This blog entry is going to be a little short today because depression is kicking my ass. Also, I gave my resignation letter to my job because I was going to run out of FMLA time before I know I would be ready to return to work. HR kept checking in asking when I was coming back, so I ripped the band-aid off. So now I am unemployed, couch surfing (thank you my gracious friends), and I am currently in a duel with my brain which is attempting to send me to the Shadow Realm (Yugioh reference in case you were wondering).
OK, on to something slightly less depressing.
SPOILERS and yadda, yadda. You know the drill.
Yesterday I took the opportunity to hunker down at the movie theater to avoid the snowy weather. I decided to go and see The Post (directed by Steven Spielberg) even though I wasn’t familiar with the plot of the film. I figured it had to be at least halfway decent if Meryl Streep and Tom Hanks were in the movie. I was indeed correct. The Post follows Katharine Graham (Streep) who is the first female publisher of a major American newspaper (The Washington Post) and her bold editor Ben Bradlee (Hanks).
In the film, The Washington Post is a reasonably well-known paper, but not on a national scale like their competitors, the New York Times and Time Magazine. Graham is trying to get The Post onto the national stage through investors while trying to navigate the male-dominated landscape of business and news reporting. The story takes place during the years of the Vietnam War. Quite a few of the shots show protesters against the conflict marching around with signs and yelling seething chants.
The first part of The Post shows a reporter right in the thick of the conflict of Vietnam with American soldiers. He is sent to review the progress (or the lack of it) of the war. He comes back with the news that nothing has changed. Things are as tricky and stagnant as ever. Of course, the government doesn’t want this information to get out, so they naturally make the material on the war classified. But the reporter isn’t going to let them cover up the fact that the war hasn’t ended merely because it would mean a defeat for the United States. Pretty dumb reason not to end a conflict if you ask me. Young men were dying because the U.S. government didn’t want to be embarrassed by losing the war.
The reporter takes the classified documents and proceeds to get them copied, cutting off the footers stating that the information is top secret as his team goes along. Eventually, the data gets leaked and The New York Times in the first to publish. The American people are completely outraged, and the Nixon administration goes into damage control mode. The government moves to keep The Times from releasing any more of the documents about the war. A lot of characters in the film state that they feel what the government is trying to do is a violation of the first amendment.
While Graham is braving rooms of businessmen to try and get The Post to the next level, Bradlee, and his team try to secure the leaked Vietnam documents. It takes some time, but they are eventually able to locate the source. What they don’t realize is that it is the same source The New York Times used which could mean that The Post could also face legal action. After much consideration and a lot of pressure on Graham, she decides to go ahead and publish the material on the war. She does this knowing that it could very well mean she will go to prison. Now both The Times and The Post are in hot water.
The case eventually makes its way to the Supreme Court. There is a lot of tension as everyone awaits the decision. Everyone in the newsroom huddles around the phone to hear the verdict. The Court rules that both The Times and The Washington Post along with all of the smaller papers that published were well within the rights of the first amendment. It’s an enormous victory.
I think a lot of people would agree that this film is well timed. The current political landscape is just as contentious as the time portrayed in The Post. The United States is once again grappling with what is covered or not by the first amendment. People are concerned that like Nixon, our current president is trying to squash the freedom of the press and hide severe potential wrongdoing. A lot of reporters are once again putting themselves on the line to try and keep the American people informed.
As a nation, we need to keep our government accountable, and we do that through exercising our rights. Whenever that is threatened, it is essential to fight back. We can’t expect to sit back and always have the assurance that our rights will be there. The press has the strength to do this on a large scale because they are on the national stage. If any administration seems defensive, then it is probably worth wondering why and making sure they aren’t up to any shenanigans.
Yes, sometimes the press does get it wrong from time to time. News sources typically have some bias. It is the job of the American people to research and cross-examine what they are reading. Looking across several references and checking the legitimacy of those outlets is fundamental. Some of the struggles with this are that our education system stresses learning trades and not critical thinking skills. Some individuals believe that if it comes from a national source or out of the mouth of a representative that it is true. It’s sad to think about, but the most significant adversary to the American people is the lack of diversified education and with that comes an inability to think for themselves. You can’t debate the actions of anyone or anything if you don’t know how to begin to question the world around you.