A university is just a group of buildings gathered around a library. ~Shelby Foote

Friday, September 08, 2006

"It Smells of Intimidation"

That's what Tom Daschle said of CBS' decision to cancel a biography on Ronald Reagan in 2003 after there was much hue and cry from conservative/Republican voices that the biography was biased, inaccurate and unflattering. Daschle was the lead Senate Democrat at the time. He also said this, "Any time occasions arise when the essence of the judgment made by television producers is influenced by outside forces, we have to call into question whether that level of intimidation is appropriate," he told reporters on Capitol Hill. (Both quotes from the NY Times, Nov. 5, 2003, p. A11).

Fast forward three years.

ABC is set to air their docudrama "The Path to 9-11" about the run up to the WTC attacks. There is much hue and cry from liberal/Democratic voices that the docudrama is biased, inaccurate, and unflattering to Bill Clinton and his administration. Claims of history being re-written are being leveled and calls to boycott the show and it's advertisers have been made.

But that's just the fringe (well, okay, the Democratic National Committee), not the actual Congressmen. Surely they feel as Tom Daschle did back in 2003-- that such calls are ill-advised as they "smell of intimidation." Surely the 1st Amendment holds here as well?

Apparently not, and don't call me Shirley. The key bit is towards the bottom, after Clinton, Albright, and Berger all express their indignation:
In a letter to Iger, Reid said the reputation of ABC's parent company, the Walt Disney Corporation, would be "deeply damaged" if the film aired with those scenes intact.
Further details on that letter are mentioned in today's New York Post article:

Disney-owned ABC's move to quell the criticism came as Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), Sen. Charles Schumer and other Democratic leaders sent a letter to Iger, accusing his network of spreading "deeply flawed and factually inaccurate misinformation."

"That Disney would seek to broadcast an admittedly and proven- false recounting of the events of 9/11 raises serious questions about the motivations of its creators and those who approved the deeply flawed program," they wrote.

Factually inaccurate misinformation? Misinformation is, by definition, inaccurate information. Wouldn't factually inaccurate misinformation then be ACCURATE information?

To be honest, I think all such "boycott" calls are spurious and completely misguided. They seem to inevitably lead to more people wanting to see the film/show in question, and quite frankly the 1st Amendment does apply, in equal measure, to both liberal and conservative views whether in politics, on the tele, or in cyberspace.

But I hate hypocrisy, and I have a hard time seeing this as anything but hypocritical.

Ditto for the bone-heads on the right, Rush chief amongst them, who had their undies in a bunch over the Reagan biopic's inaccuracies but don't seem to care that there are significant inaccuracies in a film they agree with. Pot, kettle and all that rot.

I am deeply, deeply tired of people wanting others to hold others to a certain standard while they completely and totally fail to reach that standard themselves.

And the political ads are only just starting.

Gonna be a long fall.


Well, I know there are some calling for ABC to cancel the show (and actually, given the colossal mess they've made of the situation at this point, I wouldn't be surprised if that's where they wind up) .

But I think the point here is that ABC is presenting this as historical drama, i.e. with a certain level of historical accuracy; however, not only are they not allowing the people involved to not review the presentation for accuracy to the events depicted, they have apparently also created several scenes out of whole cloth that are contrary to actual events.

On top of this, they are choosing to air this prominently during election season, without commercials, and prominently advertising it as based on the official 9/11 report.

People like Richard Clarke, Clinton, Sandy Berger, I think might just be justified in demanding that the program not be aired until corrective measures are taken, since they are the individuals being depicted in the show.

But for myself, and I am pretty sure most others that are making this point, I think the problem is that ABC is presenting this as historical, when it is largely conjectural at best.

ABC has the right to broadcast what they want. But as a steward of the public trust, they need to identify it as political if that is what they're showing.

Intimidation? Public pressure is what is being brought to bear, although the Democrats do have a point; if ABC is using their access to the public broadcast medium to influence the election, they are misusing the airwaves, and they should be subject to appropirate penalties.

The biopic about the Reagans is kind of a funny comparison, but I think there are two or three points of divergence there: 1, it was not being presented as any kind of official presentation, but as a biopic; 2, it did not pose the potential of influencing an election.
A docu-drama mini-series about the terror attacks committed against America on September 11th, 2001 are being aired at the same time as the fifth anniversary of those attacks; September 10th and 11th, 2006? Damn those terrorists for plotting their attacks at the beginning of an election season.
If the Democrats are so concerned about this being aired so close to the elections, with the alleged possibility of swinging votes, maybe they should file a complaint with the FEC. That would make more sense than veiled threats against ABC.

We could all wait to see the docu-drama, however, and then comment on veracity of the actually broadcast production. If there are concerns on the part of Democrats or Republicans, current administration or previous administration(s), then those concerns could more viably be addressed following the actual airing of this piece.
Post a Comment

<< Home

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?