Refusing Private Ryan

/ 21 November 2004

You probably have read or heard by now of the 66 ABC affiliates who refused to air the Tom Hanks’ film “Saving Private Ryan” on Veteran’s Day. The film has been aired on Veteran’s Day for some years now, but this year its upcoming presentation sparked protests on the part of the fundamentalist right wing in this country. The corporate censoring of our entertainment is problematic enough, but as Frank Rich points out in today’s New York Times, this instance is particularly troubling:

What makes the "Ryan" case both chilling and a harbinger of what's to come is that it isn't about Janet Jackson and sex but about the presentation of war at a time when we are fighting one. That some of the companies whose stations refused to broadcast "Saving Private Ryan" also own major American newspapers in cities as various as Providence and Atlanta leaves you wondering what other kind of self-censorship will be practiced next. If these media outlets are afraid to show a graphic Hollywood treatment of a 60-year-old war starring the beloved Tom Hanks because the feds might fine them, toy with their licenses or deny them permission to expand their empires, might they defensively soften their news divisions' efforts to present the graphic truth of an ongoing war? The pressure groups that are exercised by Bono and "Saving Private Ryan" are often the same ones who are campaigning to derail any news organization that's not towing the administration line in lockstep with Fox.

Given this context, it becomes all the more important to pay attention (and give funding to) organizations and news gatherers that are attempting to maintain a hold on reality as at least some element of their work. There are many such sites on the web, some I'm thinking of today are: FAIR, the Columbia Journalism Review, CommonDreams, and the National Catholic Reporter.