'm a movie actor i am adored by and large. >> that's pretty cowardly in a way. >> on this. do you want to take the abuse? do you want to open your mouth and whatever you say is going to be twisted around? i mean 34% of the american population doesn't approve of michelle obama. they don't know what they're talking about. how many of us know michelle obama? that kind of abuse and you can take it on the right as well. it's not just the left. it's both sides but i mean, i think it's curious that those conservatives for whatever reason, they got the abuse to.
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everyone gets the abuse. it's a horrible profession and i wouldn't go near it, but it's so completely so that the republicans were able, were willing to take the abuse and the liberals didn't. i don't know why. >> i think you have to have a burning passion in your gut. you just need that passion for politics in your gut and you are going to make it happen. and i will say, one of the things i argue in this book is i admire all 10 of these people whether i agree with their politics or not. do you want to talk about what a patriot is? a patriot is someone who takes their belief out, whether it is for the war, against the war, for a left cause or a right cause and is willing to spend, 10, 20, 30 years of their life fighting for their cause. and taking the abuse, that's right. that is somebody i admire and that is what i found that writing this book are going to not want write a book where one
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side, my own politics is certainly to the left but to write a book where the left was good and the right was bad was a waste if anyone reading it and a waste of time writing it. i wanted to write about people i admire whether i agree with their politics are not. i admired their commitment to try to make america a better place. >> use and maybe passion in their gut but it's also a thick skin apropos of what mike said about schwarzenegger. i remember when he was first elected governor and i saw him on tv going up to receive some accolade and admire were said to him, i hope you make as good a governor as you are an actor. his response to that was, oh don't don't be mean. [laughter] now i have to say i don't think warren beatty could have carried that moment and it may be one reason why schwarzenegger was so successful, at least in achieving a political position.
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one of the things that interest me as a former european is the definition of left and right, which is totally unique in america as a whole. and even more unique in hollywood. i grew up into countries where there were liberals back a noted wishy-washy centrex and then i arrived here and i found that liberals put you way far to the left of center. there seems to be of peculiarity of american politics. is not the same in europe or middle east where i grew up. what is your working definition of left and right in hollywood? there are very few people who will identify as marxist. even michael moore who i spent a couple of days with when i wrote a cover story about him, really balked when i use the word socialism or the word, certainly doesn't identify as a marxist at
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all. i think that would alienate people so alongside of the blacklist and the hollywood 10 really. .. >> i felt guilty about it, and so i gave a lot of money to the
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panthers. i was a pioneer of the black panther breakfast program. i was 25. they had no effect negatively on my career at all. as a matter of fact, i went to police police places like william morris, and they thought it was cool. they were like, hey, roger does that. it all changed. it was trendy to do that. >> what year was this in? >> 68-71, that period, when the panthers were around. i mean, i was very naive. i didn't know that he was a drug dealer, although i knew him. i think this is, you know, i'm a case of that famous line of churchill's, you know, it's about being left in your 20s, you have no heart, in your 30s, you have no brain. >> from too much cigar smoke. >> well, it was also having to
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do with the fact that nobody lived past 40. [laughter] >> mike, do you have anything to say about that? you spent many years on the hollywood left. how do you identify it in >> oh, i don't. i think that it's pretty much a creature of those who observe rather than participant, but i would take a couple issues -- issues with a couple things said. i don't disagree that the right in hollywood has been more effective electorally, but i suspect that if you want to make that division, the left in hollywood has been more effective socially in terms of having an effect on the culture. >> he's right. >> i think that's far more significant than although the right made of our nation argues perhaps that that's not so correct. the -- i would argue as well --
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let me say that i think you succeeded admirably in making an even handed book about the left and the right without favoring or disfavoring one side or the other, which i thought was impressive. i disagree with both of you on ronald reagan. no question he was a terribly effective -- his presidency was perbly effective, but i think his presidency was more the product of general electric and lee atwater and the people who were behind him and around him in telling him what to say, do, and think than he was as a thinker and/or a mover on the political -- in the political world. >> you know, i used to think that too, but i changed my mind when i read his diaries. have you read them? >> i have not. >> very interesting. he thought about that himself. he was not completely a puppet.
