Richard Jewell Is More Than a Movie It Is a Powerful Political Metaphor

Official movie poster

I’m not a huge movie fan. Never have been. But sometimes a movie comes along that I feel the urge to see. Clint Eastwood’s latest motion picture, Richard Jewell, was one of those movies. Last Thursday I went with my wife and three kids (age 20, 18, and 15) to see it. There were a lot of reasons I wanted to see it. Jewell’s persecution by the FBI was part of an ugly triptych of grotesque overreach by federal law enforcement that significantly changed my worldview. On July 27, you had the bombing of the Atlanta Olympics. While Richard Jewell was being labeled a terrorist by the FBI and the media, the FBI kicked off a totally elective assault on the home of Randy Weaver (August 21) that left one U.S Marshal, Vicki Weaver, and 14-year-old Sam Weaver dead and Randy Weaver and family friend Kevin Harris wounded. Then on February 28, federal authorities said “hold my beer” when accused of acting improperly and launched the criminally stupid operation in Waco.


I was also curious. Because the media and a lot of pro-FBI-screwing-with-private-citizens types were crying foul about the movie. One of the most insane attacks was by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, which held center stage in the public branding of Richard Jewell as an aspiring mass murderer, on the film in defense of the memory of their reporter Kathy Scruggs. Scruggs was the reporter who got the FBI leak that Jewell was the prime suspect. The film portrays this as a little quid pro quo action with Scruggs giving the FBI goober who gave her the tip the choice of getting a room or just doing her in her car. Because we know this never ever happens in real life, read the stories below:

Wanna Know Why No One Trusts You, Media? Ali Watkins, That’s Why
The DOJ Finally Decides to Prosecute a Federal Official For Leaking

As an aside, the AJC did a lengthy profile of Scruggs just a couple of weeks ago, the people interviewed included her brother. No one would say that it was outside the realm of possibility that Scruggs had slept with a source to get a story. Telling.

There have been several posts about the movie on RedState, I don’t intend to replow that ground and here are links to all of them:

Richard Jewell: Past As Prologue?
The Clint Eastwood Film ‘Richard Jewel’ is an Indictment of the Media, and They are not Happy About It
WATCH: Richard Jewell Talks About What Happened to Him in a Clip From 1996, While the Press and FBI Complain About Being ‘Attacked’ in Russia Collusion Mess
Fake News Media is Really Going to Hate Clint Eastwood’s New Movie
Two Films in Theaters Take a Harsh Look at the Media and the Press Has Two Different Reactions Because One Features Fox News
Clint Eastwood Defies Film Boycott Of Georgia (Because Of Course He Does)


While Richard Jewell is a biopic, it struck me much more as something of a metaphor. It is a work with a much deeper message than just the FBI screwing with a guy because they can. I know the Richard Jewell in the movie. I went to high school with him. I served with him in the Army. He’s not dumb, though often his “betters” think that about him. He observes their behavior and accepts the slights and the insults because refusing to acknowledge those insults is his own form of resistance. And because he doesn’t see a percentage in picking a fight over nonsense. He’s rules based. He’s painfully honest and self-analytic. He doesn’t expect much out of life beyond getting by because experience has taught him to expect more is to court disappointment. He is a fiercely loyal friend, even when he knows, in his heart of heart, that the friend is betraying him.

On the other side you have the forces of those in power. Scruggs labels Jewell as the suspect because Jewell simply does not matter to her. He’s no more than the bug on the windshield of her sports car ride to fame. The FBI guys just want the case closed. They are perfectly willing to convict an innocent man of a diabolical crime and send him to death row if it closes the case and gets them the notch on their gun. They aren’t so much bad people as they are people who are driven to succeed and, in Jewell, they see a loser who is beneath their consideration and simply doesn’t matter.


The climax of the film comes when Jewell’s attorney, played by Sam Rockwell, winds him up by making him acknowledge the injustice done him, and, unwittingly, provokes Jewell into defying legal advice and taking his future into his own hands. In that scene, you know that for the first time in his life Richard Jewell has stood up to authority, refused to be a doormat, and claimed agency for himself.

We, on the right, we’re all Richard Jewell. Those who think they are our betters, and that includes the media and quislings on the right like Bill Kristol and David French and Jonah Goldberg and Jim Swift and the whole Grifto-Conservative cabal have long held us in contempt. We didn’t read the right books. We didn’t believe the right things. We didn’t see off-shoring of manufacturing as a social and economic boon. We didn’t think cheap, illegal labor was a great idea. But they were willing to let us be because we were not worth the effort of hurting. They could make pleasant noises around election time, because we really had no other place to go, and then return to their usual form when elected. When the Tea Party happened we became a threat and you find more and more vociferous articles labeling those who were no longer hewing the line from Conservative Central as “alt right” and racist and populist and whatever “phobe” is the flavor du jour. They didn’t make much of a secret about their feelings but we were all too busy working and raising families to really care. I guess they thought we were just too dumb to pick up on it.


With the election of Trump, that has all changed. We were still beneath contempt but it was suddenly worth their time and effort to take us out. The effort to change the culture has become more frenetic. People who violate Federal Trade Commission regulations every time they claim to be conservative are touting drag queen story hour as a “blessing of liberty.” They know that we see them for what they are and unless we are forced back into our proper place, things will never again be the same.

But things have changed. We now see the FBI and the media as the oppressive and establishment driven forces they are. We see our “friends” of some years ago maligning and betraying us. And even as we claim our own voice, or because of it, we are loathed.

The reason the media and a lot of the establishment is lockstep against Richard Jewell, the movie, is because Eastwood has created a very powerful political metaphor and the more people who see it the more dangerous we become. Because we are an angry Richard Jewell…and we might have a bit more of a temper than the movie character does.


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