Sometimes it's helpful to hear how the sausage gets made — in this case, my latest column, about whether HBO is becoming perceived as a "liberal elite" network.

Newsroom01I wrote the column after watching "The Newsroom," Aaron Sorkin's new drama (pictured), which comes on the heels of the flak the network received from Sarah Palin apologists for its movie "Game Change."

To buttress the point, I also mentioned negative depictions of evangelicals in "Boardwalk Empire" and "True Blood," HBO's documentaries, and the wealth of programming about Bush administration incompetence (among others) in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. Enough examples to at least raise the question, I figured.

Then along came the revelation — after the column was filed, due to weekly Variety deadlines — about George W. Bush's head (or rather, a replica of it) turning up on a spike in "Game of Thrones."

In terms of perceptions of a liberal elite, this was a classic unforced error — an inside joke that reinforces the right's persecution complex when it comes to Hollywood.

So now what? Rip up the column and focus on the story du jour, one "everyone" seemed to be discussing, even though it was something HBO officials had no control over and immediately issued an apology about?  (On top of that, the story emerged the very day the pay service was airing a flattering documentary, "41," devoted to Bush's father, George H.W. Bush.)

While I couldn't very well ignore the "Thrones" ruckus, it seemed unfair to put undue emphasis on it. So I threw in a parenthetical reference to the head-on-a-spike story as further fodder for critics — which it inevitably will be — and left it at that.

To some, it will surely sound like soft-peddling a clear example of just how pervasive Hollywood's liberal culture is. But to me, it plays more like the frat-boy antics and gallows humor occasionally indulged in, as Arnold Schwarzenegger once put it, on "rowdy movie sets." And please, spare me the "You'd be singing a different tune if it was Bill Clinton's head" comparisons (although I did enjoy Damon Lindelof's Tweet that he'd be looking for Clinton's noggin in the brothel scenes).

Still, there will be those who simply look at the Bush story and say, "What do you expect from a network that made Sarah Palin look ill-informed?" And in the great, noisy mediasphere, the loudest voices on all sides of the debate have a way of skewing the conversation and making it difficult, pardon the expression, to keep a cool head.

 

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