Barry Levinson on Trump-Russia Probe: "He Cannot Look More Guilty Than He Acts"
Wars of the future will be about "degrees of manipulation," the 'Wag the Dog' director says in Karlovy Vary and shares that he would like to one day make a film about the current political situation in the U.S.
Wars of the future will be about "degrees of manipulation" with information — and misinformation — taking the place of "tanks and planes" to gain influence and power over other nations, Barry Levinson believes.
Levinson, who won a best director Oscar for Rain Man in 1989 and has often focused on political issues, tackled fake news in his 1997 film Wag the Dog, which depicted White House spin doctors inventing a foreign war to cover up a presidential sex scandal.
Speaking to The Hollywood Reporter at the Karlovy Vary film festival in the Czech Republic, where his HBO TV movie Paterno screens out of competition Thursday, Levinson said that as the investigation into allegations of collusion between President Donald Trump and Russians to interfere in the presidential election continues to develop, the role that information and misinformation plays in contemporary conflicts was increasingly obvious.
"To me it is not about the Republicans versus the Democrats — there is clearly enough information that something went on between Russia and the Trump campaign," he said. "What is interesting for me is the open attacks on the investigation — that is quite frightening, and more frightening is the support that he gets."
Added Levinson: "Obviously something went on, and he does not want anyone to know about it. In many ways he cannot look more guilty than he acts. I don't know when this will shake down; this has pulled the country into perhaps its greatest test in terms of democracy."
For Levinson the world of Wag the Dog and the world of today's fake news is part of an inevitable trajectory that began with the invention and mass adoption of television and has rapidly increased since the advent of the Internet and social media.
"What we are seeing now is that we have lost the sense of that which is credible and we cannot figure out what is true anymore and if we can, we are afraid that maybe it is not true."
Levinson said he would like to find a way to reflect on the current political situation in America, but would need to find a way to do such a film. "I would like to find a way into that," he told THR. "To simply do a depiction of what is taking place is not enough, you have to go beyond that, and I am not sure what is beyond that yet."
Musing on where fake news, rebuttals and denunciations were taking the world, he said: "If ultimately truth becomes damaged, and we don't know what to believe, we have a tendency to shut down. A certain degree of apathy sets in. Information crashes into other information, false or real, and everything becomes meaningless. I sense we are at the beginning of that."
Levinson, who is due to receive a Karlovy Vary Crystal Globe for outstanding artistic contribution to world cinema, added that he feared people were getting to the point of no longer caring.
"This is the replacement for war," Levinson. "This is the new war that does not need tanks and planes. It is only by degrees of manipulation that you are able to influence certain things from one country to another. That is the war of the future."