1. The Term Docu-Drama
I want to comment on the fact that the media is calling this show a docu-drama. With other docu-dramas such as Spike Lee movies, they seem to be portrayed in the media as biographies or true account of history, often the historical accuracy is not discussed in the mainstream media. Perhaps sometimes in niches such as within highly specialized circles people discuss whether or not the shows are historically accurate---with others often dubbing those who analyze in that level of detail as being extremists or perhaps ‘nerds’ for even caring if the information is fully accurate. Those who feel that accuracy in those shows claim that the show is made for entertainment, that it is a movie, not a documentary. I personally feel that sometimes people claim that as a cover for hiding the intentional misrepresentation in order to get their point across, to have some viewers believe it is real so the viewer is converted to believing what the maker of the show wanted them to believe or know.
The term docu-drama is not universally used nor is it consistently used. What I am driving at is that if a person doesn’t like the message in the show they make sure to call it a docu-drama and to point out what they perceive as flaws. If the writer likes the content of the docu-drama they don’t call it a docu-drama but they call it a ‘show’ or a ‘movie’ or they just the say title of the show without indicating its category. I feel that sometimes the media intentionally tries to lead viewers (like me) to either believe or to not believe the content of a show not only by criticism or praise of the content (before and after the show airs) but also by the label that they give it (or don’t give it).
If you doubt the importance of a label, just ponder for a moment the difference in the book publishing world between a memoir, an autobiography, and a fictional story. If you don’t think those lines are important, ponder the James Frey controversy. (See my blog entry from January 2006 and September 2006 as a starting point.)
2. The Scholastic Controversy
I have read on the Internet on a blog that ABC paid Scholastic to do a study guide on this doc-drama. I don’t know if this is true or not. I assumed since the study guide was so short and since it was published on the Internet for free access by anyone that it was done by Scholastic because they wanted to do it (for whatever reason).
On August 23, 2006, Scholastic published a teacher’s guide to the docu-drama “The Path to 9/11” on their website. I did not know about it back then but it created a lot of controversy, apparently so much so that it was subsequently pulled from the Scholastic site.
The controversy alleges that Scholastic had a strong bias against some of the content of the show. Even the letter from the President of Scholastic, Richard Robinson, was pulled from the main site, but a cached copy can still be found here (as of the time I am blogging this). From what I have read about this controversy, as it got bigger and bigger, more and more information from the Scholastic site was pulled off, and even the cached copies of the site were being scrubbed.
If you want a summary of the controversy, this blog called “The All Spin Zone” has an entry on it, which is continually being updated as the news changes. Disclosure: I know nothing about this blog, the bias of the writer(s), etc. but the blog has multiple blog entries on this topic and many of external links and information to read if you are interested in this.
The core issue here is what will school teachers be teaching students about 9/11 and what will they be saying about ABC’s docu-drama?
All of this is also relevant to homeschoolers because:
1. We need to think about what and how we teach our children about 9/11
2. We should be aware of issues in public education such as what children are being taught in school and what bias is being represented by the teachers. Even though we homeschool now, we should always be aware of what the issues with American public education are, either as further reinforcement that what we are doing is right and best or to be informed should we contemplate putting our children in school.
3. Even if a homeschooler does end up putting their children in school, they should know what they are putting their children into.
I am still trying to figure out the controversy, whether it is anti-Clinton or pro-Clinton or anti-Bush or pro-Bush and who is mad about what. I won’t comment on my own opinion of the show at this point as I’m not ready to. I am trying to blog about this quickly so my readers can find out about tonight’s airing of the show. I also want you to form your own opinions on these issues, anyway! As you know this is not a political blog and my goal is not to convert you to agree with my own opinions about politics.
Here is the letter from the Scholastic President about the controversy.
The New Scholastic Study Guide for Teachers Was Released on 9/8/06
Well apparently after Scholastic pulled the study guide from the site (whatever the heck was in it), they revised it and released that revised guide yesterday (9/8/06). You can read the new study guide, here.
Note there are five different sections to read and to print if you so desire, the overview, Lessons 1-3 (on different URLs), and the “understanding visual media” general guide.
The one thing I will comment on is the Scholastic Presidents third point:
"It is being broadcast in a period just before the 2006 elections. A major election issue is the relationship between terrorism, the war in Iraq, and other conflicts in the Middle East and Afghanistan. As such, The Path to 9/11 is viewed by some as political and partisan."
I think this is pure garbage because the docu-drama is being aired on the FIFTH ANNIVERSARY OF 9/11.
The air date has NOTHING to do with elections.
What would be most important is if this was a Presidential election year. This is not a PRESIDENTIAL election year, if you do the math that is two years away, wow, right in the middle of the term, the most neutral time of all, if you ask me!
I can’t believe anyone would try to link the air date for this show on the 5th anniversary as being politically motivated with regard to the TIMING of the airing. Now if this is re-run at a hot time right before the 2008 Presidential election, or before an important caucus, that would be another issue altogether.
