The Post—Three Compelling Reasons to See This Movie

We choose our movies carefully these days, opting to stay comfortably at home, rather than brave the winter weather. But when The Post was mentioned several times on television and in the papers, it piqued our interest. And then it was announced that it was up for two Oscars, so we just had to go.

It was clear to us immediately that the release of the film this year was no accident. Like other movies about the Pentagon Papers, familiar to Bob and me—All the President’s Men (1976), Klute (1971), and The Parallax View (1974), this movie centered on the Nixon presidency, and its lawless attempts to withhold information about the government’s 30 year involvement with the Vietnam war.

What makes this movie so powerful and timely, are the obvious parallels to the current belligerent treatment of the press by President Trump, not the least of which is his claim that most news outlets produce fake news. The risk in releasing a major film about a topic still fresh in the public’s mind was overruled, no doubt, by the anger about what is happening to the press today.

The choice of two popular and much-loved actors, Meryl Streep and Tom Hanks, to play the main characters, publisher Katherine Graham and editor Ben Bradlee, was a smart move. It did a lot to raise awareness, and garner public sympathy for the story.

The #MeToo movement—still relevant today

Streep was brilliant as socialite Kate, thrust in her role as publisher by the death of her husband. Her dignity and courage resonated with audiences, convincingly portraying an undisputable professionalism.

This made the next parallel even more significant, coming as it did on the heels of a rapidly developing crisis in male-female relationships within the media and entertainment arena. Kate, belittled and insulted by members of her own staff as she deliberated over the decisions only she could make, held her own, and, although these incidents were underplayed in the movie, women everywhere identified with her struggle. Her discomfort, and determination was not lost on women viewers, who remember the humiliations women have historically suffered in order to make headway in a male dominated world.

All this lost, in the passage of time

Once the decision to go to press was made, the tempo of the movie changed, from the paralyzing frustration and indecision of the staff, to the actual work of publishing a paper. Images of type being set, newspapers hurtling down the pulleys and being tossed into waiting vehicles rolled across the screen, inviting us to participate in the excitement and intensity of the printing process. It was clear that at that time, getting out the news was sweaty, grinding, time-starved, deadline driven, and very serious work.

What struck me more than the similarities between the attitudes of Nixon and Trump towards the press or even the harshness of male treatment of women in those days, was how everything about human communication has completely and utterly changed.

So what’s left now in communication

There is no urgency, today, about getting the news out. That is the mission now of the likes of Twitter, Facebook, and CNN. The news is delivered in a constant, cacophonic stream now, its content presented in bits and bites throughout the entire day. Short, pithy, click-baiting titles snag your attention, and lead you down a path of distraction through ads, and images that compete for your reaction. It’s all about who can tease you into ‘likes’, and ‘claps’, and the odd, inadvertent venture into ads.

By the time, we older people—because we seem to be the only ones reading, open up the newspaper, everything has already been said. What remains is the digestion, the opinion pieces and editorials that are still, thankfully, offered up, even if they do exist only on the back pages.

And although that is a legitimate and useful service, it’s clear that there is no adrenal rush of excitement in it, no anticipation of what comes next. It’s a loss of importance, in a way, and a loss of the demands of integrity and courage.

The reporters who broke the news of government corruption were overwhelmingly brave, taking a chance on finding truth through a difficult and hidden maze. What they wrote was taken as gospel. There was never a hint that it might be unfounded opinion, unresearched, and possibly untrue.

It’s worrisome that today, a story of such magnitude, with such potential for political fallout, might be cynically challenged and accused of being fake news. That this happens repeatedly in the current political atmosphere, belies the whole idea of a free press, and makes us afraid for the survival of justice and truth.

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27 Responses to The Post—Three Compelling Reasons to See This Movie

  1. Mary says:

    Yes we are living in dangerous times as the power, wealth and might of the conservative right is trying its best to take over America. It will be to the demise of the very people who put him in office…but in their apathy and ignorance, they don’t see it.

