As you might imagine, I am not a fan of censorship.
But that doesn't mean I don't believe in responsibility. I do not believe you can yell, "FIRE!" in a crowded theatre, for example.
I also do not believe you can present something as fact -- or as "the essence of truth" -- and make big, sweeping, damning accusations with that "essence"...
...and then pretend you aren't. Or that it's okay because you didn't mean to.
Good Lord, what is k blabbing on about NOW?
So okay. ABC is going to air a "dramatization," a mini-series about the events leading up to 9/11. It is a fictionalized account, and involves a lot of making shit up. On purpose.
It's all here, in "An Open Letter To ABC." Please, check it out.
Because wow. I have a lot of issues with this.
Issue the first: Forgetting for a moment what the script actually looks like (because oh, we'll get to that), don't you find this kind of bullshit terrifying?:
Executive producer Marc Platt told The Washington Post that he worked "very hard to be fair. If individuals feel they're wrongly portrayed, that's obviously of concern. We've portrayed the essence of the truth of these events. Our intention was not in any way to be political or present a point of view." (Emphasis mine, from this article.)
Um? How? What? WHO IN THEIR RIGHT MIND could actually set out to make a "dramatization" of 9/11 -- one that has the look and feel of a documentary, no less -- and then also claim they have no point of view? That it's not political?
Don't give me that.
You cannot tell a story and not have a point of view. Period. It is impossible.
Every history book ever written has a point of view, you know? Even if it seems objective, someone had to decide what information to include. Which interviews and quotes and letters to cite. Which facts to present as such. Do you ever wonder what gets filtered? What gets left out? Someone made decisions, and made them based on...what?
Based on their goddamned point of view, that's what.
But what? What's that you say? That I'm talking about a fine line in objectivity, and that this isn't a history book?
Well, right. It's not a history book. It's a made-for-tv movie. (Nevermind that ABC is also peddling this to schools.) And where the author of a history book maybe has a responsibility to try and be as objective as possible, a producer of a miniseries has no such obligation.
Fine. That's fine. And if that’s what was going on here, that would be one thing. It would almost be refreshing, in fact, if the producer (and writer, and network execs, etc.) would just admit that they feel no obligation to tell the truth, and that they’re reworking the story to conveniently fit audiences’ morbid appetites for sensationalism and willful ignorance of actual events. At least then I could roll my eyes and swallow my bile and turn the channel (while envisioning them riding their gravy train straight to you-know-where).
(I’m sure Lee Atwater will be waiting.)
But that isn’t at all what they’ve done. What they’re doing. They say it is “essentially” the truth. They say it is how it could have happened. They emphasize that it is based on real events and history and research.
Well, until they are called out on how preposterous their “fact” portrayal is. In which case they emphasize the “drama” part.
Issue the second: Why did they bother to dramatize it at all? Honestly. I cannot understand why anyone would ever NEED to "dramatize" or "fictionalize" anything that happened on or leading up to 9/11. Was it not dramatic enough, just as it was? No?
I mean, in the absence of any real answers from our media-at-large, who wouldn't watch an actual documentary about this? Why resort to making things up? Hmmm?
It seems to me that when you have all the factual drama you could ever need, but that it doesn't tell the story YOU want it to, that THAT is when you change the story. Ahem.
No point of view my ass.
Issue the third: It’s not JUST that they’re making things up, it’s WHAT they’re making up.
Look, I get that to make "historical fiction" you gotta fill in some holes. You weren't there, so you have to make some educated guesses as to what happened, and what was said. So you read the facts, you get a sense for the person you're dramatizing, and you make up dialogue that fits.
Some of you may recall when CBS started production on a portrayal of The Reagans that the right wing got a bit bent out of shape, saying things like: "Although the producers have sources to verify each scene in the script, we believe it does not present a balanced portrayal of the Reagans." (emphasis mine again.)
And now that we have a docu-drama written by a right-wing fundamentalist, who blatantly ignores actual documentation, facts, and reports to create a version of events that suggests, for example, that Clinton was too busy with the Monica Lewinsky scandal to pay proper attention to Bin Laden, this is supposed to be okay?
No. It is not okay.
I do not think that our country has even begun to figure out how 9/11 changed us. How could we, when we are still in the dark about what even happened?
(A majority of Americans believe that Saddam was directly linked to 9/11 and that Iraqis were responsible for hijacking the planes. And why is this, do you suppose?)
Don’t you think the actual account – say, the one by the 9/11 Commission – should be “popularized” first, before we go fucking with it? Because really. Unless or until the actual story is widely known and understood, bending the facts and making shit up is an insult to anyone who was affected by 9/11.
By which I mean, you know, everyone.