The Ideological Content Analysis 30 Days Putsch:
30 Reviews in 30 Days
Anybody with even a casual interest in conspiracy lore knows at least the outline of the true events that inspired this worthwhile film. Released on the heels of the Ferguson unrest of 2014, Kill the Messenger tells the story of San Jose Mercury News journalist Gary Webb (Jeremy Renner), who discovered that the 80s crack apocalypse epicentered in Los Angeles was facilitated by the Central Intelligence Agency through its sponsorship of the Nicaraguan contras.
Unlike any number of other media stories about police brutality, microaggressions, gentrification, hoodie scares, or other mysterious manifestations of racism and white privilege, Webb’s unsavory revelations give blacks good reason to be angry at their government’s actions. Webb made powerful enemies with his disclosures, which cut across partisan politics but incensed blacks in particular, and understandably so, given crack’s devastation of their families and neighborhoods. Kill the Messenger stops short of alleging that the CIA intentionally targeted black communities for destruction, but does highlight the particular blight these areas have endured.
Primarily, Kill the Messenger is the story of Webb the man, whose life and career were irreparably damaged by the titular smear campaign. Tastefully, but admittedly somewhat disappointingly, the movie leaves to viewers’ imaginations the question of whether Webb, as the official version goes, committed suicide by shooting himself twice (!) in the head or was murdered by some New World Order assassin. Renner is intense as Gary Webb, and the use of actual television news reportage of the day – including CIA shill (and current Ben Carson foreign policy advisor) Duane Clarridge’s jaw-droppingly stupid and smarmy reaction to Webb’s allegations: “Don’t give me that conspiracy bullshit. […] There has never been a conspiracy in this country” – does much to enhance the impression of reality.
4.5 out of 5 stars. Ideological Content Analysis indicates that Kill the Messenger is:
6. Non-partisan. Both Republicans and Democrats are implicated, as is indicated by the opening montage.
5. Pro-gun. Webb keeps a handgun in his home and uses it to scare a spooky prowler away from his car.
4. Drug-ambivalent. Webb and his wife (Rosemarie DeWitt) smoke weed, but a visit to South Central Los Angeles underscores crack’s social ravages.
3. Media-critical. After initially celebrating his breakthrough, Webb’s fellow journalists either distance themselves from him or devote themselves to discrediting his work.
2. Anti-state. This writer must not have been paying attention during his high school civics class when the teacher explained how it was the government’s responsibility to import hard drugs into the country.
1. Borderline anti-Semitic! Richard Schiff plays Richard Zuckerman, a CIA asset and shill utilizing The Washington Post to trash Webb’s credibility. Tim Blake Nelson plays sleazy attorney Alan Fenster, who, while lending crucial assistance to Webb’s investigation, comes across as the stereotypical lawyer who insists even in private conferences on referring to his client “Freeway” Rick Ross (Michael K. Williams) as merely an “alleged” drug dealer. Oliver Platt, meanwhile, appears as Mercury News executive editor Jerry Ceppos, who at first defends Webb’s work but then wimps out in the face of the media firestorm. Perhaps to compensate for these unappealing characterizations, both Webb and his wife as visualized in the movie are darker, less Nordic-looking figures than the biographical subjects.
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