"The following movie is a dramatization that is drawn from a variety of sources including the 9/11 Commission Report and other published materials, and from personal interviews. The movie is not a documentary. For dramatic and narrative purposes, the movie contains fictionalized scenes, composite and representative characters and dialogue, as well as time compression."
These are the words displayed on-screen in the middle of the opening scene (and prior to the opening credits) of the USA broadcast of ABC's "The Path to 9/11". You can watch the opening of the USA broadcast here:
"Official True Story"
These are the words displayed on-screen during the promotional trailer for the European broadcast of ABC's "The Path to 9/11". You can watch that European promotional trailer here:
The European trailer story is reported here.
I will sidestep for now just how much "true story" and how much "not a documentary" we really have. Also, I will sidestep for now whether there is more than one "The Path to 9/11" being broadcast around the world by ABC. I look forward to reading whatever reports are written about the contents of these broadcasts. The HuffPost's Martin Lewis has begun that important process here.
After more reports are in, I will get into just what the heck ABC television was really doing in broadcasting this movie. (Perhaps if ABC issues a DVD of "The Path to 9/11", it will contain both the "true story" and the "not a documentary" versions with special features that help us compare the two.)
The "lies mixed with truths" I want to get at now has to do with how ABC News reported on this controversy.
Why only ABC News? Because I think ABC News has a unique responsibility to cover this situation thoroughly and, if the facts require it, critically. And because it's possible to find examples of ABC News reporting politically-hot stories in ways that really make a difference. Here's an example, involving Al Gore's global warming movie:
One reason I love this example is because it's a perfect parallel to the "The Path to 9/11" story. In this example, ABC News exposes how a seemingly home-made, anti-"An Inconvenient Truth" YouTube video turned out to be the work of a sophisticated marketing company with ExxonMobil as one of its clients. I also love this example because the same reporter - Jake Tapper - covered both this story and the "The Path to 9/11" story in the two reports below.
What you will see in these reports - the first from Thursday September 7th and the second from Sunday the 10th just before the movie aired is that at no time does Jake Tapper get into the issue of who was behind the making of "The Path to 9/11". His complete focus is on the Democrats vs. Republicans "battle" over whether the film is honest or not. Not only does Jake miss the "stealthy origins" story, but - in what I am starting to think is a general and VERY FRIGHTENING trait of TV news in general - he frames his report as Democrats vs. Republicans instead of the much more fundamental frame: Truth vs. Fiction.
Jake, it's true that it's mostly Democrats who are angry about this movie. (Although not just Democrats. Chris Wallace on Fox News is very upset, because false words were said by an actor portraying his father, Mike Wallace, in a movie about the tobacco industry. So, Chris knows what it's like for someone you care about to be inaccurately portrayed on screen.) But it's a lie to frame this story as Democrats vs. Republicans. There's a much deeper truth here...which you should be reporting.
Okay. Enough preamble. Here are the two reports:
Thursday Sept 7th coverage by ABC News...
Sunday night Sept 10th coverage by ABC News..
Why the media has failed to label the Republican party as the party of liars and the Democrats as the party of truth-tellers (statistically speaking, of course. I'm not saying neither party ocassionally engages in what the other specializes in) is beyond me. But if they won't, then we can.
I've already wished out loud that Steve Jobs call Bob Iger at Disney about this film. Perhaps it's now time to wish that Steve Jobs - as well as Disney board chair Sen. George Mitchell - contact ABC News regarding how they are covering this story. And if Steve or George - or any other concerned Americans - want to know what to say to ABC News, just tell them to ask for Jake Tapper because they want to tell Jake to cover "The Path to 9/11" the same way he covered the YouTube/"An Inconvenient Truth" story.
It's about who is behind making the movie, Jake!
They don't even have to make a phone call. Here is Jake's ABC News blog.
Come on, Jake. There's still time to report the fundamental truth of this story...and eliminate the lie that this is just part of the ongoing fight between the Democrats and Republicans.
Follow Steven G. Brant on Twitter: www.twitter.com/SteveBrant