31 May 2004

Review: Shattered Glass (4/5)

In 1998, the nascent online journal Forbes.com published an article exposing that a writer for the 84 year old print journal The New Republic completely fabricated his story on hackers. The author of the hacker article, Stephen Glass, was a respected writer at TNR and had articles published in several other major magazines including Rolling Stone and (a favorite of mine) Harper's. Twenty-seven of his 41 articles for TNR (touted as "the in-flight magazine of Air Force One") were later found to be either partially or completely fabricated. Shattered Glass attempts to show how someone with so much influence deceived the system for as long as he did.

The primary feeling I had watching this film was anger. There was much of Iago in the way that the self-serving Glass, played with a sociopathic sheen by Hayden Christensen, manipulated those around him. He would ingratiate himself to gain favor, but if anyone threatened the world he had fabricated, he conspired against them by leveraging the network of false trust he had built with others. Just as you hope that someone will finally see past one of his frequently used phrases ("are you mad at me?" or "I'm sorry"), they succumb as he literally cries on their shoulder about how much pressure he's under.

Unlike Iago, Stephen Glass is real. His many journalistic indiscretions affected public debate because of the reputations of the publications involved. Those publications failed to live up to their reputation, and as is evidenced by events after the Hacker Heaven article and more recently, the situation is endemic.

The irony of the film is that online media uncovered this story just at the time that "old" media was denigrating Web publications for not being methodical enough. Shattered Glass is a well-done, timely movie.

[ posted by sstrader on 31 May 2004 at 4:02:46 PM in Cinema ]