SXSW focuses on potentially polarizing political issues

The cast of the HBO series, VEEP, at SXSW 2017.

Controversial and potentially polarizing issues are at the center of this year's South by Southwest. There's a stronger than ever focus on politics in the wake of President Trump's White House win. SXSW is making a concerted effort to dive deeper into how Washington could impact the tech and media worlds.

“Selina Meyer herself, Julie Louis-Dreyfus,” announced the host of the SXSW panel, VEEP: A Conversation with the Cast and Showrunner.

The team responsible for a TV version of White House politics took the stage this week at the Austin Convention Center.

“How much did Trump influence what you guys did on season six?” asked the moderator of the panel.

The answer to that question is hardly at all. The HBO series was written last summer and filming started in October. So while VEEP is very political, it’s cast of characters is not.

“Do you want to do Trump stuff?” asked the moderator. “No I don't,” said Louis-Dreyfus. “We've set up this premise for our show which is an alternate political universe.”

Louis-Dreyfus added, “Whoever we're talking to thinks were making fun of the other party.”

For the popular, award-winning series President Trump is off limits. But not for the crowds that have converged on the Austin Convention Center for SXSW.

“Our democracy is not self-driving,” said Baratunde Thurston, a comedian and activist.

On Wednesday, seven sessions focused on the impact of President Trump on the interactive and entertainment industries. Across downtown Austin there was a postmortem on the November election.

“This is data, this is science, this is math telling us what we wanted to hear,” said Thurston to a room that was crowded, but not full.

Michael Onofri was at the front of the line for the session, Head Fakes and Pivots: Trump Punks Silicon Valley.

“I just wanted to see information that I might be missing,” said Onofri.

Some badge-holders in the entertainment industry are worried about the impact of labels like fake news.

“I think that would have an effect on what we say and how we say what we say. If we can speak our minds,” said Onofri.

The movie-maker moved from the front of the line to the back while he talked to CBS Austin, but he didn't leave before sharing what he says is a widespread concern in Los Angeles.

“Definitely for the entertainment industry, if they're saying something he doesn't like,” said Onofri.

Ruffling feathers doesn't seem to worry the writers and cast of VEEP. Their fake take on Washington is about to start season six and on this highly-rated show both liberals and conservatives have to be ready to be the punchline.

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