Journalism, both high and low, is under attack by conservative interests.
Directed by Brian Knappenberger
Initial Review by Jon Kissel
After Gawker’s bankruptcy-inducing ruling, Nobody Speak still has 45 minutes to fill. Some of this is Peter Thiel background, which is relevant to the Gawker case, but the very different saga of Sheldon Adelson and the Las Vegas Review-Journal occupies the rest of the runtime. As journalistic anecdotes, these are polar opposites. No matter what the viewer feels about the propriety of releasing the Hogan sex tape, the stakes are localized within Hogan himself and his female partner in the tape, who’s never heard from. It has ramifications, sure, but the nugget is sordid and irrelevant. The Review-Journal story, in which journalists put their livelihoods at risk to uncover the new ownership of their employer, has tremendous import for the city of Las Vegas and the entire gaming industry. It has none of the gray morality of the Gawker case. It’s easy to imagine it being turned into an uplifting movie that exalts reporters, like The Post or Spotlight. The didactic nature of this incident also makes it less compelling as cinema, to say nothing of the apocalyptic tone of the last ten minutes, occupied by Trump and yet another unimaginative delivery of the exact same thing we’ve been hearing for almost a year and a half.
Knappenberger’s broad thesis, that journalism of all varieties is under attack by wealthy conservative interests, is readily accepted by a documentary-consuming audience. However, in the age of Trump, he’s being blinded by partisanship. Nobody Speak is undermined by the inclusion of Jeff Bezos and his purchase of the Washington Post as a mere aside and not as another symptom of a spreading disease. Bezos may very well put the second Amazon HQ in Washington DC. Would the Post be exactly as suppressed and blinkered when it came to covering Amazon as the Review-Journal now must be when it covers Las Vegas Sands? The problem is moneyed interests interfering in a public good like journalism, regardless of ideology. Knappenberger went hard at the Obama administration in The Internet’s Own Boy, but in his follow-up, he’s in danger of being a hack. He leaves a lot of points on the table by wasting time with the silly intro and retread conclusion that could’ve been spent on Bezos. I would never argue for false equivalence. The scales probably aren’t equal in the first place, as the Sinclair Broadcasting Group is another worrisome conservative entity that would’ve fit into Nobody Speak. That might be the fatal flaw of this film. In trying to capture such a huge picture of the media, it invites questions about why it leaves out what it does. Make a movie about the Gawker trial or make a movie about the Review-Journal. Both is a tough proposition. C+