If you were like a great number of Americans, you watched the Super Bowl – maybe known now as the Boring Bowl – on Sunday evening. Who won? Who cares.
The real reason a lot of us watch the Super Bowl is to watch cool commercials. There were a few standouts this year – Microsoft gaming with Hays CISD’s own Owen Simmons and his buddies, the NFL 100th Anniversary commercial, which includes the only female in that spot, Sam Gordon, who is a 14-year-old award-winning football player from Utah, and a few others.
But look up the Washington Post commercial on Youtube.com. It is more about saving our Democracy than anything else.
Actor Tom Hanks, who played Ben Bradlee in the movie “The Post”, narrates the Washington Post Super Bowl commercial. His voice has the same seriousness and intensity as in the movie “The Post.”
As Bradlee in that movie, he says, “If we don’t hold them accountable, who will?” Publisher Katherine Graham immediately retorts, “We can’t hold them accountable if we don’t have a newspaper.”
The situation in the movie dealt with a dark time in our history, when the U.S. government threatened to shut down the New York Times if it printed the contents of the Pentagon Papers, a report about the involvement of the United States in the Vietnam War.
In the end, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the First Amendment did protect the right of newspapers to print the materials in the report.
What’s the connection, other than the movie was about “The Post” and the Washington Post put out this commercial?
The Super Bowl commercial points out just how serious the situation is now and why newspapers and journalists are still so needed today. The ruling by the Supreme Court is being questioned every day, and in smaller ways governmental entities large and small are trying to keep decisions in the dark, trying to keep regular citizens from knowing what is truly going on with their tax dollars.
“Democracy Dies in Darkness” is the name of the commercial. Hanks thunders, “Knowing empowers us. Knowing helps us decide. Knowing keeps us free.” All the while, photos from our history – wars, the U.S. flag on the moon, protests and more flash on the screen.
And he is correct. Knowledge and scrutiny are important guarantees to our freedom.
As the commercial points out, journalists are there to bring you the story – “when we go off to war, when we exercise our rights, when we soar to our greatest heights, when we mourn and pray, when our neighbors are at risk, when our nation is threatened, there’s someone to gather the facts, to bring you the story, no matter the cost.”
But journalists do not work in a vacuum, in a void. It takes all of us, citizens, journalists, teachers, publishers, business owners, historians, moms, dads, grandparents … It takes everyone to keep the light on government, from top to bottom.
It means that governments should have to continue to post their legal notices in the newspaper, for all to see, in addition to other places. Not only on their websites for a fraction of a second, buried deep in the background and difficult to find, and not only on a bulletin board in the front lobby, which few ever enter. It means that we all must have access to decisions, large and small.
Knowledge guarantees our freedom. Let’s keep the knowledge flowing. Fight for your right to know.