It was Gene Shalit's turn on Today Thursday to hail "Good Night and Good News," the George Clooney movie glorifying CBS's Edward R. Murrow hatchet job on Joe McCarthy. Please read Jack Shafer's very thorough takedown for Slate. Shafer reminds that Andrew Ferguson said the Murrow show was "a compendium of every burp, grunt, stutter, nose probe, brutish aside, and maniacal giggle the senator had ever allowed to be captured on film." He also has a link to the show's original transcript.
Anyway, Matt Lauer began with the typical take, that this CBS-glorifying, liberal bias-celebrating movie was accurate and fantastic: "George Clooney has directed a new movie about a groundbreaking time in the early days of television journalism. It's called Good Night and Good Luck. And our Gene Shalit says this black and white production gives a clear picture of the era." Shalit began: "Good morning and welcome to the Critic's Corner. In the early 1950s, two feared specters hovered over America: the Soviet Union and Senator Joseph R. McCarthy of Wisconsin." At least, a mention that the Soviet Union was a little scary, but the moral equivalence between Stalin's dictatorship and McCarthy's reign of terror is so.....1970s. And George Clooney will never make a movie about a brave dissident living inside the terror of the Soviet Union. Shalit goes on with the typical litany of McCarthy's wreckage:
"McCarthy ignited social chaos by accusing scores of Americans of being communists or communist sympathizers. Jobs were lost, careers destroyed, lives were shattered. So pervasive was the public paranoia that few dared to challenge McCarthy. One who did was the intrepid journalist Edward R. Murrow. In March 1954 on the CBS TV program See It Now, Murrow, [played by]David Strathairn, and his investigative news team set out to expose McCarthy's demagoguery." Murrow as depicted in the movie says, as he editorialized on CBS: "We cannot defend freedom abroad by deserting it at home." But Shalit (and Clooney) make no attempt to consider that new information shows that the Communist Party had infiltrated the federal government, even if McCarthy failed, in fact backfired, in searching it out. And Shalit is wrong to imply to NBC viewers that the media was afraid to bash McCarthy. As Shafer notes, CBS was late to the party, not the early courageous boys. (We made the same point when CBS glorified itself on a 40th anniversary Murrow show.)
Shalit continued: "That historic Murrow/McCarthy struggle is the center of Good Night and Good Luck, George Clooney's hypnotic new film." Later, he added the anti-Bush angle: "Now half a century later when those primary principles are current in new garb Clooney presents this chronicle of perilous times."
[Murrow from the movie: "We're gonna go with this story because the terror is right here in this room."]
Shalit concluded: "It is a piercing film. And that's the Critic's Corner for this morning."
Lauer started raving: "I saw it last night."
Katie Couric: "You know I, did you like it?"
Lauer: "Not only is it a great story, important story, it's beautifully made."
Couric: "Yeah I've heard so many great things about it. I went to see it on Saturday but it was sold out. So..."
Lauer, whispering that he had a home-viewing copy: "I got a screener for ya."
Couric: "I know. I want to see it on the big screen though, you know?"
Lauer: "I know."
[Transcript by Geoff Dickens.]