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Marty Kaplan
Marty Kaplan is the Norman Lear Professor of Entertainment, Media and Society at the University of Southern California’s Annenberg School for Communication & Journalism. His uncommonly broad career has also spanned government and politics, the entertainment industry and journalism.

He served as chief speechwriter to Vice President Walter F. Mondale, and also as executive assistant to the U.S. Commissioner of Education, Ernest L. Boyer. As deputy campaign manager of Mondale’s presidential race, he directed the campaign’s speechwriting, issues, and research operations. He also worked with Boyer on education policy while a program officer at the Aspen Institute, a guest scholar at the Brookings Institution, and a senior advisor at the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching.

He worked at Walt Disney Studios for 12 years, both as vice president of production for live-action feature films, and as a writer-producer under exclusive contract. He has credits on The Distinguished Gentleman, starring Eddie Murphy, a political comedy which he wrote and executive produced; Noises Off, a farce directed by Peter Bogdanovich, which he adapted for the screen from Michael Frayn’s play; and the action-adventure MAX Q, produced for TV by Jerry Bruckheimer.

He has been a blogger for The Huffington Post since its inception, and he is a columnist for the Jewish Journal of Greater Los Angeles. In 2013 his columns won First Place for print columnist at the LA Press Club's 55th annual Southern California Journalism Awards, and his entertainment columns won First Place at their National Entertainment Journalism Awards.

He created and hosted So What Else Is News?, the nationally-syndicated Air America Radio program examining media politics and pop culture. On public radio, he was a featured commentator on NPR’s All Things Considered (for which he also was the first guest co-host), and on Marketplace, where his beat was the business of entertainment. He was also deputy op-ed editor and a columnist for the Washington Star and a commentator on the CBS Morning News.

He was associate dean of the USC Annenberg School for 10 years and is the founding director of the School’s Norman Lear Center, whose mission is to study and shape the impact of media and entertainment on society.

He graduated from Harvard College summa cum laude in molecular biology, where he was president of the Harvard Lampoon and of the Signet Society. The recipient of a Marshall Scholarship from the British government, he received a Master’s degree in English with First Class Honours from Cambridge University in England. As a Danforth Foundation Fellow, he received a Ph.D. in Modern Thought and Literature from Stanford University.

Entries by Marty Kaplan

Jihadism Is Not Nihilism

(7) Comments | Posted November 20, 2015 | 4:27 PM

In the partisan battle over describing the Islamic State, Democrats have fastened on a philosophical term from 19th century European intellectual history. They're being too clever by half.

"Extremist nihilism" is what Barack Obama has called ISIS's ideology. In the second Democratic debate, Hillary Clinton labeled...

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For Whom the Polls Toll

(7) Comments | Posted November 9, 2015 | 2:20 PM

The horserace polls dominating today's political news are worse than misleading -- they're bad for democracy. They're as corrosive for America's self-image as the news industry's obsession with murder and disaster, a black hole wildly unwarranted by actual crime and catastrophe. They're as toxic to our spirit as the advertising...

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GOP Donors to Euthanize Jeb Bush

(42) Comments | Posted October 29, 2015 | 9:24 AM

"It's the humane thing to do," said a participant following an emergency donor class conference call following the CNBC Republican debate in Boulder, Colo. "After Jeb criticized Rubio's attendance record, and Rubio broke his legs, you could just see it in his eyes," said the billionaire super PAC contributor, who...

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The Enemy of My Enemy Is My Candidate

(16) Comments | Posted October 26, 2015 | 3:55 PM

"End this notion that the enemy is the other party. End this notion that it is naïve to think we can speak well of the other party. What is naïve is to think it is remotely possible to govern this country unless we can."

The speaker was Joe Biden. Along...

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Ben Carson, the Nutty Neurosurgeon

(0) Comments | Posted October 8, 2015 | 9:16 PM

What does it say about higher education that you can graduate from Yale and still believe that the devil made Darwin do it? What does it say about medicine that you can both be a gifted neurosurgeon and also declare, "I never saw a body with...

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Cock-and-Bull Candidates

(54) Comments | Posted September 29, 2015 | 12:54 AM

Did you make it through Sunday's lunar eclipse okay?

When the moon turned blood red, I bet you didn't shake spears at it, or beat your dogs to make them bark, as the Incas did to scare away the jaguar that had swallowed the moon. I also bet you...

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Whose 5776?

(1) Comments | Posted September 16, 2015 | 12:34 PM

Until I graduated from college, I hadn't traveled farther than a few hundred miles from home. Aside from a family visit to Washington, D.C. when I was 11, my first-hand knowledge of the world was limited to the northeast corridor from New Jersey to Boston, and it felt like just...

