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Rathergate goes to the movies

Rathergate goes to the movies

Cinema as Minitrue

George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four is a dystopian masterpiece. Part of the book’s genius lies in its nomenclature, and most definitely its insight into the political propaganda process.

Thus, the Ministry of Truth, or “Minitrue” for short:

As with the other Ministries in the novel, the Ministry of Truth is a misnomer and in reality serves the opposite of its purported namesake: it is responsible for any necessary falsification of historical events. In another sense, and in keeping with the concept of doublethink, the ministry is aptly named, in that it creates/manufactures “truth” in the Newspeak sense of the word. The book describes a willful fooling of posterity using doctored historical archives to show a government-approved version of events.

The government in the US does its share of that sort of thing, but under President Obama the practice has reached new heights (or depths, if you want to look at it that way). But the left is not limited to governmental publications. It now has the full cooperation of the press, an institution that is supposed to bring us the truth and can serve to counter government propaganda. The left also has the movies, TV and other popular entertainment, and the vast majority of entertainers.

That can serve as an introduction to the latest movie wonder, a film called, oh-so-appropriately, “Truth.” Its subject is the Rathergate scandal of 2004. The film has not opened yet and I have not seen it, but according to a reviewer, here’s the movie’s take on it:

It was the great Henry David Thoreau who once said, “Rather than love, than money, than fame, give me truth.” And it’s the Thoreauian tenets of self-reliance—the pursuit of unvarnished truth and resistance to institutional authority—that motivates many in the journalism profession. If James Vanderbilt’s new film Truth is to be believed, this quest led 60 Minutes producer Mary Mapes and veteran CBS News anchor Dan Rather to air the segment “For the Record,” which questioned then-President George W. Bush’s service in the Texas Air National Guard during the Vietnam War. The controversial 60 Minutes piece aired on September 8, 2004, just two months before the presidential election, and ultimately led to the dismissals of Mapes, several other producers, and Rather forced into an early retirement.

Vanderbilt’s film is based on Mapes’s memoir, Truth and Duty: The Press, The President, and The Privilege of Power, so it provides a very sympathetic portrait of Rather (Robert Redford, charming) and his longtime producer Mapes (Cate Blanchett, electric).

Sure, let’s base a movie about one of the most egregious journalistic errors/frameups/hitpieces ever run—which had as its aim the defeat of a president running for re-election—on the memoir of one of its self-serving perpetrators. And let’s call it “Truth.” Why not? After all, the vast majority of the young people we can reach with this revisionist “history” were kids in 2004, when it occurred. They will think that our history is the reality, our truth will become their truth. We will certainly reach far more young people than the real story, the details of which have faded into distant memory for most people, and never were heard of by the vast majority of the generation now coming of age.

It’s been done by Hollywood many times before, most notably by Oliver Stone.

More on “Truth”:

…[T]hough the documents themselves may be falsified, both Mapes and Rather view them as more a piece of corroborative evidence, and continue to believe in the general veracity of the story—which isn’t questioned…

A CBS-appointed panel to review the 60 Minutes segment is depicted in the film as the final insult, a show trial of sorts co-led by Dick Thornburgh, who served as Attorney General under Bush Sr…

Mapes is seen as a victim in all this—both of Burkett’s ruse and of the CBS brass, who throw her directly under the bus. The film’s finest scene sees Blanchett deliver a blistering monologue to the Thornburgh review panel detailing how difficult it would be to and how much inside information would be required to falsify the Killian documents.

So difficult to do what was obviously done. So difficult to be skeptical and properly fact-check such a juicy, ripe, appealing story that verified your own pre-existing prejudices and political positions. And so difficult to let go of the “fake, but accurate” narrative that this movie appears to champion:

After the film’s premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival, Rather choked up discussing Truth in a post-screening Q&A. He called Vanderbilt’s film “very accurate,” and, when asked by an audience member if there’s anything in his career he would have done differently, he replied, “Journalism is not an exact science.”

Well, that’s for sure. Journalism is no more an exact science than are the movies. They have both effectively become organs of Orwell’s Minitrue.

[NOTE: For those of you who would like to brush up on Rathergate, please see this for a rather (pun intended) brief look. There’s plenty more, both online and off.]

