Orwell Rolls in His Grave Movie Review
In the wake of Fahrenheit 9/11's success, expect to see dozens of movies like this to hit the scene in short order. Orwell doesn't necessarily pillory George W. Bush, though. Pappas is keen on implicating the media as complicit in keeping the two party system alive and well and, by extension, in handing Bush the presidency.
But Pappas' arguments are weak at best, blatantly wrong at worst. For starters, he trots out the good old "all the media is run by big conglomerates" theory as his thesis. Then he zooms in on a passage from... The New York Times, which isn't owned by Rupert Murdoch or AOL. It's an independent company. So are lots of other magazines and papers. Sure, TV is a boondoggle run by the giants, but Pappas' blanket damnation of all media just doesn't wash.
A big example doesn't fly either: One of Pappas' subjects exclaims that Bush's cutting of the estate tax never got reported in the media. Huh? The estate tax cut was pretty universally known. I'd say it has suffered from media overexposure. And then Pappas apparently forgets his point by showing a video of Bush giving a speech about the tax cut! If the media didn't report it, what the hell are we watching? Pappas is like a broken record: He states that the media didn't cover a certain topic, then he shows a close-up of a newspaper story covering that topic. What? You just contradicted yourself in the space of three seconds, Bob.
Another key point of Pappas, inexplicably, states that the media has not reported on American jobs being outsourced to foreign countries (because the media is beholden to corporate interests, natch). Are you freakin' kidding me? If any issue has gotten more play in the business press this year, it's the outsourcing issue. Two huge chunks of the movie are derailed by long tangents into the played-out "Bush stole the election" news and, believe it or not, Reagan's manipulation of the Iran hostage crisis in 1980. Both of these have been covered ad nauseam in the press. Pappas claims that no one ever wrote about either of them. Does anyone buy this? Perhaps that sustained bass tone that echoes through the whole film will convince you it's true.
Pappas' movie isn't just lazy filmmaking, it's nonsense. Sadly, his few good points are buried under a pile of junk that's just plain wrong. His most salient issue attacks the idea of "liberal bias" in the media. While it's true that many individual reporters are liberals, the majority of media outlets they work for are generally conservative at the top levels. The idea of bias is a bit of a joke, he says, propogated by the right. Pappas also provides some good insight into Michael Powell's mismanagement of the FCC and the outcry over (and overturning of) his mega-deregulation policies.
The movie itself is largely talking heads, separated by title cards with kooky writing and quotes from 1984. Pappas' reliance on showing us shots of newspapers gets tiresome quickly -- but watch for one story he uses to back up his ideas: It's written by noted fabricator Jayson Blair!
Folks, Orwell probably is rolling in his grave, not because 1984 has come to be, but because his name is attached to such a lame movie.
For a much more insightful look at media manipulation, check out the 1992 documentary Manufacturing Consent.