At The Huffington Post, Max Blumenthal exposes the secret right-wing “network within the network” responsible for ABC’s “The Path to 9/11.”
“The Path to 9/11” is produced and promoted by a well-honed propaganda operation consisting of a network of little-known right-wingers working from within Hollywood to counter its supposedly liberal bias. This is the network within the ABC network. Its godfather is far right activist David Horowitz, who has worked for more than a decade to establish a right-wing presence in Hollywood and to discredit mainstream film and TV production. On this project, he is working with a secretive evangelical religious right group founded by The Path to 9/11’s director David Cunningham that proclaims its goal to “transform Hollywood” in line with its messianic vision.
Before The Path to 9/11 entered the production stage, Disney/ABC contracted David Cunningham as the film’s director. Cunningham is no ordinary Hollywood journeyman. He is in fact the son of Loren Cunningham, founder of the right-wing evangelical group Youth With A Mission (YWAM). The young Cunningham helped found an auxiliary of his father’s group called The Film Institute (TFI), which, according to its mission statement, is “dedicated to a Godly transformation and revolution TO and THROUGH the Film and Television industry.”
Cunningham hired a screenwriter with a suitably right-wing pedigree, Cyrus Nowrasteh, who was a featured speaker at the Liberty Film Festival, also a David Horowitz operation. Etc., etc., etc. The web of interconnections includes prominent members of the rightie media echo chamber and Richard Mellon Scaife, who bankrolled the Arkansas Project.
This isn’t the first time a rightie cabal connected to David Horowitz presented historical revisionism as drama to an unsuspecting television audience. Back in 2003 Showtime ran “DC 9/11: Time of Crisis,” which J. Hoberman of The Village Voice called “a shameless propaganda vehicle for our superstar president George W. Bush.” President Bush, played by Timothy Bottoms, was portrayed as clear and decisive rather than frozen and befuddled; the actual events of the day were re-ordered to show other administration officials (notably Veep Dick “the Dick” Cheney) in a better light. Hoberman observed,
The upcoming Showtime feature DC 9/11: Time of Crisis is a signal advance in the instant, ongoing fictionalization of American history, complete with the president fulminating most presidentially against “tinhorn terrorists,” decisively employing the word problematic in a complete sentence, selling a rationale for preemptive war, and presciently laying out American foreign policy for the next 18 months. …
…Scheduled for cablecast on September 7, DC 9/11 inaugurates Bush’s re-election campaign 50 weeks before the 9-11 Memorial Republican National Convention opens in Madison Square Garden. DC 9/11 also marks a new stage in the American cult of personality: the actual president as fictional protagonist.
There are, of course, precedents. “One of the original aspects of Soviet cinema is its daring in depicting contemporary historical personages, even living figures,” AndrÃ© Bazin dryly observed in his 1950 essay, “The Myth of Stalin in the Soviet Cinema.” It was one of the unique characteristics of Stalin-era Soviet movies that their infallible leader was regularly portrayed, by professional impersonators, as an all-wise demiurge in suitably grandiose historical dramas. So it is with DC 9/11, where documentary footage of the collapsing WTC is punctuated by the pronouncements of Bottoms’s Bush. …
…The movie is thus the story of Bush assuming command, first of his staffers (who attest to his new aura with numerous admiring reaction shots) and then the situation. He is the one who declares that “we are at war,” who firmly places Cheney (Lawrence Pressman) in his secure locationâ€”not once but twice. (To further make the point, Chetwynd has Scott Alan Smith’s Fleischer muse that the press refuses to get it: “The Cheney-runs-the-show myth is always going to be with some of them.”) Rudy Giuliani, who eclipsed Bush in the days following the attack, is conspicuously absentâ€”or, rather, glimpsed only as a figure on television.
Rumsfeld (impersonated with frightening veracity by Broadway vet John Cunningham) emerges as the Soviet-style positive hero, embodying the logic of history. In the very first scene, he is seen hosting a congressional breakfast, invoking the 1993 attack on the WTC, and warning the dim-witted legislators that that was only the beginning. Rumsfeld is the first to utter the name “Saddam Hussein” and, over the pooh-poohs of Colin Powell (David Fonteno) goes on to detail Iraq’s awesome stockpile of WMDs. But there can be only one maximum leader. Increasingly tough and folksy, prone to strategically consulting his Bible, it is Bush who directs Rummy and Ashcroft to think in “unconventional ways.” This new Bush is continually educating his staff, instructing Rice in the significance of “modernity, pluralism, and freedom.” (As played by Penny Johnson Jerald, the president’s ex-wife on the Fox series 24, Condi is a sort of super-intelligent poodleâ€”dogging her master’s steps, gazing into his eyes with rapt adoration.)
