O’Sullivan’s Law And Order

O’Sullivan’s Law states that any organization or enterprise that is not expressly right wing will become left wing over time.  The law is named after British journalist John O’Sullivan, who cites as proof the ACLU, the Ford Foundation and the Episcopal Church.

"Is it because I'm a lesbian?"

He could have cited Law & Order too, NBC’s long running arrest-and-trial television show that has just been canceled after 21 years on the air.  Many may not remember, but when the show began, it was not only excellent, it was also, if not conservative, at least complex in its worldview.  Early episodes took hard looks at liberal laws that prohibited the use of valid evidence against criminals (“Kiss the Girls and Make Them Die”); politically correct excuses that hid dirty motives for murder (“Prisoner of Love”); and even a Tawana Brawley style hoax in which a black girl wrongly accused white police officers of rape (“Out of the Half-Light.”).  When conservative actor Michael Moriarty played ADA Ben Stone—and even for a while after liberal Sam Waterson took over as ADA  Jack McCoy—the L&O prosecutor’s office was less concerned with parsing PC verities than with putting away bad guys.

All that changed over time.  In its later seasons, episodes of Law & Order that were supposed to be “ripped from the headlines,” in fact rewrote the headlines to imitate leftist fantasies.  Conservative speakers on campus caused violence rather than suffered it, Christian girls were stoned for dating Muslims rather than the other way around, evangelicals murdered people rather than fighting desperately for their right to life.  It was, in the end, the world turned upside down to suit the left’s agenda.

Why does that happen?  Why did the same process overtake 24 as it is now undermining House and as it ultimately seems to destroy any show with half an ounce of conservative realism to it?  Why does TV specifically seem a veritable laboratory of O’Sullivan’s Law in action?

Well, I can think of three reasons off hand.

One, the nature of writers.  Writers live in and work out of our imaginations where moral hazards and consequences can be dreamed away.  When we fail to test our visions against life as it is lived, it becomes easy for us to fall prey to the leftist ideas that the world is perfectible and that good intentions equal virtue.  As a show’s original creator cedes more and more control of scripts to the writers’ room, the O’Sullivan effect naturally takes place.

Two, lefty intolerance versus right-wing tolerance.  It rarely fails.  Right wingers are consistently willing to hire openly left-wing employees.  Left-wingers will not allow a right-winger anywhere near them.  The result over time is that conservative enterprises are infiltrated by lefties, but leftist enterprises remain the same.

Three:  leftism is in and of itself a form of decay.  It’s what happens not just to television shows but to nations, churches and universities as the energy given off by the big bang of their inception slowly ebbs away to nothing.  Rather than expend vitality in originality and creation, they become obsessed with issues of conservation and equality and ultimately become wholly still and dead.

There may not be a fix for this, not in television anyway.  Things have their natural lifespan and leftism may simply be the way they die.  Good shows might, however, keep their vitality yet a little while longer if their creators kept O’Sullivan’s Law in mind, and declared their intent from the beginning:  not the intent to be conservative, just the intent to tell the truth.  Conservatism would naturally follow.

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  • Ron Smorynski

    I agree. It is usually in the small community based efforts that one has moral and conservative values, but in government or academic supported tendrils that a socialist & liberal world view are imposed.

    And those small community based efforts are getting regulated more and more.

  • anonymous

    Just look at the Simpsons. When they had John Swartzwelder on their staff, he made sure both sides of the issue were heard in a way that made the show more interesting. Homer wasn’t a crazy NRA member, he was an idiot who thought guns were fun. Plus all the hobos and abe lincoln references.
    In a world of moral relativism, people and topics that fit the lib narrative matter more than people who made a real difference. As VDH points out: Sojourner Truth and Harriet Tubman get equal standing with Sherman or Grant.
    Look no further than the recent episode “The Color Yellow” where Lisa despairs at the fact that no one in her family did anything of worth during the Civil War. Because being white and fighting for the union just meant you were a rube and not part of anything. But wait! Here comes the old canard of the underground railroad.
    Used to be that Grandpa Simpson fought in the world war in dickety-four. So if they can get laughs out of WW2 why limit yourself to the underground railroad in the civil WAR?

  • Dan in Philly

    I think the whole idea that leftists tend to live in their own imaginations is the most likely answer. What’s the old line about a liberal mugged by reality? Imagine if the liberal ideas implanted in your college and today even in high school were allowed to germinate without ever seeing the light of reality? How leftists would you end up?

    I think one cure would be to actively recruit writers with real world experience. Any show which touches on business should recruit someone with business experience. Not as an advertiser, but real world management type experience. Or a show focusing on medical issues such as “House” should have not only a medical consultant to make sure the medicine is right, they should have a medical accountant to make sure the financial tales being told are correct (Doctors tend to not appreciate the costs of things in dollars and sense terms).

