Friday, September 08, 2006

Americans, Blame Clinton News

The Blogosphere is abuzz about ABC and Disney putting out a "Docudrama" about the events leading up to 9/11 that seem to be the attempt of "the victors waiting history" before the victory is actually certain.

It is, if descriptions of certain scenes are to be taken as accurate, untruthful to the point of actually defaming certain persons within the Clinton Administration.

I use the term "Defame" in the very legal, "You will get your ass sued and LOSE if you air this," sense because that was the direct impression conveyed by rather pointed objections made by Sandy Berger, Madelaine Allbright, The Clinton Foundation on behalf of Bill Clinton - and their lawyers.

Indeed, if the descriptions are true - and I'm neither conservative enough, nor important enough to have been given an advance copy - the lapses from the truth were examples of such wildly wishful thinking on the part of the creator as to depict a complete alternate universe.

You know, the same alternate universe in which the Earth is square, George Bush is a foresightful, competent and articulate defender of our constitution and the rights of all Americans, whether black, Latino, gay, straight, male, female, rich or poor, and in which when taxes are lowered for the rich, their bodily wastes are transformed into manna to trickle down upon the masses huddled below.

The blogosphere seems particularly abuzz over here at Think Progress, where the trolls are out in force. I was moved to leave a comment and the comment became a post... so I repost it here.

It seems to me that some folks are confused about the necessary distinction between fact and fiction, truth and lies.
A thing is not true because you wish it to be true. It is not a lie because you wish it were a lie. A thing is true, or it is not true, and if you cannot understand that basic foundation of discussion and debate, you deserve to be heckled out of the public arena.

This is as true for ABC as it is for any individual commentator who says "Ah got a RIGHT to my opinion." To quote Harlan Ellison - a terrifyingly blunt critic of media since the seventies, by the way - "You don't have a right to an opinion, you have a right to an INFORMED opinion."

Or in other words, arguments based on ignorance, wishful thinking and sheer prejudice have no validity, no matter how hard you jump up and down and hold your breath.

To illustrate the difference, and the importance of the difference: in Bowling for Columbine, Michael Moore ambushed Charlton Heston. To do that, he represented himself - factually - as an NRA member. He did not introduce himself as a "Liberal Filmmaker" - and if Heston was ignorant of that, well, there's a "failure of intelligence" for you. But the questions he asked of Heston, while pointed, were utterly legitimate:

"Why did you feel it was important to hold a rally in support of gun ownership in that city, just after the killings at Columbine? Didn't it occur to you as being possibly insensitive?"

It should not have been a difficult question to answer, had Heston any compelling reason, or had he even thought about it for five minutes. After all, it's his job to answer questions like that. Instead, he had a hissy fit about being treated "disrespectfully" and stomped off.

That behavior in response to a completely legitimate question is a fact. It's not a very pretty fact, and it allows one to question the motives of the NRA in doing what they did. And surely it furthered Michal Moore's agenda in including that "disrespectful" footage.

But it was not "a lie." It was not a misrepresentation, either, unless you wish to suggest that Heston himself "misrepresents" the NRA and interests of US Gun owners.

Likewise, in Fahrenheit 9/11, the most devastating points are made by the very people crying (or having others cry) "liar, liar!"

But these were not "fictionalized;" Moore indulged in some arguably tacky stunts, like cornering legislators to hand them Army recruitment fliers and ask them if they were encouraging their own children to sign up for the war.

The results were, of course, predictable and hilarious. They were also real, factual, not contrived, not made up.

Of course, you can be sure that no reaction that did not fit his agenda hit the cutting room floor and was subsequently shredded with extreme prejudice. But then, he wasn't pretending to present an "objective" vision.

ABC went further, claiming, initially the twin virtues of Objectivity and Factual Accuracy. Both of those assertions turned out to be - what's the word?

Ah, yes. "Lies."

Both Michael Moore's work and this particular excrescence may be accurately called "propaganda," in that they attempt to persuade you to hold one view of reality over another. The distinction here is that Moore's is "White Propaganda" - which relies on telling inconvenient truths and ABC's propaganda is of the Black variety, relying on getting you to accept at least one critical lie.

As to why the Liberal propagandist can use facts with such telling effect, while the Conservative propagandist must resort to fibs of such magnitude, I leave to the reader as an individual exercise.

