Mount St. Joseph University

Film Review: “The Post” - Now More than Ever

Dateline: student newspaper

By: Michael Mullin

File Under: dateline

“News is the first rough draft of history.” Of every line spoken in the film The Post, this line might be the most important in regards to today's struggle to determine whether news is real or “fake.” In this country, we are on the cusp of a national tragedy, or a national embrace. In this highly anticipated film, we are focused on the first female publisher of a major American newspaper, The Washington Post. Kay Graham became the sole owner and editor of the Washington Post after her husband had passed away. Graham, with the help of Ben Bradley as her Chief Editor, became one of the most important public media duos to have ever lived. Their friendship was very unlikely due to the fact that a woman led The Washington Post, which was undoubtedly controversial at the time.

The entire synopsis of the film focuses around The Washington Post trying to catch up to The New York Times in regards to exposing a massive cover-up of government secrets that spanned three decades and over four presidents. This was the first time that Steven Spielberg, Tom Hanks, and Meryl Streep had collaborated together on one film. The film features an acclaimed ensemble cast including Alison Brie, Carrie Coon, David Cross, Bruce Greenwood, Tracy Letts, Bob Odenkirk, Sarah Paulson, Jesse Plemons, Matthew Rhys, Michael Stuhlbarg, Bradley Whitford and Zach Woods.

Although this is important in regards to history, we all as viewers understand the significance of this film at the time. There was a reason Steven Spielberg produced and directed this film at this point in history. And in my opinion, it could not have come at a better time. Fifty-three percent of the American people disapprove of the way President Trump has treated the media. What's even stranger is that 51% of the American people disapprove of the way the media treats the president. “Not only has the past year seen an American president borrow despotic language to refer to the free press, but it seems he has in turn inspired dictators and authoritarians with his own language. This is reprehensible,” said the outgoing Arizona Republican senator, Jeff Flake. “We are not in a ‘fake news’ era, as Bashar Assad says. We are, rather, in an era in which the authoritarian impulse is reasserting itself, to challenge free people and free societies, everywhere.” 

Unfortunately the only time the president agrees or accepts the media is when it's good news about him. Conveniently when the news is bad about him or his administration, he tends to believe that the news is “fake.” What if this term “fake news” had been used during the time of the Pentagon Papers or possibly Watergate?  Would we even believe anything that happened at the time? Why are we questioning everything because one man in charge says it’s fake?

I'm not sure what I would do during the time of the Pentagon Papers or Watergate, but I'm pretty sure I'd believe the hardworking journalists and editors who scratch and claw their way to get the information that I deserve to know about as an American citizen back to me, no matter how complicated the issue is.

Think about this. What benefit do news organizations such as The Washington Post, The New York Times, CNN, MSNBC, CBS, or ABC get out of lying to the American public? What benefits do they attain after they have made up or produced “fake news” for the American public to consume? I think we have to come to the conclusion that there is no reason that the media would lie to us. There is no reason that a man who claims to be in the right 100% of the time should be claiming that the news that is produced about him is fake or not real. Have we really stooped so low in society to just disregard the great American journalists that have made it their goal to report the news for public consumption for a man who more than likely has been and will continue to either lie or keep the American public in the dark?  

The President of the United States has not only been thrust into a national controversy in regards to The Mueller Investigation, but he has also been compared to a dictator. How many comparisons in the way he acts towards the media make him seem as if he is trying to create a public news organization such as in Russia where the freedom of the press would ultimately go away.

Can you imagine if we didn't have a free press?  Can you imagine if we had to consume only what our government was telling us? That's how some countries are. That's how some wars are begun, with propaganda and denial. There was a lesson that Trump learned a long time ago from a man named Roy Cohn. It was as long as you continue to deny it and say you deny it over and over and over and over again, people will likely begin to believe the fact that you are denying it and that it didn't happen. It's actually a psychological fact that people will believe what you say if you repeat it.

We need the free press now more than ever in this society. Without the free press, our country would wither away. There would be little democracy left. Let us not forget that quote at the beginning of this, “News is the first rough draft of history.”