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>> well, i wouldn't say completely, but he was he was significantly a puppet. >> his diaries are well written. most of the politicians can't write at all. it's surprising actually. >> well, i would also disagree with you on that, mike. i'm no fan of ronald reagan politically, but in the course of writing this, i came to to see the idea of him being a puppet. i talked to people on his campaign that were in the inner circle early on in 64, and what they said is reagan sat down, and they would tell him -- he would meet with his group, and the speech writers, and he told them what he wanted in a speech, and they would then write a draft of the speech, and he would come back and edit it carefully and often go out and speak with the notes because once things are discovered, he had a photographic memory which
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is why he rarely flubbed his lines, but i had a graduate student years ago before the new reagan books came out, went to the library, and did a research paper on star wars, and what he discovered is reagan, he took -- he went through various drafts finding reagan's handwriting over everything. this was a speech that he set out to his writers. when it came back, he rewrote everything in his own handwriting, so he's no mensa, but he understood how to take the line i have here is -- you know, he was not the intellectual leader. the intellectual leader of the conservative movement in 64-68 would have been goldwater and william buckley, but what reagan did, people would not vote for barry goldwater because he was a scary figure. i look out over the audience, and i think some of you remember the 1964 daisy commercial?
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>> sure. >> the little child pulling the leaves off the daisy and then the atomic bomb going off and then basically saying do you want barry goldwater as your president? ronald reagan's greatest contribution is by making conservativism palatable and make a conservative revolution possible, and he had ideas. >> well, i don't disagree with that, but i don't think, as you've granted, i don't think he was the intellectual genius that people suggest he is, and -- >> no, because he was also a pragmatist. >> i think further he was a true believer in a sense of a kind of fiercesome approach to the world that i think has been very destructive, and that, to me, doesn't argue for a great intellectual breadth or depth. i had occasion to be in central america a number of times during the reagan administration when
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there was very clearly a kind of anti-communist vail laid over what was clearly a humane and humanitarian -- well, that's the wrong word, but a civil war, not at all based on the kind of communism versus democracy, but really based on people's need to have a life that was meaningful in the face of horrific oppression, and reagan and his administration continued to perceive it in this hideously black and white manner that justified all kinds of human rights violations. i remember coming back after he made his incredible statements about -- in the case of the anti-revolutionary forces in nick -- nick ray gray being equal in this country, and look, what your father is saying is simply
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not true, and either my concern is he doesn't understand that it's not true and continues to believe this stuff because he's told to say it, or he is a liar, and she said he's surrounded by people who have a very strict and very thick ideological perspective, and they keep him very well hemmed in in that regard. i found that to be very sad. i guess it's not unusual with our leaders to be hemmed in and be protected from experiencing reality, but i found that not only very sad, but destructive of hundreds of thousands of lives of people in central america alone. >> both of you, one way or another, but in the books you said something similar to mike in the sense that the right has been very successful in getting candidates elected, and i think they nodded in agreement with that whereas the left had more
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impact on the culture, can you feel the areas that we're talking about? >> i don't want to suggest it's positive left or right. you know, the american culture has been spread throughout the world as a result of our explosion of motion pictures, television, and what have you, but i think -- i'm with clarence who said sthie of a child is imagination, and i think those with imagination are capable of walking in someone else's shoes, as a result of that there's a tendency -- and i see it more on the left, perhaps it's on the right as well -- to be open to others, to be aware of other points of view, and i think that's permeated to some
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significant degree the stories that have come out of the motion picture and television industries. before special effects, bombings, killing, raping, and murdering became the story of the day, so i'm not sure that's the case, but i still think that people respond to the human perspective that's put out in much of the work that some people consider the left, hollywood liberal sort of message. >> but i think the left-right polarity in the mainstream level is reflected in the difference between a democrat and republican, is more up for grabs now. the whole picture of what left and right is changing very much. you got clipt eastwood who just -- clint eastwood who was against proposition eight, and people
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can marry who they please. he's a republican. >> he's a libertarian as i am, and they think government has no business in the bedroom whatsoever. >> or in owning national parks. >> libertarians are pretty extreme. [laughter] on the other hand, guys like eastwood protect nature, so things are not quite that simple. i agree with you that i, you know, i was a schoolboy leftist of the extreme sort, and when i gave it up, i didn't adopt anything else because i think that ideological ideals are a form of blindness, and i -- ideology blinds us. i mean, i love ideology. i grew up in the generation of 1968 where mar cue sai was god, and i read him now and go yeah, yeah. i mean, it's just limiting to you. to me, i mean, i look around