    • Still the Lucky Few says:

      They really don’t see it—and to get them to change their minds, may be impossible. Some people have to feel the personal impact of their decisions before they will see a different view!

  2. Justice and the truth have never been at the forefront of public media, in my opinion. They are heavily alluded to as the ultimate goal, but seldom is the bias with which the organizations delivering information been ruled by truth (as in full disclosure for the purposes of fully informed decision making) and justice. Partial truths are truths, but they deal in partiality, in every sense of the word.

    Having said that, I feel that the news, because the political bias of the organizations is fairly obvious to those wishing to make fully informed decisions, is a better avenue for garnering a world view based beyond personal experience. One can read “rags” from all over the world, note their bias, compare coverage of a particular event, and that is as good as it gets, or has ever been.

    There are truths, and injustices, that do not “sing”, and are therefore not considered newsworthy. I have experienced this approach first hand, several times, where information did not reach the public eye or ear, because the “story” didn’t “sing”. Because of this approach to choosing what news is publicly shared, and what news quietly continues out and away from the public eye, our informed decisions are at best, partial.

    As for fake news, it has been around for centuries on end, relyling on what you describe as “adrenal rush of excitement”, the current addiction to excitement at someone elses expense. Few people are thrilled when then the excitement is on their street, in the school yard down the street, or near their desk at work. News is used as a form of entertainment by many, like sports, so exciting.

    • Still the Lucky Few says:

      What you say, Maggie, is sobering, although I haven’t experienced it in quite that way. I’m inclined to read views from several sources today, including Twitter and Facebook, and make my decision with those in mind. If I really want a scholarly perspective, I’ll visit the sites that present scientific studies.Thanks for expressing this!

  3. Grace Wilson says:

    I saw the movie as well, and when people asked me if I enjoyed it , my response was similar to yours, it made me more aware of what was going on at that time, and also the challenges facing the newspaper industry. I thought it was very well produced, and found the scenes of the type being set to the unloading of the trucks very dramatic. Good choice of actors.

    • Still the Lucky Few says:

      I had a bit of a glitch in my reply to you, so here it is again! I have always admired Meryl, and liked Tom Hanks as well.As you might have been able to tell, I too, got quite caught up in the drama of the production. Thanks for your input, Grace!

  4. Barry Dym says:

    A wonderful summary of plot and themes, Diane.

    It’s true that news today is more partisan and rapid, coming at us like a fire hose. Still, i believe we need to read (as much as we can bear), sort through, determine what makes sense and what matters, and, if possible, move to action.

  5. Rin Porter says:

    I saw this movie and was riveted. At the time the action took place, I was living in suburban Washington DC and experienced this period of history as it happened! Thank you for connecting it to what we are going through again in 2017-2018. As a part of the Resistance, I read multiple political news stories from different outlets daily, and contact my Congresspeople constantly about the assault on the news media. The problem of “fake news” accusations by Trump’s people are especially salient to me since I worked as a reporter for 13 years and wrote scholarly papers on the recent presidencies when I was a professor. Thanks for your post!

    • Still the Lucky Few says:

      As a reporter, the accusations and abuse by this government must sting! I’m not saying that the press never indulges in exaggeration and falsehoods, but the current mood has swung far beyond reasonable criticism into very dark territory. Thanks, Rin.

    • Marcia J. Hill says:

      I just got home from seeing this movie and I am also of an age when I remember this first hand. It was sad to witness the difference in the response of the public to learning the truth re events, compared to today. There is so much rhetoric aimed at a public 24/7 it is very seldom actual news, but eye catching entertainment.

      trump is creating an atmosphere that discourages intellect, we must all be part of the resistance, how many times in history must the same tragedies occur before power and greed are not used as the measure of success, but as the disease that sickens and weakens our democracy?

      • Still the Lucky Few says:

        We do respond very differently to the news now—much more cynically! Power and greed have been with us since the beginning of time. There will always be people who take advantage. And it is sickening that physical wealth and political power are still hallmarks of a successful life!