    While I’m dreaming, I might as well wish for a pony.

  • http://tattersfield@telus.net nick

    This process has started on the Good Wife, Christine Baranskys character has gun fantasies and hates Palin. If this aspect of her chacter is expanded, it will mean the end for this otherwise well written and acted show.

  • Elwin

    Another perfect example: NCIS.

    Don Bellisario, If not a conservative, was at least a realist. He had real characters with all their flaws solving murders and mysteries, guarding the integrity of Marine and Navy personnel, protecting the USA from REAL terrorists (aka radical Islam).

    Flash forward to the end of season 4 – Beginning of season 5.
    Bellisario’s production is basically hijacked by the actors/writers, forcing the series creator off the show he made, with a “thank you-here’s a gold watch-we can handle it from here-get the hell out-don’t call us we’ll call you-we’ll keep your name in the credits but the show is ours now” goodbye.

    Gradually, the REAL enemies of our military and country come to light: Christian bigots, Big Business, private security firms, corrupt military in league with Big Business – did I mention Christian bigots?

    And so it goes…

  • stuart

    Thank you for that. A few thoughts if you will: The one thing I never understood was why L & O writers always hated doctors. They were always portrayed as pond scum unless they were police pathologists ( and sometimes even those were killers!–see L & O Criminal Intent ). NCIS is going down this same road as we write.
    I left the Episcopal church because of their politics and incidentally because they seemed to base their new organization on something I still don’t understand though I know it has nothing to do with God or religion. For many years I gave money to Doctors without Borders because they had become the defacto virologists in Africa; Running headlong into emergent diseases before anyone else. They also spent nothing on administration. I would get little one page black and white newsletters once a year explaining what they were doing and they only used about 4% of donations for overhead and fundraising. One year I got a glossy full color magazine stock 5 page fold out from them. They proudly proclaimed that they were now going to devote all their energies into banning handguns in the United States–as that was, in their new view, the most pressing health emergency in the World. Who is now working in the Congo I wonder? Who will donate now?

  • Paul

    I knew the show took a quick left turn when I saw in the beginning of last season a photo of President Obama in the reception area hanging on the wall. They never had a photo of President Bush posted anywhere during the 8 years of his presidency.

  • chambers

    Yo can usually tell where the plot of any episode of any L&O franchise is going before the (interminable) opening credits, I clocked it once and it can take twelve minutes to list guest stars, associate producers executive producers, story consultants, creative consultants, special creative consultants and the caterer. If the storyline involves insurance companies, doctors, pharmaceutical companies stock brokers or investment banks it’s game, set and match at that point. The only question is what sort of wacky defense the special-guest-defense-attorney-of-the-week will put on. (How many times have we heard an L&O judge say something like… “I am toally against this _______ defense Mr. So and So since it could open the floodgates to ________. Nevertheless I will allow it.”?)

    Also – I understand that New York City has a biggish public school system. Why do all the shows involving depraved sex-addicted teenage students take place in “elite private prep schools?” It seems that once in a while a crime would take place at PS 251.

  • Ross

    These are all good points but it shouldn’t be implied that the process in inevitable. Implying that the drift to the left is unavoidable excuses the political zealotary and creative sterility of the writers.

    There are great shows that never succumbed to this trend- the Shield springs to mind- and if they could do it so could other TV programs.

  • Bugs

    A well-known phenomenon. The same thing happened to M*A*S*H over the years – the characters evolved into something less like the Marx Brothers and more like the Rainbow Family. All in the Family went the same way. Archie the angry, bigoted old white guy who was the butt of all the jokes transformed into a crusty-but-lovable curmudgeon who had, presumably, learned his lesson and become more tolerant (i.e., liberal-ish). I’m sure there are other examples.

    I can only speculate why these two shows went all mild-mannered and leftish. I think it’s because, after Vietnam and Watergate and the fall of Nixon and the Warren Commission and the general atmosphere of the mid- to late-70s, the liberals in Hollywood felt that they had “won” the culture war of the 60s – or at least the main battle. There was, in their minds, no longer a need to bash bigots or make fun of the military. America was back on the correct path. We could all be friends now. This went on until Reagan was elected – at which time the liberals went completely apeshit and never fully recovered. You can bet that whenever there’s an atmosphere of political conflict between left and right, Hollywood liberals will produce scripts with an obvious slant.

  • Joe Doakes

    Trying to to use reason with a commie is like trying to defy gravity with a feather – no matter what you do you will always be disappointed. It is a miracle of modern marketing that these shows survived for so long on the roaring success of the first handful of seasons.

