The liberal media is at it again, as ABC prepares to air The Path to 9/11, a miniseries “docudrama” about the events leading up to the attack on America five years ago. This time the pinkos are taking aim at… Bill Clinton? Yup, the miniseries is being called a blatantly partisan and completely factually incorrect hatchet job on Bill Clinton, making it seem like he let Osama bin Laden get away when we had him in our crosshairs, ostensibly because of Monica Lewinski (I forget – wasn’t he blowing up stuff in other countries to take the media’s attention off the Lewinski case?), among other myriad sins that lay most of the blame for the attacks on Bubba and exonerating George Bush. Members of the 9/11 Commission, the ostensible basis for the show, have expressed some pretty big dismay at the factual fudging in the show – some aspects of the show are disproven on page 1 of the 9/11 report!
The left wing blogosphere has been up in arms about this for a couple of days, and ABC has been feeling the heat. They’ve also be wildly lying, including claiming that the show isn’t done editing and no one could have seen it yet – this claim coming despite the fact that review copies were sent out weeks ago. Final effects and titles haven’t been included yet, and that’s about it (although rumor has it that there is furious last minute editing going on all weekend, trying to take out some of the stuff that has people tossing around legal words like “defamation”).
Nobody is surprised by this – ABC is owned by Disney, a fairly right-leaning corporation founded by a Nazi sympathizer. What’s more interesting is the level of debate going on about the whole thing, and a big turn that debate took last week, when the Democratic Senate leadership sent Disney a letter decrying the show. That in and of itself I don’t mind – let ‘em squawk, it’s their right. The problem I end up having is that the letter makes some not very veiled threats to Disney about the future of their broadcast license.
The Senate letter makes a great point: “The Communications Act of 1934 provides your network with a free broadcast license predicated on the fundamental understanding of your principle obligation to act as a trustee of the public airwaves in serving the public interest. Nowhere is this public interest obligation more apparent than in the duty of broadcasters to serve the civic needs of a democracy by promoting an open and accurate discussion of political ideas and events.” I couldn’t agree more! But here’s the problem: none of the networks do this. The networks are using public airwaves to serve their corporate masters and to make lots of money but they are in almost no way providing any sort of public service. That’s not the Dems’ fault – the Republicans, under Reagan, led the charge to turn American television into even more of a lowest common denominator hellhole than it ever was before. Hell, the late lamented Equal Time provision, killed by Ronnie, would have solved this whole problem by mandating a rebuttal time for people who wanted to give the honest to God true facts about what’s in the 9/11 report.
But if the Senate Dems are going to suddenly get huffy about misuse of the public airwaves, I call bullshit that it only comes about as a result of some partisan back and forth. I say that if you’re going to send threatening letters to Disney, send them to everybody. Send them to Viacom and GE and Fox. Tell these guys that they’re making their money on our public airwaves and not giving us jack shit in return. Tell them that maybe it’s time to break their monopolies on what we see on broadcast television. But if you’re doing it in just this case, just because you don’t like the thing that is being said… well, that’s censorship.
Here’s the thing: If all the reports are true, I think The Path to 9/11 is a despicable thing. I think even less of Disney for it, if that was even possible, since I was at one time involved in anti-sweatshop activism, and that shit will make you HATE Disney. But as despicable as I find this, I find the idea of using the power of government to suppress speech about two hundred times more despicable. The Democrats should be ashamed of themselves for this tactic.
People keep saying that the American public will be fooled by this movie, that they’ll be given bad information. It’s sort of funny, as if 21st century media is just dripping with truth and this one movie is a terrible aberration. We live in an age of reflexive spinning, a society where words are tortured to give them new meanings (such as “alternative interrogation methods,” speaking of torture). You can’t take anything at face value these days. But even beyond that, I don’t want the government watching out to make sure that their version of the truth is what is being shared. Will the American public be fooled by this movie? Probably, but the thing is that this is an argument very close to the one used to censor movies and video games, that people are so stupid that they’ll see what’s onscreen and imitate it. We get really upset at that argument, but too many are willing to use the same one in a different context when it’s politically expedient. And government control over speech – whether it be in “free speech zones” at protests or in regulating the truthiness of an ABC miniseries – should ever be allowed.