Lewis and Clark Valley News

Controversy retold — A movie adaptation of the Pentagon Papers saga should be on everyone’s watch list

One of the most important stories in journalism is about to get the big screen treatment.

Steven Spielberg’s “The Post” recounts the tempest that led to the release of the Pentagon Papers by the Washington Post in 1971.

The film is scheduled to debut to select theaters Dec. 22, and will release to all audiences on Jan. 12 next year.

For those with any interest whatsoever in how the press checks the government, this will be a must-see film. There are many other reasons behind the price of admission, such as Meryl Streep and Tom Hanks, but the story is one that has become increasingly important to remember and analyze in the modern day.

Jonah Baker | Argonaut

The story hinges on two converging plots that could just as easily occur now, almost 50 years after the original events took place. Katherine Graham, the paper’s CEO, inherited the paper years earlier when her husband abruptly died. And, as a woman in a position of power, she faced severe scrutiny from her peers in a male-dominated industry. The people within the paper struggled to do their jobs as journalists with the entire government trying to inhibit the publishing of the Pentagon Papers. The U.S. Government did their utmost to prevent the release of two decades worth of information about lies and subterfuge before and during the conflict in Vietnam, but the news was printed anyway.

This is an important story that may not necessarily be within our generation’s consciousness, and that fact makes it all the more important that we learn about how the press actually can work properly and keep the government in check when it acts egregiously.

The Panama Papers and the ongoing release of information regarding offshore tax havens of the elite have made waves, but neither quite compare to the story that Spielberg will release.

Katherine Graham’s story has strong feminist themes that continue to ring true in today’s world, where women CEOs head up only 32 of the United States’ 500 wealthiest companies and face unique challenges even when they get to the top, according to the Washington Post. Graham was steadfast in her beliefs and showed commendable courage throughout one of the most turbulent times that the Washington Post had ever experienced. This movie has Academy Award-winner Meryl Streep cast as one of the best female role models of the 20th century, and for that reason alone it deserves attention.

The timeliness of this movie is another huge reason to learn the story. Every day, more press releases come out enlightening the misdirection and quasi-truths that are pervaded by those in control of our governments and corporations. The public does not necessarily have a right to know absolutely everything about everyone, but “The Post” is an important story about how the public should be in the know.

Pew Research studies found that trust in government has basically been a farce since the beginning of George W. Bush’s second term in office, and stories like the Pentagon Papers are critically important in understanding why the public doesn’t trust those who are in control and what should be done when the ashes of that trust are incinerated once again.

“The Post” may not be the best or most interesting movie on this holiday season’s slate, but the story it tells is something that everyone needs to know.

Jonah Baker can be reached at arg-opinion@uidaho.edu or on Twitter @jonahpbaker

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