Thursday, January 19, 2006

Good luck -- we're gonna need it

We saw “Good Night, and Good Luck” last night -- a great movie. It could have been a play -- there are only three or four settings, a small cast and dialogue rather than action. The advantage of the movie is that you get the close-ups of people’s faces, especially Murrow, not a chatty guy but an extremely eloquent one. I first saw his famous summation in the McCarthy “See It Now” piece in journalism school and was again struck by what a brilliant writer Murrow was, how intelligently, clearly and elegantly he expressed complex ideas, as well as the truth of the ideas themselves.

It’s obviously tempting to substitute “Bush” for “the junior Senator from Wisconsin,” but of course it’s not that simple. There’s more than one point man now (Rove, Cheney, Wolfowitz, etc.), and they’re smart enough not to hog the limelight and work more behind the scenes. But they’re doing the same thing -- exploiting a climate of fear to achieve their own ends (power, money and oligarchy), and implying that anyone who disagrees with them is “soft on terrorism.” And in 1954, there was no Fox News, and some in the news media had the courage and talent to portray what was really going on. The closest we’ve come to that lately is Anderson Cooper in Louisiana, expressing frank outrage at the nonexistent government rescue effort in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. It’s also illuminating to see clips of the Republican president (Eisenhower) warn against the “military-industrial complex” and defending the right of habeas corpus.

I think the Murrow line from 1954 that’s most applicable to the current administration is his statement that McCarthy’s actions “have caused alarm and dismay amongst our allies abroad, and given considerable comfort to our enemies.” But at the same Wikipedia site, I also found these quotes about technology that are extremely relevant to the modern world of all-web-all-the-time, replete with Internet rumors, blogs galore and e-mails up the wazoo: “The newest computer can merely compound, at speed, the oldest problem in the relations between human beings, and in the end the communicator will be confronted with the old problem, of what to say and how to say it.” Also: “The speed of communications is wondrous to behold. It is also true that speed can multiply the distribution of information that we know to be untrue.

And on the lighter side... Santa answers kid’s letters.

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