Hollywood's Revealing Censorship of "Path to 9/11"

Posted: Sep 12, 2007 12:01 AM
Hollywood's Revealing Censorship of "Path to 9/11"

Six years after the most spectacular terrorist attack in human history, the Hollywood establishment still hasn’t come to terms with the event – and even managed to censor the most serious cinematic effort to place September 11th in a meaningful historical context.

Instead of dramatizing the ongoing menace of Islamo-Nazi assault and the so-far successful defensive efforts of selfless US and allied heroes, the entertainment industry constructs its terrorist fantasies around American or European conspirators. Political correctness famously required the producers of “Sum of All Fears” to alter the Tom Clancy novel to substitute German terrorists for the Iranian-Palestinian killers in the original story.

Meanwhile, dozens of other movies with terrorist bad-guys (“Bad Company,” “Next,” “Flight Plan,” “Red Eye,” “Stormbreaker,” “Cody Banks,” “The Bourne Ultimatum,” “Déjà Vu,” “Live Free or Die Hard,” and many, many more) emphasize the white, Euro-American identity of the villains.

Among the two acclaimed feature films that dealt directly with the events of the worst day in American history, Oliver Stone’s “World Trade Center” focused on first responders reacting to the catastrophe and made no attempt whatever to show the suicidal fanatics who perpetrated it, while only the excellent “United 93” actually dared portray terrorists (four of the nineteen 9/11 hijackers) as young, Islamic, Middle Eastern males.

On television, at least “Twenty Four” has mustered the courage to highlight the dangers of Islamic terrorism (while also making a point of offering some Muslim heroes) but by far the most serious effort to portray the horrifying phenomenon of al Qaeda and Bin Ladenism remains the superb ABC mini-series, “The Path to 9/11,” which aired amid considerable controversy in September of 2006.

Considering the simultaneous commercial and critical success of this five-hour epic (including seven Emmy nominations and an impressive audience of more than 25 million viewers) one might reasonably expect a major DVD release to coincide with 9/11 observances this year. Major television specials or mini-series will result in a DVD release an average of four months after the initial broadcast, but a year after the national airing of “Path to 9/11” ABC will say only that the company “has no release date at this time.” The network (and its parent, the Disney Company) also declined the opportunity to re-broadcast the beautifully crafted and sweeping mini-series to coincide with the sixth anniversary of the World Trade Center attacks – no doubt missing a chance to attract millions of new and repeat viewers.

Why the reluctance to draw additional revenue from a project in which the corporation initially invested some $30 million dollars? According to Cyrus Nowrasteh, the series lead writer-producer, a top executive at ABC studios explained that the decision to effectively censor “The Path to 9/11” stemmed from a desire to protect the Bill Clinton Presidential legacy and to avoid damage to Hillary Clinton’s Presidential campaign.

The mini-series, which begins with the first World Trade Center attack in 1993, drew angry denunciations from Clinton loyalists a year ago for its accurate portrayal of the President and his top aides as only intermittently concerned by the ongoing, mounting terrorist threat. Nowrasteh said that the ABC honcho indicated that “if Hillary weren’t running for president, this wouldn’t be a problem” and his miniseries would have received the ballyhooed DVD release it deserved.

Nowrasteh even suggested that a DVD special edition should include interviews or statements with Clinton officials attempting to “correct” the historical record, and describe alleged mistakes in the mini-series. But the leaders of the Disney Company and ABC preferred to shelve the project altogether.

This appalling situation (which Nowrasteh discussed in a riveting hour on my radio program) should serve to explode two persistent and all-but universal myths about the entertainment industry: that Tinseltown cares more about making a buck than anything else, and that Hollywood liberals oppose every sort of censorship.

