Talk Talk Talk Talk Talk Myself to Death: Spinning History

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Spinning History

I'm behind on this--it's a fast-moving story, so this is my attempt to catch up. I started writing about it last night, but there are a lot of strands. I hoped to get to it earlier today, but . . . oh, well. If you frequent some other blogs, you're probably up to speed on this, but if you don't, here you go.

For the fifth anniversary of September 11, ABC is planning to present a "docudrama" that basically invents a new history of the U.S. relationship with al Queda. It's called The Path to 9/11, and the network (which is owned by Disney, let's not forget) sent some preview copies to right-wing bloggers (though none to left-wing ones, for some reason), and word slipped out that the Clinton administration is portrayed as doing irresponsible things that they never did, while the Bushies are portrayed as rising to the unexpected challenge as best they could. Now, while I certainly prefer the Clinton administration more than the Bush one, I certainly saw its faults at the time and in retrospect. Clinton administration officials should be called to task for anything they failed to do to prevent the rise of al Queda and September 11. I'm all for investigating and assigning responsibility wherever appropriate. Let the chips fall where they may--responsibility should be assigned to anyone and everyone who deserves it. But--and maybe it's just me--I'm all for giving them a pass for sins that are completely fabricated by conservative filmmakers.

The filmmakers are claiming that they're adapting the report of the 9/11 Commission, but they're not only including things not in the 9/11 Commission report, that they're using that report as their "plumb line," but in some instances, they're contradicting it. They claim that Clinton aide Sandy Berger was on the phone with a crack CIA team that had bin Laden surrounded and, instead of giving them the "kill order" they wanted, he hung up the phone. That's not in the 9/11 report. In fact, the writer and producer of the miniseries, Cyrus Nowrasteh (who Rush Limbaugh identifies as a friend), has admitted that the scene was actually an ad lib by actor Kevin Dunn. So it doesn't matter what the facts are--good drama is good drama.

The producers have so far denied viewing copies to Berger, Madeleine Albright, and Bill Clinton (but remember, they've been sharing them with right-wing bloggers). Scholastic was distributing "teaching guides" to high school teachers, but since I started to write last night, they've pulled out. (According to TPM Muckraker, they're "replacing them with materials stressing critical thinking and media literacy."

I'm barely scratching the surface of this issue, but each time I start writing about one aspect, I get distracted by another. But there's plenty to read in other places about the film. Howie Kurtz wrote about it in The Washington Post this morning, as did The New York Times this morning and Friday morning (in which they misstate what the 9/11 Commission report says--Alessandra Stanley claims it said Clinton was distracted by the Monica Lewinsky scandal when, in fact, in fact, it said exactly the opposite). Both Think Progress and AMERICAblog are keeping up with the latest developments (and the latter also includes a delightful image of Mohammed Atta wearing Mickey Mouse ears). Editor & Publisher has a report on the copy of the film it saw, but ABC/Disney claim that they're still editing the film, so we can't take that as gospel.

There are a couple of organized protests you can join. Stu Shea sent me a notice from ActforChange about their e-mail campaign, and Think Progress is sponsoring its own campaign. If you participate in either of these e-mail protests, be sure to change up the text of the e-mail provided. Its too easy for ABC/Disney to write off identical e-mails. Do something to make the text your own.

There are a number of ironies concerning the casting of this miniseries, but perhaps the most unfortunate is that Madeleine Albright will be played by Shirley Douglas. In case you don't know, that's Kiefer Sutherland's mother. Now, we all know that if Madeleine Albright had sent Kiefer after bin Ladin in 1995 or so, we wouldn't even be having this conversation.


At 4:02 PM, September 08, 2006, Anonymous Jason Fliegel said...

One of the delightful ironies of all of this is seeing all of the conservatives who excoriated CBS for inaccuracies in their Ronald Reagan biopic of a few years ago who are now rising to the defense of ABC. Glenn Greenwald runs down some of the quotations here.

At 4:03 PM, September 08, 2006, Anonymous Jason Fliegel said...

Not sure why my link didn't link, but the Glenn Greenwald URL is:

At 6:46 PM, September 08, 2006, Anonymous Doug said...

Thanks for the link, Jason. A handful of conservatives seem to be showing some consistency in complaining about the factual accuracy of this one (though they seem to have the attitude that if you're going to do it you ought to get it right instead of the righteous indignation they displayed over the Reagan mini), but most are just enjoying piling on. Damn those Clintons--almost six years out of office, and they're still wrecking everything!


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