Saturday, September 09, 2006

The controversy of The Path to 9/11

ABC is a unit of Walt Disney Co: graphic by Georgia10 at DailyKos. This is the text of a complaint I have made to TV One regarding the promotion and screening of The Path to 9/11:

I should like to complain most strenuously about your promotion of The Path to 9/11.

You are probably aware that there is immense controversy about the screening of this mini-series in the USA, including a 100,000-signature petition to have the programme pulled from the broadcasting schedule.

ABC, the show’s producers, said today that they are making changes to some scenes, in response to complaints from, among others, Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, former President Bill Clinton, a number of Democrat senators, Jamie S. Gorelick (9/11 Commission member and former Deputy Attorney General), former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, and former National Security Advisor Sandy Berger.

The complainants state that some of the scenes are completely fabricated, particularly those which depict former Clinton officials including Albright, Berger and Richard Clarke as undermining efforts to capture or kill Osama bin Laden.

Bill Clinton has also refuted several fictionalized scenes that he claims insinuate he was too distracted by the Monica Lewinsky sex scandal to care about bin Laden and that depict a top adviser pulling the plug on CIA operatives who were just moments away from bagging the terror master, in a letter from his lawyer to ABC boss Bob Iger obtained by The New York Post.

In a statement, ABC acknowledged today that the movie is a "dramatization" that contains "fictionalized scenes" and "composite" characters but also said it is based on the work of the 9/11 commission.

Jamie S. Gorelick, a member of the 9/11 Commission and a Deputy Attorney General under Clinton, wrote to Iger yesterday: "I do have a problem if you make claims that the program is based upon the findings of the 9/11 Commission Report when the actors, scenes and statements in the series are not found in - and, indeed, are contradicted by - our findings."

I am extremely concerned because in the TV One promotion for The Path to 9/11 you quite clearly state "You know WHAT happened. Now see HOW it happened." You go on to call this mini-series "the shocking truth" - and yet ABC themselves admit that this is a dramatisation containing fictionalised scenes. But nowhere in your TV promotion do you make this clear. You are promoting this mini-series as if it were completely factual, when clearly it is not.

On your website you also state "the mini-series takes viewers on an unforgettable journey through the events that presaged that fateful day." Again, nowhere do you indicate that this is a fictionalised account, and that it is not a true and accurate representation of all the facts.

In addition, on your website you mention that the show is based on "a dramatisation of the events published in the national bestseller The 9/11 Commission Report" - and yet you do not mention that this report is in itself controversial, with its critics claiming that it left out many of the crucial facts associated with the events of September 11.

Over the past few months The Path to 9/11 has been sent out for reviews and comments from organizations and individuals - including a large number of right-wing bloggers - associated with the conservative political movement and the Republican Party.

One might therefore conclude that the producers of this mini-series were working with a political agenda in mind, especially when it was revealed that a number of the people actually portrayed in it, including former President Clinton, Secretary of State Albright, and National Security Advisor Sandy Berger were not sent copies, even when they requested them.

Now that they are having a chance to review the programme, just days before broadcast, Madeleine Albright has called parts of the movie "false and defamatory". Berger has stated that the film "flagrantly misrepresents my personal actions." Bill Clinton has asked that the mini-series be pulled if ABC does not make substantial changes.

The controversy surrounding this programme is basically that a) it isn't factually accurate, and b) it is partisan in nature. I believe that TV One has a responsibility make this clear in all its advertising.

As an indicator of the level of concern this programme has engendered in the US, today the children's publishing company Scholastic deleted from its website materials about The Path to 9/11, developed in partnership with ABC, that were being offered to 25,000 high school teachers. "We determined that the materials did not meet our high standards for dealing with controversial issues," Chairman Dick Robinson said.

Your Charter states that TVNZ shall:
"strive always to set and maintain the highest standards of programme quality and editorial integrity."

I believe you have not demonstrated editorial integrity in your promotion of this programme, and I also have my doubts about the quality of the programme itself.

I am aware that most Kiwis do not follow American politics as closely as I do, and will have no idea that The Path to 9/11 is a "dramatization" that contains "fictionalized scenes" and "composite" characters. As the State Broadcasting company of New Zealand I believe that you have a duty to make this clear to your viewers before screening takes place, or better still, don't show it at all.

Assuming that you do decide to go ahead with the programme, despite the controversy surrounding it, I would request that you screen an advisory notice to viewers at the beginning and end of each night's programme, indicating that this is a dramatisation containing fictionalised scenes and composite characters; and that you also alter your TV promotion, website and all other advertising to reflect this fact.

Thank you for your attention. I would appreciate a response before this programme screens on TV One.

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Chardonnay said...

Wow! It looks like you've done some major homework on this one! I'd be interested to be able to relive "any" account of that day however, because it still stands out in my mind as being one of the greatest "WTF?" days of my life. And I'm still trying to find a way to settle it all in my mind.

That was a lot of information... most of which I don't feel in any way qualified to comment on.

I'll just forever remember that day. It was a beautiful one starting out. I remember vividly the sunrise... because after it had all happened I still had some residual memory of my drive to work heading east at 7:00 am.

The forecast for Monday sounds like it'll be about the same. So it'll be a very good day for remembering.

SallyT said...

I'm glad, webweaver, that there are people like you in the world who are passionate about fighting for the truth.

TVNZ's response to this was deplorable and insulting.

More power to you, hun :)