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this audience, and i see a lot of faces -- i used to live in echo park, and i was really super left, really super left. i see faces in here who look left. i know the world. [laughter] i'll tell you something -- [laughter] i'll tell you something, i feel better now. i'll tell you why. i know people are not going to like hearing this. freedom from ideology is freedom to see, for me. sometimes the left is right, and sometimes the right is right. that's a very weird thing to have to think, but it's absolutely true to me. >> does that suggest that the right is free of ideology? >> no. [laughter] no, not at all. i'm saying freedom from ideology is what i -- i don't know, i'm -- >> this makes me bristle. >> okay. >> i'm the same now as i was in 1968. i was a freshman at columbia in 1967-68 when the uprising
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happened. i was very confused. i always studied ideology, but i was never on ideolog. that's what you're talking about. people who are ideologs are fools whether it's the left or right. there's no need to change if you're consistent in studying and trying to understand the world as it is, not how it ought to be, and you can then go from there and talk about how you want to change things, but it makes me bristle when people say when i was young and foolish, i was on the left, and now i'm old and conservative and smarter on the right. [laughter] you were a fool then, and maybe you're a fool now, i don't know. i welcome what you said. [laughter] >> i think that's possibly true, but i don't -- as i said, i don't really feel ideologically akin to the right either. >> what you described yourself is you're a 1968 new york libro-republican, rockefeller,
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brooks up in massachusetts -- those guys would no longer be republicans though. they would be too far to the left to be in today's republican party. >> possibly. >> not possibly. tell me any liberal republican from 1968 who's in the party now? >> yeah, i can't think -- >> yeah. >> but there are, you know, as i said, i'm trying to be free of all of those things, so when i'm happiest, when i'm clearest, i try -- as she said, what i found interesting is a lot of europeans said this to me where they come to the country, they get very confused by the split here, and i think that part of the reason is that the split here is even more rigid than in europe. >> it's also a creature of the media. >> oh, totally created by the media, and it's reenforced by
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the media. >> right. >> no question. >> yeah. >> you know, to get back to the question, now, one of the questions my colleagues were asking me early on in the book, which is critical question. why are -- why is so much of hollywood liberal? why is it always liberal? even though i argue in terms of seizing state power of trying to understand, you know, why republicans go to state power, they do. they have been much more successful, but that's -- we're talking about still small numbers. the vast majority of hollywood is lib ray, and it -- i think the key is not liberal as a political term m i think the key of what you described, mike, is empathy, that if you're going to be an actor or a writer, you need to be able to understand, as you said, to stand in someone else's shoes. you have to understand a character who is not like you. you have to be able to make them empathetic. it's one of the reasons edward
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g. robinson was asked to play hitler in a movie, and he said no, because i'd have to find something about him to make him human and to make an audience feel some empathy for him, and i don't want to do that for him. i simply don't want to do it, and so i think if you have a sense of empathy on think about how many actors by and large come from poor backgrounds, work their way up, have a hard struggle that you feel them empathetic, and that empathy, that human spirit leads you into a kind of political liberalism where, you know, you see both sides. the world's not black and white. it's gray. you're not a marxist or a radical right wing. >> okay. let me ask you a question about that. there's a film called "the blindside," and there was a movie regarded by critics who observed these thing, good
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critics rather than people just sort of -- or reviewers let's say. a movie that was in some senses socially conservative. it had a kind of religious feel and base to it, but there's no question that it was a film filled with empathy i thought, and i found it moving. i don't think that empathy is so exclusively a left side phenomena, but it can come from other things. if you examine the movie, i don't know what you felt -- i didn't love it, but i thought it was a good movie, but it was clearly a different empathy. if you -- i'm sure that you would agree there was empathy in that movie. >> sure, sure. there was also cross-racial relationships which are not considered conservative. i thought it was a television movie made as a feature because it had a star called sandra bullock in it. >> okay, that's a point of size and also legitimate, but i'm
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asking more a different question from that. >> uh-huh. >> didn't you -- it's a very kind of religious themed kind of christian film. i'm not a christian, but it is a christian film, and it's basis -- and i think -- it came -- it's empathy coming from the other direction. if you don't see that, i -- i don't know. >> i'm not sure i disagree if you want to analyze it that way. the point is that it's not necessary, it seems to me, to put to parse things as either left or right. parse these things as liberal or conservative values. humanity, humane values, humane treatment of other people, understanding sympathy, empathy, the kinds of things that make us recognition of the kinds of things that make us human, and make the others with whom we interact human, seems to me would be the thing to be championed whether it's liberal, conservative, or whatever. >> couldn't you read that film
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both ways? the interesting thing about "the blindside" in my view 1 a lot of people -- is 5 lot of people on the left thought it was an awful film because it was another white person yet saving another black person, and i kill myself pretty well to the left did not agree because i happen to be true. it was based on a real story, and i thought it was a very well told story, but was as respectful to both sides, so, yes, it -- in some ways it's a non-ideological film made by a filmmaker who was trying to be very concrete about the way the world works, but a lot of people really disapproved of it, and in print, a lot of critics. >> yeah, you know, those are the people want who to fit people into slots, you know, into categories, and i think that's what keeps dividing us, which is the thing that i find so offensive about these kinds of -- not this, but these kinds of debates and divisions.
