Media, politics and culture.
I’m not a big Coen brothers fan, but for nearly two years I have followed the filming and unveiling of their Inside Llewyn Davis, which opens tomorrow in a few theaters. That’s partly because I lived and worked in Greenwich Village for many years, but more than that: I am old enough (ouch) to remember watching Hootenanny on TV every week—not knowing what to make of some guy named Pete Seeger getting banned—and then growing absorbed in the early careers of Joan Baez and Bob Dylan.
The New York Times already has a review online. It’s quite favorable. We already knew the T-Bone Burnett music, for it was swell, based on excerpts on YouTube and live shows. Dave Van Ronk, whose memoir helped inspire it (though he was quite different from the main character, trust me), has also gotten a good deal of well-deserved ink this week.
Dylan’s publicity this week has been of another sort (a ridiculous “hate crime” charge in France). I haven’t seen the film yet so I can’t say how strongly, and fairly, it portrays the folk protest/politics of the early-’60s era, but we know it’s in there.
A Showtime “concert” doc is coming a week from Friday—see trailer below, featuring a Mumford and the great Gillian Welch and David Rawlings. And below that, a full clip from the film of trio (with “Llewyn” joined by Justin Timberlake and Adam Driver) doing a goofy “Please Mr. Kennedy”:
Pierre Omidyar, new-media publisher (with Glenn Greenwald and others) and First Amendment advocate, last night at The Huffington Post revisited his former company’s move to block donations to WikiLeaks three years ago. We speak, of course, of PayPal. That affair has prompted one of several criticisms leveled at Greenwald of late (see my piece here this week) and now Omidyar writes at length about the sensitive issue.
Omidyar explains how he joined an editorial about the WikiLeaks protest (at his Honolulu newspaper), but then hits the excessive Anonymous efforts to crash and otherwise hurt PayPal. This comes as the trial of the “PayPal 14” is about to begin. Omidyar seems to argue for leniency in any sentencing of those found guilty, especially since they are standing in, one might say, for the actions of thousands of others. “Their case as well as PayPal’s actions in 2010 raise important questions about press freedoms and the nature of online protests,” he explains.
And now WikiLeaks responds to his piece on Twitter, including: “Appreciate some of the other comments but they are undermined by the central issue of the blockade being falsely presented…. As far as we are aware the PayPal blockade of WikiLeaks has never been lifted. No direct transactions to WL. You list 3rd parties.”
Also yesterday, PandoDaily, which had published the major Mark Ames critique of Greenwald and his alleged “privatizing” of and “profiteering” off the Snowden leaks (which Greenwald then rejected in his full response), posted a pro-Greenwald piece by David Sirota.
Sirota charges that a “smear campaign” against Greenwald “is, in short, an effort by those reliant on an old power structure and outdated media business models to selfishly maintain that structure and those models—journalism, facts, and democracy be damned.” And he contrasts the treatment of Greenwald with that of Bart Gellman of The Washington Post, who has also made wide use of the Snowden docs but as an “insider” has drawn much less criticism.
Greg Mitchell surveys the dustups between Glenn Greenwald and his critics.
At his personal blog yesterday Glenn Greenwald published a lengthy response to PandoDaily’s Mark Ames and other critics who have hit him lately for “privatizing” and allegedly “profiteering” off Edward Snowden’s NSA leaks and even for launching a new venture funded by billionaire Pierre Omidyar. Some have raised concerns about Omidyar’s past business ventures, along with his former company PayPal’s blocking donations to WikiLeaks.
Greenwald had already responded with numerous tweets, such as: “In a week where we published docs in Holland, Norway, Canada, Germany and HuffPost: seems a bad week to claim docs are ‘monopolized.’ ” He also pointed out that few complained when, say, Bob Woodward made many millions writing books that disclosed state secrets. But now he’s replied in full.
