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Michael Swartz / July 28, 2017

What’s HBO Up to With ‘Confederate’?

The creators of “Game of Thrones” wouldn’t have pursued this idea had Hillary Clinton won the White House.

A historical fact that occurred a century and a half after the close of the War Between the States is the spark that’s leading to a re-imagination of that bloody conflict. There’s little doubt that the minds behind the smash HBO series “Game of Thrones” wouldn’t have pursued this idea had Hillary Clinton won the White House last November, but their next project, an alternate history series called “Confederate,” will be the perfect fit for the supposed dystopia they see in Donald Trump’s America.

HBO describes the new show thusly: “[It] takes place in an alternate timeline, where the southern states have successfully seceded from the Union, giving rise to a nation in which slavery remains legal and has evolved into a modern institution. The story follows a broad swath of characters on both sides of the Mason-Dixon Demilitarized Zone — freedom fighters, slave hunters, politicians, abolitionists, journalists, the executives of a slave-holding conglomerate and the families of people in their thrall.”

Reading between the lines, we see this as the leftist interpretation of the stereotypical “alt-Right” Trump voter’s dream. So it’s amusing to see that much of the criticism is actually coming from the Left — because the creators of this show about slavery are white.

Indeed, the show does sound “stupid as hell,” as one Daily Beast writer put it, but not for the reason he may believe. Set aside the implausibility that such an institution could have survived for another 150 years while the work of slaves (who must be housed, fed and cared for) eventually came to be done by automation or other means — not to mention the tide of Western civilization. And consider the cultural progress represented by the integration of sports and the Armed Forces, the civil rights movement and mixed-race marriages and children, just as a few examples. Granted, slavery still exists in many parts of the world, but it has been largely driven underground into the realm of criminal human trafficking.

Meanwhile, since the Charleston church shooting two years ago, a heinous crime unfairly symbolized by the racist perpetrator’s embrace of the Confederate “Stars and Bars” battle flag, we’ve had open season on all aspects of the old South, from the flag to memorials and statues. Does HBO really want to go there just to get its digs in at Donald Trump? Yep.

The election of Trump seems to be a signal for leftist Hollywood to peddle crazy alternate universe concept shows, such as “Confederate” or “The Handmaid’s Tale.” In this latest guise, don’t be surprised if the Union side of the split America will be led by a heroic Hillary Clinton stand-in, while the Confederate leader will come right out of central casting: a Scripture-quoting white male with a pious public persona and the private morals of an alley cat.

But from the perspective of Casey Bloys, president of HBO programming, “Confederate” is intended to improve America’s racial climate. “The thing that excites them and that excited us is that if you can get it right, there is a real opportunity to advance the racial discussion in America,” Bloys pontificated. “The thing Malcolm [Spellman, black co-executive producer of ‘Confederate’] said in one of his interviews is that if you can draw a line between what we’re seeing in the country with voter suppression, mass incarceration, lack of access to quality education or health care, and draw a direct line between that and our past and our shared history, that’s an important line to draw and a conversation worth having.”

In other words, with a Republican in the White House, it’s time to remind blacks that their enslavement has simply taken on subtler forms. Then we can all get along, or something. The real ugly truth is that blacks still suffer today on Democrat-run urban poverty plantations.

If perception is reality, then the lens through which entertainment executives are looking at the world needs a serious cleaning. Americans like a good story, and part of the reason “Game of Thrones” is wildly successful is because it’s based on a series of fantasy novels — and on a story that’s not necessarily historical. The idea of “Confederate” is still up in the air: No scripts have been written, and the show won’t even be put into production until “Game of Thrones” concludes filming on its final season, set for next year. It’s a blank canvas, but when, going in, the creators see a nation of “voter suppression, mass incarceration, [and] lack of access to quality education or health care” as opposed to one of shared successes and equal opportunity under the law, it’s patently obvious how the storylines will play out.

The demand from Hollywood executives seems to be for entertainment that mocks its audience, whether viewers realize it or not. While this particular show would be on HBO, which caters to a more elitist audience as a premium cable channel, other networks will no doubt be watching closely, perhaps with an eye toward a remake of the 1987 mini-series “Amerika.”

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