More Messages: Teach Your Children Well

The current Message column concerns Colorado Media Matters, the first state-based spinoff of Media Matters, a Washington, D.C., organization devoted to counteracting, contradicting and correcting what the folks there consider to be "conservative misinformation in the U.S. media."

Media Matters president, CEO and founder David Brock is quoted in the piece, and early on September 7, when he spoke with Westword, he was in war-room mode thanks to the impending broadcast of The Path to 9/11, an ABC mini-series starring Harvey Keitel (pictured) that purported to accurately dramatize the events that led to the attacks five years ago on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. Many progressives didn't buy this assertion, claiming that the filmmakers invented scenes in order to cast inordinate blame on former President Bill Clinton and members of his administration -- and Brock agreed. "We've been looking at it, and it seems to be a distortion of history," he said at the time.

A slew of prominent lefties pressured ABC not to air The Path to 9/11, but they failed. The two-part epic ran in its previously scheduled September 10 and 11 slots, and although ABC reportedly made last-minute trims in an attempt to up the offering's equity, numerous sequences that remained portrayed Clinton as overly distracted by the Monica Lewinski scandal, and implied that his underlings were too gutless and fearful of political repercussions to take tough action. Evenhanded it wasn't.

As for Media Matters, the group focused its energies on an issue related to Path -- a study guide produced under the auspices of ABC and Scholastic, one of the nation's foremost education-oriented publishers, that was to be distributed to high school teachers across the country. "The material is factually flawed in some of the same ways the movie is flawed," Brock said on September 7. "And that's very problematic, because 100,000 copies of it are going out."

Turns out, though, that most of this information didn't reach classrooms, and Media Matters deserves a lot of the credit. Two research pieces pointing out MM's complaints were published online on September 6; click here and here to check them out. A day later, Scholastic blinked. As noted in this Media Matters update, company execs yanked the guides after determining that the Path-related material didn't meet their "high standards."

For whatever reason, ABC didn't reach the same conclusion. Still, the decision to move ahead seems unlikely to result in a big monetary reward for the network. As pointed out in this article from the Orlando Sentinel, the first half of the mini-series attracted over 13 million viewers, with part two drawing just over 12 million. But since the Nielsen ratings service doesn't count programs, like this one, that screen without commercial interruption, these totals won't boost the net's numbers for the week.

Betcha that little factoid puts a smile on Brock's lips. -- Michael Roberts

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Michael Roberts has written for Westword since October 1990, serving stints as music editor and media columnist. He currently covers everything from breaking news and politics to sports and stories that defy categorization.
Contact: Michael Roberts