Clint Eastwood’s latest, “Richard Jewell,” is doing poorly at the box office. But it’s essential viewing for anyone who cares about remembering the capability of stupidity and hubris in our government and media to create maelstroms that destroy normal everyday Americans who take a step in the wrong direction.
Sam Rockwell’s performance is excellent, Kathy Bates is moving, and Paul Walter Hauser, a phenomenal character actor (particularly in “I, Tonya”), deserves plaudits for his pitch-perfect portrayal of a man nearly destroyed by his inability to distinguish friend from foe.
Hauser deserves award nominations for his portrayal, but he probably won’t get many of them, because the film is now viewed through a distinctly MAGA lens. Turning a fat white gun-owning southerner with minor delusions of law enforcement glory into a sympathetic character is too much for many reviewers.
They have spent more time arguing that Eastwood chose to sex up the story a bit with Olivia Wilde’s character, to the consternation of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution — which never gave him a dime, unlike CNN, NBC, the New York Post and even the college president who fingered him to the FBI.
Of course, no such qualms exist about going after Fox News in the clearly fabulistic “Bombshell” film — Christian Toto has a contrasting review of the two films here. Implying a female journalist traded sexual favors for information — a thing that happened with New York Times and CNBC reporters in just the past year — is a bridge too far. But claiming the now-president of the United States poisoned Megyn Kelly’s coffee? That’s totally kosher. It’s all about the target.
The widespread decay of trust in institutions is particularly disturbing with the media, because unlike law enforcement and government — where IG reports and after action assessments can in time lead to at least some course correction — there seems to be no introspection whatsoever. Even after pushing a false, perverse narrative about the Mueller investigation and more for years, there has been no fallout for the likes of CNN. James Comey and Andrew McCabe and all their fellow travelers may be jokes as government officials, but their media careers will do just fine.
On MediaBuzz this weekend, I noted that CNN this past week showed exactly what we can expect from modern cable news. The Washington Post’s Afghanistan Papers story came out on December 9. The Trump War Room tweeted out the Thanos meme on December 10. On December 11, 12, 13, and 14, CNN — The Most Trusted Name In News! — didn’t have a single segment on how a trillion-dollar war in its 18th year where tens of thousands have died was inaccurately spun by the government to the American people. Jake Tapper broke the streak on the morning of the 15th with a brief question to Rand Paul. Meanwhile, they found time to have four separate segments on the Thanos meme.
It’s a mystery why people don’t trust the media. A real mystery. Someone should probably get on that.