Clint Eastwood has produced another timely masterpiece, “Richard Jewell,” the story of the man wrongly accused of planting a bomb at the Atlanta Olympic Games in 1996.
Eastwood, who’s now almost 90, has a marvelous sense of timing. Nothing is rushed, and we watch grimly as Jewell is slowly and relentlessly framed by two of the most powerful forces in our society: the government and the media.
It’s an old story, but it’s as contemporary as tomorrow. The corruption of the state—in the film, as in our world, embodied in the FBI—working hand in glove with a corrupt press, featuring a sexy female reporter, leaves Jewell little room to fight for his innocence.
The FBI is hell-bent on proving his guilt, even though there is no concrete evidence of it. The media buys the story even though they know the theory is nonsense. Jewell, having grown up with a touching faith in the moral rectitude of the bureau, at first waits for the facts to emerge and only later, after his life is torn to shreds, does he begin to come to grips with reality and fight for his honor.
Jewell is the archetype of the Washington victim, a man who believed the FBI was only interested in the facts and, since he knew he was innocent, had nothing to lose by talking to bureau officials. Jewell’s example is a warning—that anyone who is approached by FBI investigators should refuse to talk to them unless he has a lawyer present. Jewell learned to his dismay that the bureau had embraced the theory that he had set the bomb, and it took many days before he stopped cooperating with his interrogators, despite repeated warnings from his lawyer.
Just ask retired Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, who is fighting the same battle for his reputation as did Jewell.
The hero of the film is his lawyer, and his lawyer’s Central European secretary, who knows all about show trials and corrupt secret services. The duo patiently guide Jewell away from cooperation with the FBI, until the lawyer asks his client, “Are you going to fight these people?” Many months later, the bureau gives Jewell a clean bill of health.
We need this film, big time. Nothing testifies to its importance so powerfully as the dismal turnout for the film’s first showing, the worst audience for any Eastwood film in memory. We saw it at a local cinema, which was largely empty, and the audience was mostly elderly.
The reviews were poor. “Jewell” was taken to task for portraying the pillorying of poor Jewell as an act of sheer corruption. The critics found this laughable, a total distortion of journalistic behavior. Who could imagine an aggressive blonde reporter seducing a scoop from an FBI investigator?
And yet, the collusion of press and law enforcement is at the heart of our current travails. And Eastwood does a splendid job of telling his story. As Jewell’s lawyer in the film tells us:
“Richard Jewell was polite to a fault. A gentle, honest man with a ‘cop-gene’ that allowed him to be firm if rules were important. Kind to and respectful of others. A man of integrity and courage. A true hero. He changed my life.”
Michael Ledeen is a freedom scholar at Foundation for Defense of Democracies. He has served as a consultant to the National Security Council and the departments of State and Defense, and as a special adviser to the secretary of state. He is the author of 35 books, most recently “Field of Fight: How to Win the War Against Radical Islam and its Allies,” co-authored with retired Lt. Gen. Michael T. Flynn.
Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.