The Hoax

I just finished watching Richard Gere in The Hoax. It's the story of Clifford Irving's fake autobiography of Howard Hughes.

Other than the standard not so subtle Hollywood editorializing, it is an entertaining and interesting story, with tie ins to the fall of Nixon and the other engaging plot twists. Also, the beautiful Julie Delpy offers up a bit of eye candy.

But it reminded me of something I heard from Walter Russel Mead this week. He remarked that history in the 21st century is so influenced by vested political interests that we should be careful to assume that there is any good history concerning anything in the last one hundred years.

He used the example of how we have come to understand the Depression Era.

For the past seventy-five years the 1930's have been described mostly in terms the successes of government intervention in the economy. Only recently have historians begun to analyze how effective government policies were, and the picture is not necessarily pretty. Amity Shales' new book goes so far as to say the Depression could have mostly been avoided had Roosevelt not been elected.

The Hoax layers images of 1970's protests with a portrayal of Nixon as evil incarnate in a politician. This view of the Nixon years is so pervasive in popular culture today that it would seem impossible for anyone who had not lived through those years to have any kind of real understanding of Nixon and his policies.

If Mead is correct, the young people of today will be well into retirement before there is any kind of honest appraisal of the Nixon Administration. Meanwhile, movies like The Hoax just add to the cartoonish popular image of Nixon as Dr. Evil.