  • Barbara

    I am one of the few people who watched Law And Order from Day 1 and I know just when it went bad. Between the late 90s and 2000. In the beginning when it was ‘ripped from the headlines’ if the bad guy was black or Jewish or Italian that is who the bad guy – or gal – was. Sometimes gender was switched – i think the Bernard Getz story had it be a woman – but it stuck to the facts. Then came the Clinton/Lewinski/Kenneth Starr situation and the ‘Hollywood-vs-the-moral-majority’ mindset started to affect how the prosecutors were depicted – not the moral and thoughtful Michael Moriartys but the leftist blowhards. And then came the Puerto Rican Day parade issue – that was the first episode i remember where there was serious role shifting but not enough to satisfy the ‘rights groups’ that protested – if you remember Seinfeld – who got away with anything – did an episode on the parade and the protest from their groups made it the only episode that was never rerun. After that the producers got more scared of running afoul of this gender rights, ethnic rights, religious rights group (unless it was Christian) and so they caved to them the same way ’24′ had to give that ‘not all Muslims are bad Muslims’ public service announcement a few seasons ago – that started their downhill slide.

  • MIK

    The irony is that, although the office was led for 35 years by Democrat Robert M. Morgenthau, politics was never an issue when it came to pursuing cases. It was Bob Morgenthau who indicted Clark Clifford, an icon of the Democratic Party, whose involvement with the party stretched back to the 1940′s, I believe.

  • MaryMac

    I quit watching all of the Law & Order shows when they called Rush Limbaugh a cancer.
    I quit watching 24 because of the green ads.
    I haven’t started watching Glee because of the pointless insults to conservatives.

    I’ve got options. I don’t need to sit for an hour to be insulted.

  • DJT

    NCIS has become a travesty— a simpleton’s carnival wherein the “Christmas Holiday ” episode consisted of a highly decorated and respected former Marine officer who upon retirement becomes a Christian PASTOR— a man of GOD— pays serving Marines to beat up his own son who had become a MUSLIM CONVERT!!! His own brother participates in the beating and kills him as he is kneeling toward Mecca.
    Mark Harmon and crew wish America a MERRY CHRISTMAS!!!!!!!!!!!

  • Paul

    Liberlism cannot be translated into real life. It might work on TV or the movies. People go to work, come home, spend time with their family and BBQ on their days off. If they have a LIFE then don’t give a rats ass about the crap thats comes out of the liberals mouth on the screen. Obama is figuring that out and slowly moving towards the center.

  • higgins1990

    I have quit watching network TV, but sometimes will watch a series on DVD (Lost, for example). I watch movies on DVD as well, and then only after reading reviews to make sure I won’t be fed liberal crap. I wonder, how many others do this?

  • Carol

    I had several NYC cops in my family and I can tell you that cops are, on the whole, a center-right group of people. Except on TV. I can’t believe the things that came out of Jerry Orbach’s mouth when he played Det. Lenny Briscoe. When a suspect tells him that the president (Bush) is a gun-owner, Briscoe snaps, “I didn’t vote for him.” Who cares who you voted for, Lenny? Another time they were looking for a suspect who killed a federal judge and Briscoe (I think it was Briscoe) said something like, “Let’s just look for someone wearing a Tom Delay t-shirt.” And “House” ? I think it started out very left-of-center and has gotten even more so.

  • Karen C

    Any time that the TV is turned on in my house is for one of the following reasons:

    My husband turned it on.

    There is some political something going on that I heard about on the Internet. Then it’s turned off again.

    …That’s pretty much it. I am so tired of liberals and their agendas, I will not contribute to their ratings. If something interests me, I will see it on youtube.

  • Lee in Hollywood

    One exception: Medium. It consistently upholds conservative values, and eschews political correctness — even its sixth season. On its most recent episode, the killer turned out not to be the factory farm owner, but the head of the non-profit animal-rights organization. If the same story had been told on Cold Case, the exact opposite would have been true.

  • Michael Andrews

    I, too, lost interest in L&O over the years. More than half the country is either right or leans right and yet L&O consistently took potshots without balance at conservative beliefs. How often was I engaged in an episode only to be sucker-punched by some liberal cheap-shot that took me right out of the story? And, too, the stories became less about the intricacies of legal argument and more about a group of knee-jerk liberal, self-righteous, self-impotant cops and lawyers without depth of thought. Add to this the current actors are far less likable and their characters far less interesting. And lets not forget the constant politically correct diatribes as the show devolved into a regular line-up of corporate villains and corrupt Christian nuts on trial. Sorry we lost the original Law and Order, not sorry to see the current one go.

  • Tom Saunders

    This is actually old news, but succinctly stated. The same thing killed Gunsmoke. Compare the first five seasons to the last five and note the change from right to leftism and the ever increasing atrophy.

