Tuesday, October 31, 2006


Movie of the Year: Good Night and Good Luck

By now, you've heard of Good Night and Good Luck. If you haven't, go see it. Why? Because this movie distills, in poignant frames, what exactly makes America great. It does this by standing the good in stark contrast with the shadows that darken America every odd decade or so.

The shadows of fear.

Fear of Communism quieted the Americans who would otherwise balk at Senator McCarthy's overreaching, unjust and illegal Inquisition. Accusations based on hearsay. Forbidding or limiting the powers of counsel. Civil liberties decided by a closed circuit with closed evidence. Wide powers given to government. Sound familiar? Incredibly, it is a news program, acting as a pulse/idea.conduit for the nation, that finally drums up enough courage to defeat the villainy of the times.

Which is strange because Americans nowadays are familiar with a different breed of news and tv programs. Shows filled with Dane Cook aphorisms and the Jay Leno-style transcripts of non-controversy. Because John Q. Public (and the resulting advertising dollars) don't like uncomfortable things, they don't enjoy being insulted, being told they are wrong, or being shown that not only are there awful things happening, but that they themselves allow it to happen. 'Dancing with the Stars' is much tastier fare, and easier to keep down.

"For surely we shall pay for using this most powerful instrument of communication to insulate the citizenry from the hard and demanding realities which must be faced if we are to survive. I mean the word survive literally. If there were to be a competition in indifference, or perhaps in insulation from reality, then Nero and his fiddle, Chamberlain and his umbrella, could not find a place on an early afternoon sustaining show. If Hollywood were to run out of Indians, the program schedules would be mangled beyond all recognition. Then some courageous soul with a small budget might be able to do a documentary telling what, in fact, we have done--and are still doing--to the Indians in this country. But that would be unpleasant. And we must at all costs shield the sensitive citizens from anything that is unpleasant."

"If we confuse dissent with disloyalty — if we deny the right of the individual to be wrong, unpopular, eccentric or unorthodox — if we deny the essence of racial equality then hundreds of millions in Asia and Africa who are shopping about for a new allegiance will conclude that we are concerned to defend a myth and our present privileged status. Every act that denies or limits the freedom of the individual in this country costs us the. . . confidence of men and women who aspire to that freedom and independence of which we speak and for which our ancestors fought."
– Ford Fiftieth Anniversary Show, CBS and NBC, June 1953, "Conclusion." Murrow: His Life and Times, A.M. Sperber, Freundlich Books, 1986

"We cannot defend freedom abroad by deserting it at home."

"We will not walk in fear, one of another. We will not be driven by fear into an age of unreason if we dig deep in our history and doctrine and remember that we are not descended from fearful men, not from men who feared to write, to speak, to associate and to defend causes which were for the moment unpopular. We can deny our heritage and our history, but we cannot escape responsibility for the result. There is no way for a citizen of the Republic to abdicate his responsibility."

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