Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Why Protesting "Path to 9/11" Matters. Or Not.

"Path to 9/11" is the new docudrama (docudribble?) that ABC is going to broadcast on the tenth and eleventh of September. As I've already mentioned, the program is marketed to schools and it has been prescreened by Rush Limbaugh and various wingnut bloggers. Limbaugh thinks it's great, which means that it's most likely going to be biased towards an interpretation which favors the Bush administration. The programs are going to be shown without any advertisements. This either means that ABC is scared of possible boycotts or that the whole thing will be set up as a quasi-religious remembrance.

What's more likely is that it is an infomercial by the current administration, paid or unpaid. The reason why I suspect this can be found here:

ABC has been aggressively advancing its inaccurate and politically slanted miniseries, "The Path to 9/11," to the right wing. Big players like Rush Limbaugh have been provided copies, as have obscure right-wing bloggers like Patterico.

But ABC has refused to provide a copy to President Clinton's office. Former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright and former National Security Adviser Samuel Berger have also requested copies of the film from ABC, and both have been denied. Both Berger and Albright are harshly criticized in the film in scenes that, according to former counterterrorism czar Richard Clarke, are "180 degrees from what happened."

And here:

Last night on MSNBC's Scarborough Country, Roger Cressey — a top counterterrorism official to Bush II and Clinton — blasted ABC's docudrama "The Path to 9/11." Cressy said "it's amazing…how much they've gotten wrong. They got the small stuff wrong" and "then they got the big stuff wrong." He added that a scene where the Clinton administration passes on a surefire opportunity to take out bin Laden is "something straight out of Disney and fantasyland. It's factually wrong. And that's shameful."

Now why would it matter that a major television broadcaster chooses to pick a partisan view of the horrible events that took place five years ago, chooses to air this view right around the time of the anniversary when emotions are sore and minds easily hypnotized? Why would it matter that even schoolchildren will be provided by the same partisan view as if it was the whole truth? Why would it matter that only some can prescreen the docudrama?

Have some more potato chips. Did you hear about the dead missing white whale? Oh, and too bad for losing your job to outsourcing and your health insurance, too. How is that diabetes doing? Move on, nothing to see here. If you're not for Bush you're against us and the U.S.. Cut-and-run. Saddam was behind 9/11. If we leave Iraq the terrorists will follow us. Islamofascists are not our only enemies, you know.

And there's nothing ethical about using the memories of those who died five years ago for election gains, especially if the arguments are untrue. The word I'm looking for is "despicable".

Then there is the wider justification for trying to stick to truth in these sorts of stories: People are pretty gullible. A recent Zogby poll tells us this:

Half of American voters (50%) say there is no link between Saddam Hussein and the 9/11 terror attacks, while 46% believe there is a connection. However, just 37% of respondents in the poll agreed that Saddam was connected to the attacks and that the Iraq War was justified as retribution for his involvement, while 48% believed that there is no connection between Saddam and 9/11 and the Iraq War has diverted America's attention from the War on Terror.

The percentage of Republican respondents who believe in Saddam Hussein's involvement is 65%. President Bush himself has recently argued that Saddam Hussein had nothing to do with the 9/11 attacks, but his base still echoes the earlier messages of the administration. In other words, lying does work, and now the idea is to spread the lies to larger and larger segments of the population. In a few short years most everyone will agree that 9/11 was caused by Bill Clinton, and that George Bush was the brave hero who came and fixed all our problems.

Protesting the manner in which this docudrama has been dumped on us is important, for all the reasons I've listed. But there is a difficulty, and that is the great likelihood that our protests carry no weight in ABC's decision-making. The real customers of commercial television stations are the advertisers, not the viewers.