Socialist Party
| Print

31 January 2018

Film: The Post

Trump as Nixon: urgent questions about press freedom and the state

Paul Gerrard, Salford Socialist Party

In 1971 US casualties in Vietnam were running at 500 a week, and opposition to the war was reaching boiling point.

Daniel Ellsberg stole a 7,000-page document, later known as the Pentagon Papers, detailing the failures of US policy in Vietnam, information which had been deliberately concealed from the American people by a succession of presidents. Stephen Spielberg's latest film 'The Post' is the story of what happened next.

Ellsberg leaks the documents to the prestigious New York Times, which prints extracts. Ben Bradlee (Tom Hanks), editor of a smaller rival newspaper, the Washington Post, is furious the competition has the scoop.

By the time the Post has the documents too, the Times faces a court order from President Richard Nixon to cease publication of "treasonous" material. The Times complies.

A dilemma confronts Bradlee, and the paper's owner, wealthy socialite Katherine Graham (Meryl Streep): do they publish anyway, to defend press freedom, but also to steal a march on the Times?

Bradlee wants to publish and be damned while the naturally cautious Graham is pressurised by directors to back off since a legal case could jeopardise a vital share offer on the stock exchange. In the end both papers appear together before the Supreme Court which rules 6:3 in favour of the right to publish.

The record-breaking nine-month gestation of this film suggests it is Spielberg's response to a Trump presidency. The two rival papers in the film - almost its central characters - are daily abused by Trump as purveyors of 'fake news'.

But there are no simple answers in Spielberg's film. It makes clear that both Bradlee and Graham are part of the same wealthy establishment, socialising with presidents and secretaries of state. In addition to legal and commercial risks, are they prepared to betray their friends and associates by publishing?

Hanks gives a strong performance as the brash, utterly driven newspaperman Bradlee.

But Streep's performance is altogether more layered. Handed the ownership of the paper by the untimely death of her husband she is initially nervous, even deferential, as she attends board meetings, surrounded by grey-haired men in dark blue suits.

There is no mistaking the pressures on her, the slights and humiliations facing this lone woman in the newspaper world. Gradually she finds her voice, asserts herself, and summons up the courage needed, even as the tough-talking Bradlee gets cold feet.

This film asks urgent moral questions about press freedom and the capitalist state. It portrays a time, not unlike today, when the American capitalist class feared that a president was out of control and needed reining in, hence the Supreme Court verdict allowing publication.

Press freedom in the US is already more constrained than in the 1970s, and the secret services have more power than then. Trump even has his Supreme Court stacked too.

This is a great film. But as socialists, we won't be relying on the rich and powerful - even their most courageous representatives - to right their own system's wrongs and bring this president down.




http://www.socialistparty.org.uk/articles/26824




Join the Socialist Party
Subscribe to Socialist Party publications
Donate to the Socialist Party
Socialist Party Facebook page
Socialist Party on Twitter
Visit us on Youtube

LATEST POSTS

triangle14 Aug Victory: NHS workers say no to privatisation

triangle8 Aug The fight against Labour's Blairites and TUSC's role now

triangle8 Aug Break the pay cap - the fight continues!

triangle8 Aug Antisemitism slanders against Corbyn

triangle7 Aug Turn the heat on the bosses not the bus drivers!

triangle7 Aug No to Tory plans for radioactive waste under national parks

triangle7 Aug Birmingham home carers strike

More ...

WHAT'S ON

triangle9 Sep Manchester: NSSN pre-TUC rally


triangle15 Aug Salford Socialist Party: Israel/Palestine - mass struggle and BDS

triangle15 Aug Hackney & Islington Socialist Party: Immigration - A socialist approach

triangle16 Aug Waltham Forest Socialist Party: Global warming

CONTACT US

Phone our national office on 020 8988 8777

Email: info@socialistparty.org.uk

Locate your nearest Socialist Party branch Text your name and postcode to 07761 818 206

Regional Socialist Party organisers:

Eastern: 0798 202 1969

East Mids: 0773 797 8057

London: 020 8988 8786

North East: 0784 114 4890

North West 07769 611 320

South East: 020 8988 8777

South West: 07759 796 478

Southern: 07833 681910

Wales: 07935 391 947

West Mids: 02476 555 620

Yorkshire: 0114 264 6551

ABOUT US

What we Stand For

About the Socialist Party

Our 2015 election manifesto

Joining the Socialist Party - what will it mean for you

ARCHIVE

Alphabetical listing


August 2018

July 2018

June 2018

May 2018

April 2018

March 2018

February 2018

January 2018

2017

2016

2015

2014

2013

2012

2011

2010

2009

2008

2007

2006

2005

2004

2003

2002

2001

2000

1999