Just for starters, Greenwald hits other writers/edtiors—such as Talking Points Memo’s Josh Marshall—for hypocrisy since they also do work funded by billionaires. Example:
I have nothing but contempt for the DC functionaries who are cynically embracing that Pando post that holds out the WikiLeaks dump-it-all model as the ideal—the Josh Marshalls and Fran Townsends of the world—as though they would prefer we did that instead. Those are the very same people who hate WikiLeaks, and would be first in line to accuse us of recklessness and likely demand our prosecution if we followed that model (here, for instance, is a CNN debate I did in 2010 with the very same Fran Townsend when I defended Julian Assange after he signed a $1.2 million book deal).
Marshall then replied on Twitter: “Notable: this twitter firestorm & @ggreenwald’s new (as usual misleading) attacks have been triggered by my simply tweeting link to article.” The critical Ames article, that is.
It is absolutely the case that I consider the opportunity to help build this new media venture to be a once-in-a-career dream opportunity. That’s because the organization is being built from the start to support, sustain and encourage truly independent, adversarial journalism. It has the backing and is being built by someone whom I am absolutely convinced is dedicated to this model of independent, adversarial journalism. It has the real potential to enable innovative and fearless journalism….
Being skeptical and asking questions about any new media organization is completely appropriate. I’m sure I’d be doing the same thing of other new organizations. But we haven’t even begun yet. When I moved to Salon and then to the Guardian, I heard all sorts of claims about how I’d have to moderate or dilute my work to accommodate those environments and the interests and views of those who own and run them. I don’t think anyone can reasonably claim that happened. And I am quite certain that the same will be true here. The people we work with and, ultimately, the journalism we produce will speak volumes about exactly the reasons we’re doing this and why I’m so excited about it.
On Twitter, David Frum mocked Greenwald for writing at such length, again. Yes, one must admit, Frum only needed to use three words to shame himself as the author of “axis of evil.” And Iraq’s “WMD”: just three letters. Not even a full word.
And now we have Pando’s response to Greenwald, via Mark Ames’s editor. There’s even a Nation angle.
A little later in the day, as the controversy swirled online, there was a heated back and forth on Twitter between Greenwald and James Manley, former top spokesman for Senator Harry Reid who later took an insider P.R. job in DC. Manley tweeted a link to the Mark Ames hit on Greenwald at Pando. Greenwald tweeted referring to Manley’s new post: “‘Revolving door sleaze’, noun: disease plaguing Washington & destroying the nation—see e.g. @JamesPManley http://t.co/QTHKaZQLsz.”
Manley then replied: “and you are a dangerous man. A zealot, full of sanctimonious self righteousness playing a game way out of your league.”
John Nichols and Robert McChesney offer a plan to “free the media.”
We’ve lauded the tireless New York Times public editor Margaret Sullivan—tirelessly—but it now seems that there’s another example of how her work has resulted in a truly important shift at the paper (though she won’t say so directly) .
Last June she wrote that the Times produces high-quality reporting on poverty—but far too little of it. Now she observes that there has been a lot more lately, including Wednesday’s haunting portrait on how many kids go hungry in New York (even at Thanksgiving). Much of this, of course, is related to devlish cuts in money for food stamps, post-stimulus.
And she notes, looking ahead:
The Times has other changes in mind. For example, the reporter Rachel Swarns on Monday will begin a weekly column, “The Working Life,” exploring “the experience of working—or not working—in New York,” Mr. Jamieson said. And Michael Powell’s “Gotham” column will change to twice from once a week to help highlight some of the experiences of lower-income New Yorkers.
Prediction: Though awards may be largely trumped-up and meaningless, I think Sullivan will be a Pulitzer finalist if not winner next April.
Activists protesting outside of Walmart on Black Friday were arrested, reports Allison Kilkenny.
Finally, this afternoon, CBS suspended Lara Logan and producer Max McClellan after the network’s internal probe found serious problems in their 60 Minutes Benghazi report.