The screenwriter and co-executive producer of this monstrosity was Lionel Chetwynd, who in December 2001 had been appointed by Bush to the President’s Committee on the Arts and Humanities (quid pro quo?). Hoberman continues (emphasis added),
Chetwynd, whose vita includes such politically charged movies and telefilms as The Hanoi Hilton, The Heroes of Desert Storm, The Siege at Ruby Ridge, Kissinger and Nixon, and Varian’s War, is a prominent Hollywood conservativeâ€”a veteran of the 1980 Reagan campaign who, after Bill Clinton’s election 12 years later, was recruited by right-wing pop culture ideologue David Horowitz to set up the Wednesday Morning Club (“a platform in the entertainment community where a Henry Hyde can come and get a warm welcome and respectful hearing,” as Chetwynd later told The Nation).
Back to Max Blumenthal at The Huffington Post and the present:
Since the inauguration of Bill Clinton in 1992, Horowitz has labored to create a network of politically active conservatives in Hollywood. His Hollywood nest centers around his Wednesday Morning Club [The link takes you to an article written by David Corn in 1999 about Chetwynd, Horowitz, and the establishment of the Wednesday Morning Club.], a weekly meet-and-greet session for Left Coast conservatives that has been graced with speeches by the likes of Newt Gingrich, Victor Davis Hanson and Christopher Hitchens. The group’s headquarters are at the offices of Horowitz’s Center for the Study of Popular Culture, a “think tank” bankrolled for years with millions by right-wing sugardaddies like eccentric far right billionaire Richard Mellon Scaife. (Scaife financed the Arkansas Project, a $2.3 million dirty tricks operation that included paying sources for negative stories about Bill Clinton that turned out to be false.)
Make no mistake; “Path to 9/11” is a considerably more ambitious project than “DC 9/11.” “Path” is on broadcast network instead of cable, creating a larger potential audience. And ABC tried to pass “Path” off as the official film version of the respected p/11 Commission report, complete with school classroom materials furnished by Scholastic.
But there’s another big difference between Then and Now: reaction from the Left. The 2003 drama came and went with little more than grumbling. But this past week has seen the Left Blogosphere and many “establishment” media writers and Democrats work together to discredit if not stop the broadcast of “Path to 9/11.” It’s a good change.
Back in 2003 Kristen Breitweiser called “DC 9/11” a “mind-numbingly boring, revisionist, two-hour-long wish list of how 9/11 might have gone if we had real leaders in the current administration.”
Interesting take from Billmon, writing in May 2003, on “DC 9/11”:
The Republican campaign to turn President Bush into an imitation war hero is definitely one of the more interesting propaganda tactics to emerge from the Iraq invasion. The made-for-TV movie — like the Top Gun scene filmed aboard the U.S.S. Abraham Lincoln — seems aimed at filling in a weak spot in Bush’s public image, something which must have been identified in the campaign’s polling or focus group work. …
…The odd thing is that the American people seem inclined to give Bush a pass on his 9/11 performance — as they did on his less-than-heroic record during the Vietnam War. The polls I’ve seen all show Bush scoring very high on the “strong leader” question.
So why is the Karl Rove Construction Co. pouring so much concrete into building Shrub his very own cult of personality?
Maybe there is something in the polling details — or the focus group interviews — that makes Rove uneasy about the true strength of Bush’s strength on the strong leader question. Maybe they’re afraid more evidence will come to light about the president’s actions on 9/11 — or about his mysterious absence from his National Guard flight duties — and they’re trying to inoculate him in advance.
Or, maybe they’ve concluded that John Kerry is the likely Democratic nominee, and are already moving to counter Kerry’s war bio, which they know will be both his main defense against the “Massachusetts liberal” charge, and his main credential for attacking Bush on his conduct of the war on terrorism.
Maybe it’s all of the above.