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>> can we talk a little bit about actors with that issue? really what defines hollywood left and right is the issue of celebrity, and it's often said that politics is show business for ugly people -- [laughter] but not in our town; right? politics is show business with real lookers. [laughter] frank wrote an op-ed in the "new york times" a couple weeks ago in which he basically said that hollywood stars should not go down to occupy l.a. or new york city or occupy wall street because they're too damn rich and too connected -- you know, too hawked into the corporations and too good looking to really do the movement any good. >> that's just utter nonsense. >> okay. >> utter nonsense. [laughter] >> a lot of people wrote in to say so. >> okay, good. certainly. first is the people in occupy wall street or los angeles or
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anybody else would embrace them and say thank you for coming. >> right. >> showing us that you care. >> that didn't happen to michael moore. did you see that film? he was run out of the -- not run out of oakland, the occupy wall street -- i'll send you the clip. it's interesting. they were wanting to know because he's reputed his estate of $50 million, and they asked him, and he ran off. there is a level on which the hypocrisy encroachment starts to reach a certain level and bubble. i had personal experience, i was an official at the reunion oriented in those days, and still am in that regard, and moore didn't want to pay union wages to the writers, and he was very anti-union on his first tv show. this is a well-known thing, and it's been written about.
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he's not a consistent man. when he came down to the occupy movement, all over the internet, the video of him being run out of there, it was fascinating. you know, this is a guy who made a fortune, a real fortune, $50 million off of a kind of pose of a kind of left wing poses rather than, i think, real. i -- that's one of the things that backed me off being typical leftist after seeing years of that in hollywood. it's very pref leapt. >> we're talking about apples and oranges here. there's individuals that nobody wants there, but the main point of the piece was that if you are a famous, wealthy celebrity, you have given up your citizenship. you have begin up your right to talk about democracy. you've given up your right to go into any group and talk about your solidarity with them whether again conservative or liberal. that was what was so offensive about it just because they are
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celebrities, star, and wealthy, they have no right to go down there. it was a ridiculous piece. >> i agree about that. i think he's an exceptional case, a strange promoter, and events when you feel dishonesty function going on, that makes you go wait a minute. >> the bottom line from the 1920s on when celebrities started gets involved in elections and endorsing candidates, the main thing that celebrities do is they bring attention to issues that an issue that might not have gotten the press gets the press. a candidate who might not have gotten attention, gets attention because celebrity a or b is with them, and to me, that's got to be good for democracy because that means you're paying more attention to what's going on, and maybe if you pay attention to what's going on, you'll actually read a little bit about
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what's beginning on, educate yourself about what's going on, and if you can educate yourself about what's going on, you can be an informed voter and make an informed decision, and i believe this country made informed decisions and informed votes, not like voting in on in god we trust where we are just pandering. that's not an educated vote. if we make educated voting, and if celebrities get people to pay attention, more power too them. >> there's celebrities, and then there's celebrities. there's some who do a great deal of homework and behind the scenes work, andothers who one way or another burnish their images. the unfortunate hillary swank -- >> there is an occupation in hollywood. i don't know how prevalent it is, but i know it exists, of
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people who make a living advising celebrities on where to give their money. >> yes. >> now that's simply inherently incontradiction to what you are saying because it says automatically the celebrity doesn't have the brains and the attention span, him or herself to figure that out. >> no, they don't have the commitment. >> or the commitment. >> that's what it is. >> there's some people working very hard -- >> well -- >> are committed to the work they are doing, and understand a certain level of political sophistication, but don't have the depth of understanding about which issue is being dealt with most posttively and most -- positively and most progressively and successfully by which organization or which individual is most representative of the point of view you want to support. i think it's unfair to lump celebrities into these categories of, you know, thoughtless people who are -- when they become successful are incapable of thought and
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demonstrate it. >> i think some are like that because -- >> some are. >> and that's -- >> so are some plumbers. >> yes, of course. [laughter] that is a -- that occupation is a symptom of essentially buying your activism opposed to as what you did, earning it. it's a very different thing, and a disstress someone who has the case because, you know, he paid an adviser that that would be a good cause for his image. >> well, if -- i agree with you only if he or she accepts the word of the adviser without checking into him or herself, and i think that's the step that you're suggesting doesn't exist, and i'm suggesting it's the reverse. i think that there's some very -- you know, we have a business out here that unfortunately or fortunately makes people millions and millions of dollars, and in some
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instances, in a relatively short time, and these are people quite often who are not e equipped to understand the best way for themselves to make use both politically and socially and personally of that money. if they want to take that benefit of a talented person and say this is what i suggest you look into and do that, and if they look into it, then god bless them. if they just simply say, as i think you're sunlighting, that whatever their agent or -- whatever their agent or adviser tells them to do, that that's what they're going to do, well, then that's some sort of puppet ri that's not worth paying attention to. yet, we have people in the business who are really good, decent, thoughtful people.
