Catching up With: The Unknown Known by Errol Morris
Now on Netflix, and available everywhere for viewing is the 2013 documentary, The Unknown Known, in which filmmaker genius Errol Morris and former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, he of the scary Joker-like smirk, have a bit of a pissing match. Their cinematic combat (with the edit advantage to Morris obviously) centers over the cascading words and snowflakes (the multitude of memos) written by Rumsfeld. The two-time Defense Secretary always seemed hellbent on creating a fantasy world of figures and alternative realities while at the same time producing devastating policy for the citizens of this world.
And that's where these two men are alike, they produce devastation, with spinning words, and roundabout ways, the difference being that Morris does it for art and truth. Rumsfeld, in his government time under George W. Bush, had the effect of sending young Americans to be exploded by roadside bombs and was part of a cabal causing entire regions of the world to accelerate into a topsy-turvy cycle of violence with no end in sight.
Morris shows how disturbingly Rumsfeld, already a Defense Secretary under Gerald Ford, may have cooked the numbers during the Cold War to make the Soviet threat bigger than it was, while the words he used during pompous news conferences during the run-up and fallout of the Iraq debacle, had perhaps scary theatrical and poetic value, at the time, but no grounding whatsoever, beyond the Secretary's own spinning mind, to hide atrocities behind empty formulations and other word-based deviances. So this film is a journey into words. We already knew about propaganda.
This shows us, and uncovers, an attempt to use words (as part of snowflakes) to waterboard us as citizens.
Unlike The Fog of War, where another old milky white former Secretary of Defense with a devastating penchant for hiding behind numbers and charts and preconceived notions, Robert S. McNamara, hangs himself with his own words to the hidden but heard Morris, Rumsfeld is not foggy because of time or old age. Rumsfeld seems as sharp as ever, if a little less combative, and ready for the challenge, always ready for the challenge, to the last fighting word. Like other Morris characters, though, he remains an underdog, as the history in the film deftly shows how he was passed up as Ronald Reagan's running mate, and that spot was given to Bush Senior. Looking into the camera, he admits it was very close for him to once have had a pretty straight path to the presidency itself.