The Right Wins Again: ABCs "9/11" and CBS's "Reagans"
Despite the growing outcry over its conservative 9/11 historical fiction packaged as fact, ABC is proceeding full speed ahead with this weekend's "Path to 9/11." The contrast with CBS' 2003 capitulation over its controversial mini-series "The Reagans" could not be more stark. The only similarity is both networks' kowtowing to the pressure and the agenda of the right.
As you may recall, CBS planned to air "The Reagans" biopic in November of 2003. But the dramatization's portrayal of the Gipper as an often doddering and occasionally mean-spirited ideologue drew howls from the right. Conservatives objected to James Brolin's Reagan showing complete disdain over the plight of AIDS victims by uttering the line, "they that live in sin shall die in sin." (Reagan's actual record on AIDS was, of course, abysmal, as Perrspectives previously detailed.) Among other CBS deviations from conservative Reagan hagiography was its depiction of Nancy Reagan as running the White House, the early onset of Dutch's Alzheimers, and the Reagan family dysfunction.
Ulimately, the firestorm of criticism from the right led CBS president Les Moonves to fold like a cheap card table. The mini-series was relegated to the obscurity of Showtime. Still, the flow of conservative venom was uninterrupted. L.Brent Bozell of the Media Research Center claimed, "This was a left-wing smear of one of the nation's most beloved presidents and CBS got caught." Bozell added that "There is no such thing as creative license to invent falsehoods about people." While RNC chairman Ed Gillespie had insisted on the inclusion of a disclaimer with the film, Congressman Eric Cantor (R-VA) proclaimed, "This reminds us all that the American people have a strong voice in deciding what is fair and appropriate."
Fast forward three years to ABC and its plan to air a right-wing 9/11 fantasy just in time for the fifth anniversary of the September 11 attacks and the run-up to the mid-term elections. Far from voicing concern over the certain damage to political discourse and the permanent historical record posed by "The Path to 9/11," ABC and its new conservative friends have engaged in a marketing campaign targeting the right's true believers reminiscent of Mel Gibson's "Passion of the Christ."
Ultimately, the common lesson of "The Reagans" and "The Path to 9/11" is this: ABC like CBS before it is doing the bidding of the conservative propaganda machine.