Amid oh-so-clever ads for beer, cars and snack foods, one Super Bowl LIII ad stood out yesterday—the sober message presented by the Washington Post: “Democracy Dies in Darkness.” The ad offers an important counterpoint to the Trump administration’s all-out propaganda war aimed at undermining Americans’ faith in the free press—simply because some media outlets have the audacity to criticize, or simply question, the president and do their jobs of holding government accountable. In an era when the democracy-defining Fourth Estate is under attack by a U.S. President sworn to uphold the Constitution—which guarantees a free press—the Washington Post’s ad rises, essentially, to the level of an act of courage.
Here’s the ad. The narrator, in case you weren’t sure, is Tom Hanks. Call it over-dramatic, if you must—especially in comparison to the humorous, slapstick and feel-good tone of most other Super Bowl ads. But this is a message that needs to be heard and repeated. The words and images are a poetic tribute to a basic tenet of American democracy — freedom of the press: “Knowing empowers us. Knowing helps us decide. Knowing keeps us free.”
By the way, it doesn’t ask you to subscribe to the Washington Post. But, given today’s dire circumstances, that’s that not such a bad idea—even if you don’t particularly like Jeff Bezos, the owner of the Washington Post.