At what point does a person become a terrorist?
Does thought constitute a crime? What if a government informant encouraged you to have those thoughts? What is the line between investigation and entrapment? What lengths are we willing to let authorities go to in the effort to prevent terrorist attacks?
These are just some of the questions I came away with after watching an electrifying PBS documentary this weekend. I hadn’t heard about “Better This World” until I came across a blog that mentioned it early Saturday morning. The best thing about this political mystery/thriller is that you can currently watch it for free. It was so good and suspenseful that I ended up staying awake until 3 a.m. to finish it. That will teach to me start watching a purportedly good film late at night.
What is the film about? Here is the PBS synopsis:
The story of Bradley Crowder and David McKay, who were accused of intending to firebomb the 2008 Republican National Convention, is a dramatic tale of idealism, loyalty, crime and betrayal. Better This World follows the radicalization of these boyhood friends from Midland, Texas, under the tutelage of revolutionary activist Brandon Darby. The results: eight homemade bombs, multiple domestic terrorism charges and a high-stakes entrapment defense hinging on the actions of a controversial FBI informant. Better This World goes to the heart of the war on terror and its impact on civil liberties and political dissent in post-9/11 America.
Don’t be misled by the description into thinking this is a film about left-wing politics versus right-wing politics. It’s not.
Also, make no mistake about my assessment of their crime: Crowder and McKay did wrong by assembling homemade bombs. They will even admit to that.
However, I found it very difficult after the film to believe that these two young men were terrorists who wished to harm people. That seems to conflict with the very core of their beliefs, and despite their frustration with the circumstances they found themselves in back in 2008, I don’t think that would have changed.
This is definitely a film to watch with a group of people, if possible, so you can discuss it afterward. Otherwise, you’ll find yourself frustrated. Trust me.
The film is free to watch in its entirety here until Oct. 6. It’s definitely worth your time.