Monday, September 11, 2006

Dastardly Attacks

The debate over ABC's "Path to 9/11" has been discouraging for those who prefer principled debate over partisan demagoguery. The same people who skewered fabrications when they were directed by Michael Moore or aimed at the Reagans suddenly discovered a new found respect for the legitimacy of the docudrama genre when parts of one placed the Clinton administration in a negative light. Meanwhile, those who accused Moore's critics of nitpicking now find themselves horrified -- shocked -- that Hollywood plays fast and loose with the truth.

Just when one thought the debate had gotten as bad as it could, Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid decided to unveil his best Spiro Agnew impersonation. Not since Agnew has a leader of Reid's stature so overtly threatened the free speech rights of the television networks based solely on a political disagreement.

However, at least a few people have gotten it right. Conservative columnist John Fund justly rips the program:

The makers of docudramas always have smooth explanations for why they need to adjust history for the purposes of storytelling. Cy Nowrasteh, the screenwriter for "The Path to 9/11," told National Review: "The Berger scene is a fusing and melding of at least a dozen capture opportunities. The sequence is true, but it's a conflation. This is a docudrama. We collapse, condense, and create composite characters. But within the rules of docudrama, we're well documented."

That's the problem with docudramas. Their rules simply aren't good enough when dealing with events that are still fresh in the minds of so many. At worst, they can be used by ideological gunslingers like director Oliver Stone, who smeared the reputations of Lyndon Johnson and Richard Nixon in paranoid fantasy films.

It is good to come across principle in punditry.


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