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we have people in the business who are really creeps. we have people in the business who are very successful based on their energy, talent, and commitment, and we have those in the business tremendously successful based on pure luck, and it's troubling when people make these grand generalizations about celebrities about what they do, don't do, and what they should do. they are people like everybody else. >> and they are exposed more than other people. >> indeed. >> i know in your book, steven, you have a wonderful quote from tom hayden who was married to jane fonda and the mentor who worried out loud that when people attach themselves to celebrities, you are getting them as fans rather than as citizens. he was arguing against celebrities 37 >> no, he was
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arguing both ways. he was stumped because we were talking about if celebrity politics good or bad for democracy? that's really the question we want to be getting at here, not left and right, and i agree. those distinctions have created more trouble than they've created hope and change. instead we ask what can we do to improve democracy in america? you know, i asked him, so, you know, you've been married to a celebrity. in the end, do you think celebrity helps or hinders democracy? he said it cuts both ways. he said, on one hand, with jane and i would go out on the road with the committee for economic democracy, ced, that was active here in the very late 70s and early 80s, we would bring, you know, a lot of the brat pack when they came on the road with us, and we would get
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20,000-40,000 people and got loads of young people who would, you know, just want to be around jane and the celebrities and doing work on clean water campaigns, doing work on solar energy, doing all of this progressive work. he said, but on the other hand, if the reason they're doing it is because they're worshiping a sleepty, that's -- celebrity, that's not the way you build a mass democratic movement. that's the way you put a single czars arena in power, and that's bad for democracy, so, you know, he threw the hands up in the air and said it cuts both ways. is -- >> is it fair it oprah opened with president obama -- is this is bad thing about democracy? >> oprah has been given short thrift. what oprah said, and all the
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polls that ask people if celebrity x endorses that candidate, will it make you more likely to vote for them. those polls, that's like when did you stop beating your wife? it assumes you're an idiot. it assumes you're an idiot. [laughter] i don't care who the celebrity or any politician or anyone because they tell you to vote. the real question should be, will an endorsement from person a or b, celebrity x, or why, make you pay attention to the campaign and the issues of the campaign? that, to me, is a legitimate question, and what oprah's endorsement did was get every study i've done about why is it that only 50% of the eligible electorat vote in political elections and legal women's voters did several of them, and the bulk of people who do not vote are women, and when asked why they don't vote, they say we
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don't understand the issues. we don't want to vote if redon't understand the issue, and why i thought oprah's endorsement was good, she department tell anybody to vote for him. she said i never endorsed a candidate, i just like president obama. i just want to say maybe you should pay attention to him, and what her endorsement did was reach into the 50% of the electorat that don't go and vote, and in this way, i think oprah expanded democracy by increasing the amount of people voting, and various studies done afterwards with analysis i can't figure out how, they argued her endorsement got him an extra 1.2 million votes in the primaries, and when they broke it down without that endorsement, hillary clinton would have been the candidate, and, again, what
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oprah did, whether you like obama, don't like obama, is she got people not used to voting to pay attention to a candidate and to the issues. again, i just have to think in the long run that's got to be good for the country, not bad for the country. >> let me, if i may? >> yes, go ahead. >> one of your points was that women who don't understand the issues don't vote. i think, in fairness, you have to suggest that the problem is that men who don't understand the issues do vote. [laughter] [applause] >> i don't disagree. i'm just taking the oprah point of view here. [laughter] >> there should be a male oprah show. >> yeah, there's only one woman on your and -- >> there's only one woman who was exact to nine other men, and i knew that would come up, but in the end, i thought it was
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more important to write about people who i thought made a difference rather than be politically correct and get the balance. >> uh-huh. today, you could make the case for a deep illusion of the left and right into the single issue of politic, and there's a number of women like laurie david who are very active politically on environmental issues, and so there are more women, at least on the left, you know, whatever you think of the politics, susan serandon, laurie david, and maybe in an indirect, and probably -- >> yes, point well taken, and i list a bunch, as you know, people on the left and right that deserve studies, but i was also interested in not just getting five left, five right, but to get people who did different kinds of political activism because we think that, you know, being politically active is, either you run for office or you talk about an issue, and those are the two
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most common forms, elector politics and issue oriented politics, but i wanted to talk about visual politics, people like charlie chaplain who didn't write join in groups or didn't want to be a part of any organization, but because he was his own producer, writer, director, star, and later distributer, he had no studio head to tell him what he could and couldn't do. he put his politics directly on the screen, and i also found that you had a number of stars i write about who did the same thing. once you have the end of the studio system in 1948, and a movie stars opening their own production companies, people like harry opened his own production company and made two films. you have jane fonda opening up her own production company making several political movies. films like "coming home," "the china syndrome," and the mass
