Friday, April 07, 2006

History will take its revenge, and retribution will not limp in catching up with us.

In one of those little moments where a name which has always lurked in the background as an unspoken part of your own back-story suddenly leaps into the spotlight, I watched Good Night, and Good Luck tonight, and Edward R. Murrow came to call. As the opening credits rolled, I knew the name, but couldn't place it. McCarthy of course I know, and Murrow was that guy, right? With the stuff and the words? Oh yes, this man had the words.

The movie is well done, being more-or-less a reinactment of Murrow's speech to the Radio Television News Directors Association with referrences from Murrow's life, particularly around the McCarthy era. If you have seen this film, and are somehow having trouble with the flaming-half-brick-in-a-sock subtlety of its parallels to the more recent "wid me er agin me" school of American internal politics, then just nip off and read that speech; its pretty much the movie word-for-word. If you haven't seen it yet, I heartily recommend it - Clooney writing and directing (and playing essentially a bit part) manages an artful cast in re-telling the spirit of Murrow's intent by re-arranging his own words to better effect.

No, seriously; go back and read the speech.

No, ALL of it. Its worth it.

Everything he said 50 years ago still applies, only moreso. I say this knowing full well that at least half of my audience couldn't be bothered to own a TV anymore, but honestly couldn't you just see it coming when he says "We have currently a built-in allergy to unpleasant or disturbing information." and "television in the main is being used to distract, delude, amuse and insulate us"? Michael Moore? Michael Moore had hardly been BORN yet. Clooney may be just using an eloquent man to tell a current tale, but honestly who could blame him? Its a good story, and they're good words. If you have a taste for Murrow's language and your stomach isn't easily turned by a phrase, listen to his account of visiting a German concentration camp in 1945. "If I have offended you..." he says, "I am not in the least sorry." More than anything, this movie reminded me that maintaining power through fear isn't a new trick; its been going on since the first caveman did a bad wolf howl just outside the cave - and it'll keep on working unless you watch em close.

"This instrument can teach, it can illuminate; yes, and it can even inspire. But it can do so only to the extent that humans are determined to use it to those ends. Otherwise it is merely wires and lights in a box."

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