The report hit Logan for not knowing, or knowing and not caring, about key source Dylan Davies telling a different story to his employer and FBI; for not really substantiating her claims that Al Qaeda led the assault; and for her now-famous October 2012 speech that suggested she was far from objective on this issue.
Her boss, Jeffrey Fager, now says he needs to “make adjustments” at the show. But he did not say how long the pair would be suspended.
This added injury to insult as Logan had just been disinvited to host the Committee to Protect Journalists dinner tonight.
Summary of the findings by CBS’s Al Ortiz, courtesy of The Huffington Post, does not add much that we don’t already know, but perhaps those details exist in the full report. And many questions remain. Ace blogger “Digby” hits the mere “slap on the wrist” and points to other examples of Logan’s reporting-with-an-agenda. UPDATE Wednesday: Nancy Youssef, the McClatchy reporter who probed the Benghazi segment two weeks ago and found several key factual issues, now IDs many shortcomings in new CBS review.
• From the start, Lara Logan and her producing team were looking for a different angle to the story of the Benghazi attack. They believed they found it in the story of Dylan Davies, written under the pseudonym, “Morgan Jones.” It purported to be the first western eyewitness account of the attack. But Logan’s report went to air without “60 Minutes” knowing what Davies had told the F.B.I. and the State Department about his own activities and location on the night of the attack.
• The fact that the F.B.I. and the State Department had information that differed from the account Davies gave to “60 Minutes” was knowable before the piece aired. But the wider reporting resources of CBS News were not employed in an effort to confirm his account. It’s possible that reporters and producers with better access to inside F.B.I. sources could have found out that Davies had given varying and conflicting accounts of his story.
• Members of the “60 Minutes” reporting team conducted interviews with Davies and other individuals in his book, including the doctor who received and treated Ambassador Stevens at the Benghazi hospital. They went to Davies’ employer Blue Mountain, the State Department, the F.B.I. (which had interviewed Davies), and other government agencies to ask about their investigations into the attack. Logan and producer Max McClellan told me they found no reason to doubt Davies’ account and found no holes in his story. But the team did not sufficiently vet Davies’ account of his own actions and whereabouts that night
• Davies told “60 Minutes” that he had lied to his own employer that night about his location, telling Blue Mountain that he was staying at his villa, as his superior ordered him to do, but telling “60 Minutes” that he then defied that order and went to the compound. This crucial point—his admission that he had not told his employer the truth about his own actions—should have been a red flag in the editorial vetting process.
• After the story aired, The Washington Post reported the existence of a so-called “incident report” that had been prepared by Davies for Blue Mountain in which he reportedly said he spent most of the night at his villa, and had not gone to the hospital or the mission compound. Reached by phone, Davies told the “60 Minutes” team that he had not written the incident report, disavowed any knowledge of it, and insisted that the account he gave “60 Minutes” was word for word what he had told the F.B.I. Based on that information and the strong conviction expressed by the team about their story, Jeff Fager defended the story and the reporting to the press.
• On November 7, The New York Times informed Fager that the F.B.I.’s version of Davies’ story differed from what he had told “60 Minutes.” Within hours, CBS News was able to confirm that in the F.B.I.’s account of their interview, Davies was not at the hospital or the mission compound the night of the attack. “60 Minutes” announced that a correction would be made, that the broadcast had been misled, and that it was a mistake to include Davies in the story. Later a State Department source also told CBS News that Davies had stayed at his villa that night and had not witnessed the attack.
• Questions have been raised about the recent pictures from the compound which were displayed at the end of the report, including a picture of Ambassador Stevens’s schedule for the day after the attack. Video taken by the producer-cameraman whom the “60 Minutes” team sent to the Benghazi compound last month clearly shows that the pictures of the Technical Operations Center were authentic, including the picture of the schedule in the debris.
