“Ian Restil, a 15-year-old computer hacker who looks like an even more adolescent version of Bill Gates, is throwing a tantrum. “I want more money. I want a Miata. I want a trip to Disney World. I want X-Men comic book #1. I want a lifetime subscription to Playboy – and throw in Penthouse. Show me the money! Show me the money!. . . .”
Across the table, executives from a California software firm called Jukt Micronics are listening and trying ever so delicately to oblige. “Excuse me, sir”, one of the suits says tentatively to the pimply teenager. “Excuse me. Pardon me for interrupting you, sir. We can arrange more money for you.” – Stephen Glass, from the article, “Hack Heaven” that eventually caused the downfall of his journalistic career.
He was a patholigocal liar. He was a journalist. His writing was coveted by every major publication in the United States. Then, Stephen Glass wrote, “Hack Heaven,” the piece that finally destroyed the journalistic career of a bright, young journalist recently graduated from the University of Pennsylvania.
Shattered Glass tells the story of Stephen Glass, a 23 year old rising star at The New Republic magazine. Glass had worked his way up to being an associate editor at the publication. However, a series of stories started to seem questionable. Finally, Adam Penenberg, a reporter at Forbes sought so do a follow up on one of Glass’s stories, “Hack Heaven.” That article told the story of 15-year-old Ian Restil, and how he had, by hacking the software company Jukt Micronics’s website, essentially extorted millions of dollars from the company. There was only one problem: none of this actually existed. There was no evidence to support that Jukt Micronics was a real company, nor to support that Ian Restil existed. Glass had been found out. He had fabricated notes, created fake business cards, and even had his brother, a student at Stanford University, pose on the phone as Jukt Micronics’s CEO, George Simms. Eventually though, editor Chuck Lane was forced to fire Stephen Glass.
Perhaps the most amazing thing about this film was how well Glass was portrayed as a liar. The viewer wants to believe him. In fact, until near the very end of the film, the viewer is sure that there is going to be some sort of justification for what Glass did. He has to be innocent. This must go to the brilliant acting of Hayden Christianson, who plays Stephen Glass in the film. Indeed, the film accurately recorded sentiments later recounted by Chuck Lane when he said, “We extended normal human trust to someone who basically lacked a conscience…We busy, friendly folks were no match for such a willful deceiver…We thought Glass was interested in our personal lives, or our struggles with work, and we thought it was because he cared. Actually, it was all about sizing us up and searching for vulnerabilities. What we saw as concern was actually contempt.” The movie could not have done a better job of communicating those thoughts to the viewer. At the end, just like Chuck Lane, we were shocked, we were horrified that this journalist, who seemed to care so much, was just a liar. Nothing more.