Seeing is believing – The Fifth Estate

I just read the open letter by Julian Assange to Benedict Cumberbatch, concerning an invitation of the latter, which politely, Assange turned down.

It spawned some hilarous reponses, like an open letter to Benedic Cumberbatch from Smaug, etc., on the web, but I can’t even laugh, as they are distracting from an important issue: Is Assange right in his claim?

You will be used, as a hired gun, to assume the appearance of the truth in order to assassinate it. To present me as someone morally compromised and to place me in a falsified history. To create a work, not of fiction, but of debased truth.

My answer is yes. I would be interested what Benedict Cumberbatch would have to say, maybe in 10 years time, about his decision to participate in the movie. I’m sure he had all the right motives to start with, as his stance is quite clear on the topic.

All these “open letter” responses on the web seem to me like written by a bunch of — very talented — kids who have not fully encompassed the extent to which this will affect us all – our freedom of speech, and our basic human rights. It’s as if a doctor had just informed them that they will die of cancer, and they respond with “Hey I know a joke, a woman visits her doctor …”

But then, who is to blame them if even an utterly brilliant and educated man like Benedict Cumberbatch is unable to see through the maze of lies at times.  (I’m not saying that I do in turn; maybe I’m just more paranoid than them and I’m surely lacking the light-heartedness of youth.)

I’m working in public relations, and my opinion is that one should question the informational value of texts that have been paid for. The same goes for movies. In law, you ask the question “cui bono” – “to whose benefit.” Mostly, there is the answer already, plain and simple.

The responses to Assange’s open letter mostly pick upon his tone and phrasing, mocking him as sounding overly butt-hurt. He is not. He just doesn’t like that he is depicted in a way that is claimed to be fiction – but the border between fiction and distorted reality is narrow.

A counter-example: Cumberbatch will star in a movie about Alan Turing, the tragic mathematical genius. There relatives were voicing their concerns, ensuring that there wouldn’t be any romantic scene involving Turing.

Is this taking relatives’ – not even his own – opinion into account even helping historical accuracy? Cui bono? The movie company in this case who won’t go without the blessing of Turing’s relatives, or they probably wouldn’t get permission to film it, or lose funding. I don’t know. Who it doesn’t neccessarily do any good is Turing’s memory, because the fact that he was homosexual was responsible for almost all problems he was facing within the British military system. He underwent a de-gaying programme of sorts, and was systematically destroyed.  So his being gay is plot-relevant for a biography. It isn’t just a side-note.

So while in Turings’ case the relatives’ concern can easily be filed under the term butt-hurt, Assange’s response is not.

“Most of the events depicted never happened, or the people shown were not involved in them. It has real names, real places, and looks like it is covering real events, but it is still a dramatic and cinematic work, and it invents or shapes the facts to fit its narrative goals,” WikiLeaks stated last month. This is exactly my own impression.

Cumberbatch looks fabulous in white-blonde and acts terrifically, so I’ll watch it, most probably, the same way as I watched “Star Trek Into Darkness.” I don’t expect to find any truth in it. Oh, and David Thewlis is in there as well. Definitely another reason to watch.

(Star Trek, cui bono? The system. Approximate message: “Of course, even if we say that terrorists are home-grown to a degree, hey, he is really plain mad after all. It’s not the sytem’s fault. The system works just fine. No changes there.”)

But back to my original point; the notion that Cumberbatch was a hired gun in this production won’t leave me since I saw the first trailer. No matter if it claims to be “fiction.” Assange is a real person, and 99 percent of the audience won’t differentiate. They will accept what they are being shown as the plain truth.

I’m expecting to see a nicely made propaganda film. Here’s the trailer.


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