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Thursday, September 21, 2006

Propagandist Accuses Journalists of McCarthyism

Poor, put upon Cyrus Nowrasteh. The victim of a massive smear campaign, Cyrus hasn't so much been defending his 'docudrama,' 'The Path to 9/11,' as he's been accusing his detractors of censorship.

Weird, seeing how the thing was aired. Editor & Publisher:

Not content with comparing a New York Times story about him to "McCarthyism," Cyrus Nowrasteh, who wrote the screenplay for the recent ABC docudrama "The Path to 9/11," has now, in an interview with Foreign Policy magazine, compared the critics' reaction to the film to a "witch hunt," a "book burning" and "Salem all over again."

What, no comparison to the Holocaust? Guess he hasn't gotten around to it yet.

"...In addition to the death threats and hate mail directed at me, and my grotesque portrayal as a maddened right-winger," he wrote (as reported by, "There developed an impassioned search for incriminating evidence on everyone else connected to the film. And in director David Cunningham, the searchers found paydirt! His father had founded a Christian youth outreach mission. The whiff of the younger Mr. Cunningham's possible connection to this enterprise was enough to set the hounds of suspicion baying. A religious mission! A New York Times reporter wrote, without irony or explanation, that an issue that raised questions about the director was his involvement in his father's outreach work. In the era of McCarthyism, the merest hint of a connection to communism sufficed to inspire dark accusations, the certainty that the accused was part of a malign conspiracy. Today, apparently, you can get something of that effect by charging a connection with a Christian mission."

Gosh! What a travesty!

Except, as Justin Rood reported:

The director of ABC's controversial "Path to 9/11" docudrama has ties to an evangelical Christian group whose goals include "transform[ing] Hollywood from the inside out," according to research by readers of prominent blogs.

"Path" director David L. Cunningham is also involved in "The Film Institute," an offshoot of the Hawaii-based global evangelical group, Youth With a Mission.

One goal of Cunningham's Film Institute is to "fast-track" students from a digital film program associated with the YWAM organization into positions "within the film industry, not to give them jobs, but so that they can begin to impact and transform Hollywood from the inside out," according to a cached version of page from a YWAM Web site. The original appears to have been moved or deleted.

What's weird about this is that Cyrus Nowrasteh has everything ass backward. When a liar attacks a truthteller, that's McCarthyism -- truthtellers outing liars is called 'journalism'. See, there's a difference.

One of the key scenes that everyone had a problem with depicted Sandy Berger hanging up on a group of americans and afghanis poised to capture Osama bin Laden. E&P again:

He defended his screenplay, saying, "I had to collapse the events of eight and a half years into five hours. I don’t know any other way to do it except collapse, conflate, and condense." He called a "conflation" the quite fictional scene where Clinton aide Sandy Berger calls off the seizure of bin Laden by a nearby CIA team. As for trimming the climax of that scene -- when Berger cuts off the phone line -- Nowrasteh admitted it "wasn’t actually in the script. But I liked what the director had done with that sequence because I thought it symbolically represented what was going on."

Not so much 'true' as a 'conflation'. Since a conflation is the merging of two or more ideas, it'd be helpful if Nowrasteh explained what 'true' events he used to construct this fictional scene.

Critics, he continued, "take everything literally. They don’t know how to watch a movie. What happened after the most powerful group of political power brokers and their lawyers tried to stop this from airing—the Clinton Foundation, et al? Seventy seconds were taken out of a five-hour movie."

That's odd, because critic Tom Shales -- who assumedly does know how to watch a movie -- wrote in the Washington Post:

Factually shaky, politically inflammatory and photographically a mess, "The Path to 9/11" -- ABC's two-part, five-hour miniseries tracing events leading up to the 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon -- has something not just to offend everyone but also to depress them.

The docudrama -- allegedly produced as a warning to the United States that the attacks, or something like them, could happen again -- falls clumsily into traps that await all those who make fictional films claiming to be factual. Except this time, the event being dramatized is one of the most tragic and monstrous in the nation's history, not something to be trifled with.


Clinton himself is libeled through abusive editing. A first-class U.S. operative played by Donnie Wahlberg argues the case for getting bin Laden while the al-Qaeda leader is openly in view in some sort of compound in Afghanistan. CIA officials haggle over minor details, such as the budget for the operation. The film's director, David L. Cunningham, then cuts abruptly to a TV image of Clinton making his infamous "I did not have sexual relations with that woman" remark with regard to Monica Lewinsky. The impression given is that Clinton was spending time on his sex life while terrorists were gaining ground and planning a nightmare.

It would have made as much sense, and perhaps more, to cut instead to stock footage of a smirking Kenneth Starr, the reckless Republican prosecutor largely responsible for distracting not just the president but the entire nation with the scandal.

Not only wasn't it true, it wasn't very good.


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