Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Good Night, and Good Luck. (2005)

     In the last week or so, I’ve been reading a lot on the news about the protests going on in Egypt. And I don’t know about you, but I couldn’t help but be reminded that the end of the world is really close. Who knows when (more than likely it won’t be in December 2012, unless God has a sense of humor), but it’s coming. Then days later, I was reading in my devotions what Jesus says about the signs of the end of the world. Matthew 24:6 says, “You will hear of wars and rumors of wars, but see to it that you are not alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come.”

     What a reassuring verse in a time like this. So for today’s blog, I wanted to pick a movie that deals with fear, and being reassured that it’s not the end. And this was a tough pick—but I’ve decided on a movie that came out a few years ago that deals with the threat of Communism in 1950’s United States: “Good Night, and Good Luck.”

     The movie centers on Edward R. Murrow, the famous newsperson from CBS whose programs “See It Now” and “Person to Person” paved the way for modern journalism. Murrow (David Strathairn) and his fellow producer Fred Friendly (George Clooney, who also co-wrote and directed the film) decide in 1954 to do a program addressing Senator Joseph McCarthy from Wisconsin, who is on a roll of accusing politicians, generals, and many other authority figures of being associated with the Communist party. And this was a dangerous decision. Many Americans, let alone CBS employees, were in fear of getting fired because somehow they may be accused of being a Communist. They have to sign loyalty oaths, report a story equally on both sides (even stories about Sen. McCarthy), and make sure that they have no familial or personal ties to the party.

     But when Murrow reports on Milo Radulovich, a lieutenant in the United States Air Force who is forced to resign after it is revealed that his father was associated with Communism (he was reading a Russian newspaper, no less), Murrow decides that he has to do something about this threat. He tells one of his producers, Sig Mickelson (Jeff Daniels):

MURROW: I’ve searched my conscience, and I can’t find for the life of me any justification for this. And I simply cannot accept that there are two equal and logical sides to an argument.

     So he reports on Radulovich, then weeks later he does a segment on the methods of McCarthy himself. And he ends his show with a monologue:

MURROW: We will not walk in fear, one of another. We will not be driven by fear into an age of unreason. …But we cannot defend freedom abroad by deserting it at home. The actions of the Junior Senator from Wisconsin have caused alarm and dismay amongst our allies abroad and given considerable comfort to our enemies. And whose fault is that? Not really his; he didn't create this situation of fear—he merely exploited it, and rather successfully.

     In the end, Radulovich is reinstated into the Air Force, the ratings of “See It Now” force it into cancellation, and McCarthy even (unsuccessfully) attacks Murrow as being a Communist himself—even though none of McCarthy’s attacks are actually true. But for Murrow to take a stand against the Communist threat when nobody else would is something to be said. He not only criticized McCarthy for his exploitation of Americans’ fear, but he also reassured the nation that this doesn’t have to be a problem for them anymore. And for him to even use this new medium of television to communicate this set a standard for journalism and also helped to unify the nation.

     Matthew 24:6, Mark 13:7, and Luke 21:9 all say the same thing: When we hear of wars and rumors of war, do not be frightened. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come. And whether our parents or grandparents were threatened by Communism, or our generation is threatened by terrorism, protests, and shootings, we need to wait upon the Lord, because these things must happen, but the end is coming. My prayer for you, the reader, is that you will not consume yourself with the fears of this world, but will rely on God to give you peace. And personally, I need this prayer too.

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