MM: You are a writer, producer, actress, homeschool advocate, talk show host, and you're going to emcee The Atlas Society gala on October 10. I'm very impressed with your output. I'm also a big fan of how you engage with contemporary culture. You remind me of Ayn Rand. Are you a fan of hers?
SS: Absolutely! I think that what she accomplished intellectually, coming from Russia and going so far libertarian was really just a feat of the human brain. To comprehend so well the political structure and the ramifications thereof took a great deal of flexibility. Something that we lack in today's culture is a flexible attitude with which to consider alternatives and to embrace alternatives when we recognize that they might be better than the ones that we grew up with. But we're raised in in our society today to accept without thinking and to close our ears. What do you think safe spaces are? They're an excuse to not have to listen to new ideas. The mark of a good education is being able to entertain a thought without accepting it or without losing your self-confidence. Ayn Rand was able to entertain the thought of America and actually accepted and adopted it and then elaborated on it. It was an amazing accomplishment really.
MM: How did you first discover Ayn Rand?
SS: I read Atlas Shrugged when I was a teenager.
MM: I read your book, They’re Your Kids: An Inspirational Journey from Self-Doubter to Home School Advocate. One of the points that you make is that public schooling, by design, interferes with the parent-child relationship.
SS: Yes! We're like lemmings. We're like sheep to the slaughter when it comes to our public education. And we're so entirely unwitting. I talk to parents, and they say to me, “I could never home school. I wouldn't know how.” And I ask them, “Did you graduate high school?” And they say, “Yes, I graduated high school.” So I ask, “Yet you feel incapable of teaching a third grader? But you're willing to send your third grader into the same system that turned out the likes of you? And it is arguably worse today. Think about it.”
They look at me dumbfounded. They have no excuse, and yet they go back to the status quo. They go back to, “Well, I don’t know how, so I'll just send my child to be sacrificed on the altar of whatever the newest trend, is whatever politically correct trend is in the offing.
I point this out in the book too. We take our kids to school, and I know because I did it I did it with my firstborn, and the day before school starts the school posts what teacher you're assigned. They wait until the day before school because they don't want any flak from the parents. You don't get to choose what teacher your child has. And by the way, you have no idea who that is if you're a new parent into the system. You're just trusting that the government is excellent at choosing who will instruct your child – because the government is so excellent at so many things, she said snarkily. I mean come on! This is the distinction that I make for Ayn Rand. We have a whole system in complete and utter contradiction to Ayn Rand's way of thinking.
MM: You quote Ayn Rand in the book, her statement that in any compromise between good and evil, evil wins.
SS: That quote changed my life! It's so succinct, and so true. I would hope that we would compromise between good and less good, but typically that's not the compromise.
MM: What is your favorite Ayn Rand novel, by the way?
SS: It is still Atlas Shrugged. I listened to Atlas Shrugged in the car with my kids. I wanted them to know the book. Although it was funny, I forgot about some of the steamier scenes, and I found myself fast forwarding a few times. Still, her prescience. This idea that the government would want to take over the railroads, but would not know how to run the railroads.
If you read Basic Economics by Thomas Sowell, which is a book that I recommend to everyone, because we are not taught economics in school. Sowell says that economics is the study of the distribution of valuable commodities with multiple uses. That's a horrible restatement of what he says succinctly. This idea, though, that somehow a government bureaucracy of 8 or 10 or 12 or however many bureaucrats can sit in a room and make decisions for 330 million people that each of the people individually could be making for themselves and therefore contribute in a small degree to how valuable commodities are distributed. The contradiction between those two approaches is so immense.
And yet we have a whole push today to bureaucratize everything, even health care. That is so dangerous and yet young people can’t understand how dangerous it is because they're not being taught in school what socialism really is. They're being taught that socialism is grandpa with candy. That's why they love Bernie Sanders, because he looks like grandpa, and he offers them candy.
I was talking about this on my radio show yesterday. I was talking to someone who wrote an op-ed saying, “Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren will hate me for saying this, but gosh, if I knew that my education was going to be paid for, I would have majored in something other than accounting. I didn't enjoy accounting. I majored in accounting because it was the best way to get a good job that paid well. I would have studied political science, which I find so much more interesting, but would not have been nearly as lucrative. And by the way, I would have gone to a much more expensive school. I got accepted to an expensive school, but I chose to attend a less expensive school. I quit that school and transferred to an even less expensive school because I didn't think that it was worth the price of a Honda Accord every year to get my degree.”
They never think of the secondary ramifications of their proposals. Everything is based on emotion. Would you like to have your college paid for? Yeah! I want mine paid for retroactively – in today's dollars please. I went to Duke University. I would like that money back, thank you very much. I paid off my student loans over the course of several years, and I'm sure I want that money back. Why stop with just today's students? What are they crazy? And why is tuition so high? Because they implemented all of these incentives to get kids to go to college.
MM: Like Ayn Rand, you argue that culture is the key to spreading the ideas of liberty. In a recent op-ed in The Washington Times you urge conservatives to go out and engage with Hollywood. What advice do you have for creative, liberty-minded people who want to impact our culture through movies and the other arts?
SS: Do it! And if you don't know how to do it, do it anyway. Oh my gosh, this is an Ayn Rand quote, I’m paraphrasing, if you don't know, the thing to do is not get scared but to learn.
