Flashback: WaPo Was For 'Fair Game' Untruths Before It Was Against Them

December 6th, 2010 1:58 PM

As NB's Noel Sheppard noted on Sunday, the new film "Fair Game" is so full of falsehoods and is such an affront to historical accuracy that even the Washington Post's editorial staff felt obligated to debunk the many untruths it presents.

Click through to that post for details about the many lies (some of which have been consciously pushed by many on the left since the scandal erupted) on which the film's plot rests. You can also check out this NB post for another roundup.

While it's certainly refreshing to see even the liberal WaPo editorial page debunking the "Fair Game" nonsense, the Post's newsroom staff have unfortunately been among those lauding the film for - believe it or not - speaking to "larger truths" (paraphrasing) by, well, lying (h/t Ed Driscoll).

NB's P.J. Gladnick caught Post staff writer Ann Hornaday praising the film in August for creating what she calls a "usable past".

As long as dramatists seek to make protagonists out of mere humans -- to reduce their tangled webs of contradictions, complexities and banalities to a set of single-minded motivations and fatal flaws -- audiences will need to approach these narratives with a blend of sophistication and skepticism. But maybe the best way to understand these films isn't as narrative at all, but an experience more akin to ritual. When religious pilgrims travel to the sacred sites of the Holy Land, for example, the locations they visit often aren't the literal places where a biblical figure was born or baptized. Instead, they're the sites that, through centuries of use and shared meaning, have become infused with a spiritual reality all their own.

Thus, the movies about Washington that get the right stuff right -- or get some stuff wrong but in the right way -- become their own form of consensus history. "Follow the money," then, assumes its own totemic truth. Ratified through repeated viewings in theaters, on Netflix and beyond, these films become a mutual exercise in creating a usable past. We watch them to be entertained, surely, and maybe educated. But we keep watching them in order to remember.

That phrase "usable past" is shocking both in its candor - Hornaday is quite matter-of-fact about her lack of concern over the numerous inaccuracies in "Fair Game" - and, as Gladnick noted, its Orwellian disregard for truth. Richard Armitage, the man who leaked Plame's name, is never mentioned. But so what? Film creates a "usable" past, not an accurate past.

The Post has presented two distinct positions on "Fair Game", The first, expressed by Hornaday, applauds film for perpetuating falsehoods - a usable past, instead of an accurate past, and one that "we keep watching in order to remember." Never mind that what we remember is not actually what took place.

The paper's second stance advocates truth over "zeitgeist" and accuracy over political or cultural expediency. The line "We certainly hope that is not the case" could well have been directed at Hornaday herself, and anyone else who believes that falsehood is actually fact where it serves some higher "truth" than the simple facts under examination.

Exit question: On December 1, Democratic strategists released a memo warning against what they call "Politics as Warfare". In the Politics as Warfare mindset, they wrote, "standard norms of honesty are irrelevant. Lying and the use of false propaganda are considered necessary and acceptable. The 'truth' is what serves to advance the party's objectives."

The Post's editorial department seems to understand the problems inherent in a journalist advocating anything but the absolute factual accuracy of any historical account. But is the paper's newsroom so steeped in this sort of philosophy that it considers lying acceptable as long as it is done in the service of some greater truth - say, that the Bush administration was corrupt and dishonest?