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The National Academy of Sugar

(18) Comments | Posted August 24, 2015 | 2:53 PM

The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics is at it again.

You might think an outfit calling itself an academy would be, you know, academic. But as Jon Stewart put it, the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics is as much an academy as the "Pasteurized Prepared Cheese Product" called...

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Bernie Has It. Trump Has It. Joe Has It. Does Hillary?

(75) Comments | Posted August 17, 2015 | 4:24 PM

As Joe Biden polls family and friends about entering the presidential fray, he's getting two kinds of advice -- personal and political. The personal is about his life, his values and what he can give to his country. The political is about Hillary Clinton's vulnerability.

Honesty and trustworthiness are...

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Republicans Have the Best Bullies

(108) Comments | Posted July 20, 2015 | 5:38 PM

It's too soon to know how badly Donald Trump damaged himself by belittling John McCain's war record in Iowa on July 18. After all, George W. Bush wasn't hurt in the 2000 South Carolina primary when his operatives rumored that McCain had an illegitimate black child, nor was W hurt...

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The Quantum Theory of Presidential Politics

(0) Comments | Posted July 6, 2015 | 4:23 PM

Future events decide what happens in the past.

That's not science fiction. It's science. Quantum physics, to be precise.

"Quantum physics is a weird world," begins a Digital Journal article reporting on a recent experiment by Australian scientists confirming the weirdness of quantum theory. "[W]hat...

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Jon Stewart Is Getting Serious

(41) Comments | Posted June 22, 2015 | 2:37 PM

What will we do without Jon Stewart?

I hear that a lot. Of course I hope his writers will be able to make more magic with his successor, Trevor Noah. And no matter what happens on The Daily Show, we will still have John Oliver and Larry Wilmore, and I'm...

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FCC Chief Tom Wheeler Is Five Sixths of a Superhero

(11) Comments | Posted June 3, 2015 | 10:11 PM

The last best hope to stop Big Money's rout of American democracy is a former trade group lobbyist who's reluctant to stretch his spandex superhero suit too thin.

Plutocrats have been on a roll for a while in the U.S., and campaign finance reform is in full retreat. Though Americans...

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In Dick We Trust

(72) Comments | Posted May 26, 2015 | 1:54 PM

We already know how Republicans will run against Hillary Clinton, because Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus is busily banging that drum.

"Hillary Clinton is, quite frankly, someone the American people can't trust," he said on CBS's Face the Nation. "This video proves why you can't...

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These Two Dudes in Denver Should Moderate All the Debates

(24) Comments | Posted May 11, 2015 | 7:14 PM

Here's Kyle Clark grilling Republican Cory Gardner, who went on to oust Mark Udall from his Colorado senate seat in 2014:

You continue to deny that the federal Life at Conception Act, which you sponsor, is a personhood bill to end abortion, and we are not going to...
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The Washington Dread and Denial Association Dinner

(0) Comments | Posted April 27, 2015 | 6:23 PM

"Don't do it!"

Stories, whether torn from history or made from whole cloth, can make us want to shout that. Don't open that door at the top of the stairs. Don't get on that boat. Don't believe that president, general, journalist, preacher, cop.

This packs a punch in a...

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Earth Day, Race Day, Gun Day, Money Day

(5) Comments | Posted April 11, 2015 | 11:35 AM

Is change even possible?

The national conversation about excessive use of police force that we're supposed to have been conducting since Michael Brown, Tamir Rice and Eric Garner were killed didn't save Walter Scott's life. The Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre of 26 children and staff that we hoped...

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Pharoah Said No. You Won't Believe What God Did Next.

(23) Comments | Posted April 2, 2015 | 6:49 PM

Once, at our Seder, our friend Ira gave a running commentary on the Haggadah, offering a scientific explanation for every miracle and wonder in the Exodus story.

The parting of the Reed Sea was a meteorological event. The burning bush was a glowing carbonized acacia bramble above a volcanic...

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Schmaltz Is Gluten-Free

(0) Comments | Posted March 16, 2015 | 5:02 PM

If the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics is saying that Kraft Singles are good for us, surely schmaltz is next.

The metaphoric meaning of schmaltz is sentimentality -- a heart-tugging moment, accompanied by real or virtual violins. The literal meaning of schmaltz is rendered poultry fat,...

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Spock's 'Good Mother'

(2) Comments | Posted March 1, 2015 | 8:21 PM

"Oh, by the way, Leonard," I say into the phone, as breezily as I can feign, "what did you think about Diane's belt?"

Leonard Nimoy is on location in Cambridge, Massachusetts, preparing to direct The Good Mother for Disney, starring Diane Keaton. I'm the executive on the movie, on the...

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