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movement off the screen. you had warren bady opening his own company and making political films. surprising, i didn't see many people, there may be, but i'm not aware of, prominent people on the right opening up their own production companies to make political films to do their own ideas. >> that was the next question, and for roger, too, i mean, unless i'm mistaken about this, i don't see too many people on the right reaching out to grassroots movements. for example, the tea party -- >> there's been actually a fair amount of talk about that lately that i've heard. whether it emerges is another question, but they are certainly aware of what steve's saying. i think there probably will be. first of all, the whole movie industry is fracturing anyway. it has fractured. i mean, the studio system died
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ages ago, but the systems that replaced it are now fracturing. the method of production is fractured, and i think what we're going to have is many, many different schools of thoughts contending and malice, and i'm sure some are tea party because there's been a lot of talk about making movies about franklin and so forth, and it's going to happen. i don't know -- >> picking the wrong guy if they pick binge min franklin. let me tell you. >> he's an interesting character. you know, i think it's -- there's all kind of complex people from that. >> if a movie that springs out of the tea party movement carries the theme keep your government hands off my medicare, i think they're in big trouble. [laughter] i think it'll be much more -- it won't be that at all. >> is that sympathy for the tea party on the hollywood right? >> what's that? >> is there sympathy for the tea
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party on the hollywood right, or do they see themselves largely as republicans who are -- >> no, i think -- i don't know the answer to that question really because, you know, the argument of the tea party is largely is just a small government argument. that's basically what it is. the other stuff doesn't really existment i mean, the racist attack on the tea party never held because it was not true. they weren't. they were small government people, and they are small government people, and that's a different argument, and how that will translate into reduction of film of television is hard to predict. i mean, it's -- you know, there was a very failed and terrible movie about it, and they came out last year -- >> if it's an argument -- >> it was a terrible movie version -- [laughter] >> well, you know, actually, i
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have to admit i never read the book, but i did see the movie. i was very bored. you know -- >> look, i was bored too. [laughter] >> anyway, -- >> nonetheless, if we're having public deals on person and what counts as a person, we're talking a pretty extreme divide culturally, ideologically, and so on. it's not, you know -- we're not -- that's not a politically central debate. >> what's that? between small government -- >> the idea of how to define what personhood is which came up in the last few days. i don't want to get into an argument about abortion and so on, but it suggests, really, politically fractured country -- >> well, actually, the tea party people i met -- none of them talk about social issues. there's some who do, obviously, but the ones i meat are interested in small government,
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lower, you know, less government involved in everything, but they doesn't talk about abortion or gay marriage. they don't talk about it. that's not an issue that attracts their attention. they are all -- they are all towards economic issues. they don't -- i've never heard them talk about it. i don't know -- the thing about the economic issues whether they are theoretical like the tea party argument is a theoretical argument, is will society work better for people if the government is less involved in it, okay? now, that's a a theoretical question that the answer to is hard to say, and so it's a very hard thing to dramatize in a movie. that's where this doesn't -- it doesn't easily -- you could do a science fiction movie, well, what happens if the government is less involved? all right, you know, is it anywhere -- nivana or mad max?
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you know, two ways to look at it. >> driving down beverley glenn, i wish there was a bigger government to fill the potholes. >> among other things. >> let's turn it over to questions -- >> i have one more question which is the subtitle of the book called blacklisting myself, and it's a subtitle that is hollywood appostate in an age of terror. what do you mean by terror? >> well, i was an appostate because i was formally on the left, and then moved. i feel like i'm an a pose state. >> when you talk about terror
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-- >> post-9/11. >> the threat from sean penn or al al-qaeda? [laughter] >> i don't know sean penn, and i don't know al-qaeda, bus it was a reference -- but it was a reference to post-9/11. >> okay. let's open up for questions from the audience. i think the microphones are coming down to you, here, yes? >> thank you for this very interesting discussion. mike, a thousand percent with you in abolishing the death punishment. in researching the book, did you deal with ronald reagan and his approach to nuclear disarmament after seeing the day after and how that affected him and in his dealings? >> no, because one of the -- where i had to cut off -- this book is 500 pages, and i figured
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that was heavy enough. the moment someone was elected to office, that's when my research ended because then they were politicians and not movie stars. i know there's stuffer that was confused, and the movies became his reality, but i can't really talk about it because all i know is general things. i never really researched it. >> just behind -- oh, sorry, the one down here, sweatshirt with the hood -- a hoody. [laughter] >> with the media covering and talking about people more and more voting on who they like or who they feel comfortable with opposed to issues, isn't there another aspect of a celebrity running for office that you end up voting for him because of the role he played in a film or your comfort with it coming into your living room? is that not an issue also as part of hollywood left and right?
