Ben Bradlee, Daniel Ellsberg, Elizabeth Fais, Excellence in Nonfiction Award, First Amendment, History, Katharine Graham, Meryl Streep, Most Dangerous, National Book Award, Nixon, Nonfiction, secret history, Steve Sheinkin, Supreme Court, The Pentagon Papers, The Post, Tom Hanks, Vietnam war, YALSA
Film and fiction bring their own strengths to storytelling. The secrets behind The Pentagon Papers requires both to fully understand the people and events that shaped this turning point in American history and culture.
Most Dangerous, by Steve Sheinkin, reveals the how and why The Pentagon Papers were stolen and released to the press by Daniel Ellsberg. The Post (starring Tom Hanks and Meryl Streep), is the story of the Washington Post’s role in exposing the lies behind the Vietnam war to the American public.
Most Dangerous, by Steve Sheinkin
Daniel Ellsberg and the Secret History of the Vietnam War
Daniel Ellsberg was the obscure government analyst who became “the most dangerous man in America” by risking everything to expose decades of government deception and lies.
The Pentagon Papers—the top-secret history of the Vietnam war—had been kept under lock and key for over a decade, with only the highest ranking government officials aware of their existence. On June 13, 1971, the New York Times blew open the government’s tightly kept secret, exposing The Pentagon Papers to the American public and the world. Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara had documented the government’s actions in the Vietnam War, revealing lies that spanned four presidencies. Sheinkin’s page-turning narrative provides direct insight into the people and political events that brought Ellesberg—a self-proclaimed patriot—to commiting what many would call treason. Sheinkin interviewed Ellsberg and others who were involved in shining the light of truth on The Pentagon Papers. The result is a front row seat to what the New York Times deemed “the biggest story of the century”, as if you are experiencing it unfold in real-time. Thought provoking and emotionally stirring, Most Dangerous delves into the true meaning of patriotism, freedom, and integrity.
Sheinkin’s insightful investigation of The Pentagon Papers was the 2015 National Book Award finalist and winner of the 2016 YALSA Excellence in Nonfiction Award.
The Post, in comparison, focuses on the unprecedented battle between the press and the government regarding the right print The Pentagon Papers. Katharine Graham, the country’s first female newspaper publisher and her hard-driving editor Ben Bradlee were the force behind bringing the truth behind the Vietnam war to the American people.
The Washington Post’s legal team advised Graham against publishing the stolen documents, as Nixon would surely slam them with criminal charges. If they lost the legal battle, Graham risked destroying the newspaper that was her family legacy. If they won, she’d the Post would become a national journalistic institution. She was a fighter. She ran the story.
The White House retaliated with full force, and the Post and Times went before the Supreme Court to plead their First Amendment stance. Newspapers across the country rallied the story in solidarity, and the court ruled in favor of the newspaper and the people’s right to know.
Meryl Streep’s performance provides a movingly nuanced reflection of the societal inequality professional women of the time faced. For this reason, The Post is as much a statement about the turning tides of equality as it is about freedom of the press and the American people’s right to know.