Ethics Quote Of The Month: Aaron Sorkin

“You want the truth? Well, you can’t have the truth because I’ve decided that it isn’t newsworthy!”

“I understand that news outlets routinely use stolen information. That’s how we got the Pentagon Papers, to use an oft-used argument. But there is nothing in these documents remotely rising to the level of public interest of the information found in the Pentagon Papers. Do the emails contain any information about Sony breaking the law? No. Misleading the public? No. Acting in direct harm to customers, the way the tobacco companies or Enron did? No. Is there even one sentence in one private email that was stolen that even hints at wrongdoing of any kind? Anything that can help, inform or protect anyone? The co-editor in chief of Variety tells us he decided that the leaks were — to use his word — “newsworthy.” I’m dying to ask him what part of the studio’s post-production notes on Cameron Crowe’s new project is newsworthy. So newsworthy that it’s worth carrying out the wishes of people who’ve said they’re going to murder families and who have so far done everything they’ve threatened to do. Newsworthy. As the character Inigo Montoya said in “The Princess Bride,” I do not think it means what you think it means.”

—-Acclaimed screenwriter, playwright and Hollywood liberal Aaron Sorkin, reprimanding the news media  for publishing material from the Sony computer hacks in an Op-Ed in the New York Times.

There are many other titles for this post I considered, like “Jaw-dropping Hypocrisy of the Month,” “Self-serving Delusion of the Month,” and “This Is The Tragedy of Partisan Delusion: Won’t You Give Generously To Help Aaron”?

I’ve got to give the man credit: it takes world class gall for to write something like this self-serving for international consumption. Self-righteous, Freedom of the Press-promoting (Sorkin is the creator and writer of “The Newsroom” series on cable) Hollywood liberals applauded and screamed for blood when a near-senile billionaire’s private comments made in his own bedroom were surreptitiously recorded by his paid female mistress and plastered all over the media, because the private, private, private words suggested that he held racist attitudes, and no matter what he actually did (which was sufficient to be named an NAACP “man of the Year,” a distinction Aaron Sorkin has never earned),  that meant that he had to be publicly humiliated, fined millions and stripped of his business. We didn’t hear Sorkin protesting that this wasn’t newsworthy. Nor did the Sorkins of an earlier generation protest when the very same newspaper carrying his essay published criminally stolen Defense Department documents that, whatever was contained in them, were part of a sincere effort to win a war.

Sorkins of this generation have expressed no objections to the press publishing classified material illegally obtained by Wikileaks, or by Edward Snowden, regardless of what foreign intelligence personnel or legitimate national security objectives were placed at risk. Damn right the news media prints stolen material…confidential material…material leaked by trusted employees, including lawyers…material secretly revealed by those who are legally obligated to their employers not to leak, and who do so anyway for a variety of reasons, ranging from altruism to greed to vengeance to mischief —all the time. Sorkin has no problem with any of it.

No, he is just outraged when the illegally obtained material negatively affects him and his friends by revealing who they really are.

Can he seriously believe that “there is nothing in these documents remotely rising to the level of public interest of the information found in the Pentagon Papers”? Is he talking about the same public that can’t name the Chief Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court or Secretary of State but who can name every member of the Kardashian family? The same civicly illiterate public that can’t be bothered to vote for its representatives and leaders, who are more concerned with the activities of Selena Gomez and Justin Bieber than ISIS, who spend infinitely more time watching and thinking about zombies and pro football, Lady Gaga and video games, than they do the budget, the deficit, health care, poverty, employment or any substantive national issue? Sorkin belongs to an industry that makes its billions courting the interest of this same, trivial-minded public in the love affairs, baby bumps, fashions, curves, weight, implants, legal problems, awards and tweets of its prominent figures. This is the industry that revels in and cultivates our sick celebrity obsession, and Sorkin dares to claim that none of it is newsworthy now?

