Film Review: The Post

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The “Post” tells of the story experienced by owners and editorial members of the Washington Post during the tumultuous times under the Nixon administration. Directed by Steven Spielberg, the movie features Hollywood’s cinematic titans like Tom Hanks, Meryl Streep, Sarah Paulson and Bob Odenkirk (known for his role as Sam in Better Call Sam–a Netflix movie). It won several awards, including Best Picture by the National Board of Review and got several critical acclaim from various film acting bodies.

The film transports you to America during the Cold War and under the Nixon era. Despite tremendous criticisms by intellectuals during his term, Nixon was a popular political figure among the mass of Americans who hated or were disillusioned by the way the Democrats handled both the politics and the economy of the nation.  This was the period when Nixon was preparing for his re-election, several months away from the Watergate scandal which ended his term.

Back in the day, the Washington Post was largely considered a “small, family run, community” newspaper. While highly regarded by intellectuals, the Post however, lacked revenues. It was cash strapped.

Avoiding financial crash, owners of the Post opted to go public. Such decisions had consequences. For one, the paper was expected to sacrifice a little of its autonomy. BY going public, the Post was now at the mercy of banks with institutional investors–meaning businesses which want nothing more than favorable treatment from both government and media. This meant that the Post must be careful not to offend both the sensitivities of Big Business and Big Politics.

This is the conundrum faced not just by the Post, but most media organizations in the world especially today. Media remains a business enterprise involved in public service. As such, media entities always find themselves walking on tightrope. Media organisations need revenues to keep their personnel happy. In doing so, media entities sometimes encounter ethical decisions which usually favor business rather than the pursuit of its public duty.

Prior to its Watergate expose, the Post encountered an editorial problem–whether or not to publish stories exposing the lies several US administrations did on the Vietnam war. A voluminous study commissioned by former Defense secretary Robert McNamara revealed that the US knew all along that it faced sure defeat at hands of Ho Chi Minh’s guerillas. US troops were ill-prepared to handle such a devastating guerrilla war. What was keeping the US from withdrawing was the International humiliation it expected to get.

Further complicating things was the fact that it was the Cold War era. The US was engaged in an ideological struggle against Communism. Such a loss of face would surely be unacceptable.

Like other governments, Nixon tried to use legal means to prevent the publication of the so-called “Pentagon papers. ” The Post’s rival, the New York Times, was the first to publish. A judge issued an injunction which deterred the Times from completing the publication of the four-part series.

Through its contacts from RAND and the defense department, the Post got itself a source who provided them with about 4,000 pages of the Pentagon papers. McNamara happens to be a friend of the Post owner, who was back then being run by the wife of the deceased son of the original owner. The dilemma was whether to publish or not these damaging material.

I highly recommend this film because it shows one the moral dilemmas being faced by journalists every single time. When faced with adversities who use the law as their weapon to protect their interests, the media usually stand their ground thru solidarity of actions. Most share the burdens of others.

In states where such situations happen, media solidarity must foremost be the most excellent weapon of choice against forces which threaten democracy.

 

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