"The Essence Of Truth"

Another post wherein I get very, very angry.

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.


  1. Thank you for pointing this out. I heard it earlier in the day and I was stunned. How did we get to this point? It seems that it is still easier to blame Clinton for everything than DO anything!

  2. I cannot believe they want to "dramatize" this! Wasn't the whole situation dramatic enough for them?


    I had many family members in Manhattan that day. Phones were gridlocked, and I could not find out anything about any of them until late that evening. IT WAS THE DAY FROM HELL FOR ME - - AND MANY OTHERS AS WELL.

    I don't think I want to see them try to "dramatize" that. I lived through it once - - I don't care to repeat the experience.

  3. You can't write a blog entry without your own political point of view. Do you know as a 100% undisputed truth that Clinton WASN'T too busy with the Monica Lewinsky scandal to pay proper attention to Bin Laden? Of course not! You haven't seen the mini-series and no one can possibly know what the authentic, complete "truth" really is, yet your outrage is palpable.

    Would you have been appeased if someone at ABC had said, "There are some truths in there and a bunch of other stuff that met our agenda"? Were you outraged about the truths in "Fahrenheit 911"? Do you think that Michael Moore should have said the same thing about his agenda for that movie?

    Knowing that you're correct about everyone having a point of view, I'm aware that everything in the media is from a "creator's" point of view that may differ from mine. That doesn't cause me to be outraged. Different perspectives cause me to think.

    Surely there are people who think that any "dramatization" of the Holocaust is political, but I don't think that means that interpretations of a major historical event are invalid. I can't imagine censoring a "dramatization" or "fictionalization" of the Holocaust or 9/11 because the events were too dramatic. We have the freedom to watch only those things that we choose. I understand that inherent risks of artistic freedom include that some truths may be twisted and some people may be offended. But I'll take that over censorship, any day.

  4. Well, no one except right wing radio hosts and bloggers has been able to see the movie. Clinton was denied a screening, but Limbaugh got one. Seems to me that the person this movie is villifying should at least get a sneak preview of what they are saying about him. Secondly, in July of 96, before the Lewinsky scandal came to light, which was a bunch of hooey IMHO, Clinton *was* trying to get some anti-terrorism stuff down on the books. He was being blocked by the Republicans in Congress.

    And I agree with what K says here "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?". It makes sense to me. The majority of the world can agree on what happened during the Holocaust and Pearl Harbor, but 43% of this country's populace think that Saddam had something to do with 9/11. They seem to forget that many of the men on the planes that day were Saudi nationals.

    Also, when I first heard about this movie, I was getting the impression that it was a documentary. It's only now coming to light that it's a docudrama. What saddens me is that there are a lot of people (many of whom I work with) that will just take what this movie has to say and run with it like it's the truth.

    I don't agree with censorship. And I think ABC should run the movie, but I also thought CBS should have run the Reagan movie, too. I am more saddened that many will take this to be the gospel truth instead of maybe reading the report (which, honestly, I have yet to do) or doing a little digging on their own to see what they can come up with to support or negate what the movie says. I think that the major appeasement for me would come if they really put out there and with breaks in between that "This is a dramatization of actual events. Some of these events didn't actually happen." Kind of like they do with Law and Order. You know it's a real story, but they gotta cover their butts.

    I would also be appeased if they would let Clinton have a screening of it. I think it's only fair.

  5. anon & dml - i'm glad you understand and empathize. gosh, too much to be said.

    anon 8:22 - there are so many relative discrepancies in your argument i don't even know where to begin. there is a chasm between different "perspectives" and *knowingly* distorting the truth. the makers of this drama SAY they alter the events, SAY they make up stuff, AGREE that some of their "drama" is there simply to entertain as opposed to educate.

    my whole POINT is that there is "interpretation" and there is mwillful distortion. interpretation = there are some facts that could be perceived more than one way, and any "version" is supportable by those facts. distortion = you take facts and either disregard, obviate, ignore, change (etc.) them. that is what this writer and producer have done and have admitted to doing. it's not a question. they literally had to ignore the facts to make their version of the story work.

    and now, for the record, i am not censoring myself at all.

    how dare you compare this to a dramatization of the Holocaust. do you think if ABC aired a "dramtization" of the Holocaust wherein Hitler came off as a 'good guy' that everyone would be okay with it? what if that dramatization portrayed Hitler as someone who was just a guy in the wrong place at the wrong time? someone who just got saddled with the blame, even though it wasn't really HIM who carried out such atrocities? you think that would be okay? thought-provoking?