Sure, it’s pathetic that the public cares about this junk more than it does , for example, what Jonathan Gruber was saying on Capital Hill last week. After all, Gruber was 1) lying his head off and 2) exposing our national leadership’s deep cynicism and disrespect for the very same American public that was ignoring him. Much of the news media, meanwhile, was not reporting on his interrogation by Congress, just as it isn’t covering the slowly clarifying I.R.S. scandal. Tell me Aaron, is the public your industry courts more interested in the Senate’s report on torture, or George Clooney, whose wife, whoever she is, was just proclaimed by no less than Barbara Walters the most fascinating person of the year! Fascinating—because she married a movie actor who hasn’t had a successful film for three years. The newly elected black conservative woman Congress member from Utah, Mia Love—Babs doesn’t find her fascinating, because, like Sorkin, Walters regards conservatives as not worthy of the public’s interest. Hollywood just hates that, right, Aaron?

I would be willing to take Sorkin’s criticism with a measure of respect if he addressed the larger and far more important problem of the fact that journalists define “newsworthy” as “that which advances the causes, policies and leaders that we, the self-appointed arbiters of what is good for America, know ought to be advanced,” and “not newsworthy” as “that which threatens such causes, policies and leaders.” He won’t do that, however, because Sorkin supports that kind of selective news judgment….that means supports his ends too. Reporting on leaked e-mails that show his publicly progressive friends—supporters of Hillary, warriors against the “war against women,” ready to throw their “hands up” at the first opportunity—as the bigoted,  back-stabbing, gender-biased fakes and hypocrites that they are, however, well, that’s just outrageous as far as Aaron is concerned.

It’s disillusioning that a professional writer much praised for his intellect would write something like “So newsworthy that it’s worth carrying out the wishes of people who’ve said they’re going to murder families and who have so far done everything they’ve threatened to do,” and not just because its a sentence fragment that my fifth grade teacher Miss Barrett would have berated me for including in a homework assignment. Is he arguing that the material isn’t newsworthy, or that it is ethical to withhold information from the American public to foil the enemies of Hollywood? The news media doesn’t work for Sorkin, or Hollywood. If they need protection from North Korea, the President of the United they helped elect has the means to address that problem, and I agree, it’s a serious problem. Instead, the creator of “the Newsroom” is advocating self-censorship by the press.

Who said that illegality and corruption was the baseline from which to measure “news”? Mitt Romney’s “47%” statement wasn’t corrupt, or illegal, public, or directly harmful, and it was unethically recorded. Was it news? Of course it was news. It is also news—to the naive, anyway—that many of the architects of popular culture in this country are really greedy, hateful, two-faced scum. I always knew that, but is it useful information to the rest of the public? Undeniably. It explains a lot—like, say, how Bill Cosby could maintain an angelic image in Hollywood for decades while raping young actresses.

Aaron Sorkin is a champion of the First Amendment and an informed public, until those principles are inconvenient for him. To paraphrase the most quoted line Sorkin ever wrote, when the truth hurts, he’s the one who can’t handle it.

12 thoughts on “Ethics Quote Of The Month: Aaron Sorkin

  1. Never liked the guy to begin with – he gave us the first few seasons of the West Wing (which should really be called the Left Wing), a seven-year shill for all things progressive which moved a little to the center after he left. That he would twist himself up in ethical knots when his side is made to look bad should not come as a surprise.

  2. What baffles and disgusts me even more is the fact that a large proportion of our populace still considers people like him, and the mainstream media, as credible and trustworthy. Frightening too.

  3. Jack: “There are many other titles for this post I considered, like “Jaw-dropping Hypocrisy of the Month,” “Self-serving Delusion of the Month,” and “This Is The Tragedy of Partisan Delusion: Won’t You Give Generously To Help Aaron”?

    How about UNethical Quote of the Month? Ethics Quote of the Month is, at best, ambiguous (good Ethics Quote or bad Ethics quote?), and, at worst, misleading.


    • Zombies and vampires are so last week, public affairs are an ever renewing source of horror. Most of these secrets are ‘meh,’ as in who cares, it’s Hollyweird.

      I also think the award should be phrased negative too.

  4. I actually like the statement. It’s raging hypocrisy for HIM to state that, but I’d like to see journalists avoid that sort of airing of dirty laundry.

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