1) No serious observer still could credit the stupid cliché that the show business elite is motivated only by financial greed. In fact, this line of reasoning has long provided a silly, shabby excuse by which embarrassed executives and creative personnel excuse both their shabbiest work and their obvious political bias. By insisting “we just give the public what it wants” they not only justify their own obsessions but also show a typical socialist contempt for the profit motive: the contention that “the market made me do it” has proven far more convenient than the old joke that “the devil made me do it,” but it should count as no more persuasive.

Leave aside the insanely one-sided movie treatment of issues like gun control, gay identity, corporate greed, Bush’s stupidity, global warming, and so forth. Even the most isolated, hermetically-sealed LaLaLand Lefty must understand that “flyover country” is teeming with tens of millions of potential movie-goers who (gasp!) actually identify as conservatives and Republicans. Nevertheless, the movie machine avoids and even shuns any effort to appeal to such people, while churning out no end of “progressive” message movies. The recent crop includes the bitterly anti-Iraq War screed “In the Valley of Elah” (with Tommy Lee Jones and Susan Sarandon), Leonardo di Caprio’s global warming scare story “The 11th Hour,” and the veterans-are-crazy-losers melodrama “Home of the Brave” with Samuel L. Jackson. No one green-lighted such projects out of eagerness to turn a profit—and the sparse or non-existent audience response should provide evidence that no, it’s not all about making money among prominent stars and filmmakers.

Moreover, there’s an even more glaring example of Hollywood ignoring its own self-interest for the sake of political correctness. Starting 18 years ago, I took part in efforts to persuade studio executives to release “family friendly” PG versions of major box-office hits when they appeared on video (and later on DVD). The edited editions already existed (they had been trimmed and cleaned up for airline viewing) so the cost of providing such alternatives would have been zero – and the monetary returns would have been huge. One market study suggested that the major film companies could add a minimum of $300 million of new revenue by appealing to wary audiences with DVD choices of specially edited versions of R-rated releases to supplement, not replace, the originals.

The stubborn, illogical refusal to offer this sort of “freedom of choice” to consumers, like the politically-motivated censorship of “The Path to 9/11” indicates that the entertainment establishment often cares more about political correctness and advancing their “progressive” agenda than about making more money for corporations and their stock holders.

2) Conventional wisdom maintains that all good liberals believe in unfettered free expression, while it’s conservatives who want to control what the public sees or reads or hears. In fact, the furious leftist assault on “The Path to 9/11” shows that purportedly enlightened “progressives” are, in fact, today’s most fervent and shameless advocates of censorship. At the time of the program’s original broadcast, Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid and four of his Democratic colleagues (none of whom had seen the mini-series) signed a threatening letter to ABC Chief Executive Bob Iger demanding that he cancel the scheduled broadcast. Howard Dean and the Democratic National Committee launched a furious petition campaign and promised “consequences” if ABC went ahead with its plans to show “Path.”

The refusal to release the project on DVD shows the long-term impact of such political pressure. Controversial lefty releases (like the slanderous CBS mini-series “The Reagans” and the collected works of the sainted Michael “Fahrenheit 9/11” Moore) got well-publicized release on DVD; only “Path to 9/11” remains, apparently, too hot to handle.

By the same token, the left (including prominent Senators like Dick Durbin, Dennis Kucinich and John Kerry) has been pushing the idea of a re-imposition of the “Fairness Doctrine” to try to stifle conservative media like talk radio and Fox News—trusting government bureaucrats more than consumers to make “balanced” choices of their broadcast offerings. During all the decades of liberal media bias the right has most certainly complained about Dan Rather or the New York Times or Time Magazine, but no prominent conservative ever suggested that government regulation or interference provided the right means to respond.

The unfortunate effort to deny eager viewers a chance to see a hugely informative, first-class TV production about the emergence of al-Qaeda and the inadequate American response (under both Clinton and the pre-9/11 George W. Bush) may end up enlightening the public in another way: highlighting the liberal tendency to put political correctness above the profit motive, and the left’s dangerous instinct to stifle, rather than answer, viewpoints it dislikes.

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