• Questions have also been raised about the role of Al Qaeda in the attack since Logan declared in the report that Al Qaeda fighters had carried it out. Al Qaeda’s role is the subject of much disagreement and debate. While Logan had multiple sources and good reasons to have confidence in them, her assertions that Al Qaeda carried out the attack and controlled the hospital were not adequately attributed in her report.
• In October of 2012, one month before starting work on the Benghazi story, Logan made a speech in which she took a strong public position arguing that the US Government was misrepresenting the threat from Al Qaeda, and urging actions that the US should take in response to the Benghazi attack. From a CBS News Standards perspective, there is a conflict in taking a public position on the government’s handling of Benghazi and Al Qaeda, while continuing to report on the story.
• The book, written by Davies and a co-author, was published by Threshold Editions, an imprint of Simon & Schuster, part of the CBS Corporation. “60 Minutes” erred in not disclosing that connection in the segment.
Greg Mitchell points to additional issues with the Benghazi report.
It was a Bill Murray punchline in Tootsie, the title of a play, meant to draw laughs, “Return to Love Canal.” But now The New York Times has literally done it with a video report on what happened more than three decades ago at the most famous US toxic dump disaster ever, with brief updates to recent years.
This literally hits me close to home. I hail from Niagara Falls (site of the middle-class Love Canal neighborhood), wrote one of the first major magazine pieces on the subject in early 1979 and then featured it in my 1981 book on whistleblowers, Truth and Consequences. Dumping of chemicals by huge local factories in the abandoned canal, then covering it up in the 1950s, led to seepage into the basements and backyards of dozens of families, who claimed widespread health defects.
Lois Gibbs, the fiery leader of the homeowners’ group and featured in the video, was one of the stars of that book, along with Hugh Kaufman—who is still around causing trouble (by exposing such tragedies) at the EPA. I covered Hugh not long ago here at this blog because of his work and media appearances around the explosion at the Texas fertilizer plant.
Twenty-four hours after the big announcement, the editorials and punditry have started to appear, and I will be charting it all here.
At the same time, I’m sure what will not appear: apologies from Bill Keller and Nick Kristof of The New York Times and other liberals for urging US bombing of Syria two months ago—which would have killed (besides a lot of civilians) any Iran deal. Of course, we should also recall that President Obama himself planned to bomb but was deterred by popular protest, and then had the courage to change his mind.
With the Iran deal, we’ll start with the New York Times editorial, posted late Sunday, and add others below. For broad range of Israeli analysis and opinion, go to Haaretz. And don't miss Thomas Friedman ripping Israel, Israeli lobby and U.S. congress members.
From the Times:
The interim nuclear deal between Iran and the major powers is an important step toward resolving the increasingly dangerous dispute over Iran’s progress on production of a nuclear weapon. President Obama and President Hassan Rouhani of Iran deserve credit for resisting fierce domestic opposition and a 30-year history of animosity between the two countries to get to this point….
As with any deal between adversaries, caution is warranted. Iran kept the nuclear program secret for nearly two decades before it was uncovered in 2002 and has resisted full disclosure of its activities. But the interim deal has protections that should make cheating harder, including unprecedented daily inspections of enrichment facilities at Natanz and Fordo by United Nations experts.
Inevitably, here’s the take from The Wall Street Journal, which titles it “Iran’s Nuclear Triumph”:
President Obama is hailing a weekend accord that he says has “halted the progress of the Iranian nuclear program,” and we devoutly wish this were true. The reality is that the agreement in Geneva with five Western nations takes Iran a giant step closer to becoming a de facto nuclear power….
Mr. Obama seems determined to press ahead with an Iran deal regardless of the details or damage. He views it as a legacy project. A President has enormous leeway on foreign policy, but Congress can signal its bipartisan unhappiness by moving ahead as soon as possible to strengthen sanctions. Mr. Obama warned Congress not to do so in his weekend remarks, but it is the only way now to stop the President from accommodating a nuclear Iran.
