November 14, 2011
The Fog of War
A few weeks ago in TOK we watched The Fog of War, an American Film directed by Robert McNamara. R. McNamara was educated at Berkely and Harvard who took part in the statistical analysis for the improvement of the bombing strategy in WWII, a high-level executive at Ford and served as Secretary of Defense under Kennedy and Johnson during the Vietnam War.
This film in short reminded me of the famous quote by Winston Churchil.
“History is written by the victors”
The film wasn’t an extended interview with McNamara but rather a culmination of edited interviews with him, TV news excerpts, news reports, still photos of the past with taped meetings playing in the background, footage of the bombing in WWII and air attacks in Vietnam and excerpts of recorded phone conversations. Furthermore it repetitively showed shots of reports, headlines, data in which the camera focused on specific words.
In all honesty, I think this film as made for McNamara to convince the masses of his innocence. It lacked authenticity because of the copious amount of editing and even during his interviews, his words did not seem to reach my heart.
He often mentioned
We see what we want to believe
I think through the film he tried to show what he wanted us to believe. The focuses on certain words throughout the film appealed to our senses as it was highlighted. Furthermore, the short excerpts of the interviews, phone calls and meetings was never fully played thus, we were only capable of understanding a little part of the situation. Also the footage from the wars appealed to our emotions as it provoked pathos and seeing McNamara in the same situation also provoked empathy. I think this was very much to his convenience.
Many times, he contradicted himself. Before when he worked as the Secretary of Defense he assisted the mass murder that was committed by the US. Now however, he claims that he is a pacifist. His actions and words do not correspond. Of course, people can change (or can they? this is off topic so I will hold off for now). However, he definitely made a mistake when he mentioned his friend who committed suicide after realizing the mistakes that he has made as we, the audience was more or less forced to compare him and McNamara. I think the fact that McNamara is still alive shows lack of determination on his part. (Although committing suicide does not help anyone…)
McNamara is definitely a victor in this situation. He is wealthy and he is capable of expressing his opinions and what is more convey that to the whole public (through his film). This film is merely one of the sides of a story with many more sides and to believe every single word, phrase, story from this film, in my opinion is wrong. Even in history, although it was in IGCSE, we were taught to appreciate multiple sources. One source can appear to be more convincing because when sources appeals to us emotionally it is difficult to forget. However, we must remember that when looking back to the past it is important to know many perspectives, whether or not it appeals to our senses or not.