Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Good Morning, and Good Luck

Good Night and Good Luck is good cinema. I had, at most, a passing familiarity with Edward R. Murrow and Senator Joseph R. McCarthy when I saw the film. Since watching it, I've done some reading up. What struck me most about the film was how little both the media and politics have changed since Murrow's and McCarthy's time. In the past week, both Cheney and Bush have backpeddled away from their statements claiming those who criticize the administration are being unpatriotic. This is in marked contrast to the hard-line they've been toeing so far on the issue.

I've long argued that critical opinion on politics, especially during a time of war or crisis, is a necessary component to the successful functioning of democracy. After all, if a particular approach is defensible, you should be able to defend it without any amount of detractors "weakening" the image of the country.

In Good Night and Good Luck, the threat is the stain of communism. McCarthy, and many others like him, were apparently fans of the "if you aren't with me, you're my enemy" approach favored by the current administration and the post-Sithesizied Anakin Skywalker. Murrow's words (while not as short and snappy as "Only a Sith deals in absolutes") ring true and applicable in our world to this day.

We must not confuse dissent with disloyalty. We must remember always that accusation is not proof and that conviction depends upon evidence and due process of law. We will not walk in fear, one of another. We will not be driven by fear into an age of unreason, if we dig deep in our history and our doctrine, and remember that we are not descended from fearful men -- not from men who feared to write, to speak, to associate and to defend causes that were, for the moment, unpopular.

This is no time for men who oppose Senator McCarthy's methods to keep silent, or for those who approve. We can deny our heritage and our history, but we cannot escape responsibility for the result. There is no way for a citizen of a republic to abdicate his responsibilities. As a nation we have come into our full inheritance at a tender age. We proclaim ourselves, as indeed we are, the defenders of freedom, wherever it continues to exist in the world, but we cannot defend freedom abroad by deserting it at home.

The actions of the junior Senator from Wisconsin have caused alarm and dismay amongst our allies abroad, and given considerable comfort to our enemies. And whose fault is that? Not really his. He didn't create this situation of fear; he merely exploited it -- and rather successfully. Cassius was right. "The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars, but in ourselves."

Good night, and good luck.

(courtesy of wikipedia)


At 10:08 AM, Blogger Scott Roche said...

Can't wait to see this though it'll probably be on DVD.

At 10:46 AM, Blogger Jabawacefti said...

Good morning and good luck to you, my friend.

One note before I take off to D.C. and stuff my face with so much turkey that I can no longer stand:

While dissent during wartime may be patriotic, do not make the mistake of confusing it for always being so. In such ways, "only a Sith deals in absolutes" is a two-edged sword.

There were supporters of Hitler in the United States who dissented during World War II. Patriotic? I don't know.

Or let's go back further. The loyalists who defended the British Crown and "dissented" during the American Revolution? Patriotic, I suppose, to Britain.

Some of those who were dissenting clearly thought that they had the country's best interests at heart. And they would certainly find support in Morrow's words. That does not make his words wrong. Nor does it make dissent wrong. But always remember that context is everything.

Critical, yet constructive, dissent is crucial to a functioning Democracy, yes. But mindless carping and posturing for political gain merely to drive support away from a venture that is not of your own making is worthless at best, and traiterous at worst.

Today's wars are no longer fought in the battlefield nearly so much as they are fought in the headlines.

While it is clear that we should not head down the slippery slope of confusing dissent for treason when it is not necessarily so, we should not also deal in absolutes in defending dissent either. A healthy Democracy should not mistake mindless blather for constructive dissent. Nor does a healthy Democracy needlessly equivocate from all truths in order to be seen as not dealing in absolutes.

"[T]here's some good in this world ... and it's worth fighting for." Absolutely.

At 11:43 AM, Blogger codemorse said...

I'm with you on this one, mon Nizzle. I don't confuse dissent for patriotism. I simply believe, as Murrow puts it (rather eloquently) that dissent does not equal disloyalty. It's simplified falsity to claim otherwise, and that is what my Sith quote refers to. Absolutes are dangerous things, and they are, largely, non-existent things. Your examples only prove Murrow's, and my, point, which is to say that absolutism is a perilous path.

Your advice is well-taken, but I'll take issue with just one portion of your thoughts:

"Today's wars are no longer fought in the battlefield nearly so much as they are fought in the headlines."

I could not disagree more. Today's wars are very much fought in the battlefield. Our soldiers will attest to that. Headlines are as influential as you portray them only if they are devoid of the context you cite, and in a free society, with a free press, that lack of context can only be obtained willfully, by choosing not to look beyond said-headlines to the underlying facts and issues presented.

"If a nation expects to be ignorant and free, in a state of civilization, it expects what never was and never will be."

And it's precisely because what constitutes "mindless blather" is so open to individual opinion that the need remains to keep our channels of free-expression, of dissent, open even to those who appear to have nothing but their own gain at heart. There are no absolutes, least of all in fields of philosophy - political or otherwise.

Gobble some turkey for me. Give a hug to the fiance. Tell her dad that Jack Daniels is required at your upcoming nuptials. =)

At 11:58 AM, Blogger Jabawacefti said...

To some extent this war is fought on the battlefield, and now, unfortunately, in our cities. As those in New York, D.C. and Pennsylvania will attest.

Nevertheless, the Jack will rain from heaven like so much manna...

At 12:24 PM, Blogger Scott Roche said...

Bleh. I prefer to think that the manna was more like porter or really good banana bread.

At 12:29 PM, Blogger codemorse said...

Again, we agree. But despite the change in venue, it remains the battlefield, whether that battle field is in Iraq or in New York. We don't do our fighting in open fields any more.

Any fighting done in the headlines is of a decidely less mortal stripe. The truth, the facts, comes out in the wash. In a free country, with a free press and an engaged citizenry, the only mortal wounds suffered are the wounds done to insincerity, spin, and falsity. I say, slay those dragons. They are the mud in the water of public discourse, and only by holding up our beliefs and actions to the light can we separate the two.

Now, go eat turkey, you thought-provoker, you. And start stocking up on that Jack. I envision your Best Men emerging from a glittering fountain of the stuff, like Marilyn Monroe from a birthday cake; only soaked in liquor and without the breasts.

At 12:31 PM, Blogger codemorse said...

Banana Bread?

Unfortunately, the team of scientists who reassembled me saw fit to have me run on Jack Daniels and rage.

Yes, whiskey and anger. The Romulus and Remus of my virtual Rome.

At 12:11 AM, Blogger Bud said...

Great post. Murrow could bring it up there.

My favorite Murrow quote, however, comes from this speech on tv in 1958:

"This instrument can teach, it can illuminate; yes, and it can even inspire. But it can do so only to the extent that humans are determined to use it to those ends. Otherwise it is merely wires and lights in a box. There is a great and perhaps decisive battle to be fought against ignorance, intolerance and indifference. This weapon of television could be useful."

At 8:24 AM, Blogger codemorse said...

Hey, Bud. Gracias. And nice Murrow quote. Hope to see you 'round these parts more often.


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