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>> yes. [laughter] no, i actually write about that in 1964, george murphy, who remember as a song and dance man whose most famous role was dancing with shirley temple, and the kind of rose you play if you're a movie star left or right, and you're thinking about a serious career in politics, then be very careful because the kind of roles you choose are going to have a great impact on how the public perceives you, and in 1964 when murphy ran against the press secretary for the camelot years, john kennedy, everybody expected that he was going to lose dramatically, and one of the tv stations clearly must have been democratically owned began running his movies
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on late night television thinking that people would see this, they would remember he's only a song and dance man, and they would become disgusted saying how could he possibly be u.s. senator although he was head of the california g.o.p. for two years, media adviser to eisenhower, and that backfired, and murphy said to the press later on, he said, i know why they did this. they thought they could smear me, but now i go around and say, oh, you're so nice. i remember you. those memories bring back -- you danced with shirley temple, and you're the best friend in this movie and that movie, and he campaigned saying i've been in more of your bedrooms than any other candidate in america, so, yes, those roles do help. >> so does charm, i guess. over here. >> two questions over here.
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mike, i counted the words, i think there's 11. what story did mash tell that is no longer being told on tv? >> war hurts. blood is not spilled without cost. >> eight words for the answer. [laughter] >> mike, have you ever -- >> where are you? >> over here. have you been tempted to run for office, and do you feel you can be more effective as an activist versus a politician? >> attempted is a different word i said in "mash" one time. no, i'm not interested in running for office. i have been asked. i think my role in society is one that's a perm one, and i
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have -- personal one, and i have great, great respect, the few among them in the political world that i consider public servants, but it's more of a sacrifice, and i'm not talking about economic, it's more of a sacrifice that i'm willing to make. i have a family, and they mean more to me as -- was it robert said spending nights in holiday inns. >> i'm deeply concerned about the republicans act on a woman's right to choose, and why suspect there more female actors coming out on a woman's right to choose? [laughter] >> seems to me we have, no? >> you haven't, evidently. as far as i know, the women of
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this country are significantly engaged in this question. let me say, though, things are coming at us in scatter shots kind of bursts, and you have to pick your fight whether you're concerned about abortion or whether you're concerned about racial issues or the economic disperty in this country or whether you're concerned about homelessness or whether you're concerned about whatever else is now in the consciousness while, as steve pointed out, the congress is voting on whether or not in god we trust is still the motto of the united states of america. people are very, very confused today and upset at the way things are going, but there's a great deal of disarray in terms of figuring out how to respond
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to it. >> hi. i was wondering if maybe all three of you could comment on john stuart's impact on political culture in this country because it seems to me that he's emblematic of celebrities bringing attention to the issues and why you think he's been so effective at being someone who is obviously liberal leaning, but opening up the conversation and garnering attention and respect from both sides of the aisle. >> who? >> john stewart. >> oh. >> anyone want to -- >> well, i think he's quite bril lament, and -- brilliant. you're right. i think he tries to be fair, and people have been so deluged with with -- with ideology that comes
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at them in the form of news and comes at them in the form of opinion and in the form of what have you with one thing or another, and much of it is simply dishonest, and what you get, i think, from john stewart is a since that he is an engaged -- sense that he is an engaged, interested, intelligent american who is very worried about what's going on in this country, and let's it be known. he's also very funny and very talented. >> yeah, i would say that john stewart is the johnathan swift of our generation, and part of his effectiveness is satire that it's always easier to take your politics when you're laughing then when you have talking heads coming at you in an angry manner, and that the other thing about stewart, i think, one of the reasons he's popular, is he's willing to poke fun of the left and the right, democrats as well as republicans.
