Good Night and Good Luck was released in 2005, yet it is still a relevant film 12 years after its initial release.
The film takes place in the 1950’s during a time known as “The Red Scare.” It is a time when reporters and journalists were afraid to publish anything that spoke out against the government. Their fear was that if they spoke out against those in power, they would be accused of being a Communist, or at the very least, a Communist sympathizer.
The movie was directed by George Clooney. It depicts a time not so long ago when certain American politicians, namely Wisconsin Senator Joseph McCarthy, began to use their status as political leaders to create a fearful climate in our country by often accusing people of being Communists with little to no evidence.
“I thought it was a good time to raise the idea of using fear to stifle political debate,” said Clooney at the New York Film Festival news conference.
It was during this dark period in history that Edward Morrow, host of the show See It Now, decided to speak out against McCarthy and oppose the senator who was creating a country that lived in constant terror by using facts to counter McCarthy.
We see that even in today’s world, fear is still a tactic used by politicians on which to build their platform and promote ideas that are dangerous to the public even decades after “The Red Scare.” Though not as extreme as what was taking place in the McCarthy era, there is still a threat to media organizations in what could be described as the “fake news” era.
“If certain folks are scared to state their political perspectives because of fear of being called out, then that is a threat to the circulation of ideas that is in keeping with the principle of the free press,” said Tom Corrigan, a media studies professor at CSUSB.
As the movie points out, when politicians or others in government abuse their power, it can lead down a dangerous road.
It is the responsibility of news organizations to not only report on the facts and events taking place, but to also point out the potential harm in the actions taken by these politicians or others in positions of authority, even if it means facing persecution.
“We have an assumption that journalists are supposed to be objective and neutral and detached,” said Corrigan. “But there’s an important role for journalists to share well informed opinions too that can help citizens make up their minds.”
The film is a reminder of the true purpose of news and journalism, and that is to inform the public and hold those in positions of authority accountable for their words and actions. It is an essential piece of our nation’s democracy and plays a key role in being a reliable resource of information for the American public.
Morrow’s actions show that a person using their role as a public figure in media to point out flaws in the system and oppose injustice even at their own risk can produce great change. This film demonstrates the power of television and how it can be a tool that can shape the ideals of a nation.
“This instrument can teach, it can illuminate; yes, and it can even inspire,” said Morrow during a speech in 1958. “But it can do so only to the extent that humans are determined to use it to those ends. Otherwise, it is merely wires and lights in a box.”