Belaboring the Obvious

Friday, September 08, 2006

Airbushing History...

... which means, I suppose, airbrushing history to the liking of Bush's supporters. What's amazing about the Disney-ABC brouhaha is that, after a week of getting pounded for, apparently, an intentional rewriting of history in order to condemn Clinton and absolve Bush, Disney and ABC are likely going to go ahead with the showing, and without commercials.

This business of rewriting history goes on all the time, and not just in this country. The Turkish government has been trying, for ninety years, to airbrush the Armenian genocide from history books. Stalinist apologists in this country and in Great Britain tried, for the sake of the international movement, to ignore or to mitigate Stalin's purges of the `30s. Even Kurt Waldheim, the former UN Secretary-General, tried to bury his Nazi past during WWII. Books still appear, with some regularity, denying the Holocaust--just as books still appear denying Israeli purges of Palestinian Arabs from the new Israel in 1948.

These attempts to change the direction of history in retrograde fashion, to undo in people's minds what was done in fact, is aided by time. The further that events recede in time, the easier it is to convince people of later generations of what is not true, as they do not have a contemporary sense of events. The words in one book of history may have as much weight as the words of another. In those instances, it is only the volume and quality of research which can corroborate a particular thesis.

What makes the Disney-ABC 9/11 imbroglio so different is its proximity to current events--the subject of the series is very recent history, history to which large numbers of the population have been observers. The series' falsehoods depend upon the population forgetting what they have seen, and believing what one President has said over what another had done in the past. With one of the participants in the drama, George Bush, still in power, still able to exert the power of his office on the writing of history, and with a determined publicity campaign directed toward Bush supporters, Disney's "The Path to 9/11" cannot make claims to be expositing history and is, instead, participating in the production of propaganda. Its producers tried to borrow credibility for historical accuracy by saying the series was "based on the independent 9/11 commission report," but many have already shown that not to be true. (As importantly, the credibility of the commission itself and its conclusions are still in question. To suggest that the commission's report is a definitive and wholly accurate depiction of the history of the events surrounding the attacks of 9/11 ignores the political environment in which the report was produced, the system of secrecy employed in the classification of critical evidence and some of the facts, as well.)

Disney may also have noticed--given the very clear slant of the "docudrama"--that it could create some free buzz for the television network through its radio division. Anyone who believes that media consolidation has no political penalty might want to reconsider that opinion in light of the mess surrounding Disney-ABC right now.

We're getting the media we've allowed the past several administrations to provide us. There probably would not have been a Disney-ABC joint venture slanted to the right had Disney been prevented from purchasing ABC in the first place (on some once firmly-held grounds concerning monopolistic practices), nor might there have been this so-called docudrama if the network had to give equal time (five whole hours' worth) to those who would detail the program's inaccuracies--as it once would have had to do prior to 1987, when the FCC fairness doctrine was canned. It's doubtful that we would have to endure a slow-pitch softball queen like Katie Couric at the top of the CBS news organization if Sumner Redstone had not been able to turn news into entertainment through Viacom's purchase of CBS.

We might not even have had to endure George W. Bush if there had been just a few more independent voices reporting on his campaigns instead of the few media conglomerates eager to support him because of what he was going to do for their bottom lines.

We've seen twenty years of attempts to alter the facts in Ronald Reagan's favor. The right wing is still trying to destroy Bill Clinton via the media--a process which began before the 1992 election--and is still evident in "The Path to 9/11." It's the perfect media strategy in the age of information overload and conservative control of the media megaphone to now use entertainment as a conservative political tool.

But, it's still not factual and for that reason alone does not belong under the rubric of history... except as an example of just how far the nation's news sources were willing to prostitute themselves in a time of the country's political occupation by the right wing.


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