  • The Dude

    Law and Order went bad long before I ever started trying to watch it. The few attempts I’ve made at watching that show have always left me in disgust. The same thing goes with Criminal Minds, I watched an episode about two months ago for humor sake which was centered around a bunch of illegals disappearing along a remote border town. At first, the whole gang of special FBI agents suspect a couple of local Mexican drug smugglers are behind it, as typical of shows like this. The first thought through my head was that it wasn’t the smugglers at all, it was secretly a racist white guy who was killing the illegals because he hates Mexicans. 45 minutes into the show, the big secret of the killer is revealed and it was a….racist white cop! (Cause goodness knows, they haven’t ever tried that spin before)
    The spin from most of these shows has gotten so bad that I’ve quite watching many of them outright. I can still tolerate ‘Castle’, but I’m afraid if the show goes beyond it’s third season, it’ll become exactly like all the other crime drama shows.

  • Book Chick

    Thank heaven I am not the only one who has noticed this phenomena! It’s the reason the only television show I watch is Dexter and the Big Bang Theory. My real concern is for my children who are inundated with leftist garbage every where they go, except home.

  • http://www.thecigarspy.com Mars

    The changes in MASH can be summed up in two words. Alda and Farrell. The more those two were allowed to write and take control, the farther left it went. Look at what they are doing these days. Shows you where their heads are.

  • Bill

    “This is actually old news, but succinctly stated. The same thing killed Gunsmoke. Compare the first five seasons to the last five and note the change from right to leftism and the ever increasing atrophy.”

    How so? I wrote for “GUNSMOKE,” during the last five years, 1973, ’74, and ’75, and I never wrote any “left wing” crap. There was, however, an order from CBS’ Standards & Practices to cut out some of the violence as part of each show, but certainly not all of it.

    I.e., on one script I wrote, during a story conference with John Mantley, Exec. Producer, and Lenny Katzman, Producer, we were discussing a few changes to my final draft teleplay, when John said to me, “Oh, by the way, we got word from CBS, we can’t kill as many people as we used to. You’ve killed eight people in your first draft.”

    I asked, “Well how many can I kill?”

    John replied, “Three. We have to wound a lot of people now.”

    I said, “Okay, I’ll resurrect five of them.” We all laughed.

    I’m not sure how one would define “left,” but I don’t consider “GUNSMOKE,” in its late years very “left wing,” given today’s nonsense from the NeoLib Progressives who wallow in their politically correct trough. Yes, a large segment of today’s screenwriters and television are hard left, believing in a Socialist Utopia… if they can just pass enough laws restricting individual Rights, Liberty, and Freedom, but most of the “GUNSMOKE” writers were not in that ideological flock. I knew and worked with a bunch of them, not just on “GUNSMOKE,” but other shows.

    As for “GUNSMOKE” itself, the show, after 20 years, just got tired. That’s why the show was cancelled. The ratings were still high. (Higher than “LAW & ORDER.”) The actors, production staff, crew, writers, etc., were more than a little weary. All the stories had been done, more than once. It was time to go out a winner, which it did.

    “GUNSMOKE” was the longest running dramatic series in the history of television — 20 years — and held that place until “LAW & ORDER” tied it in also running 20 years (not “21 years”). But … “GUNSMOKE” ran more than 650 episodes, whereas “LAW & ORDER” ran somewhere over 400 episodes. “GUNSMOKE ” began with the regular actors Jim Arness, Milburn Stone, and Amanda Blake, and ended with those same actors, although the last season Amanda was not there due to illness. “LAW & ORDER” changed lead and regular actors many times. Quite a
    difference I’d say.

  • Ellen

    I’ve whittled my TV viewing down to Dirty Jobs, Mythbusters, and the Food Network. I recently got the DVD of David Tennant’s first season of Dr. Whe. After an episode featuring a sneer at Margaret Thatcher, and the Doctor calling the Prime Minister a murderer because she shot down a shipful of aliens who had just tried to enslave and/or extermiate the human race, I was ready to go back to Tom Baker’s Doctor. No PC there.

  • John Beresford Tipton

    Watching the arc of HOUSE for the past two seasons has been a bit like watching a high-wire act. Several of the recent episodes have come so close to jumping the shark with their sanctimonious liberalism that I am almost afraid to watch the following week’s episode for fear that THAT will be the one where the program finally splats against the wall. Notwithstanding this season’s finale, I wouldn’t be at all surprised if in a spasm of “relevancy” the writers decided to “reveal” that House and Wilson were actually bisexuals and end the episode with a “tormented and hand-wringing” Wilson saying something like “I wish I knew how to quit you, House!”

    If THAT happens, the program will not merely have jumped the shark, it will have been swallowed whole by the shark.

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