The Most Dangerous Man in America: Daniel Ellsberg and the Pentagon Papers (2009)

2 Jun

Until recently I didn’t know anything about the Pentagon papers. They were published before I was born and I didn’t know much about the Vietnam war (except for some excellent movies and series about it). This documentary tells the story of Daniel Ellsberg, who decided to inform the public about the decisions that were made by government about the war. He manually copied hundreds of classified documents and distributed them to the papers. It’s an excellent documentary with a powerful message.

In this documentary Daniel Ellsberg tells his own story. He talks about the reasons he did it and what happened after the publication. He was prosecuted and could have ended up in jail for many years.
Not only Ellsberg is interviewed, but also his family and close friends he worked with talk about his work. This results in a very insightful documentary about a man who wanted to make a change and did.

What had the most impact on me while watching this documentary is when Daniel Ellsberg says:

I’ve come to realise the fear of being cut out from the group of people you respect and whose respect you want and normally expect, that keeps people participating in anything no matter how terrible.

It is something you see everywhere. The pressure of belonging to a group and wanting to stay part of the group will make sure things won’t change. Whether you are working in government, at a big company or part of some club, most people won’t dare to say something about a specific thing they do not agree with for fear of not being able to make a career or having to leave.
Unfortunately it’s a fact of life and it happens everywhere (I think it’s easy for anyone to give examples), but luckily there are always people like Daniel Ellsberg who are willing to risk losing everything to fight for something they believe is right. It’s very inspiring to see and makes you think about the things you might be able to do something about yourself.

Wikileaks recently published many documents about the war in Afghanistan, which were allegedly given to them by Bradley Manning. According to Wikipedia “he hoped the release of the videos and documents would lead to “worldwide discussion, debates, and reforms.”” Although it initially showed up in the news, it seems the focus on it has already gone and it seems it has not led to any reforms. Of course the situation is different when compared to the situation in Vietnam. The casualties were much higher and the public outrage about the war was bigger.
What it does show is that there are more people like Daniel Ellsberg, willing to risk it. One person can make a difference, and it is something that this documentary clearly shows. It’s inspirational and a documentary which you should see.

Score: 8

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