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he'll call a fool a fool, and he -- all he has to do is show you the videotape that, you know, this -- [laughter] the best thing he says is i never believed this in, and i never have, and then he shows you something said last year that was 180 degrees, and so he exposes political hypocrisy on a daily bay sirks and if you look at -- basis, and if you look at the history of hollywood during the censorship days of the early 1930s, comedies were less prone to be censored than dramas because nobody took comedians very seriously, did they? that's why john stew wart gets a-- stewart gets away with so much because he's doing it through humor, but yet there's intelligence, homework, and preparation. it's leaning leftward, but he's not afraid at any time to just go after anyone who's been a fool.
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>> i agree, and i think one of the interesting things about right now is that it's much more popular to get the news -- more people get news through stewart than tho normal channels now. now, there's a good thing in that and bad thing in that. the good thing is that it's entertaining, and steve says he's willing to go against both sides which is great, and it makes him entertaining because it makes him authentic. on the other hand, it says something about our discourt that has come to that, and so there's a double -- there's a double side to it, and this is not -- this is not to condemn stewart, but the rest. he's doing what he's supposed to. >> [inaudible] ? >> okay. >> right here. >> hi, i wanted to ask the panelist who is delusioned about
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of michael moore. what does it take to become delusioned with the right wing whack koas on fox and those running for office. >> i have a delusion r them too. i'm an equal opportunity delusion person. [laughter] >> this is not going to win the contest with eight words, but i have two questions. i'll try to put them into one. it's a broad question. when you say the hollywood right had power, i don't understand exactly what you meant. i equate power with control, influence, and certainly as the years have gone by, the right has not had power. the left, the very causes that the left espoused from the early 0s on came to -- 30s on came to be social
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security, up employment reform, and even the war. hollywood right opposed. they favored mccarthyism. that wassics posed and discredited, and if you were -- that was exposed and discredited, and if you were to say hollywood had all of this power, why the did country turn slowly to all of these issues hardly fought by the left that came to being? discrimination, equal rights for blacks, women, social security, i can go on and on. >> how about we let the panel answer in that case. >> it was directed to steve. >> if you buy my book -- [laughter] it's a long answer. the short answer to that is you're not wrong, but you're sort of maybe i'm not clear. i'm not saying everyone on the hollywood right did that, but there's two things to look at. if you take the big picture of
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the politics in the 20th century and you request a big question, there's two, but i say foundational moments in 20th century politics that's affected all of our lives. the first is the creation of the new deal state, a welfare state with the social safety net under franklin d. roosevelt, president deeply supported by hollywood. in fact, it helped spark the emergence of hollywood as a political center on the left, and the second is the attempt to dismantle the new deal state with the conservative revolution begun under a movie star, ronald reagan in 1980, but in between, you know, that's not to say that the hollywood left hasn't had a huge impact as well, and as mike's pointed out, they dealt mainly with issues that if you look at the 190s -- 1930s and 1940s, it's the hollywood left on the forefront
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promoting anti-naziism, and in the 50s and 60s, it's the hollywood left promoting the civil rights movement. in the 60s, 70s, 80, and 2000s, it's been the hollywood left leading the anti-war movement, and it's the left talking about socially progressive causes like a woman's right to her own body and other issues. those are, again, those are important issues. those are segments, and that's not to say that left hasn't had an impact, but if i'm talking about seismic changes, to me, the new deal state and cosmic revolution of the 08s, are the two biggest changes in the country. >> time for one more quick question. >> hi, the quick question involves jobs. hollywood, whether it's right or left, it's more corporate or not, and it's a star system where the stars work whether
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it's louisiana or michigan. what happened to the support of the unions and jobs here in california? there's also a tax issue, tax credit issue, and california's not competitive at all. left or right, is it corporate versus union more? >> yes. , sure. [laughter] >> it's the money making business. that's the bottom line. >> sure. >> wherever they're going to make a profit -- it's a business. ella teaches at the film school, and i'm in the history department, i have ph.d. students from cinema, and they told me that and the undergraduates as well on the first day, they'll told if you want to make art film, go to nyu. if you want to make a living, come to usc. they're under no illusion when you're trained there, you're trained for a business, and that
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the business is about making films, and the business is about making money on film, and so if going to vancouver or toronto or louisiana gets you a tax credit that makes it cheaper, that's where you go. you can read stuff, if you want to read interesting stuff, read ozzie davis and ruby dee's collective autobiography going to hollywood, ruby dee in the late 1940s to make "no way out" and not seeing a single black person below the line, not a single black worker in hollywood below the line, so there's never been a concern for below the line within the industry, and when you look at hollywood, make a distinction between corporate hollywood and creative hollywood. today, we talked about creative hollywood, but make no illusion, corporate hollywood runs this town. >> and i -- >>


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