Posted by: emilywil | February 13, 2009

Wag the Dog

A Hollywood producer. A Washington spin-doctor. When they get together, they can make you believe anything.

A Hollywood producer. A Washington spin-doctor. When they get together, they can make you believe anything.

       In Wag the Dog, Robert De Niro plays Conrad Brean, a master of public relations who with the help of Dustin Hoffman, who plays a movie producer, brews up the ultimate campaign to rid the president of a scandalous accusation during re-election.  He devises this wonderful campaign at the cost of a few million gullible Americans, who seem to believe that the U.S. is at war with Albania.  Brean accomplishes his goal of covering the president’s mistake, while bringing up the crucial topic of ethics. 

    According to philosophers three basic value orientations, I believe that Brean is an absolutist.  Absolutist believe something is exactly right or wrong, there is no in between.  They also will do anything to achieve their goal no matter what the consequences are.  At the end of the movie, Brean has Dustin Hoffman’s character, Stanley Motss, killed.  He does this to keep the entire scam covered up, because Motss was going to go public.  This is an example of how no matter what the consequences are, he thought he was right and he went through with whatever he had to go through to complete his task. 

   He broke the PRSA Code of Ethics numerous times.  The code advises to be honest with the public, fairness to clients, employees, peers, etc., and independence for our actions.  Brean however, breaks most of the rules of ethics.  He lies to the American people by devising a fake war, and convincing the public that an actual felon is a Prisoner of War named William Schumann.  He is not fair to his peers, he has Motss killed and he undermines everyone around him by always overriding their ideas and making them seem insignificant.  He is also behind the scenes of the entire operation and is never held accountable for his actions.

    I believe the title of this movie suits it very well.  Wag the Dog is a phrase that means, “To cause a desired result by means other than the obvious or rational method”  (http:// www.;  thus meaning that Brean, to cover up for the president, distracted the American people with false stories of war in Albania.  The desired result was to not make a big story out of the accusation of an affair with a young woman; therefore he made up a big story.                                                                                                   

   This movie, in my opinion, shined both a positive and negative light on the field of public relations.  The positive side is that it exemplified how powerful and persuading public relations can be if done right.  The negative side was showing the ethics of Brean and how he did whatever he had to do to achieve his goal.  I believe it made people not want to trust PR people because they can be so good at manipulating and making something seem one way, even though it is not that way at all. 



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