John Judis at The New Republic reminds us about our 1987 nuclear pact with th Soviets:
Conservatives denounced Reagan for the pact. National Review called it “Reagan’s suicide pact.” Henry Kissinger charged that it undermined “40 years of NATO.” But, of course, the treaty turned out to be a prelude not only to more comprehensive arms agreements, but to the end of the Cold War.
The hawkish Washington Post says this effort is worth making but, of course, raises many warning signs with Israel, guess what, at center stage.
The first is a rift with Israel and Saudi Arabia and other U.S. Arab allies, which objected to an interim arrangement that would leave Iran’s nuclear infrastructure mostly untouched and which strongly oppose allowing Iran permanent enrichment capacity.
Eli Lake at The Daily Beast calls the deal highly “dangerous.” Chicago Tribune: “hope has triumphed over experience.” USA Today: Yes, there are risks, but this sure “beats the alternative.” Peter Beinart: No, Bill Kristol, this is not another Munich.
Bob Dreyfuss calls the US-Iran deal a “historic first step” in the peace process.
Like most media and political writers, I often let bygones be bygones, painful as that may be. Then there are the especially tragic or high-stakes cases. For example, the media failures in the run-up to the Iraq war, given the consequences. This explains my reaction to the Columbia Journalism Review’s announcing yesterday, after a widely watched search, that it was hiring Liz Spayd, late of The Washington Post, as its new editor and publisher.
Now, I suppose I should review her entire career, for context, though others are doing it and you can read about it in plenty of places. And here’s a memo from Steve Coll, dean of the Columbia Journalism School (and a Washington Post vet himself) on the hiring, and Spayd’s own reaction. She was managing editor of the Post or its website for many years until last year, and obviously supervised a good deal of important work (and some not so terrific, of course). But I am moved to recall, and then let go, one famous 2004 article, also at the Post, by Howard Kurtz, which I highlighted in my book on those media failures and Iraq, So Wrong for So Long.
In a nutshell: The New York Times, under Bill Keller, had printed as an editors’ note a very brief and very limited semi-apology for its horrific coverage during the run-up to the war, dubbed a “mini-culpa” by Jack Shafer. The Post, almost equally but not so famously guilty, didn’t even do that, to its shame, leaving it to one of its reporters, i.e., Kurtz, to report it out. His piece made the paper look pretty bad, with some embarrassing quotes from editor Len Downie, Bob Woodward and Karen DeYoung, among others, usually along the lines of, “Well, what could we do?” And there was this passage about Spayd:
Liz Spayd, the assistant managing editor for national news, says The Post’s overall record was strong.
“I believe we pushed as hard or harder than anyone to question the administration’s assertions on all kinds of subjects related to the war…. Do I wish we would have had more and pushed harder and deeper into questions of whether they possessed weapons of mass destruction? Absolutely,” she said. “Do I feel we owe our readers an apology? I don’t think so.”
Of course, the paper’s editorial page was even worse, making the news disaster that much more damaging.
In some ways, the “hero” of the Kurtz piece was Walter Pincus, the longtime national security reporter who had tried to get more skeptical stories on Iraq WMD in the paper (or get them on the front-page).
But while Pincus was ferreting out information “from sources I’ve used for years,” some in the Post newsroom were questioning his work. Editors complained that he was “cryptic,” as one put it, and that his hard-to-follow stories had to be heavily rewritten.
Spayd declined to discuss Pincus’s writing but said that “stories on intelligence are always difficult to edit and parse and to ensure their accuracy and get into the paper.”