[Neo-neocon is a writer with degrees in law and family therapy, who blogs at neo-neocon.]


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“It was the great Henry David Thoreau who once said, “Rather than love, than money, than fame, give me truth.””

That’s a high-school lede, Daily Beast. And the film’s director starred in Havana, which cast a white actor as Fulgencio Batista.

Collectivists lie. They lie first to themselves. Every day.

Then they lie to everyone else. The HATE it when their lies are laid bare.

And they wait. Because they know that other liars will come along soon to rehabilitate them via new lies.

Consider the gob-smacking ridiculousness of Doller Bill Clinton, sexual predator of a girl very little older than his own daughter, being “Father Of The Year”.

It’s like Yessir (That’s my baby”) Arafat being a Nobel Peace laureate.

NC Mountain Girl | September 16, 2015 at 3:23 pm

I am reminded of a Professor of History who noted that most movies set around an historic event will tell you more about the mindset of those making the movie than it will inform you of actual events.

Propaganda. Pure, unquestionable.

These people do nothing but push an agenda, an ideology, and expect people to drink it up like living water.

How sad. How disappointing that anyone will think this agitprop is true……….

“Fake, but accurate”, should get an Oscar nomination for Best Fantasy.

    Arminius in reply to genes. | September 16, 2015 at 7:40 pm

    This is Hollywood we’re talking about. It will be nominated for an Academy Award as Best Documentary. Just as if it were a Michael Moore or Oliver Stone movie.

We live in a post-normal world; a world in which Divinity School dropout Al Gore’s climate fiction piece An Inconvenient Truth won an Academy Award for Best Documentary, and Barack “Drone ‘Em All And Let Allah Sort ‘Em Out” Obama won the Nobel Prize for Peace twelve days after taking office.

Remember that one time Sarah Palin answered a question about her foreign policy chops by exclaiming, “I can see Russia from my house!”? Exactly.

MaggotAtBroadAndWall | September 16, 2015 at 5:58 pm

About a year ago, when the movie was being planned and the people making it began hyping it to Hollywood trade rags to stoke interest, Megan McArdle wrote a long, thorough “open letter” to Hollywood urging them not to make a movie based on Mapes book. It’s a great essay.

    It is, for the most part, but she gives too much credence to the idea that Bush had strings pulled for him to get into the TANG. In fact she says everyone already supposed this to be true, and therefore this was not the big bombshell of the Rather/Mapes piece. But no matter how many people later claimed it to be true, it clearly isn’t, for three simple reasons:

    1. Bush Sr had no pull at the time.

    2. There was no need for pull to get Bush to the front of the line, because there was no line. There were not enough qualified applicants for the positions, so anyone with Bush’s qualifications who volunteered for one would have been accepted, no matter who his father was.

    3. The job Bush volunteered for was more dangerous than being sent to Vietnam, on top of which there was no guarantee that he wouldn’t be sent there anyway.

It’s very Orwellian that in the very same election campaign as Rathergate we did see a shining example of “the pursuit of unvarnished truth and resistance to institutional authority”. I speak, of course, of the brave effort of Swift Boat Veterans for Truth to tell what they knew of the person they served with, and the events they witnessed. But the verb “to swiftboat” seems to have already entered the language, not in the sense it ought to have, “to expose a fraud”, but as “to malign someone with outrageous lies”.

Hmm, the <sup> tag seems not to work here. I suppose, then, that <sub> won’t work either.

buckeyeminuteman | September 17, 2015 at 11:05 am

Brian Williams didn’t invent the Chopperwhopper, he just stole it from the generation before him.

Rather- Lying scum way before this event- Rather made fake CBS- HBO documentary about Vietnam Vets with PTSD living in the woods and the horror they had been ordered to do. Title of this Rather scam story was ” The Wall Within” (1980) – Rather never checked out the service records of the 6 men because the story fit his Lib beliefs. 5 of the 6 had never been in Vietnam- other guy was on aircraft carrier. Lib butt boy Rather reported on 1 story told by a 16 year old Navy SEAL( impossible lie) and another about SOG skinning people alive. Rather was then and is now a giant pile of manure.