Local Screening Scheduled For Young Turks Film

Image of Cenk Uygur

Mad As Hell, a documentary film outlining the creation of the revolutionary digital network The Young Turks has been scheduled for a 7:30 p.m. Nov. 18 screening at Oklahoma City’s Quail Springs Mall 24 theater.

People can reserve and/or purchase their $10 tickets through the Gathr Films site here. A minimum number of ticket reservations and purchases is necessary for the screening to happen. No one will be charged, however, if the quota isn’t met.

I’m helping to bring attention to this event because The Young Turks network has truly revolutionized the digital news and video entertainment industry through the numerous avant-garde shows that appear on its Internet site. Founded by Cenk Uygur, pictured right, the network anticipated the growing viewer transition from traditional television channels to Internet-based video platforms, such as Hulu and YouTube.

Uygur hosts the network’s flagship program, also named The Young Turks. Overall, according to its site, the network receives more than 68 million page views per month.

Jay Hansen, a local representative of The Young Turks, said Uygur has expressed an interest in attending and speaking at all the film’s screenings throughout the country, and that it’s likely he will attend the one in Oklahoma City if it happens.

The Young Turks site presents an American Heritage Dictionary to help define its name and mission:

1. Young progressive or insurgent member of an institution, movement, or political party.

2. Young person who rebels against authority or societal expectations.

One of Uygur’s missions, for example, is to help reform campaign financing laws because of “money’s damaging influence on our government.”

Mad As Hell focuses on the struggles Uygur endured while creating his show and the network. Here's a trailer for the film.


Film Spotlights Religious Right

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The film based on Thomas Frank’s 2004 book What's The Matter With Kansas? is a subtle yet revealing portrait of the religious right and how it continues to influence politics in this region of the country.

It’s an important film that could have been made in Oklahoma as well as Kansas. It was shown last weekend at the Oklahoma City Museum of Art. Frank was in Oklahoma City and answered questions after the Saturday’s showings. I saw the film Sunday.

The documentary film is not confrontational in, say, the tradition of Michael Moore’s movies. Instead, it allows the main characters—some of whom are quite likable—to define themselves without any director's irony or intrusion. Many of the film’s characters are members of a religious right movement that focuses on anti-abortion and anti-homosexuality protests. The self-defeating results of the movement’s narrow focus becomes clear as the film ends, but director Joe Winston never intrudes with dogma.

The movie, like the book, tries to answer the question of why Kansas became such a “bastion” of conservatism despite its early radical history, which included heavy popular support for socialism. I used the word “tries” because the film never gives an explicit answer. This is not a failure of the film, but the difficult reality of trying to frame motivation. Why do these religious right folks believe like they do? What motivates them into political action? Is it a basic fear of modernity, a looming sense that they are getting left behind?

At one point in the film, a new church begins at an amusement park called Wild West World. The bifurcation of the park and church makes viewers wonder which is the more fictional, the amusement park with its dressed-up cowboys or the church members with their obsessive focus on abortion and homosexuality? But, again, the material is not presented in a heavy-handed manner. The theme park eventually goes bankrupt, and the church has to move on.

At another point in the film, a mother condemns secular universities as evil places where defenseless children lose their religious faith. Criticism of academia from the right is nothing new, but the mother’s comments come off as passionate, sincere and even caring. She’s not a stereotype. She really believes it.

Frank’s book and the movie are especially relevant to progressives in Oklahoma. The state has become increasingly conservative over the last three decades or so, and Oklahoma has several religious-right politicians who focus on cultural issues, such as abortion, to win votes.

For example, here’s a recent piece on a new draconian abortion law passed by the Oklahoma legislature last session. I wrote about the issue last April.

What’s The Matter With Kansas? specifically documents how the religious right has politicized itself in the so-called heartland and become a powerful force in state politics. As wages remain stagnant, as millions remain without adequate health care, as unemployment rises, the religious right continues with its narrow, cultural agenda. It may have been repudiated in the 2006 and 2008 national elections, but it remains alive and well in Kansas, Oklahoma and other nearby states.

(You can order a DVD of the film here.)


Okie Funk Nominated For State Blog Awards

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Blog Receives Two Nominations

Okie Funk has been nominated for Best Overall Blog and Best Political Blog in the fourth annual Okie Blog Awards contest.

State bloggers nominate and vote on their favorite blogs in the contest, which is operated by Mike Hermes. Hermes publishes the popular Okiedoke blog. You can find a list and links to all the nominated blogs and directions on how to vote here. The voting is open for Oklahoma bloggers through Feb.7.

Okie Funk has won the Best Political Blog award the past two years. Blue Oklahoma, a community blog I help operate, has also been nominated for Best Overall Political Blog.

The list of nominees shows once again the vibrancy and diversity of the Oklahoma blogging community. I urge everyone, whether you’re voting or not, to take the time to click through the list.

The World Against Bates

Speaking of blogs and bloggers, Michael Bates, the author of the popular Batesline blog, was recently sued for libel over a commentary he wrote about the Tulsa World that was published in Urban Tulsa Weekly.

The World initially sued Urban Tulsa Weekly as well, but later dropped it from the suit when the publication printed a retraction. Here is a recent story about the suit published in The World. Here is its initial story, which includes a pdf of the lawsuit. The pdf includes Bates’ article. Here is information from Batesline about the suit. The lawsuit claims the commentary contained inaccurate information about the newspaper’s circulation.

Bates and I are at different places on the political spectrum, but I believe continuing the lawsuit against him at this point is frivolous. It might even backfire on The World.

Urban Tulsa Weekly has printed a correction. What else does The World want? Do the publisher, editors and reporters at The World no longer believe retracting and correcting published information is an acceptable method for a publication and its writers to set the record straight concerning the work of one of its reporters/contributors? In other words, do they believe The World itself should allow its own reporters/contributors to face damages in a libel lawsuit against them even though it corrects the story in question? Doesn’t this lawsuit actually encourage people to sue newspapers and their writers for libel? Doesn’t it give potential plaintiffs a very specific legal opening to sue writers at The World even if the newspaper corrects a story someone claims is libelous?

It’s highly unusual for a newspaper to sue for libel since publications are most often on the other side of such lawsuits. Why encourage people through example? Yet these are new times for newspapers, which are in a financial decline and compete with a myriad of new media outlets. Both The World and The Oklahoman have recently cut their workforce.