The much-respected Michael Getler later reviewed his years as ombudsman at the Post from 2000 to 2005, and offered a strong critique of the role of the paper’s editors in the Iraq WMD disaster. He observed:
I should say at this point the Post is an excellent paper, and it also did some excellent reporting before the war—more than you might think. But I also had a catbird seat watching it stumble and, while my observations are necessarily about the Post, they may be more broadly applicable. From where I sat, there were two newsroom failures, in particular, at the root of what went wrong with pre-war reporting. One was a failure to pay enough attention to events that unfolded in public, rather than just the exclusive stuff that all major newspapers like to develop. The other was a failure of editors and editing up and down the line that resulted in a focus on getting ready for a war that was coming rather than the obligation to put the alternative case in front of readers in a prominent way. This resulted in far too many stories, including some very important ones, being either missed, underplayed, or buried.
Getler chronicles the many important stories the Post either did not cover or buried deep inside the paper (including reports on large antiwar marches). Then he adds:
Here’s a brief sampling of additional Post headlines that, rather stunningly, failed to make the front of the newspaper: “Observers: Evidence for War Lacking,” “U.N. Finds No Proof of Nuclear Program,” “Bin Laden-Hussein Link Hazy,” “U.S. Lacks Specifics on Banned Arms,” “Legality of War Is a Matter of Debate,” and “Bush Clings to Dubious Allegations About Iraq.” In short, it wasn’t the case that important, challenging reporting wasn’t done. It just wasn’t highlighted.
Of course, Liz Spayd was just one of a group of editors and hardly deserves full blame for the Post’s performance. But she did defend that record afterward—and said no apology was needed.
Today’s top—though belated—media criticism comes from Erik Wemple from The Washington Post. He dissects the long-lamented but until now much-overlooked blending of ads and coverage within Mike Allen’s fabled, overrated, “Playbook” morning tip sheet (and e-mail newsletter) at Politico. Allen, a former Post reporter, has been one of the chief Politico staffers since its beginning.
One can only cheer when Wemple observes early on in his lengthy piece, “It’s about time that Politico’s Allen got his due as a native-advertising pioneer.”
Other media commentators are now responding and I’ll chart their reactions (and any Allen reply) below at the end of my piece. Jonathan Chait at New York magazine has tweeted, for example: “The ethical disaster most journalists would define as a firing offense is, for Mike Allen, a job description.” And he’s written this. Andrew Sullivan’s headline declared, “Mike Allen, Busted.” Seveal wags have retitled the Wemple piece, “SLAYBOOK.”
So what’s native advertising?
One of the hottest issues in journalism today is “native” advertising, the tricks that publishers deploy to elide the domains of journalism and advertising. BuzzFeed has sustained gray-bearded criticism for its boundary-defying listicles. The Atlantic earlier this year ran a native ad from the Church of Scientology that inflamed its audience and prompted an apology and a review of Atlantic procedures for approving ads. Forbes, The Washington Post and the Huffington Post are also experimenting with this approach to funding journalism.
Until now, Allen’s alleged transgressions, well-blended as they are—for example, ads from the US Chamber of Commerce plus outsized coverage of its work and views—have never been catalogued. Wemple took the time and summarizes:
A review of “Playbook” archives shows that the special interests that pay for slots in the newsletter get adoring coverage elsewhere in the playing field of “Playbook.” The pattern is a bit difficult to suss out if you glance at “Playbook” each day for a shot of news and gossip. When searching for references to advertisers in “Playbook,” however, it is unmistakable. And its practitioner is expanding the franchise.
Beyond the Chamber…
Another big name that’s gotten a healthy dose of earned media from Playbook is BP, a company that has faced quite a challenge in image-conscious Washington, thanks to the 2010 oil spill at the Deepwater Horizon rig leased by the company. In recent months, BP has blanketed “Playbook” with ads hyping the company’s status as “America’s largest energy investor.” The free BP mentions authored by Allen tell a similar story.
