The middle child to Joel Bakan and Harold Crooks’s The Corporation and Michael Moore’s Fahrenheit 9/11, Robert Kane Pappas’s Orwell Rolls in His Grave is an expert piece of investigative journalism that likens our media system to a subsidiary of our country’s corporate process. Polemically, Pappas’s incendiary media watchdog is closer in tone to Moore’s anti-Bush rant, but aesthetically it shares more in common with Bakan and Crooks’s Power-Point-ish exposé of corporate greed. From the October Surprise that alleged that the Reagan campaign promised arms and money to Iran to delay the release of American hostages until after the 1980 presidential election to CBS’s failure to air BBC reporter Greg Palast’s expert
account of how George W. Bush’s own campaign unmistakably stole the last Presidential election, Pappas repeatedly points to the conflict of interest that exists in this country between the media and the corporations to which they are beholden. Unlike Fahrenheit 9/11, Orwell Rolls in His Grave isn’t concerned with undermining Bush’s rationale for going to war against Iraq, instead choosing to focus on the current administration’s chokehold of the media in its attempts to undermine the political system in this country and silence its adversaries. Throughout his sometimes exhausting documentary, Pappas reveals how veteran journalist Helen Thomas was silenced by the White House for being critical of the Bush administration, the media’s failure to report the links between the Carlyle Group and Lockheed Martin, and Clear Channel’s despotism toward musicians who exercise their First Amendment rights. The accusations detailed throughout may not come as a surprise to some, but in total the roll call of insults frighteningly suggest that we are indeed living beneath “the dark, ominous shadows of totalitarianism.” Pappas’s smorgasbord of expert interviews and archival footage is intelligently if somewhat haphazardly pieced together with references to Orwellian lexicon (if the media is our country’s Big Brother, we are its sheep) and scored to ominous mood music, but if Pappas’s aesthetic is on the rudimentary side, it’s more than made up for by his sheer force of will.