Thursday, September 07, 2006

On mistakes, misinterpretations, fictionalizations, and lies

Okay, so I know this is nothing that hasn't been reported before, but it still bugs my rhetorical nuts. ABC will be showing a miniseries the evenings of Septeber 10 and September 11 called The Path to 9/11. ABC is presenting it as "a dramatization of the events detailed in the 9/11 Commission Report and other sources," starting with the first World Trade Center bombing in 1993 and moving up through the 9/11 Commission itself "to understand what went right and wrong, and what can be learned from this crucial eight-year period." Scholastic has even provided a discussion guide (which they have recently pulled) for teachers to use The Path to 9/11 as a teaching tool.

The problem? The movie's a load of crap.

Roger Cressey, a top counterterrorism advisor for both Bush and Clinton, said, "It’s amazing, based on what I’ve seen so far is how much they’ve gotten wrong," both the "small stuff" and the "big stuff," deriding it as "something straight out of Disney and fantasyland. It’s factually wrong." About a scene in which then-president Clinton had an opportunity to take out Osama bin Laden and passed on it, Cressey said,
If you read the 9/11 Commission report, it makes it very clear. In most of those cases, George Tenet, the Director of the CIA, said because there was single source intelligence it was his recommendation to the President not to take the shot. There was never a case where we had a clear shot at Bin Laden and the decision to take it wasn’t made.

Clinton counterterrorism czar Richard Clarke - the man who, if you'll remember, tried to warn Bush about the dangers posed by Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda and was rebuffed - similarly decries the inaccuracies in the movie, particularly the scene mentioned above.

The Path to 9/11 is just groaning under the weight of its bias. Thoman Kean, Republican co-chair of the 9/11 Commission, served as an advisor to the film; Lee Hamilton, the Democratic co-chair, did not. Screenwriter and conservative activist Cyrus Nowrasteh has been roundly praised by Rush Limbaugh and described by him as "a personal friend." Advance copies of the film were sent out to conservative pundits and bloggers, but progressives requesting copies were told that they were just plumb out. Rush Limbaugh and Hugh Hewitt got to see advance copies; Bill Clinton and Madeleine Albright were denied.

Sure, ABC claims that this is a "docudrama." But then it turns around and presents it as a "dramatization" of the event outlined in the 9/11 Commission Report while in direct contradiction of that same report. (and producers told Fox that it was based "solely and completely on the 9/11 Commission Report"). Upon seeing part of the miniseries, Richard Ben-Veniste, a member of the 9/11 Commission, said, "As we were watching, we were trying to think how they could have misinterpreted the 9/11 commission’s finding the way that they had," going on to say, "I like Harvey Keitel."

Now, if some folks want to create a work of fiction that uses imagination and play-pretend to dramatize events, they're welcome to do so. That's what the film industry is all about (look at Pearl Harbor. Or, better yet, don't). But to present those fictionalized accounts as fact, to claim that they're based "solely and completely" on a report that directly contradicts them, to cast aspersions on the lives and careers of people whose only sin was working for a president who got his dick wet in the Oval Office, to lie outright and then provide materials to teach it to high school students, all to promote a political agenda, is wrong. Wrong in the sense of being wrong.

ThinkProgress advises us to tell ABC how we feel about these inaccuracies. I advise you to be polite and concise, but be honest. Because, as I learned from my parents when I was a toddler, honesty is very important. I guess other people didn't learn that.

Note: As always, someone has to come along and say it better than I have. Presdent Clinton's lawyer says it clearly and concisely in a letter to ABC chief Bob Iger.

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