It wants checks on power except its own.
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.
Nixon, after all, ended the war that Post editor Ben Bradlee’s close chum JFK started. Yet to most casual viewers, Nixon will appear as the president who had the most to hide. The subtext of the film, of course, is that Trump stands as the new Nixon. According to press reports, Meryl Streep and Spielberg squeezed into their visit to Washington, D.C. (for the premiere) a dinner with the Obamas, and Tom Hanks has stoutly rejected a hypothetical question from a reporter about a screening at the White House. Trump, we’re supposed to take from this posturing, is a unique threat to the press.
But what has he done to it again? Nothing, save criticize it. Has he wiretapped any reporters? No, the dinner mate of Streep and Spielberg did that. Obama’s uber-progressive attorney general Eric Holder had Fox News reporter James Rosen investigated for talking to a State Department official. Rosen was labeled a “criminal co-conspirator” under the Espionage Act, a law that liberals, as we’ve seen from the Mueller investigation and the Flynn entrapment, like to use against conservatives but otherwise treat as antiquated and absurd.
In The Post, the Nixon administration’s invoking of that law is presented as self-serving and tyrannical. But these days the admirers of Daniel Ellsberg and his media conduits rejoice at its partisan applications. In power, liberals love wiretappings, entrapments, and quarantining undesirable press (Obama wanted Fox News excluded from press briefings); out of power, all of that suddenly becomes evidence of a government run amok.
It is fitting that smug and privileged celebrities play such phony heroes as Graham and Bradlee. They share a lot in common. Streep’s Graham frets over doing time in the slammer, which is about as convincing as Streep’s award show speeches in which she portrays multimillionaire “artists” as the ostracized kin of illegal immigrants. Liberals love to turn bullies into victims and victims into bullies. The real complaint underlying Hollywood’s hagiography is that liberals don’t possess one hundred percent of the power in America. All of their whining about “tyranny” is just a projection of their own desire for it.
They want checks on everyone’s power but their own. It is out of that sense of entitlement that their Trump hysteria has grown, mushrooming to the point where they feel terrorized by a tweet.
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.