    there are interpretations, and there is the raping of the truth. you don't seem to understand my point, so i will boil it down.

    there ARE undisputable facts. the writer used some of them; he ignored some of them; he changed some of them. he does not contest this. this is understood. all parties agree on this point.

    the fictionalized account is now being portrayed as a nearly accurate account, based on the "essence of truth." i find this irresponsible.

    what if i read a book, and then wrote a book report? and then in my book report, i changed plot points and dialogue and other bits and pieces to better suit my preferred type of book? and then i gave you the book report and said, "this is a pretty close account of what the book is about" and then asked you what you thought of the book.

  6. sheesh. i sound like a raving loon who can't finish a point or sentence or anything. it's just so crazy and absurd!

    i will say that i know, for a fact, that ms. lewinsky had less to do with 9/11 than saddam. indisputably. and that is going some.

  7. Anon 8:22, where to begin? Sigh.

    "Do we know as an undisputed truth...?" No, and that isn't even remotely the point. What we do know, based on what's been said and written by those who received advance copies of the movie, is that it contains some scenes and that are completely fictionalized. This has been acknowledged by the writers. It contains significant inaccuracies, some just plain sloppy. (How could ANYONE confuse the Washington Times with the Washington Post? Honestly. That's like confusing Bill O'Reilly and Radar O'Reilly. Sun Myung Moon and Sonny Bono.)

    Your argument that "you haven't seen it... no one can know the authentic complete truth..." is sheer sophistry. MANY people HAVE seen it. In fact, ABC sent out 900 advance copies of "Path to 9/11." Nevermind the political leanings of the receipients. ABC refused President Clinton's request for an advance copy. Likewise Madeleine Albright and Sandy Berger. Why? What credible artistic, non-political justification can there be for that? NINE HUNDRED COPIES.

    And this attempt to conflate "Path to 9/11" with "Fahrenheit 911"? There are similarities, but they are laughably superficial. They deal with broadly the same subject matter, I grant you. They have the same numbers in the titles, true. However:

    One was a theatrical release, where you had to pay to see it; the other will be beamed into hundreds of millions of homes, free of charge. Free of commercials, even!

    One was the work of a well-known liberal filmmaker whose agenda and biases were well-known; the other is underwritten by a major broadcast media outlet and is presented as being a basically accurate portrayal of historic events. It is even being pushed for use as a teaching aid in public schools, complete with the distribution of study guides.

    One used documentary footage of verifiable events; the other used actors to create scenes and dialogue that did not occur, and presents a provably false version of certain events.

    To compare "Path to 9/11" to a Holocaust documentary is off the mark as well. Maybe if it were a Holocaust documentary directed by Leni Riefenstahl. And broadcast in Germany in 1944.

    Ow, now my head hurts.

  8. no one is asking that the truth be censored. we are demanding that what is presented to America and the world as true actually BE true- it seems like a reasonable request.

    I'm ill over the prospect of people making money off something that changed our lives profoundly, and in sad, practical ways. I've been pissed since that film came out in theaters- entertainment industry, I'm not entertained.

  9. I am completely and utterly disgusted by the fact that people are making money - A LOT of money - from the blood of 3,000 murder victims. I am disgusted by the fact that Oliver fucking Stone donated a pittance from the profits of his 9/11 movie and probably bought a new house with the rest, while I have to run out of a movie theater crying because the preview to his piece of trash comes on and I can't handle seeing 17 people I knew and loved die all over again, except bigger, louder and bloodier a la Hollywood. And the people who watch this trash are just as bad as the people who make it.

  10. Maybe they'll change the title to "Muslims on a Plane!!!" I haven't been able to watch any of these movies. I guess I'm still too busy thinking about my friend Billy and his (now) 6 year old daughter. Kiki, bless you for trying, but people suck, and will in fact do anything for money.

  11. hey natn,

    thank you. the fact that ppl are doing this for money bothers me, but you're right -- that can't be stopped. however, i'm most angered by this idea that it's fiction being portrayed as fact.

    and um, assuming you are who i think you are (cute name, btw), i don't know what happened with/to billy, but i'm sorry.

