Posted 26 апреля 2022,, 13:41

Published 26 апреля 2022,, 13:41

Modified 24 декабря 2022,, 22:36

Updated 24 декабря 2022,, 22:36

The lessons of Balzac: how the freedom of speech 200 years ago differs from today's

The lessons of Balzac: how the freedom of speech 200 years ago differs from today's

26 апреля 2022, 13:41
Фото: Кадр из фильма
The issue of a free press has revived again. Once again, we have to think about the right to speak and the restrictive obligations that the political environment imposes. Therefore, it cannot be called an accident that this problem has also been embodied in the cinema.

Sergey Mitrofanov

I single out two films of recent times - the French "Lost Illusions", 2021, and the American TV series "Tokyo Police", USA, 2021.

"Lost Illusions", of course, according to Balzac, who understood "illusions" quite broadly. For him, "illusion" is, first of all, a career, love, happiness and status in high society. But the authors of the film, in fact, muffled the lyrical, love line, the main one in Balzac, and focused on the illusion of "liberal freedom".

At the same time, the period described by Balzac and reflected in the film is quite interesting in itself and, apparently, is little reflected in Russian public opinion.

We are talking about the so-called restoration, when France, tired of the revolutionary lawlessness of the French Revolution, swung sharply towards centralization around the returned monarchy for a while. But leaving in itself elements of the unfinished bourgeois liberalism generated by the recent revolutionary ferment.

Rather, it was such a curious moment in French history, when both ways seemed to exist together and it was not yet quite clear which of them would win.

In the center of the story, Lucien Chardon is an addicting young man, somewhat reminiscent of Oleg Kashin in the good sense of the word. That is, having an ultra-fast accurate pen and the ability to quickly change the camps of their political preferences.

The era itself is also very similar to our nineties - an explosion of influence of the fourth power. The first power, of course, did not leave the last without consequences. It introduced censorship, then it was canceled, retreating, then it was introduced again. She became famous for two “terrible” innovations - the law on crimes in the press (for example, repressions for insulting the king from 6 months to 5 years in prison and a fine from 500 francs to 10,000 francs; for insulting a member of the royal family - up to 3 years in prison and up to 5000 francs fine) and the affairs of the Ministry of Spiritual Affairs, obliging under the threat of criminal prosecution to celebrate ... the resurrection. Spirituality is the French “everything” of this period.

But, as it turned out, liberalism was killed, paradoxically, not by repressions, but by “lost illusions”.

The liberals themselves, in fact, ruined their own camp, playing on the commercialization of the reputation game and following the lead of advertisers and oligarchs. In turn, imitating the luxurious life of aristocrats, our Lucien also took a contract from the King's Administration to denigrate the opponents of the court and a secret contract from the liberals to denigrate their loyalist opponents in order to pay off debts to a liberal newspaper. In the end, he, too, was exposed by both the liberals and the Administrations, he failed in his career, in society, and in his personal life, he lost romantic illusions, but did not commit suicide, as it should have been due to the tragedy of the plot, but learned to live without them. The film ends with pictures of the liberal press being smashed, burning potentially dangerous paper that could have been used for newspapers.

"Lost Illusions" is a very good thing from Balzac, and the film is a five on a five-point scale, although extremely unpleasant. Watching it is disgusting, if not almost impossible, if you have liberal nerves. Apparently, due to the fact that all of us, journalists, for the most part, are such "Luciens", types of neither cold nor hot, but slightly warm actors who go with the flow. In Russian literature, there is the same Grinev from The Captain's Daughter, who is also extremely unpleasant to me, a foreseen hero.


But "Police Tokyo" - about journalism is already closer to our time, although it again reminds, in particular, reporter work in the early "Kommersant". The protagonist is a young Jake Adelstein, a real person and even not at all old now (born in 1969, now he is 53 years old). He became known for getting a job as an investigative crime reporter in ... a Japanese newspaper and just in the same dashing nineties.

According to the film, he is a complimentary tall handsome man, although he is somewhat stupid from a professional point of view. While investigating, he substitutes one or the other, and it is simply surprising that he himself was not beaten for such “investigations”.

Reporting in Japan looks curious.

The main requirement of the authorities is that no one deviate from the official press release. Thus, corporate totalitarianism is demonstrated cleaner than ours and cleaner than the Soviet one. It is somewhat unclear, however: what then is the meaning of "investigations" and what is the motive of the newspaper. something to investigate if nothing is possible? Japanese nationalism is also noted: the “white” reporter causes ridicule from the Japanese, bordering on culture shock, that they have to work together with such a monster, in fact, Godzilla.

Adelstein himself later wrote: “I don't know why other people continue to be journalists in Japan. This is an increasingly difficult and painful task. You risk losing a lot personally and gaining a little. The case of Minoru Tanaka is a sad reminder of how power is increasingly being used as a club to silence journalists . Write the truth and you will be forgotten. This is the reality of the independent journalists who are here. Why do I continue? I do this because I love this job and because I love Japan. This is my house. And I continue to be an investigative journalist because I believe that the role of journalism is its best part of the profession - to reveal the truth that people need to know in order to see that justice is achieved even when the authorities do not care about protecting the weak from the strong. . By doing this, you make our society a better place to live in".

A little naive, isn't it?