Did HBO drama influence Sanford Weill’s Glass-Steagall proclamation?

July 26, 2012


Brian Erni

Is HBO’s newest drama shaping public discourse? In the last four days, you may be remiss not to at least give it an assist; a perfect drive of the lane and a floating alley oop pass to one of the least likely candidates to echo its sentiment.

If you’re not already watching The Newsroom, you may be missing the driving force behind this week’s news cycle. From the pen of Aaron Sorkin (The West Wing, The  Social Network, Moneyball) comes a story of fictional news anchor Will McAvoy (Jeff Daniels), who has had it with the media landscape as we’ve grown to know it. After an impromptu venting session on a college Q&A panel, McAvoy and his new executive producer (and ex-girlfriend) MacKenzie MacHale (Emily Mortimer) set out to do a news show that Edward R. Murrow would be proud of.

This past Sunday, MacHale was being given an economy 101 session from economist anchor and Ph.D Sloan Sabbith (Olivia Munn), when Sabbith educated MacHale (and the audience) about the repeal of the Glass-Steagall Act: a Depression-era reform law  passed as part of the Banking Act of 1933 that put separation between commercial banks and security firms. It was repealed as part of the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act in 1999 by President Bill Clinton.

Fast forward three days later. Citigroup’s former CEO, and once-avid champion of bank mergers, Sanford I. Weill made waves when he said the repeal of Glass-Steagall, and the ensuing merger of commercial and investment banks, was a mistake and could be a cause of the financial crisis.

“What we should probably do is go and split up investment banking from banking,” Weill told CNBC. “Have banks do something that’s not going to risk the taxpayer dollars, that’s not going to be too big to fail.”

And just like that, a national debate about banking regulation and reform began.

True, this debate has been waging on for the better part of four years, but it has exploded onto the scene of the public consciousness. Don’t believe me? Here are the Twitter search results for “Glass-Steagall” (as of July 26th, 2012, 11:09AM Eastern).

Some of the more interesting:

CNBC, Fox News, Fox Business News, and MSNBC all had items on Glass-Steagall during yesterday’s programming. Weill’s comments were plastered front-and-center on the cover of the New York Times’ business section. And the comments have made former U.S. Senator Phil Gramm, who wrote the law the repealed Glass-Steagall, respond, most notably in this Bloomberg Businessweek article.

So what’s the takeaway? It certainly makes an interesting case for hegemony. And as The Newsroom (which has already been picked up for a second season) continues, it could have a very profound impact on American culture.

More as the story develops…

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  1. Sulia, Hegemony, and Social Strategy Grab Readers’ Attention in 2012 | J. Roderick, Inc. Blog - January 2, 2013

    […] 3. Did HBO Drama Influence Sanford Weill’s Glass-Steagall Proclamation? […]

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