Sunday, January 17, 2016

TRUTH: Robert Redford's New Movie About Dan Rather

I recently watched Robert Redford's new movie, "Truth." I liked it. But then again, I like most anything with Cate Blanchett in it.Yet some people did not, and for different reasons.Some thought the content was inaccurate or even deceptive, while others just disliked the way the movie was written or directed; or both.

 The film is about the 60 Minute report done by Dan Rather in 2004 that claimed then President and presidential candidate, George W. Bush, was lying about his military service in the National Guard and his desire to fight in Vietnam. At the center of the film are two competing perspectives, which are framed by the film overall as a contest between determining which one of those perspectives is more important. For Mary Mapes, the producer of 60 minutes at the time, the view that was the most important was whether Bush, in fact, lied. (And if he did, and since Mapes had been working on this same report prior to the 2000 election, before Bush had "won" that election by a margin as thin as the thread of a hanging chad, we are left to wonder if America could have avoided the wars and tax cuts that Bush would later drop on both the middle east and the middle class, if the story had come up earlier.)

The other view is that the documents being used to support such a claim must necessarily be authenticated before their claims should even be considered. Mapes and Rather are playing by the rules of evidence established in the court of public opinion, while their critics are playing by the rules established for a court of justice. If the situation was reversed, of course, the lawyers on either side of the table would trade tactics with each other as casually as if they were trading pens.

One view believes that the ultimate question is one of proof of such a claim, without which anyone can forge documents and make any claim about anyone. Without such "proof," in other words, it's simply McCarthyism all over again!  (And with Joe McCarthy being a Conservative, the Conservatives should know!) The other view holds that, since the documents are simply copies that cannot be validated in any way, or invalidated for that matter, what is more important is whether their claims are authentic, regardless of the documents themselves.

It is easy to prove that the Liberals and the Conservatives would trade places, by the way. In fact, they already have, if we look at the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, for example. According to Wikipedia, these Protocols were:

 "an antisemitic fabricated text purporting to describe a Jewish plan for global domination. The forgery was first published in Russia in 1903, translated into multiple languages, and disseminated internationally in the early part of the 20th century. According to the claims made by some of its publishers, the Protocols are the minutes of a late 19th-century meeting where Jewish leaders discussed their goal of global Jewish hegemony by subverting the morals of Gentiles, and by controlling the press and the world's economies."

Despite being repeatedly proven to be forgeries, "Henry Ford funded printing of 500,000 copies that were distributed throughout the US in the 1920s." When asked why he continued to hand out documents that were proven time and again to be forgeries, Ford explained that, while he knew the documents themselves were a forgery, he believed their claims were authentic.

With regard to the documents in Truth - which has been dubbed both Rathergate and Memogate - the tables have turned, and now it is the Conservative who is focusing only on the authenticity of the documents themselves, and the Liberal who thinks we should be focusing on the authenticity of the claims. One the one hand, authenticating the claims may itself go a long way to authenticating the documents, even though it would not, alone, necessarily go all the way. On the other hand, however, disproving the documents does not, alone, do much to disprove the claims, especially when there has been much scuttlebutt bandied about the rumor-mill  that such claims may in fact be true.  . 

Ultimately, the biggest difference I've seen in people debating this movie and the documents themselves is that some people claim the documents in question were definitely proven to be forgeries, and were offered by the retied Lt. Col. in the Texas National Guard where Bush served, Bill Burkett - an "admitted liar," who claimed he received the documents in question from some "mystery woman" who called herself "Lucy Ramirez," who has never been found. The other claims that such documents have never be proven to be forgeries, and because they are simply "copies," they never can be.

For me, I think what really matters here is simply determining who is the bigger liar: George W. Bush or Bill Burkett. The "Truth" of that question is, of course, that I honestly do not know. I only know that, even if the documents and accusations are false, it wasn't Burkett who started a war in Iraq by first claiming that Saddam Hussein conspired with Osama Bin Laden to commit 9/11 and then claiming that Hussein had Weapons of Mass destruction; despite the fact that both claims were proven to be false. 

I, however, leave Rathergate up to the readers and movies-goes to decide for themselves. Wikipedia claims Mapes had proof in hand that the claims were false, but choose not to reveal it, but I have been unable to verify that claim. Two other articles that take the opposite position, however,  are listed below. But at the end of the day, deciding who is ultimately right about this question may be like trying to figure out who started the war between the Hatfield's and the McCoy's. It may be just a matter of opinion.

Here's a segment from Rachel Maddow's show on the movie that give's some back ground and context.

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