A Confederacy of Spin Doctors

By: Dr. Ted Baehr; ©2001
Dr. Baehr says that the Cannes Film Festival is the place where the “reviewers, reporters and columnists are the ambassadors, translators, marketers, and even prophets who speak about the culture and thereby shape the culture itself.”

A CONFEDERACY OF SPIN DOCTORS THE PRESS & THE CANNES FILM FESTIVAL

Cannes is one place where movie directors are treated like kings. In fact, however, it is the press which holds all the cards. Whether wittingly or unwittingly, these reviewers, re­porters and columnists are the ambassadors, translators, marketers, and even prophets who speak about the culture and thereby shape the culture itself.

After several press conferences at Cannes, it is interesting to note how often the direc­tors, who are suppose to be the auteurs, defer to the press and claim ignorance about what they are doing with their movie. Then, a story appears which gives meaning to the movie, in the same way that the political spin doctors in the U.S. give meaning to the confusing utterances of the politicians. (Of course, in journalism classes and editorial offices around the world, the brains of reporters are constantly motivated to find a jazzy angle to the stories they cover; and those angles are hardly ever conservative ones or God-centered ones, much less Christ-centered ones or church-friendly ones.)

Even with all this power, many of these press people have no philosophy of the art of movies, no knowledge of history (outside of the history of movies), and no sense of speak­ing to the filmmakers about their irresponsible (or responsible) movies. Most of the press seems to believe here at Cannes that making a movie absolves someone from any respon­sibility to his or her audience or the public at large, not to mention God, although the press themselves have a few ethical principles that they apply to their own work.

Furthermore, the press seems to believe that movies have no influence on anyone. This misguided notion, of course, refutes their very existence as entertainment reporters, colum­nists and critics. It also ignores the thousands of studies that abound on the influence of the mass media, and the frenzy that seizes the press when some politician or businessman says something politically incorrect or even vile.

One reporter asked David Lynch how the censors in the United States would react to his movie Mulholland Drive. Mr. Lynch was taken aback. He replied, “There is no censorship. We have ratings. Mulholland Drive is rated R.” The night before this press conference, another reporter expressed the same question, what about censorship in the United States.

Of course, Mr. Lynch is absolutely correct, there is no censorship of the movie industry in the West. The ratings are given to movies by the movie studios themselves for promotion purposes. A steamy lesbian movie like Mulholland Drive actually wants an R-rating to attract curious teenagers so their worldview, emotions, behavior, and very souls can be perverted by the movie’s licentiousness.

The question is, if there isn’t any censorship, why does this reporter think that there is? Perhaps, the media has invoked the red herring of censorship so many times that fools and knaves think it is true. Or, as a friend of one reporter at Cannes asked, “Why is it that the film industry seems to attract the rudest, most egotistical and screwed-up people in the world?” His question prompted the reporter to opine that, not only the filmmakers or artists, but also the buyers, sales agents, publicists, and even the journalists, believe that they are “under no obligation whatsoever to behave like reasonable human beings.” He added, “Somewhere along the line, a strange and widespread misapprehension has taken hold: a mistaken belief that the people involved in the (non-artistic sides of) the industry… are themselves Creative, by virtue of their relative proximity to the filmmakers.”

How convenient that the movie industry has so protected its irresponsible tracks that those who are supposed to be its critics don’t realize that there is more to filmmaking than licentiousness. Pornography and violence has seized the high ground with the constant invocation by the press (and others) of the word censorship, and the public suffers thereby. Not just the public in general, but the children especially.

As our friend David Lowenthal has noted, there is no real liberty for licentiousness. To quote St. Paul and Jesus Christ, “Love does not delight in evil but rejoices in the truth. And, the truth shall make you free.”

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