Occasional blogging, mostly of the long-form variety.

Monday, September 11, 2006

A Quick Reaction to Part One of The Path to Propaganda

(crossposted at The Blue Herald)

Holy crap.

I’ll do a more in-depth review of ABC’s Path to Propaganda, err, Path to 9/11, later on. I’m sure other sites will give a detailed run-down of the glaring flaws of Part One.

But the quick review: it is indeed worse than we heard. I am an avid film buff. But I have never seen anything on Western TV remotely like this. I've seen laughable historical fiction, but it was labeled as historical fiction. I've seen earnest documentaries that failed. But I have never seen a major American network fund and air an outright propaganda piece. The only comparison that comes to mind is some of the Nazi propaganda films of the 30s, especially a feature film they commissioned with popular actors to legitimize the T-4 euthanasia program that was the predecessor of the death camps. Those pieces were of course far more vile than what these evangelical Christians and harcore rightwingers have created. But to purposefully distort history, for a rabidly partisan agenda, on network TV, is absolutely astounding. It’d be one thing if this was another bullshit book from a National Review writer of dubious intellect practicing sloppy scholarship. But this was blessed by ABC!

(Why is it, when the Bush administration and their cheerleaders do something “unprecedented,” it’s always bad? Isn’t that rather disturbing?)

Were liberals to craft something comparable, it would probably have to involve George W. Bush depicted as a petulant child, yelling at subordinates, making horrible decisions, utterly manipulated by Cheney, and throwing his feces at a portrait of Bill Clinton. (Although sadly, only the last item strains credulity). Or perhaps if a film showed Laura Bush ordering young virgin AIDS patients slaughtered so she could bathe in their blood, that might approach it. Or there’s German knights dropping babies into fires, as in Alexander Nevsky. It’s really pretty astounding. The ABC “docudrama” reeks of the standard macho bullshit that defines mediocre films, where the craven suits interfere with the cop who knows what’s right, in that fantasy world where cops are never wrong, never force false confessions, never nab the wrong person, never beat up or imprison someone who doesn’t deserve it, and civil liberties are the greatest enemy to our safety. The problem is, this “docudrama” goes beyond standard mediocre fare, and also is much more subtle, at least to the uninformed, about its cartoonish mischaracterizations. It centers on real events, and is an truly evil attempt to shape our national mythology and collective memory of a very important event. It purports to be true. As much as Bush himself invokes 9/11 inappropriately, and accuses his critics of being terrorist sympathizers, even he has never ventured so far into slander. It is only his allies and proxies that will push that far, but even they have held back (at the mainstream ones have) until now.

Any exec at ABC that witnessed or approved this monstrosity deserves our eternal scorn. The worst part is, past the disclaimer, that the piece quotes the 9/11 Commission Report and implies their “docudrama” is unbiased and represents the findings of the Report.

I'm not sure I've ever been more ashamed of the American media.

And no coverage, no coverage of this propaganda should possibly avoid pointing out that the piece is factually inaccurate and a gross distortion of the truth. A honest evaluation of the Clinton administration, however scathing, would be fine. But they are damned for things that did not happen. It’s important to note that some outlets have slammed ABC and the project, and that’s both welcome and essential. But I’ve also already seen some of the usual “he said-she said” crap coverage. The sad truth is that those that lie always have an advantage in the “civilized” media, and the media has felt comfortable slamming Dems for at least the past 15 years while they’re scared to do so with the Republicans. The Dems need to raise holy hell, and the media need to step up and play honest referee, stating unequivocally, “this is grossly factually inaccurate.”

The ABC project is one of those litmus tests. Anyone who praises this film is a utter hack and loses all credibility forevermore (unless perhaps they acknowledge their mendacity later on). Any media outlet that does not call “bullshit!” on this project is worthless as a source.

The propaganda is so blatant, any fair-minded, reasonably intelligent and reasonably well-informed person would know it must be crap. The rightwing nuts are a lost cause. Who cares what they think (to the extent they can generate independent thought versus parroting the latest GOP talking points). But for the independents? The sane, moderate conservatives? The non-news junkie liberals? For those that watched the ABC piece hoping to learn something new? The message is, repeatedly, that 9/11 is the Clinton administration’s fault. Regardless of what happens in part 2 – and won’t it be interesting to hear Bush’s primetime address! – the “blame Clinton” agenda is inescapable and central to the piece. It’s the whole point of it.

Good newspapers, such as The Washington Post, have repeatedly pointed out that Saddam Hussein was not involved in 9/11. Clinton’s record and Bush’s records on terrorism prior to 9/11 are available. But as Post writers have pointed out to frustrated readers in online discussions, there’s no law forcing the general populace to read the papers. Much of the right information is out there, but no everyone consumes it.

This makes it all the more important that the correct information is reported, and blatant falsehoods are challenged, because serious damage is very easily done with bad initial reporting. I hope the late night talk shows take this “docudrama” on, for example. And I’m sure after they pick their jaws off the floor, Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert will think of a creative way to skewer this travesty. I have a very real fear about the midterm elections in November. There is absolutely no doubt this piece was made to influence those elections, not necessarily by ABC, but by the filmmakers. And I fear the general public may get snowed yet again. It’s impossible to keep up with all the lies the GOP machine spews out daily, but this is one of those craven gambits that should be made to come back to haunt them, and ABC. Why not use it to look at the actual records of Clinton and Bush? What about that bin Laden PDB, George? Or all those warnings about al Qaeda your people received from the Clinton administration?

O’Brien in 1984 the man in power who knows better but does evil deeds anyway, infamously tells Winston, “If you want a picture of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face — for ever." They may have Big Brother on their side, but we have George Orwell. And Socrates. And MLK. And JFK. And FDR. And thousands of other real heroes versus their manufactured
Commander Codpiece and his sycophantic cheerleaders. It’s time for a liberal boot to their lying faces.

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