55A Vane Attempt

"Don't Need a Weatherman To Tell Which Way the Wind Blows" 

A Series of Innocuous Blogs for Vainglorious Edification.

Nothing… Really
April 22, 2009


    German propaganda photo, "Closeup
   of women and children killed by 
   Bolsheviks in the Metgethen, East Prussia"
The human being is a distinctly emotional animal.  He is easily swayed by the flood of emotions that rise during extreme events and experiences.  For centuries political leaders and military commands have used staged atrocities as a propagandist method of controlling these emotions.  A group or nation whipped into fervor by the despicable, immoral behavior of an enemy is emotionally and intellectually prepared to battle that enemy.  Often without regard to the consequences.  We have countless examples of this in the run-up to wars and more recently in the justification of  anti-crime and anti-terror campaigns both at home and abroad.  Pricking and prodding our sense of moral outrage is a fine art on the battleground of the human psyche. 

We have for some time now been excited to see a small film with a provocative title: Nothing but the Truth.  The film boasts a cast of talented actors including Kate Beckinsale, Vera Farmiga, Angela Bassett, Matt Dylan, and Alan Alda.  It was written and directed by Rod Lurie, a filmmaker who graduated from the West Point Military Academy and spent four years in the Army prior to becoming a film critic.  The history of Nothing but the Truth is a checkered one in which the producing company went bankrupt prior to the film’s release.   It has gone straight to video.  And after a recent viewing it is understandable why.

The plot of Nothing but the Truth focuses on the substance of a real life event where a newspaper reporter (Kate Beckinsale) is held in contempt of court after refusing to name her source.  The reporter takes the fall for a dispute between the Executive and its security forces.  The issue includes the First Amendment, journalist shield law and federal agent protection law.  Unfortunately Mr. Lurie has studiously avoided making a film about the issues.  Instead he wastes the talents of excellent actors (Ms. Beckinsale gives a courageous performance) on a fist-shaking warning to American journalists.  So bereft of legal and moral substance is this movie that the viewer is left with a vacuous, sick feeling not unlike a nasty case of stomach flu.  The film never directly addresses the Constitutional battle between a free press and national security.  Nor does it explore the principle (integrity in not naming a source) which the journalist and her newspaper defend.  A principle of a free press that millions have given their lives for.  But the film does spend lots of time showing us how vile life in prison is.  In fact this movie spends so much time following the hapless reporter in and out of jails and prisons that it would be better titled: It’s Prison for You Uppity Journalists!

The estimable members of our national security services and military are regularly subjected to prodding of their moral outrage.  Ritual beheadings, mutilation, weapons of mass destruction, child abuse and slavery are amongst the reasons we ask the defenders of our freedoms to fight the enemy.  Real and imagined.  It is with this sense of prevaricated morality that we expect our security forces to put their lives in danger.  And it is with these atrocious images in mind that crusading federal prosecutors and politicians chip away at fundamental elements in our Constitution.   Because only by claiming “security for greater good” can we justify the erosion of democratic protections like government whistleblowers and a watchdog press.  History paints the lesson time and again.  Instill fear and outrage in a population.  Announce that security comes at a cost, and that cost is the sacrifice of freedom.  The result is the mechanism to ferret out greed and corruption in government is quashed.  There is no oversight.  There is no government of and by the people.  There is only the vision of atrocities at the hands of an evil enemy that gives cover to unregulated expansion of the security state. 

What many fail to remember in the midst of this struggle is the single, lawful reason to empower our government and its myriad security forces.  That is, to preserve, protect and defend our Constitution.  Not the Congress.  Not the President.  Not the Judiciary.  The Constitution.  It is the instrument by which our founders created a new nation specifically and expressly to limit government intrusion and coercion.  It is the instrument by which we remind our forces and representatives that regardless of  title, position, overt or covert mission - if you tread on the fundamental rights of the people that you are sworn to defend - you will be brought to justice like any other citizen.  Criminal activity exposed from within or without must not be given a free pass.

As for the unfortunate movie Nothing But the Truth.  There is little to see outside the presence of talented actors who strangely, never look quite like themselves.  The unbelievable plot ending resorts to a gimmick that is literally and figuratively childish.  It’s easy to understand why the film  was never distributed to theatres.  Watching this movie is like watching the thief Fagan threaten to punish his pickpocket gang for insubordination. 

NOTE: To the gifted actors; you did the job put before you.  And you did it well.  Bravo!