I see, from a brief news release, and the subsequent minor bloggerly hyperventilating about it, that the story of the 60 Minutes-Dan Rather-faked TANG memo is going to be made into a movie, starring Robert Redford as Dan Rather and Cate Blanchette as Mary Mapes, his producer. If it were a cautionary tale about what happens when those who report our news content so desperately desire items of dubious provenance to be the genuine article and so skip merrily past every warning signal in their hurry to broadcast a nakedly partisan political hit piece on the eve of an election … well, I might be tempted to watch it. No, not in a theater – are you insane? I might opt to pay a couple of bucks to stream it through Amazon and watch it at home … but alas, likely I will give it a miss, altogether. It’s going to be based on Ms Mapes’ own account and defense of the indefensible, and frankly I am not all that interested in someone engaged in a lengthy justification of their own gullibility and/or willingness to wink at obvious forgery in service to a partisan political cause.
A larger issue does interest me, though – and that is how very often of late movie producers are willing, eager and generous when it comes to bending recent events, political personalities, and certain so-called scandals. Degraded as Hollywood has become lately, with box office receipts dropping like anvils on Wily Coyote, people still watch movies – and movies have an incalculable effect on mass culture. The personalities involved in making movies – producers, directors, the top stars; they are all part of – or see themselves as – a vital part of what Angelo Codevilla called the ruling class. People still watch movies, follow fashions in everything from hairstyles to hobbies which feature in movies, and sad to say, in the long run most people glean what little they do know of history from movies. I am almost certain that most people under the age of forty or so have taken everything they think they know about the John F. Kennedy assassination from the Oliver Stone movie about it, and most people who know anything about slavery in the US have taken their understanding of it (for good or ill) from the Roots miniseries. Never mind that much of the content of both is … questionable, at the very least.
For movies and other pop media bend the national narrative one way or the other (and increasingly of late, to the leftwards almost exclusively). Of course this particular project will be seen as a means of rehabilitating Dan Rather’s battered reputation and pounding again on GWB’s alleged AWOL status while in the Texas Air National Guard five decades ago. Consider how the movie Fair Game put a certain slant on the so-called outing of Valerie Plame, and Game Change trashed Sarah Palin; one might be forgiven for a belief that this is just another means of bending perceptions – now and in the future – in the direction that the ruling classes wish to see it go.