Then there are examples involving Goldman Sachs and other big-business entities, along with Allen’s going out of his way to show some love for Sheldon Adelson and so on. Allen and Politico chief John Harris refused interviews for the piece. Wemple:
In rejecting a sit-down discussion, Editor-in-Chief John Harris said the premise “is without merit in any shape or form.” Without an interview, it’s impossible to judge Allen’s motivations. For example, does he write nice things about the chamber because he wants more advertisers or because he feels their agenda doesn’t get fair play in other outlets? Did he publish those BP plugs because he thought they were newsworthy or because he’s got a friend at the company?
As noted earlier, Andrew Sullivan has weighed in at his popular blog, The Dish.
Dish readers know what I think of “native advertizing” and “sponsored content.” If it’s an advertorial, just call it and clearly label it an advertorial! Full disclosure and transparency are essential. The rest is whoredom, not journalism. When a journalist becomes a copy-writer for big advertisers giving him or his publication money, and does not clearly disclose the conflict of interest, he or she has ceased to be an independent journalist and joined the lucrative profession of public relations.
Read Erik Wemple’s evisceration of Mike Allen’s Playbook and make up your own mind. But to my eyes, it reads like a meticulously researched tale of at least the appearance of blatant corruption.
Glenn Greenwald has tweeted that the Wemple piece shows “how Mike Allen reaches new lows in renting out his journalism to the highest corporate bidder.” Clara Jeffery, Mother Jones editor: “Wemple’s story codifies what many have suspected: Lack of a moral core at center of Politico.” Jay Rosen: “At issue: what is an ad and what is news?”
And this from Nick Confessore, political reporter for The New York Times: “Near absence of
@ErikWemple’s story on my Twitter feed a pretty good testament to how much of D.C. officialdom sups at Mike’s table.” David Carr, media writer at the Times: “Playbook reads different through the prism of @erikwemple’s eye-popping story. Brutally good content analytics.”
But Philip Bump at The Atlantic’s Wire muses: “Not to detract from Wemple’s piece, but anyone unaware of Playbook’s cloying obsequiousness clearly doesn’t actually read Playbook.”
Michael Serazio explores the troubled waters of sponsored content in the digital age.
Last week, Alex Gibney, the tireless Academy Award–winning director of more than a dozen important documentaries (from Taxi to the Dark Side to the current film about Lance Armstrong) came to my town with his recent film about WikiLeaks, We Steal Secrets. You may recall that Julian Assange strongly and repeatedly slammed the film—even last week the WikiLeaks official Twitter feed had urged people to stay away from this single screening in Nyack.
Onstage after the screening Gibney revealed that his team was finally going to respond to WikiLeaks‘s famous “annotation” of his film last May with their own “annotation of their annotation.” As he has charged before, Gibney said that WikiLeaks had not received a “leaked script” back then but rather someone had taped the audio of his film at a festival screening and transcribed it later. So it was missing a major part of the film, he said—the many moments where the words of Bradley/Chelsea Manning from the Lamo chat logs are typed on the screen, without narration.
Now his team has come out with its full “annotation.” The entire document can be found here. It’s massive and color-coded. WikiLeaks has responded quickly on Twitter by calling the document “dishonest” and “not only citationless, but 6 months out of date.”
Since the Assange-annotated version of the screenplay first appeared, it has been updated, and it now refers to sections of the film that were missing when it was first posted. In creating his own annotation, though, Gibney decided to use Assange’s original post, since that original version had been widely circulated.
Gibney admits that the WikiLeaks critique no doubt played a strong role in contributing to his heavily promoted film’s disappointing showing at the box office.
While Gibney first dismissed Assange and WikiLeaks’ attacks on his film, he now believes it did have an affect on the film’s box-office performance. Released by Focus Features in May, it grossed just $166,243, never playing in more than 24 theaters. “It was more effective than I thought,” Gibney said. “He caused preemptively a lot of people not to see it, which when you think about it is kind of ironic. Instead of saying, ‘Go see this film and then read my commentary,’ it was, ‘Don’t see this film.’ Not exactly the transparency agenda.”
Greg Mitchell on WikiLeaks’s broadsides against Alex Gibney’s film.