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The Insufferable Nostalgia of a Lying Press


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George Neumayr

Dec. 27 2017

From Hollywood comes a steady stream of movies casting powerful liberals as embattled and marginalized conservatives as menacing. Hollywood’s latest tribute to a hopelessly entitled press, The Post, is in that vein. Meryl Streep plays an astonishingly brave and nervy Katharine Graham, willing to risk her fortune and even her freedom to publish the Pentagon Papers in the Washington Post. It is a feel-good film for the kind of press liberals who consider Trump’s mere tweets a singular and monstrous threat to their freedom.

The film borrows from the Nixon tapes to make it seem like his impotent ravings imperiled her paper. But most of those rantings don’t even pertain to the Pentagon Papers, and in the one tape that does Nixon sounds remarkably blasé. If director Steven Spielberg had included the whole conversation with Al Haig in the movie, viewers would have heard the two agreeing that the disclosure of the Pentagon Papers primarily threatened to tarnish the legacy of the Kennedy administration.


The unstated premise of movies like The Post is that the press deserves more public trust than elected government officials. Why? The press is as corrupt as any other player in politics, and it is unelected. One of the fatuous lines from the movie, which audiences are supposed to clap at excitedly, is that the press serves the “governed, not government.” What does that even mean in a democracy, where the governed are the government? That the press’s role is inherently subversive and destructive unless its buddies are in power?


In a democracy of, by, and for the people, a press with any sense of proportion and perspective would not freak out at criticism from a duly elected president. It would not hype that up into a “crisis” and celebrate Hollywood for drawing parallels between Nixon and Trump. It would accept that arrangement as the normal functioning of democracy. Instead, the press has spent the last year lecturing the American people on its “abnormal” choice of a leader, all the while fantasizing about the much greater abnormality of an undeclared fourth branch of government operating like a political party without scrutiny.

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