  6. Lynne Spreen says:

    A couple of times in the movie, I cried. Such gallantry, even it there was the enticement of glory and commercial gain. Without our press the effing wolves would have us. The tweet by Amanpour reads, in part, “…here is my (late) camerawoman Margaret Moth, who took a bullet in the face…in Bosnia.”

    • Still the Lucky Few says:

      I’m so happy that you included a ink to Amanpour’s statement. She has always been a hero in my view.
      Without question, she represents the very best in journalism. Thanks so much, Lynne!

  7. I seldom look at Facebook and Twitter, and we support investigative reporting by subscribing to The Economist, The Atlantic, the Guardian, the Wall Street Journal, and the New York Times, I also read the online version of the Asia Times and some others, No adrenaline rush here — I look for what’s happening in the long term. I’m also reading about Ancient History to put things in perspective. One of the questions I ask is, 50, 100, 500, etc. years from now would this be seen as a big deal?

    • Still the Lucky Few says:

      Looking for the long term results of events, and the decisions that lead to them, is not the reaction of most of our population. Short term gain and fame are what makes the news, usually. I’d be interested in knowing which commentators and columnists you read and admire, C.M.

    • Mostly it’s not commentators and columnists, except for Peggy Noonan in the Wall Street Journal, it’s more any stories that talk about the major changes in the world, like how people are already being affected by climate change, how the drought in Syria was one of the causes of the war there, how we’re losing in Afghanistan because even though at the moment we can beat the Taliban in the field it just means they’re focusing on destabilizing the government by the suicide attacks in Kabul, etc., etc., etc.

      There was an interesting article in the latest National Geographic about how China is trying to feed 1.4 billion growing appetites:

      Anyway, articles like those.

  8. Pat Skene says:

    Thank you for this post. I have put the movie on my must see list. We live is challenging times.

  9. Ann Oxrieder says:

    I enjoyed the movie, especially Meryl Streep’s performance. It ended on the note that Watergate was just around the corner. Knowing how that scandal ended, I wish we’d have our own Watergate soon.

    • Still the Lucky Few says:

      Wish it was so, Ann! I loved Meryl’s performance as well. Acting seems to be as easy as breathing to her!

  10. Rummuser says:

    I too reviewed this film in my blog. The message is as powerful for our administration and the Media here too.

    • Still the Lucky Few says:

      I missed your review, Rummuser, but will go back and look it up. You are always so wise in your assessments! Thanks!

  11. Clive says:

    I’ve not yet seen the movie, Diane, but no doubt I will at some point. I thought it was interesting that Streep was given her part, as Trump had been vocal in criticising her so I expect she enjoyed making the parallels in her portrayal.

    As someone else has said, I believe that printed news has always been subject to a bias dependent on the views of the owners. They haven’t tended to recruit journalists with whom they disagree – it isn’t good for their ‘product’ if the readers are confused by too many different views! The press is now in a much weaker position to influence than it was in the 1970s, with the proliferation of so many alternative news sources, but it is still an important influencer: if you don’t read the physical newspaper you can always go to their website. Take as an example the Daily Mail here in the UK. This has strong sales and a big online presence, and exerts a great deal of influence in pandering to the views of the right wing – they kind of make it respectable to be racist! And that hasn’t changed over time: in the 1930s they were pro-Hitler! Unsurprisingly, they are pro-Numpty Trumpty too, and rabid supporters of the hardest form of Brexit possible. Sometimes I wish influences such as that could just disappear but that will never happen!

    • Still the Lucky Few says:

      I guess we just have to accept that rightist views don’t occur in a vacuum! There are always real, living, breathing people behind them. And the other thing is, it takes all kinds, just as the old saying goes! Thanks for your wisdom, Clive.

  12. Aunt Beulah says:

    I will see this movie for all the reasons you mention and because it fascinated me at the time it was happening. I keep telling myself that our country has made it through trying times in the past when it seemed it was crumbling, and it will probably survive the current onslaught, but so many of our institutions are being attacked and weakened in the eyes of many that it is very worrisome. As always, I appreciate your calm, even-handed approach to the always interesting topics you choose.

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