If you don't know how, LEARN HOW! What's your problem? We’re raised to think that education stops when you graduate. How insane is that?
Look, I never produced a film before. I'd written movies. I even wrote a movie years ago that someone else stole and made into a big blockbuster movie. That experience set me back. I thought then I couldn't write a movie, because they made my movie so much better than what I had originally written. I wound up waiting many years before I tried again because I was taught that I couldn't do anything unless I had formal training by a teacher at the blackboard. That's sort of mindset that we've all grown up with, and it's wrong.
Then I came up with the idea for Let There Be Light. I don’t know if you know the story.
MM: I do. I loved it.
SS: Thank you. Well at the beginning, because I had come up with an idea, I thought I’d develop a TV show. And when I first started trying to get some traction for the TV show somebody said to me, "You'll never get anywhere unless you have a writer." And somebody else said, “I have the perfect writer for you,” and then hooked me up with a writer. That guy was amazing, and I learned so much about crafting a TV show and also about selling a TV show. We sold the show to NBC (Sony), and then they shelved it – for reasons that remain obscure but probably have to do with the fact that it was a faith-based TV show.
But I learned so much, and I thought, I have a great idea for a movie that I would want to see, and so I went back to the writer, and I said would you consider writing a movie with me? Eventually he did, and two weeks later, the funding for the project dropped in my lap.
That never happens. I can't tell you how to make that happen. But if you take the steps forward on that journey, somehow things work. It has to be the right journey. It has to be your journey. You can't take someone else's journey, you can’t do something that you're not meant to do.
That's what I did. Years ago I had three different people within one week say to me, “You need a platform,” – using exactly those words. And I thought, wow, if that's not a message I don't know what is. So I went back to those people, and I asked, “What do you mean platform? Explain this to me.” And I started a website. It was called True Feminist. It was engaged in affirming feminine convictions. If you want to be a mom, to stay home with your kids and raise your kids, do it!
Then somebody gave me a radio show.
MM: Right. I caught your show. What is it like being a talk-show host? Is the talk radio audience receptive to conservative and libertarian ideas?
SS: Oh gosh, do I care if they're receptive to my ideas? I'm not there because I'm looking for judgment pronounced on me. I'm there because my ideas are correct, and they're true, and I want to spread the truth. There are a lot of people out there spreading lies.
Right now the biggest lie that we're facing is the lie of socialism. That's the biggest lie because it has so much power and because it has gained so much traction. But there are plenty of other lies. So every day I go on the air and I basically refute the lies. It's also kind of my therapy. It saves me a lot on psychoanalysis bills.
MM: I was at FreedomFest in July, and I know your new movie, Miracle in East Texas, won the Best Narrative Feature Film award there. Tell me about the movie.
SS: Well it also won Best Romantic Comedy in Houston. It won Best Purpose Film at the Franklin International Indie Film Festival. It's doing really well. We're going to be at the Liberty University Film Festival. I'm here at the Steamboat Freedom Conference and Film Festival. What I really like about this film is that nonreligious people don't see it as a Christian film. But Christians do – the film won Best Family Film at the International Christian Film Festival.
We managed to thread the needle. There is a message in the movie . . . . But, and by the way, let me just say, and you can quote me on this, and I think that if there's any quote that I could be remembered for, it's this one, “Every film is a faith film.”
Every film is a faith-based film. It just depends on the faith of the filmmaker. Let's wake up a little bit folks! Understand that every film has an agenda, and the agenda reflects the faith of the filmmaker, typically the director, not always, but typically the director. So if you know where the director stands you'll understand that that's what he's trying to communicate to you. We should wake up to that. That's why I wrote the op-ed. Conservatives, libertarians, let's get our message out there. Let's get the truth out there.
My advice to people who want to join the fray: Jump in! The water is warm. But you need to up your game. The Leftists have been honing their craft for so long that they're very adept. That’s how they influenced the culture. They became very adept, and they are coordinated with the rest of the media. They're really good at getting their point across. And why did they enter the storytelling room? Two reasons: one is because stories change the world. That's why Jesus spoke in parables. Stories engage emotionally, viscerally . . . they engage the core of the human being. So storytelling is really the way to move people.
MM: Ayn Rand wrote novels first. It was the novels – We the Living, The Fountainhead, Anthem, and Atlas Shrugged – that brought her ideas to the attention of hundreds of millions of people.
SS: Right. Exactly. That's exactly correct, and the philosophy is in the novel. You read it and you go, “Wow, a bunch of bureaucrats want to control the railroad system. How is that going to work out? Not very well.” That looks like Obamacare today. If you can draw those connections and the parallels. But you've got to get good at storytelling.
There's a way to appeal to people, especially if you're telling the truth. Come on! But you’ve got to make it palatable. You’ve got to make it enjoyable.
I'm hoping that that's what we did with Miracle in East Texas. It certainly seems that way. We'll see how it plays once we get the film out to a broader audience. So far audiences are really enjoying it. At FreedomFest there was an overflow crowd. We had about 20 people sitting in an adjacent room watching the movie through the doorway. That said something to me. And then they stayed for the Q. & A, which is always a good sign.
MM: Sam Sorbo, it was a pleasure talking with you. I look forward to meeting you in person at The Atlas Society Gala.
SS: Thank you so much.