Monday, November 2, 2015


    This goes with fairy tales are not real and life does not leap from a script.
    Human endeavors are messy, imperfect, not simply explained but some refuse to so acknowledge. People prefer easy answers, crowd support, bumper stickers and social media trending to tell us what to think. All of this comes to a center in the talk and reality of Truth-that is Truth the film.
    If it is possible, lets find a point of centrality on this controversy. No one wins. It is about a screw up on top of a screw up and in a time of nasty politics and polarity.
    Right wing and or conservative bloggers and critics say the film is a failure because it's a defense of flawed CBS News investigative report. Liberals say it's a failure because it memorializes how CBS News failed to hold George Bush accountable for being a slacker and avoiding air national guard duty while already avoiding duty in Viet Nam. Self appointed moralists or journalistic ethicists have also weighed in. Some of these children unleashed their screeds and words of torment even before seeing the film. That informs us. 
    Another point of centrality. CBS doesn't like the film and won't advertise it. Dan Rather doesn't like the film, it is a low point in his life. George W. Bush fans don't like it because of what it relates about him. It's been criticized by both left and right.
     OK, maybe another point of centrality. The flap and furor over the plot line, the screw up, has eclipsed the merits of the film. The artistic endeavor, a movie with actors making an entertainment has been overshadowed by largely preconceived notions about the CBS story, Dan Rather, George W. Bush, the 2004 Presidential election, Mary Mapes and who knows what else. I think the film is a victim of prejudgements about the story and personalities and those judgements over look what is after all only a cinematic creative effort. 
      Bull shit to those who say this is trying to change history. Only historian's change history. History is the way it is memorialized and told. Generations of historians see things differently. Winners of wars see history differently than losers. Slave traders see it differently than slaves. Invading business and governments see it differently than invaded natives and cultures and etc. Oliver Stone who is a talented film maker may be the exception. Stone has convinced himself he can fabricate events and change history. Instead Stone is seen for the self aggrandizing bull shit peddler he can be. His films can be entertaining but Wall Street, JFK, Nixon, World Trade Center, Evita and others have not changed truth or rewritten history. They are just films, an artistic pursuit even if written or directed with animus or motivation. Films do not write history.
     Truth is a geyser of how passionately stitched are our politics and biases. This film is being blown over by the same ideological predators who prowled the republic in the time of Bush vs Kerry. We should release history to historians undertaking a study where facts rise to the surface.
     There is a fact at the heart of this film Truth. Before CBS reported that George W. Bush was avoiding his duty, other news organizations had reported the story. They did not however rely on documents which put the CBS effort under fire.  
     Now to the film; Cate Blanchett, Robert Redford, Topher Grace, Dennis Quaid, Elizabeth Moss, Bruce Greenwood, Stacy Keach, John Benjamin Hickey, Dermot Mulroney. These are not slackers. They are terrific and well cast. Blanchett is once again brilliant. Redford as Rather is quite a site and credible! (Redford could have been a great anchor) The film explores the emotional tangles of a team of journalists, how investigative reporting is done, the pressures that come down from management. It samples the stresses and moments of elation that those of us who have done investigative work know. This film also explores the devastation to lives. These characters are based on real people, to whom these events were life changing. The film shows this by way of outstanding acting and directing.
     The film also shows how the CBS report was flawed. Where and how the team erred. How they were tricked. How they got the story right, but screwed up in how they did it.  And this last point is what it seems no one wants to face.  
      We should remember, a million dollars was offered to anyone who could prove that George W. Bush did not avoid some of his air national guard duty when assigned from Texas to Alabama. All of these years later, no one has been able to prove he did his full duty and took all examinations. What irritates liberals is that no one can really make that point  now without someone citing the questionable documents error at CBS News. The truth of the matter gets dunked in the process of the media fire storm and hissy fits. The screw up.
     Those who say this is a defense of the CBS report don't understand reality. Careers were ended. Good people got sacked. You see that. It is the consequence of the errors they made and you see how the error was made. You see how CBS News reacted. These are glimpses into the process and the good guys become the bad guys because they screwed up. This is not Oliver Stone changing history. Mapes has not worked in journalism since. Dan Rather's illustrious career and rich history at CBS were dumped on a trash heap. This hurt. They were trying to tell a story, they made a mistake.
They got trashed. That is what the film tells.  
      There is a moment where Mapes is speaking to the special inquiry team that CBS hired to investigate the report. What she said was a truthful recitation of how and why she erred. It does not change the outcome. But it does add another wrinkle, another fold of truth.
      One should look closely at the "inquiry team" CBS management brought in to investigate. But that is for another day.
      And so back to why this film is so troubling. It demonstrates how messy and screwed up life can be and how good can be bad. That ain't easy for humans to abide. Especially in a fully loaded media world where everyone is on at high volume with their minds made up.
     25 or 50 years from now this film will be seen as a portal into a moment and void of the hype and bias will be appreciated as an artistic exploration of human frailty, well acted. Americans of all persuasions don't like films or morality tales without a happy ending. Sometimes Truth is bitter.
   A little finger pond, near where Santa Rosa Creek flows into the Pacific in Cambria, is a hidden get away for water birds.

   I thank them for sharing their peaceful setting with me.

   See you down the trail.


  1. The rule for the National Guard and Reserve at the time was three unexcused absences from meetings and you were turned over to the draft board. Period, end of story. A friend of mine spent two years on active duty for doing exactly what GWB did.

    1. Truth can hurt, too!
      Those who contend it was all "old news" forget the mood and charge of the atmosphere during the Viet Nam war. While Bush was getting a pass, a real Viet vet was getting savaged by dirty trick operators.

  2. Great film critique, Tom. I look forward to seeing it eventually. As to G.W. Bush, I did not vote for him (because I agreed with Francoise Ducros that he was moronic), but many people believed he did have a brain after one was found by a qualified proctologist. I am not sure how much a film will affect the verdict of history which, in regard to the Bush administration, has already been delivered.

    1. I'm curious to see how W fares, but more so about his VP. Cheney leaves a pile so ripe that future generations may dig him up so they can hang him.

  3. Excellent post, thank you for the thoughtful review. E.H. Carr's 'What is History' adds some insight from this historian, who published many books that were well thought of by his peers. The gist of one of the chapters is that the pursuit of objectivity and truth are antiquated given the nature of our postmodern condition and the effective demise of epistemology. This seems right to me.
    Again, well done.
    Oh, I've read that Santa Rosa creek had a run of silver salmon in the late fall not that many years ago.

    1. Thank you.
      Carr's assessment seems spot on.
      There has been recent effort to preserve the Creek to improve the habitat and to work on barriers to fish travel. Steel head Trout and Tidewater Gobies are the observed residents and travelers now.

  4. Sorry to hear about the damage in your community from wind and rain. In California, it's always something. (To coin a phrase.) ;^/

    1. Damage was minimal and the half inch of rain was a welcome visitor. Thanks for the concern.

  5. Replies
    1. My thanks to you for taking the time to read the post.