  12. Wow, some of you were incredibly harsh on Anon 8:22. His/her comments primarily pointed out that since K is pretty obviously pro-Democrats and anti-Bush, her take on "Path to 9/11" was clearly written from those points of view. There's nothing wrong with that, but by the same token, Anon suggests that K's comments not be taken as gospel. After all, wasn't one of her main points that EVERYONE has an agenda? Unfortunately, when "politics" are involved, rather than listen, people tend to react with knee-jerk, righteous indignation. Therefore, emotions generally rule, opposing thoughts are quickly attacked and THE TRUTH is rarely found on either side.

  13. Kristy, when i heard them say clinton was too busy with monica, i said out loud to foster that that was the worst i've heard. then i just tuned out the rest and discounted the whole project. what i heard them saying made me think of A million little pieces in that they were so into calling it a dramatization vs fact and i just said i aint interested in this one. it's so political and nasty. my thought was give monica a break for god's sake. most i know are thinking whoa, that's a cheap shot... (now there seems to be stronger evidence too that iraq had nothing to do with 9/11 - and this is going to impact many of us who are have been middle of the roaders/independents too. i think (hope) most people are gonna get this. Good post. you are right on.

  14. ...no one can possibly know what the authentic, complete "truth" really is...

    Just because we're human and can never know the 'authentic, comlete "truth"' doesn't give anyone the license to lie. And that's Kristy's point. And you know it.

  15. This is why I stick with So You Think You Can Dance. No one accused Cat Deeley of making shit up to suit her own agenda.

  16. Anon 10:33,

    As El_G says. This "how can anyone know the complete truth" question is completely beside the point. It's a canard.

    The film contains specific, provable inaccuracies. This is based on statements by people who a) have seen the film; and b) have first-hand knowledge of the events portrayed. This is not even in dispute. Yet this film dresses itself in the garb of objectivity by promoting that it is "based on the Report of the 9/11 Commission." It positions itself to be regarded as an objective record of events. That is fundamentally dishonest, and it has ZERO to do with artistic freedom.

    I simply have no patience for the employ of such specious logic, especially in defense of something so indefensible.

    Great, now my head hurts again.

    Anon 12:18am

  17. Sorry, K. Billy was in Tower 2.

  18. I heard about this "documentary" on the radio a few days ago and thought "Holy freaking hell! Another one?" And then this morning I started hearing some of the controversy over the "docudrama" and the obvious falsifications.

    All I can say is this whole thing makes me sick. What worries me the most, and I'm sure this point has already been made, is that many, many people take for fact what they see on TV. Everyday. Slap the title "documentary" in front of something and it might as well be God's honest truth come down from above as far as most people think. And they won't take the time to research the facts to form their own opinions and they won't take the time to educate themselves as to what really happened or why things are being portrayed the way they are and the next freaking thing we know it's election time and here we are.

    I don't think a "some of the events seen here are fictional" message at the beginning of the movie is enough. Hell, even if they played it at the end of every commercial break. Maybe a scrolling ticker at the bottom of the screen through out? I guess I just don't have that much faith in humanity. What can I say?

  19. This is interesting:

  20. I got an e-mail form actforchange about this earlier this week. The whole thing makes me sick, but so do lots of things these days. Like other people have brought up, a large portion of people watching this will take it at face value. To me that’s the really sad part. How many people are walking around thinking “if it’s on TV then it must be true”? And if there were ever an event that was poor taste to dramatize, this is it. I hate what the mainstream media has become.

  21. I guess, if you are looking for undeniable facts about how shitty people can be to each other and the scariness of ignorance run amuck, we don't have to look very far. http://seattlepi.nwsource.com/local/284205_milkin07.html

    And as far as opinions....we all have them, some of us are brave enough to stand up for what we believe in and others like to hide in the dark throwing barbs.

    I commend each and every one of you who has the guts to put their name to their opinions.

  22. Brit - Thanks! It took alot for me to admit to watching So You Think You Can Dance.

  23. It makes me furious that something as touchy, as recent, and as confusing as 9/11, is being trivialized and exploited on TV (let alone the silver screen).

    Sickening. I've never liked ABC all that much, but this is just low.

  24. all i can say is that for this post, i think i love you. all day yesterday, i fought nausea as i thought about all the ways that the administration was slanting 9.11 to fit their needs to win back popular support.
    this is where i would like to cuss a lot, so instead i'll sign off.


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