What is an Unknown Known? (Discussion)

Tonight, Thursday May 29, we'll be holding a discussion of The Unknown Known at 8:00 (at Indywood, of course).

I'm curious what y'all think of this film. Here are some questions I've been mulling over. Let's discuss!

The Big Question:

The term “unknown known” is nonsensical. Despite that, the term gains disturbing significance when Donald Rumsfeld uses it to clarify his reasoning behind leading our country into the longest war in our history.

Yet even Rumsfeld is confused by the term!:

In his original memo, he says an unknown known is “something that you think you know that it turns out you did not.”

But at the end of the film he says an unknown known is "something you know that you don’t know you know.”

Question: What is the difference between these two definitions, and how does this difference reflect on the meaning of the rest of the film? Or in other words, did Rumsfeld know what he was doing or not??? (I think that's the central question of the film.)

How might we interpret these conflicting definitions in relation to the WMD debacle?

Other Questions:

What is the relationship between “knowledge” and “imagination” in Rumsfeld’s thinking?

Why does word play and the definition of words play such a big roll in this film? What roll did word definitions play in justifying the two wars of the Bush administration? (Or in other words—what does “War on Terror” even mean???)

What do we make of the scene where Rumsfeld tears up when remembering a wounded soldier? Does Morris want us to sympathize with Rumsfeld? What is the effect of this scene in relation to the rest of the film?

What lessons can we learn from this film? How might our nation do better in the future? How will the “War on Terror” be remembered?

Is Rumsfeld a snake lying through his teeth or just a dude with a big dictionary and a lack of imagination?

What do we make of the last line of the film: “I don’t really know”?

I hope you can make it to our discussion tonight. If not, there will be many more film discussion to come.

Love, Indywood