How the mighty have fallen! The Globe and Mail used to be Canada's national and international newspaper.
Its only competition was the Toronto Star. Now it is being attacked on its left, by the resurgent Toronto Star and NOW Magazine. On its right, by the National Post, the Postmedia chain and The Sun newspaper chain. And in general, by free daily newspapers, online papers like Huffington Post and a whole host of national and international bloggers and online journals.
Ad revenues are down. Resources are stretched. And all the current reporters and columnists are forced to report online and in print and tweet and Facebook, if possible. And do double and triple duty, so the Globe could keep its head above the treacherous journalistic waters.
Okay, the reporters and columnists are over worked and stressed out. But still there is no excuse for the totally embarrassing puff piece that columnist Joanna Schneller inflicted upon us in her recent Globe column, "The Company He Keeps." The report of her interview with Robert Redford on his new film, "The Company You Keep."
Schneller's first glaring error is she refers to the role of Julie Christie in the film, "as a former member of the 1960s revolutionary group, the Weather Underground, who's spent decades on the lam after a protest action resulted in a fatality."
Clearly, Schneller has not seen the film or read anything about the film or did any substantial research on the film about which she is writing.
One of the pivotal scenes in the film, upon which the whole film is based , is the portrayal of the three Weathermen, two women (played by Susan Sarandon and Julie Christie) and one male Weatherman robbing a bank, and the one male Weatherman shooting the bank guard dead. The male Weatherman killer is supposed to be the Redford character. As a result, the Redford character in the film has been in hiding for the last thirty years as well.
This is not a protest action. And the fatality ( how euphemistic) is the cold-blooded murder of a bank guard trying to do his job and losing his life in the process.
Another glaring error by Schneller is her failure to do any research into the Weathermen before her interview with Redford. A first year journalist student would have been better prepared. If Schneller had done a simple Google/Wikipedia search, she would have learned that Redford had whitewashed the actual terrorist activities of the Weathermen.
The Weathermen did not kill one bank security guard in an armed bank robbery. They were part of a group that tried to rob a Brinks' truck and in the process, killed a Brinks' security guard. When they tried to escape, they killed two other police officers who had tried to arrest them. ( note in my own Huff Post piece, I incorrectly stated that three Brinks' security guards had been murdered, as opposed to one guard and two police officers. My error.)
If Schneller had done any research or the Globe had done any fact checking, they would have learned that the Weathermen were actually a radical militant homegrown American terrorist group who amassed bombs and explosives. They not only bombed over 20 American military buildings in the US, they were also intent on killing and maiming innocent Americans. On one occasion, as I reported in my Huffington Post article, the Weathermen were planning to carry out a bombing at an officers' dance at Fort Dix, New Jersey where many military officers and their dates would have been killed or maimed.
But for the three Weathermen blowing themselves up, this could have been a far worse mass murder than the recent Boston Bombing.
Why it was critical for Schneller to get the historical facts correctly, was Redford, as he states in her interview, "saw a chance to teach a little history to a jaded generation who has the desire to effect change."
The problem is that obviously Redford, through this film, was trying to teach a distorted or sanitized version of the history to make his point that in the 1960s the American government made serious mistakes when it engaged in such wars as the Vietnam War. Similarly, the US government today is making serious mistakes when it engages in such foreign wars as Iraq and Afghanistan.
He is suggesting that today's youth should learn from his romanticized version of the Weathermen and take on and challenge the current American government like the Weathermen of yesteryear.
Except the real Weathermen of yesteryear are similar to al Qaeda- like cells in Boston, today, which just killed 3 people and injured over 250 innocent bystanders, many of whom lost their legs. Or the Canadian cell which was planning on blowing up a VIA Rail passenger train bound for the US from Canada.
What Schneller should have done was question Redford on why he whitewashed the history of the Weathermen.
Why did Redford apparently sympathize with the Weathermen, who were clearly homegrown terrorists in the 70s? Was he, Redford trying to tell today's youth that if they oppose their government's foreign wars, they should take a lesson from the Weathermen and blow up military buildings and possibly kill innocent Americans? Through his film, was Redford justifying domestic terrorism as a necessary means to effect change in American foreign policies?
In this light, does Redford believe that the Boston bombers were justified in what they did?
Instead of asking these obvious questions, which Redford himself invited, in producing this film, Schneller, fawned all over this aging Hollywood movie idol. And apparently parked her journalistic smarts and judgment at the door.
She stated in her column, "Eventually, of course, Redford won Christie over. How could he not? At 76, he remains a titan of cinema, as well as a revered philanthropist and environmentalist. His face may look weathered, but his voice is still creamy as a cheesecake, he has a hay bale of hair on his head, and he knows how to charm a roomful of women. During a group interview, two other female journalists and I array ourselves around him while he holds court. "I had resisted The Way We Were the same way," he says. "I didn't want to be a model, I didn't want to be a Ken doll to Barbra Streisand."
The problem with Redford is that the political message he is conveying in his film, "The Company You Keep" is not only as superficial and shallow as his acting. But it is also downright dangerous. And based on his distorted view of the homegrown terrorist group, "The Weathermen."
Joanna Schneller, the Globe columnist, was so caught up in the Hollywood glamor of the aging Redford, she blew the story. And embarrassed herself and her newspaper, the Globe and Mail.