3. U.S. Government Censorship?
Yesterday my husband told me that the U.S. Senate wrote to Disney (the owner of the ABC network) asking them not to air the show. Here is one blog entry about it which has a copy of the letter from the Senate to Disney. The letter is quite long. Here is the last paragraph:
"Should Disney allow this programming to proceed as planned, the factual record, millions of viewers, countless schoolchildren, and the reputation of Disney as a corporation worthy of the trust of the American people and the United States Congress will be deeply damaged. We urge you, after full consideration of the facts, to uphold your responsibilities as a respected member of American society and as a beneficiary of the free use of the public airwaves to cancel this factually inaccurate and deeply misguided program. We look forward to hearing back from you soon."
(For the record, I know nothing about that blog or their bias.)
Here is another copy of the Senate letter as published on the CBS site.
Wow, my head is spinning. I can’t wait to watch the show tonight. I also am getting so interested in this as a topic that I feel like fully researching 9/11 and even reading the 9/11 Commission report myself!
4. Is It Fact or Fiction?
Well here is one review from a person who watched a pre-screening of the “Path to 9/11” docu-drama, from a person who feels it is the real truth.
Here is just one part of that blog entry:
"is an amazing achievement on many levels. It is flat-out one of the best made-for-television movies seen in decades. The only thing that would keep this movie from theatrical distribution is its nearly 5-hour running time (split over two days in this instance). Forget CNN’s “replay” broadcast from 9/11 - Trust me and mark your calendars to watch ABC these nights.
The Clinton administration will likely go ballistic over this film. (Perhaps why ABC isn’t pushing it at as much as they should be??) It does not have a “partisan” feel to it by any means. The Bush administration comes in for some criticism (Condi Rice in particular comes off rather poorly), but that is nothing compared to the depiction of Sandy Berger and former Secretary of State Madeline Albright. I doubt that they will be able to show their faces in public after this (and also helps to explain why Berger was so eager to try to illegally remove classified documents from the archives before his Senate testimony on the 9/11 events). If Bill Clinton’s current purpose in life is to solidify a positive “legacy” for his time in office, this film has the potential to be his biggest hurdle to overcome yet."
5. Clinton’s Letter
My husband told me last night that Bill Clinton’s lawyer has gotten involved in the controversy by writing a letter to ABC asking that the show not be aired. Here is a transcript of that letter as published on the TPM Café website
The letter was apparently first published by the New York Post. The letter is interesting to read because it points out Clinton’s opinions of which parts of “The Path to 9/11” are incorrect. The other interesting thing is the statement that ABC would not let Clinton preview the movie and that is something to ponder. If politicians were to preview docu-dramas as well as documentaries in order to put a stamp of approval on the content, would that not impede free speech? On the other hand, outright lies and inaccuracies should not be allowed. Are we back to the point that a docu-drama is to a documentary as a memoir is to a biography? I am getting so confused! And anyway, since Clinton and his lawyer did not view the docu-drama at the time the letter was written, they admit that they are going by second hand information, which is also troubling.
One quote from that letter that feels the show has a conservative bias is:
"Frankly, the bias of the ABC drama is not surprising given the background and political leanings of its writer/producer, Mr. Nowrasteh, which have been well-documented on numerous conservative blogs and talk shows in his promotion of this film."
The final paragraph in the long letter is this:
"While ABC is promoting “The Path to 9/11” as a dramatization of historical fact, in truth it is a fictitious rewriting of history that will be misinterpreted by millions of Americans. Given your stated obligation to “get it right,” we urge you to do so by not airing this drama until the egregious factual errors are corrected, an endeavor we could easily assist you with given the opportunity to view the film."
6. Then Other Politician’s Write to ABC To Protest
Here is a quote from a FoxNews online article dated 9/08/06:
"Three members of the administration — former Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright, former National Security Adviser Samuel R. Berger and Clinton aide Bruce Lindsey, who now heads the Clinton Foundation — said they sent letters to Walt Disney Company, parent of ABC, demanding that it re-edit or pull the five-hour film, scheduled for air Sunday and Monday nights without commercial interruption."
7. Editing The Film After Clinton’s Request
FoxNews reports that after Clinton’s letter was received, ABC edited the show, see story here.
8. Is No One Happy With It?
The more I read it seems that strong criticisms are coming from both sides, from liberals and from conservatives. Is anyone happy with the content of the show? It doesn’t seem like it!
Here is an online article from a conservative website, Newsmax.
9. My Prediction
I bet books will be published about this! Wow, I think that there is enough controversy about this docu-drama to justify writing an entire book about it. I predict that multiple books will be published on this topic, examining it from a progression of events telling and examining the role of docu-dramas in the media, discussing media ethics, the influence of the media on politics and the influence of politicians on the media, how both liberals and conservatives were unhappy with the content, as well as the role of blogs and websites in the unfolding of this controversy (even before the show aired on ABC).
Let’s hope though that the show does air and that it is not censored completely by not showing at all.
I can’t wait to form my own opinions because right now I am more confused than ever about what is real and what is fiction! My reason for blogging about this is not political in nature. I am interested in this because of history, media, current events, educating children, etc. I probably will not blog my opinion of the show becuase I don't want this blog to turn into a policial blog. Note that in this long blog entry I've reported facts and not infused my own political views into my commentary.
Technorati Tags: 9/11, Path to 9/11, ABC, docu-drama, Path to 9/11 controversy, politics, media, censorship.