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Friday, March 11, 2011

"Follow the Money", or Not

My wife and I are taking a course at UMass Lowell this semester, "French Cinema and Society".  It is interesting and fun, aside from the tests.  We had our second one last night and we will have to wait two weeks for the results, due to St Patty's Day break.

With this new interest in film—before this class we hadn't been out to the movie theater in over a year—I found this blog post, "Fact-checking Watergate advice that ‘worked’" interesting.

In it Professor W Joseph Campbell takes to task Professor Eric Alterman for pushing the idea that the line "Follow the money" was a part of the history of the Watergate Scandal.

It turns out that the line "Follow the money" was not in the Book All the President’s Men, nor was it in any of the Washington Post articles by Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein, nor was it ever uttered by "Deep Throat" (FBI Number Two Man W. Mark Felt).  It was a line utter by Actor Hal Holbrook in the movie.

Film is a powerful tool, teaching us things that are not true, although they have a sense of being true.  Quoting from the Blog post:
Richard Bernstein, in an essay published in 1989 in the New York Times, offered a thoughtful discussion about cinema’s capacity to shape perceptions about historical events. Although Bernstein didn’t mention All the President’s Men, his essay is germane nonetheless.

He noted that “even small details have value as history.

“To change them is the rough cinematic equivalent of a newspaper’s inventing quotations on the grounds that, even if nobody actually made the quoted statement, it represents what people were thinking or feeling at the time.”
There is a lot more in the Blog post and it is worth skimming through.

The comment from the Instapundit was
Alterman probably thinks it was Sarah Palin, not Tina Fey, who said “I can see Russia from my house,” too. . . .
Regards  —  Cliff

  In my mind Deep Throat went from being a patriotic whistle blower to being an aggrieved office seeker when it was revealed that W Mark Felt was the person behind the cover name.  Mr Felt reminded me of a modern day Charles J Geiteau.


Jack Mitchell said...

Film & Music are perfect at teaching us emotional lessons.

Likely, we have folks, on both ends of the political spectrum, that have their heads so far up their... emotional response to problem solving, that movies are mistaken for proof.

It would be elitist to call them dumb. Likely some are. But, most are likely unfocused or poorly trained.

The Transcendentalists thought it wise to go with their gut. And I agree, to a point. Though those 19th Century aspirants were classically trained before they began to listen to their intuition.

Their "gut" read A LOT of books before opening its mouth.

C R Krieger said...

Good point about reading books.  A little book learning gives one a head start.  Especially if one is naturally slow.  I think reading, when I finally got the hang of it, was a big help.

Regards   —  Cliff