As Ethics Corrupters Run Amuck, Ethics Alarms Presents “Ethics Corrupter Weekend”! Part I: “Truth” Is False

Truth

“Truth” is in theaters now, and reportedly bombing. As soon as I learned about the source of the film (disgraced ex-CBC producer Mary Mapes’ memoir, “Truth and Duty: The Press, the President, and the Privilege of Power”) and its plot, I resolved not to watch it, as I would just end up walking out of it. Nonetheless, the fact that Robert Redford is connected with the project is profoundly disappointing. Redford is the ultimate Hollywood liberal, but his films have often been about ethics, and I regard him, or perhaps past tense is more appropriate, as having principles and integrity. True: actors need not agree with or endorse their roles or the projects of others, but Redford is unusual: he lends credibility to any project he allows to carry his name.

Connecting his name to “Truth” is a betrayal. The film makes martyrs of Mapes and Dan Rather, who attempted to tilt the 2004 election by smearing George Bush, without evidence, on “60 Minutes.” Not only was this a political hit job by biased journalists, it was one tainted by intentionally manufactured evidence. Mapes and Rather presented a forged document alleging that Bush went AWOL during his Texas Air National Guard service in the early 1970s. It was all the pair had that went beyond hearsay to make the allegation, and after the document was decisively shown to be a forgery (its font wasn’t available on the typewriter that had to have been used to make the original document.) Once the forgery was discovered by an enterprising blogger and confirmed by multiple document specialists. Rather and Mapes embarked on a rationalization orgy. Rather, to his undying shame, repeated his defenders’ argument that the forgery as “fake but accurate,” and does to this day, in essence rejecting journalism ethics wholesale. So determined was he to prove what he believed to be true but couldn’t prove fairly or ethically that he cheated, playing dishonest political operative to achieve worthy partisan goals “by any means necessary.”

Bias makes us stupid, and in this case, bias made Dan Rather corrupt.

AND stupid. Continue reading

Ethics, History, and Robert Redford’s “The Conspirator”

James McAvoy as Frederick Aiken, a Civil War era Ethics Hero you've never heard of.

Throughout Hollywood history, there have been actors who regularly used their screen personas to explore ethical issues: Henry Fonda, Glenn Ford, Paul Newman, John Wayne of course, Clint Eastwood, and recently, George Clooney. None of these focused their artistic attentions on ethics more sharply than Robert Redford, however, in such films as “All the President’s Men,” “The Candidate,” “The Proposition,” and “The Natural,” and he has continues his exploration of ethics as a director, in such films as “The Milagro Beanfield War” and “Quiz Show.”

Redford’s most recent film, “The Conspirator,” is another ethics movie, as well as one that explores law and American history. I am a Lincoln assassination buff, and I was eager to see the movie until I read several reviews criticizing it as a heavy-handed allegory attacking the Bush administration’s response to 9/11. Score one for the confirmation bias trap: the movie is nothing of the kind. Continue reading