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Jewish World Review Jan. 14, 2000/ 7 Shevat, 5760

Larry Elder

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Hollywood should thank AlGore -- THANK YOU, Donna Brazile.

If Hollywood is smart, they would send this lady a dozen long-stem red roses. I'll explain.

NBC, along with the other major networks, faced an NAACP boycott for failing to increase minority hiring. Under pressure, NBC just agreed to add minority writers to shows, increase purchasing from minority vendors, and to increase minority hiring from top to bottom.

What does this have to do with Donna Brazile? Ms. Brazile, a black woman, is the manager for Vice-President Al Gore's presidential campaign. She recently blasted Republicans, calling them "white boys," who seek to "exclude, denigrate, and leave behind."

How do Brazile's hideous remarks benefit Hollywood? Name a business group more identifiably liberal than the folks who run Hollywood. One would be hard-pressed to name a "conservative" executive -- outside of Rupert Murdoch -- in Tinseltown. Hollywood historically gives far more money to Democrats than to Republicans.

Recall Marlon Brando's infamous remarks made on "Larry King Live," in which he said "Hollywood is run by Jews." But polls show that among voting groups, Jews, apart from blacks, remain one of the most steadfastly loyal groups to the Democratic Party. Most people, when they become more affluent, tend to vote Republican. Not so with Jews.

In September 1994, the black monthly magazine, "Emerge," found Jews less likely than the general population to hold negative views about blacks. When asked whether blacks "prefer welfare," "are less ambitious," or "are not as hard-working," Jews said no far more often than non-Jews.

So, under the Brazile Theory, shouldn't Hollywood be the last place to expect racism, discrimination, and exclusionary treatment? Can't have it both ways. Brazile markets the Democratic Party as compassionate, more concerned about the downtrodden. But now, the same crowd accuses Hollywood of excluding blacks, despite the industry's heavy domination by Democrats. You can't find a "white boy" Republican in Hollywood without a guide dog, a roadmap, and a magnifying glass.

Hollywood's failure to include and promote blacks affects their programming decisions, say the protesters. More minorities, more "diverse" programming sensitive to the needs and desires of minorities. Why, then, do blacks watch 50 percent more television, according to Black Entertainment Television, than do other groups? And, according to the NAACP Hollywood branch, blacks account for nearly 25 percent of movie ticket sales. If black customers are so dissatisfied with Hollywood's fare, why ravenously patronize the product?

Does the media "exclude" blacks? If media includes all forms of entertainment -- such as music and sports -- blacks excel. Rap music is a major moneymaker, and other black recording artists routinely score on the top 40 playlists. Blacks make up the majority of players in the NFL and in the NBA, and along with Latin players comprise nearly 25 percent of major league baseball players.

There are "black-themed" television shows, black daytime talk show hosts, black judge shows, blacks pushing products on infomercials, as well as many black characters in situation comedies and dramas. Roughly 12 percent of film and movie jobs go to blacks. Black directors get about five percent of the jobs, up dramatically from 10 years ago. And blacks account for nearly 12 percent of all roles in commercials.

Besides, what makes the NAACP so certain that blacks want to get into Hollywood? Blacks and Hispanics enjoy historic unemployment lows. In today's market, people who want to work find jobs. Maybe many blacks don't want to work in Hollywood, a notoriously competitive environment with little job security. Performers have short careers, and for every nervous performer, you can find several nervous executives standing behind him.

The industry celebrates the young, discarding today's "hot" for tomorrow's "hotter." Agents steal clients, producers steal actors, actors battle other actors for parts. Studios fawn over the best writers, only to discard them for the latest hot comedy team. No, in today's market, competent blacks choose from many job options, Hollywood being perhaps one of the least attractive.

Blacks compete in the extremely tough arenas of sports and entertainment. Yet, apparently the NAACP finds blacks incapable of figuring out the Hollywood rules of the road, and therefore demands that the industry "open its doors. The NAACP demand continues a myth that but for affirmative action, no black middle-class. In fact, according to Stephen and Abigail Thernstrom, in America in Black and White, " ... There was a substantial black middle class already in existence by the end of the 1960s (before affirmative action). In the years since, it has continued to grow, but not at a more rapid pace than in the preceding three decades, despite a common impression to the contrary."

But thanks to Donna Brazile, Hollywood can say, as one prominent Democrat once did, "I am not part of the problem, I am a Democrat." The prominent Democrat quoted? Donna Brazile's boss -- Al Gore.

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