Sunday, April 10, 2011

The Insider




This is my original written case analysis about The Insider I submitted in one of my subjects in the graduate school--the Author

The Insider, a critically-acclaimed film directed by Michael Mann, tells a story of a former tobacco company executive who became a celebrated whistleblower in what could have been the greatest scandal of public health issue in US history (uttered by Lowell Bergman (Al Pacino), in one of the scenes in the movie). The film centers on the controversy involving cigarette manufacturers in the United States with its top executives, who appeared on the House of Congress, denying awareness on nicotine’s addictiveness. The film also highlighted the inappropriate media ethics of CBS television station when they shelve the revealing interview of Wigand at the height of nicotine scandal for fear of facing a multi-million dollar law suit.

Its lead character, Jeffrey Wigand, a research scientist, was portrayed in the film as a devoted family man but with a paranoid tendency when under pressure. His short temper made him easily destructed in difficult times. During the interview conducted by Mike Wallace, an anchor in a hit TV show, 60 Minutes on CBS, Wigand revealed that he was fired from his previous job because of some issues on his behavior, emphasizing that when he gets angry, he has difficulty censoring himself, he added that he doesn’t like to be pushed around too.

Lowell Bergman was described in the film as someone who value integrity and ethical practice in the field of journalism. He built his reputation around delivering newsworthy and truthful stories. His responsibility as a producer of 60 Minutes was to make sure every detail of the story is fairly delivered. His dedication towards news reporting and as a media man portrayed him as someone who would fight for what is right and just. Bergman personifies what a media man should be---strong, determined, principled and fearless.

Mike Wallace, on the other hand, characterized as somebody who is pompous and self-conscious with his image as a news anchor, he was described as an arrogant TV personality who is more concerned with his legacy in television than on his journalistic responsibility, somebody who could not stand sacrificing his personal ambition.

Wigand and Bergman were brought together by fate when the latter received a parcel of documents about Philip Morris with complicated terms that should be interpreted by an expert, eventually he was referred to Jeffrey Wigand, former VP of a cigarette company, Brown and Williamson. While dealing with this transaction, Bergman noticed that Wigand is aware about a certain controversy involving big tobacco companies but hesitant to speak because he has a family to protect and he does not want to break the confidentiality agreement he signed with Brown and Williamson, but through series of talks with Bergman, Wigand finally yielded.

The taped-interview was conducted by Mike Wallace under the supervision of Bergman and was scheduled to air on 60 Minutes show, but when Brown and Williamson became aware with Wigand’s impending exposè on television, its top executives pointed out that employees are bounded with a confidentiality agreement prohibiting them to talk publicly about the company, this agreement might put CBS in an uncomfortable situation so its corporate officers hesitated to air the controversial interview which infuriated Lowell Bergman.

There are several ethical questions raised in this film. Brown and Williamson Company’s unethical way of letting Jeffrey Wigand sign an expanded confidentiality agreement to prevent him from disclosing any sensitive issues regarding the company.

The company even threatened Wigand to revoke his severance pay and medical coverage if he won’t sign. This policy or act violates the right of a person on a way of life or his choice of freedom. Another ethical question is on CBS station’s action in breaking its journalism code of ethics when its executives stalled the airing of the controversial interview of Wigand for a simple reason that Brown and Williamson threatened them with a lawsuit which jeopardized their role as an emissary of truth, fairness and speech freedom. The film also revealed the misconduct of seven Chief Executive Officers of Big Tobacco who denied their awareness on nicotine’s addictiveness. Then a PR firm hired by Big Tobacco initiated a smear campaign against Wigand to discredit him.

When CBS’s corporate officers decided to halt the airing of the controversial interview of Jeffrey Wigand on 60 minutes, its long years of credible news reporting legacy was put in a bad light, their reputation as a prestigious media network was heavily damaged. The media here, through CBS, is portrayed as a dependent, frail institution that can easily be threatened and silenced by big time corporations. Their journalistic integrity was badly questioned here.

It was a long and painful process involving top corporate officers of CBS on coming up with a decision whether to air the original version of the taped interview of Jeffrey Wigand or not. The top executives were horrified with the idea that they could be facing a possible multi-million dollar suit from Brown and Williamson if the revealing interview would be aired. This decision blew off the anger of Lowell Bergman who was distraught with the company’s submission to Brown and Williamson’s bullying.

