Thursday, February 14, 2013

Shadows of Liberty


After successful screenings on the film festival circuit, Shadows of Liberty begins its theatrical run at the Bloor Hot Docs Cinema on Friday. Here are my thoughts from when I viewed it at Hot Docs last year:

Exposing how conglomerates have influenced legislative change in order to control major media outlets, Shadows of Liberty is a startling wake up call. Director Jean-Philippe Tremblay’s film dissects how corporations, and even the government, are manipulating the news information most American’s receive. What was once a vessel for unbiased stories about real issues, many newspapers and television news channels are now spinning more mindless entertainment driven pieces.

Speaking to the likes of Dan Rather, The Wire creator David Simon, Julian Assange, Amy Goodman, and numerous others in the media industry, Tremblay is able to show how hard hitting investigative journalism is being swept under the rug. For example, a journalist affiliated with CBS broke a story regarding the harsh working conditions of Nike factory workers in Asia. The piece never made it to air because it would impact CBS’ financial bottom line. It was hard for CBS to air a story declaring anything bad about Nike considering that the athletic clothing company was one of their major Olympic advertising partners at the time.

Shadows of Liberty is quick to note that billion dollar corporations are not the only guilty party when it comes to influencing information in the media. The United States government has frequently had a hand in silencing several scandals. Whether it is tales of weapons of mass destruction or stories of selling secrets to the enemy, media outlets are no longer permitted to air or print everything they uncover. Instead of doing the required source checking, they simply take the word of the government as being fact. Tremblay documents how many of the corporations that own the major media outlets are also the same companies that provide presidential campaign funding. These unions have provided the government with the ability to alter certain news stories, and allowed the corporate CEO’s to influence the government into passing laws that will directly impact the CEO’s positively financially.

The quest for the financial bottom line by CEO’s of corporations such as Viacom, Time Warner, Disney, and General Electric, to name a few, has crippled the state of modern day journalism. Similar to the film Inside Job, Tremblay’s intention to expose this suppression of true journalism is made clear from the start. As a result, the film is a little too one-sided as it does not shed much light on the smaller media outlets that still produce insightful content. Tremblay’s documentary is concerned with only the major media outlets. Regardless of whether or not you agree with Tremblay’s methods in regards to what is being featured in the film, Shadows of Liberty raises an important issue that needs to be discussed. It is especially appropriate considering the troubles media mogul Rupert Murdoch found himself in over the last few years; as well as the news of General Electric selling the rest of NBC to Comcast. Shadows of Liberty is a timely, and effective, film that will have audiences questioning everything they read and see in the news.

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