REVIEW – “The Post” Tells a Story of Publication vs. Secrecy

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REVIEW – “The Post” Tells a Story of Publication vs. Secrecy

Ben Mihailovich, Reporter

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NEWSROOM – The Post, the recently released movie directed by Steven Spielberg, addresses The Washington Post and its coverage of the Pentagon Papers during the Vietnam War.

The Pentagon Papers were a series of papers that The Defense Department had been holding, reflecting the deepest and darkest secrets of the conflict in Vietnam, in Southeast Asia.  The Papers revealed that every president from Harry Truman to Richard Nixon had been misleading the American public.  These presidents had been sending men into battle knowing that the chances of victory were slim.

The movie opens on the frontlines of the Vietnam War.  The audience watches as the Americans try and cross through a jungle in the middle of the night only to be met with Vietnamese fire.  The Americans wind up getting nowhere.  Daniel Ellsberg, a reporter, views this and writes up a report.  When Ellsberg is flying back from Vietnam, he tells Secretary of Defense, Robert McNamara, that the Americans are not advancing in this war.  McNamara goes on to release a statement describing all of the “success” the Americans are having.  Ellsberg hears this and cannot believe it.  Ellsberg then photocopies 7,000 pages showing how presidents felt that America could not win the war.

Then, we see how The Washington Post covered this story.  The owner and publisher of The Washington Post, Katherine Graham (played by Meryl Streep), is good friends with Robert McNamara, the man who is lying about the war.  The New York Times is the first to publish anything about The Papers, and The Post quickly follows.

Washington Post editor, Ben Bradlee (as played by Tom Hanks), keeps pushing to get more information on The Papers.  One day, a random girl walks in and leaves a shoe box on a reporter’s desk.  The reporter runs the box over to Bradlee, and inside he discovers parts of the Pentagon Papers.  This was just the lead Bradlee was looking for.

From there the intrigue and debate over the 1st Amendment ensues: can the government ban a paper from printing information prior to publication?  Does war suspend certain rights?  Does the government have a need to keep certain secrets – and is this necessary for the survival of a country?

“I hope we never have to go through anything like this again,”  says Katherine Graham near the end of the movie.  This is very wishful thinking, by any measure, since free nations continue to go through these debates every generation: from the Pentagon Papers to wikileaks to whistleblowers, the discussion rages on.

The Post is nominated for a Best Picture Academy Award as well as other awards.

Overall, The Post was an excellent movie and is great for history lessons about The Vietnam War.  This movie is highly recommended for anyone, especially those who are interested in history and journalism.

Story by Ben Mihailovich, Reporter

Edited by Maeve Sebold, Editor in Chief

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