Nobody Speak: Trials of the Free Press

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Nobody Speak: Trials of the Free Press

Runtime: 95 minutes
Rating: TV-14

I thought this was going to be a good documentary about the trial of Hulk Hogan v. Gawker, the defamation suit based upon online blogger Gawker publishing a sex tape “exposing” Hogan. Silly me. This is no “documentary.” It’s a prejudiced, partisan, ham-fisted polemic, so biased it would embarrass Pravda.

The first half is, in fact, about that. But then it suddenly segues into an attack on President Trump! I have seen lots of biased, slanted political propaganda in my time but this one takes the cake for sheer unfairness and hypocrisy.

It tips off its bias by manipulating its presentation to show Hogan, whose surreptitiously filmed sex tape was published by Gawker, exposing Hogan to derision and damaging his reputation. Although Hogan was clearly the victim and whose victory in court verified that fact, the film concentrates on picturing Hogan’s supporters as evil people, while showing Gawker’s sleazy smutmeister founder, Nick Denton, and its defenders as reasonable and holier than thou. Then it gets into politics.

Just as a few examples, near the end of the film Margaret Sullivan, identified as a “media reporter” for the Washington Post, says, “We have a really trying situation for American citizens. Trump has done a number of things that give us a great deal of cause for concern. Among them are his lack of transparency, (and) his inaccessibility…”

On what planet does this woman exist? During the campaign Trump was the most “accessible, transparent” candidate in the history of American politics. He held press conference after press conference after press conference and fielded questions from everybody. Sullivan’s favorite, however, Hillary Clinton, never had one press conference during the whole campaign and virtually hid away from the press and the public in her basement throughout the entire year. But that apparently doesn’t bother Ms. Sullivan. How can anybody complain about Donald Trump’s accessibility and transparency but never utter a peep about Hillary Clinton’s lack of both? These people are stunning in their dishonesty.

But that’s just one example of many. Among others, with a split screen, unidentified Meet the Press moderator Chuck Todd is shown screeching a comment to presidential advisor Kellyanne Conway who is on the other half of the split screen, “alternative facts are not facts, they are falsehoods…” Even though Kellyanne is starting to reply, writer/director Brian Knappenberger and editor Andrew McAllister cut away and do not show her response.

Similarly, a few moments later an unidentified CNN anchor appears on Knappenberger’s screen saying to Conway, also on a split screen, “Kellyanne, CNN and other organizations cover terror around the world all the time. Saying that we don’t cover terrorism, that’s just false.” That’s it. Kellyanne is taking a breath to respond, but once again Knappenberger and McAllister don’t show her reply.

They show Fox News anchor Chris Wallace saying, “The president thinks that a free and independent press is a threat to the country?” Again, no response from anyone. That’s like showing a film of someone saying to you, “Are you still beating your wife?” and then cutting away to something else negative about you without showing any response.

The way they get into this is that after we see that Hogan has won his trial, Knappenberger does not linger on this for even a mini-second, instead segueing into who financed Hogan’s case coming up with Silicon Valley entrepreneur Peter Thiel, a big Trump supporter. Thus identified, Knappenberger goes into full attack mode and slams him.

Not satisfied, they then close the movie castigating businessman Sheldon Adelson who bought the Las Vegas Review-Journal, using quotes from people who were fired and no longer work for the paper.

All these people wrap themselves in the Constitution about how honorable they are to work in journalism to bring the truth to people. However, none of them had a word to say about the lack of transparency and accessibility of Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton or the influence of George Soros, and the media’s failure to criticize, or even mention them. The bias of the press that this movie ignores is not just how it slants their new stories, but in what they choose to publicize and what they refuse to publicize.

These partisan filmmakers never mention the silence of the media in the face of the many misdeeds of the Obama Administration, but they pile up on Trump. All those who appear should have “hypocrite” stamped across their collective foreheads, but Knappenberger shows them taking themselves, oh, so seriously. If Knappenberger were a true documentarian and if the “journalists” he publicizes in his film were true, they would look into President Trump’s claims of the unfairness of the press coverage since he has been in the White House. But they clearly don’t want their small minds burdened with facts.

Worse, the clumsiness and laziness of the filmmaking are stunning. Rarely are talking heads identified, and if they are, it’s only once. If they reappear you are left to wonder again who they are.

This is a disgrace to documentary filmmaking in general and to journalism in particular.

On Netflix.

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