Lions for Lambs and a velvet censorship exposed
The movie Lions for Lambs damn near brought on the Post-Traumatic- stress that
is someday inevitable for most reporters. Our eyes have to comprehend images
that can never be erased and any sane person would never commit to a job that
includes witnessing targets of tragedy and hate on a daily basis
We learn to cultivate ice in our veins until the PTS rolls in like fog. But Lions for Lambs doesn't drift, it
jolts. As jolting as sticking a tongue into a light socket. My hair felt as if
it was on fire, and the heartburn in my stomach moved into my throat. My
daughter sitting next to me kept asking, "Mom is this the way it was, is this
the way it is?" I bowed my head, felt the ice in my veins melt and began
Finally someone understood and put on record "America's velvet censorship."
Tear ducts aren't anatomy parts used much by reporters. Crying is
debilitating, inconvenient and unprofessional. If one is unlucky enough to be an
anchor as well as a reporter, it makes the eyes and nose red, and viewers are
ruthless with rumors. "Could she be stoned, perhaps she's an alcoholic?" Cruelty
is an epidemic in America today. You've read the tabloids, its ugly out in the
open. Everyone's taking a shot.
Now that Lions for Lambs is on HBO, enough time has passed, and I believe I can
write about it while avoiding too much sappy sentiment.
I don't always wait for credits after a movie, but when Lions for Lambs ended,
sitting in a deserted theater in Steamboat Springs, Colorado, I could not leave
the chair. I was dumbfounded. Considering all that I had witnessed in the last
seven years since 9/11, I sat with my mouth open in a catatonic cantaloupe
stupor. I could not move from the chair if I had wanted to. I needed to honor Robert Redford, and I needed to see who wrote it. I had to commit the name to
memory. "Fire!" my daughter said playfully trying to get me to move. I would
Lions for Lambs was written by Matthew Cornahan and produced and directed by
Robert Redford who reaches into the depths of human nature and knows how to pan
the fool's gold from the nuggets that are real. He is a keen observer of human
nature, and he was brave to do this film. The Bush administration is vindictive.
The older Redford gets, the deeper he is drawn into the heart of any matter. And
this film matters.
When I got home, after a menopausal outburst in the shower(as not to frighten
the kids,) I pulled it together and Googled Matthew Cornahan. I could not find
out much about his personal background. Was he a politician? Was he a reporter?
Was he a college Professor? Could he have been a soldier? How did Cornahan and
Redford understand every nuance of what a velvet censorship is like? Had
Carnahan lived under a dictatorship?
Meryl Streep played the part of the seasoned reporter who wakes up to find she
has to chose between stenography and propaganda, and writing what she knows from
her experience to be true. I will not tell give the ending away, but the
reporter Streep plays has a choice to make. Does she do what she is trained to
do, or does she regurgitate a press release and let the manipulators put more
lives at risk?
Matthew Cornahan and Robert Redford 's knowledge of the events following the
invasion of Iraq is nothing less than brilliant. "The Velvet Censorship" was a
complicated erosion of values and the turning points are right there on screen
Now that the film is out on HBO, I took a deep breath and decided to watch it
As I did, I thought of the journalists who recognized the censorship and
refused to play a role in it. I thought about the corporations running newsrooms
today and how they censor by encouraging infotainment. I thought about today's
reporters who don't know their history and are incapable of helping viewers put things in perspective. I thought about the corporations who now own once great newsrooms -- corporations who curry favor with the White House to keep gobbling up more Television and Radio stations. I
thought about the courage it took to speak up knowing it could cost careers.
Fear is a powerful sedative, but there are many town criers (reporters) who
refused to report only what the White House told them to. This is for them. They
are American heroes.
Helen Thomas: Who would have thought after all those soft ball questions all
those years lobbed at every President since John f. Kennedy, she would turn out
to be a pit-bull? I am ashamed I did not see it before. I want to thank her for
insisting the President tell the American people what he was up to. She never
did get many answers, and she certainly fell from grace at the White House, but
she showed more gumption than anyone else in the White House Briefing" room.
"Mr. President what is the mission?" "Mr. President how did Afghanistan turn into Iraq?" " Mr. President the military still hasn't captured Bin Laden." On she went with countless questions which turned the President's face crimson.
I will forever call her Mt. St. Helen now.
Dan Rather: The last of the big boys. He is one tough Texas SOB. CBS and Viacom
needed to win favor with the White House and Rather, who breathed life into CBS
for years, and earned -- EARNED -- America's trust was thrown out like yesterday's
garbage. He is now suing CBS. Rather refused to join the George W. Bush PomPom
Brigade, he lost his job and now says he cannot get another one. We are talking
about Dan Rather here folks. Then came the accusations against him. I cannot
wait to hear his version of how CBS sabotaged his career after he criticized
George Bush. I hope he has the fortitude to keep plugging. The world needs to
understand what CBS did to him and how the "Tiffany" network is forever
tarnished. Dan Rather is an American hero.
Paul Steiger was managing editor of The Wall Street Journal until Rupert Murdoch bought the paper. Steiger has formed an independent- non-profit- news organization called Propublica with some of the best reporters in the country on board. Steiger plans to deliver news to Americans without
fear of retribution from commercial interests. He is a journalist in the true
sense of the word. He is a stellar example of a man who still believes in the
"Fourth Estate." Without it, citizens are uninformed and there is no democracy.
Steiger is a patriot.
I thought of mark ash, the director of Truthout.Org. His on- line news service
has been subjected to every shenanigan imaginable. His paper has been
re-directed to subscriber's spam boxes with alarming consistency and his
fortitude fighting to deliver alternative views to the American people is makes him
a present day revolutionary. When this "velvet censorship" is over Mark Ash
should be honored.
I also thought about the dozens of journalists from all over the country who
have written me with stories such as this one: "There's a military base right across the street from our television station where soldier's bodies are brought home. We were told never to point our cameras in that direction or ask questions about what's going on there."
Lions for Lambs is for those journalists -- not who tried to stop the war -- but who
tried and continue to try to get truth about the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan to the public.
There are many, many others. Perhaps you can make your own list. The names of
those -- many black listed today -- who refused to become stenographers or spread
propaganda -- no matter how much we all want the lies to be true.
Seven years after 9/11, and a little more than two weeks before Memorial Day not much has changed.
The mission in Iraq is still unclear. With few embedded journalists there, there
is no way to know for sure who is telling the truth. PBS' Frontline recently did
a story featuring one platoon who video-taped themselves doing their duty just
in case the American people had forgotten them.
If only journalist would be allowed to do their jobs again, Hollywood, soldiers
and others would not have to.
There are many journalists who have refused to cheer for the administration and
read its press releases without checking for facts. But perhaps this film will
help American citizens recognize manipulation and think twice before keeping