While fuming in anger, with several episodes showing him thundered with frustration towards his colleagues, Bergman was left in the road of uncertainty with his principles as Mike Wallace, the anchor of the show and his good friend for so many years, made a sudden leap to the side of CBS corporate officers and refused to stand beside him with his crusade. Bergman argued that Wigand is the only key witness in the biggest public health reform issue in U.S history and he could not see any valid reason why the interview should not be aired. Bergman knew how to play hardball, thinking his arguments flung into no where he put the matters into his own hands and contacted The New York Times. The newspaper then published the scandal inside the 60 minutes on why the interview was not shown in public; the newspaper then questioned the media ethics of CBS. This event made a terrible blow to the image of CBS, to save what is left for the station, its corporate officers finally decided to air the interview.

Brown and Williamson failed to uphold its corporate social responsibility to the society because of greed and selfishness. Its top executives sacrificed the company’s reputation in order to generate more profit and probably increased market share by producing cigarettes that are more addictive to lure more consumers to patronize their products, this intention undermined their primary responsibility as a company to the society, that is, to help build prosperity and harmony among people in the community and to produce safe products. This selfish practice, believed to be carried out with the blessing of its top executives, had consciously ignored public health considerations in the name of profit and sales volume. As a company, they should be more careful and cautious with people’s health and safety.

The issue of breach of confidentiality agreement is portrayed in the film through Wigand’s decision to testify in court against the Big Tobacco companies, including his former employer, Brown and Williamson. The scene where Wigand had to choose to stand for the sake of truth or remain silent on what he knew because of an expanded confidentiality agreement is somewhat painful because it will backfire on his conscience and his responsibility towards his family. But his decision to blow the whistle on the controversies despite breaking the agreement released him from guilt.

Wigand risked testifying in court even if it would mean disintegrating his marriage. His determination to tell his story finally paid off when his case was heard in court and his interview was aired by CBS. At the last part of the movie (before the credits were shown), it was revealed that The Big Tobacco made a $246 billion settlement with Mississippi and other U.S states, Jeffrey Wigand emerged victorious in the court of public opinion. He was vindicated in the end and went on to win several national recognitions (IMDB).

But Wigand’s decision to expose the truth was justified because it exemplifies heroism. In a society composed of people who are burn out from injustices and unfairness, standing with principles to tell the truth is such a difficult task. Such an heroic act in the sense that Wigand’s decision to disclose the alarming practice of some tobacco companies is the only way to prevent these corporations from continuing such practices. Though he made so many sacrifices (risking his marriage and be away from his children and his lonely life away from his family), his act of heroism paid him more than what money can offer, aside from successfully making the sensitive issue public and stirring the tobacco industry, his side of the story was heard when the CBS finally decided to air his interview and feel vindicated.

Both Wigand and Bergman displayed exceptional acts of heroism and courage in this film which really made a big difference. In the present time, an act of heroism is something other people dreaded because of the hazard and catastrophe it brings to personal lives, but Bergman and Wigand discarded their fears and selfishness and went on to fight what is right and just. Each character showed a tremendous effort of determination and valor which paid in the end.

Heroic Leadership is presented in this film with a fearless attitude of an individual in spreading justice, peace and truth in the community or in life no matter what is the outcome, no matter how the truth will bring pain, it is a burning act of bringing out fairness in the society. It is also a way of helping people see the true value of honesty and integrity by performing a kind of task that is beneficial to all. Through this movie, people become aware that Heroic Leadership is not only for people who help build prosperity in the society, who literally help people in crisis, but also for people who act as a role model by being reliable, steadfast, consistent and dependable, who always look up by many as a strong embodiment of courage, perseverance and loyalty.

Leadership is an act where you are ready to stand for the truth no matter where it takes you, no matter what is the consequences as long as you functioned on the side of uprightness and justice, it is personifying a character that could earn respect. It is not mean being the boss of a team but more on how a certain situation is being handled in correct direction. It is a unique and brilliant process of how to execute responsibility with focus and strength to lead a certain group or team.

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