But I will point out that no self-respecting or competent propagandist, black OR white, is foolish enough to craft a lie so easily disproved, unless they honestly believe that their "base" will actively prefer the lie to the truth.

That means, dear conservative commentators, that ABC, George W. Bush and his ilk all think that you are as gullible and unaware of the outside world as any preschooler.

You are being lied to, and in lying so blandly and baldly, they show you even less respect than the liberals they call "traitors." Meanwhile, the hysterical equations of non-equivalents are as persuasive to real Grownups as any three-year old whining to the effect of "It's Billy's fault" or "Billy did it TOO!"

THESE are the heirs of Barry Goldwater and Teddy Roosevelt? What an excruciating embarrassment for our nation, that our very government hasn't the wit or the will to be persuasive to anyone with an IQ that exceeds tepid water or ethics that would challenge a rutting goat!

Not that I have a strong opinion on the topic, or anything like that.

I was further moved to leave this comment on ABC's Blog. We shall see if it appears or not.

Dear Mr. Disney, and the rest of this Micky Mouse operation:

It would seem to me, as a journalist and an ethicist that it would be both first and second nature for an organization claiming similar values to be routinely and scrupulously certain that a movie launched on such a significant date would cause distress to none, be impeccably accurate, and could by no means be mistaken by wild-eyed partisans as being politically motivated.

Instead, it seems that such a conclusion is nearly unavoidable, based on the "rushes" you provided Rush Limbaugh - and pointedly NOT to Mr Clinton nor to Sandy Berger.

Indeed, it seems likely to me that the versions provided were intended to be a final edit, and that hints of corrections are desperate afterthoughts contrived in haste and confusion.

It seems telling to me that a person could be so utterly partisan that they cannot even consider the possibility of rational, reasoned objections to scenes the director himself casually admits were "improvised."

One does not casually "Improvise" a critical scene that reflects upon the reputation of a living person. Ask ANY non-disbarred lawyer, Sir. They will concur on this point, that you have just placed your tenderest parts within their grasp, trusting them not to squeeze.

I do not recall Mr. Limbaugh contributing much to the run-up to 9/11, so it seems the choice of Mr. Limbaugh as a "reality check" to ensure against inaccuracy to be odd. But whatever his qualifications on the matter, he, along with most of the others first given access, is a noted conservative media personality.

It's certainly unfortunate that, in giving review copies only to conservatives, you have, perhaps unintentionally, given the impression that this is a work of black propaganda in the model of Allen Dulles.

And, in giving the impression that you expected every conservative to find the movie unobjectionable despite such glaring errors, you may well have given occasion of insult and distress to sincere, fair-minded Conservatives.

I'm sure, of course, that allegations spreading around that ABC is an anagram for CIA is wildly exaggerated, possibly even the sort of "Internet rumor" the "Clinton had him but let him go" meme turned out to be. It would be more easily dismissed, of course, were this movie not so exquisitely timed so that it creates an impression prior to an election, while allowing enough time for the exact source of that impression to be lost.

And, of course, it would definitely help if it were true.

But of course, in the worlds of media, politics and, indeed, within the shadowy realm of espionage and psychological operations, impressions count for more than reality, and I'm afraid that this miscalculation has created negatives of perception both for ABC and the current administration far in excess of whatever "redeeming social value" it might have merited, if aired after the midterm election.

And, well, if you thought it your genuine duty as a news and entertainment organization to bring matters of vital importance to the American people, as is arguably the duty of the Fifth Estate, it would be well were those matters factual, verifiable and provable beyond a reasonable doubt.

Anything less is a disservice to your credibility, and of course, Mr. Disney and the various other officials of ABC, does reflect upon your personal honor and truthfulness.

This is, of course, why journalists have historically hewed as closely to the truth as possible. It serves both as an infallible guide to the real story - and is an infallible defense in court against accusations of defamation.

It is unfortunate, of course, that no actual verdict will matter a damn to you, or your market share, should you even managed to not lose.

If you have to "clarify" "mistaken impressions" so often for what is, after all, just a movie, how can anyone be sure your standards are high enough in areas I cannot fact-check you on using publicly-available documents?

And I think it will be rather difficult to find a jury both uncontaminated by this impression and not demonstrably unfit to serve due to questionable sanity or intelligence.

I Remain, Gentles, your former viewer;
Bob King


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