My Theory That Roger Ebert Has Been Key In Preserving Democracy for 2 or 3 Decades Now

Roger Ebert has been reviewing movies since 1967.  I’m not sure how many movies he’s reviewed but I think I heard it was over 6,000 at one point.  And some he’s reviewed 2 or 3 times.  He was the first film critic ever to win a Pulitzer Prize.  He’s seen as one of, if not the best, living film critics.  And I think he has contributed to the survival of democracy.

Let me break this down.

Film is arguably the most important of the current mass arts.  Maybe it wasn’t always this way but right now, movies are where it’s at.  It’s what people look at and to.  And film criticism is a big part of the whole movie experience.  And since Ebert is considered one of the best, he is therefore influential even amongst other critics.  He is someone who’s opinions can direct the opinions of other critics (who can direct the opinions of the masses).  I’m not sure how big the film criticism world is but I’m quite sure that his voice is a valuable voice in it.

Now let’s look at what criticism is as a thing.  It’s basically one person saying what he or she thinks about something.  And it might seem silly but this is a big deal.  People look to others to articulate how they feel about things.  The average person doesn’t have much to say about a movie (or anything else) past, “I liked it” or “It sucked”.   Critics explain it better.  And some people blow off critics, thinking that they are just being whiney but I don’t think that’s right.  The job of the film critic is to view the film and judge it for what it is.  In a way, film criticism is quality control for the movies.  Sure there are other ways to test if a movie is good or not but film criticism is the most direct.  It’s their profession after all.

At this point I’m going to bring in some thoughts on journalism as a thing.  You see, at its core journalism is about telling the people what is going on.  And that is actually a very important part of society.   Good journalism should inform the populace of facts so as to keep everyone educated and aware of the world around them.

And a huge societal function of journalism is accountability.  Yes, even though journalists can seem irritating at times, the point is that they are trying to keep everybody honest, from politicians and sports stars to farmers and zoo keepers.  If you didn’t have journalism the way it is information would still come, but it would come spewing in ways we can’t be sure are healthy for us.  Where journalism isn’t valued, a society might be prone to shift to getting all of it’s news from the same source, which can be dangerous in its own way.  Think of propaganda.  If a group is enclosed and only getting words from one source, their thoughts, opinions and values will more than likely be shaped by that single, narrow voice.   And when this happens, when the group gets locked in, there might suddenly be a fear that infiltrates the group.  People will be afraid to speak up.  Those in power, believing that they are always right, will silence any voice that might cause a disruption and challenge their control.

It’s like a cult.  A really big one.

So societies have newspapers and radio and television… and movies.  And these communication conduits spread out to the people and keep the whole machine chugging along.  And when the average people have a voice, that’s called democracy.

And not that Roger Ebert’s voice is average.  But it gets out there.   And if it doesn’t, it gets to other voices that get out there.  And movies get out there and shape the way people live and think.  And people like Roger Ebert help us think rightly about the movies.  It all kinda fits together, see?

So, Roger Ebert is important for democracy is what I’m trying to tell you.

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