The Post

WiseMan saw that "The Post" was being shown in English for the last time this evening at the nearby Odeon Theater, so we gathered the usual suspects for a nice film evening.

This is a must-see movie for the current "post-truth" times.

It is the story of the publishing of the Pentagon Papers in 1971 by the New York Times and the Washington Post, and also about the Post metamorphosing from a local newspaper to a national one. The Pentagon Papers demonstrated that the government lied, not only to the people, but to Congress, about the situation in Vietnam. And they lied under many different presidents, Democrats and Republicans, just to save the embarrassment of having to admit that they were in over their heads.

The film by Steven Spielberg quite admirably shows Meryl Streep portraying Katherine Graham as she moves from being Daddy's daughter and her husband's socialite wife to being the publisher of the paper. She is torn between her social friends, her grandchildren, and what she feels needs to be published.

The IMDB Trivia page notes that the real Pentagon Papers were strewn about in the scenes dealing with them, and that the voice of "Tricky Dick" Nixon was taken from the tapes made public after the Watergate scandal. That's a nice touch.

I did rather wax nostalgic at the scenes showing the Linotype machines and the printing presses. As school children we were taken to see the printing shop of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, and as a professor at the TFH Berlin I loved going on field trips with the students of the print and media technology program to see modern digital presses.

The scene at the Supreme Court (New York Times Co. v. United States, 403 U.S. 713) I found to be so realistic - everyone is nervous, but the brash lawyer for the Post, who had argued privately just days before not to publish, gives a burning defense of the freedom of speech. The court decided in favor of the Times 6-3 with Justice Hugo Black noting:

"Only a free and unrestrained press can effectively expose deception in government. And paramount among the responsibilities of a free press is the duty to prevent any part of the government from deceiving the people and sending them off to distant lands to die of foreign fevers and foreign shot and shell."
I do remember getting into a fight or three with my father about the Pentagon Papers. He felt strongly that Daniel Ellsberg was a traitor. I was beginning to have an own opinion on the topic, and I didn't like being lied to. A cousin was up for the draft (there was a lottery held to determine who was to go) and I remember questioning why the country was waging this war so far away.

This is an important film about a very important turning point in American History. And it shows why it is important to have investigative journalists able to expose the mis-deeds of the nation. I'm happy to pay the New York Times, the Washington Post, and the Guardian a regular support amount so that they are there when we need them.

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