Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Max Blumenthal Explains It All For You

by Sara Robinson

The Nation Online has posted Max Blumenthal's roundup of where we currently are with the "Path to 9/11" story. His summary of Our Story So Far makes it very clear that, while the show may have already aired, the fallout will be landing for quite some time to come yet. A few choice snippets:

ABC 9/11 Docudrama's Right-Wing Roots

On Friday, September 8, just forty-eight hours before ABC planned to air its so-called "docudrama," The Path to 9/11, Robert Iger, CEO of ABC's corporate parent, the Walt Disney Company, was presented with incontrovertible evidence outlining the involvement of that film's screenwriter and director in a concerted right-wing effort to blame former President Bill Clinton for allowing the 9/11 attacks to take place. Iger told a source close to ABC that he was "deeply troubled" by the information and claimed he had no previous knowledge of the institutional right-wing ties of The Path to 9/11's creators. He reportedly said that he has commenced an internal investigation to verify the role of the film's creators in deliberately advancing disinformation through ABC.

...All week, ABC has withstood withering criticism for The Path to 9/11's imaginative screenwriting that depicts Clinton and members of his administration either ignoring threats from Al Qaeda or botching operations that could have eliminated terror-master Osama bin Laden. Iger conceded in a September 5 press release that key scenes in The Path to 9/11 were indeed fabricated, calling the film "a dramatization, not a documentary." Behind the scenes, Iger reportedly made personal assurances to some of the film's most prominent critics that those scenes would be edited out. But even though some deceptive footage was cut from the original, much of its falsified version of events leading up to 9/11 remains.

Iger now bears ultimate responsibility for authorizing the product of a well-honed propaganda operation--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, a secretive evangelical religious right group long associated with Horowitz, founded by The Path to 9/11's director, David Cunningham, that aims to "transform Hollywood" in line with its messianic vision, has taken the lead.

Before The Path to 9/11 entered the production stage, Disney/ABC signed 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). According to Sara Diamond's book Spiritual Warfare, during the 1980's YWAM "sought to gain influence within the Republican party" while assisting authoritarian governments in South Africa and Central America. Cunningham, Diamond noted, was a follower of Christian Reconstructionism, an extreme current of evangelical theology that advocates using stealth political methods to put the United States under the control of Biblical law and jettison the Constitution. Cunningham instilled his radical ideology in young missionaries by sending them to "Discipleship Training School." A former student of Cunningham's school claimed "similarities between cult mind controlling techniques and the [Discipleship Training School] program instituted by YWAM."

(It should probably be noted here that YWAM shares its quarters in Garden Valley, TX with Ron Luce's Teen Mania group, which is famous for its hypermilitary "Battle Cry" rallies and "Acquire the Fire" workshops around the country. The Garden Valley ranch serves as a summer training camp for high-school-aged Teen Mania missionaries, who are farmed out around the world on short-term mission assignments. The Acquire The Evidence website has more.)

When the young Cunningham entered his father's ministry, he helped found an auxiliary group called The Film Institute (TFI). According to its mission statement, TFI is "dedicated to a Godly transformation and revolution TO and THROUGH the Film and Television industry." Cunningham has placed over a dozen interns from Youth With A Mission's Discipleship Training School in film industry jobs "so that they can begin to impact and transform Hollywood from the inside out," according to a YWAM report.

Last June, Cunningham's TFI announced it was producing its first film, mysteriously titled Untitled History Project. "TFI's first project is a doozy," a newsletter to YWAM members read. "Simply being referred to as: The Untitled History Project, it is already being called the television event of the decade and not one second has been put to film yet. Talk about great expectations!"

...The following month, on July 28, the New York Post reported that ABC was filming a mini-series "under a shroud of secrecy" about the 9/11 attacks. "At the moment, ABC officials are calling the miniseries 'Untitled Commission Report' and producers refer to it as the 'Untitled History Project,'" the Post noted.

Early on, Cunningham had recruited a young Iranian-American screenwriter named Cyrus Nowrasteh to write the script of his secretive Untitled film. Not only is Nowrasteh an outspoken conservative, he is also a fervent member of the emerging network of right-wing people burrowing into the film industry with ulterior sectarian political and religious agendas, like Cunningham.

...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, 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 sugar daddies like 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.)

In the immediate wake of the 9/11 attacks, Horowitz led the right's campaign to pin the blame for attacks on Clinton. On February 19, 2002, Horowitz's organization mailed 1,500 lengthy pamphlets to major media outlets which claimed to expose how "the left" in general and Clinton in particular had "undermined America's security," thus causing 9/11. Two years later, Horowitz penned a lengthy manifesto for his FrontPageMag blaming Clinton once again for having "accepted defeat" in the fight against Al Qaeda. Horowitz singled out Clinton's National Security Council Director, Samuel "Sandy" Berger, as especially culpable for allowing the terror threat to fester, casting him as "a veteran of the Sixties 'anti-war' movement" who "abetted the Communist victories in Vietnam and Cambodia."

This year, Horowitz's Hollywood hothouse finally spawned his most potent anti-Clinton propaganda device. With the LFF under Horowitz's control, his political machine began drumming up support for Cunningham and Nowrasteh's Untitled project, which finally was revealed last August as The Path to 9/11.

Like Iger, Horowitz has pleaded ignorance about the sectarian agenda of the film's creators. Responding to an article I wrote for the Huffington Post exposing Horowitz's involvement in The Path to 9/11 (on which this article is adapted), he claimed in a blog post, "In fact, I never heard of David Cunningham or his group before reading about them in Max's hilarious column."

However, Horowitz's public relations blitz on behalf of the film began at least a month ago with an August 16 interview with Nowrasteh on his FrontPageMag webzine In the interview, Nowrasteh described how The Path to 9/11 was filmed "under the very able direction of David L. Cunningham." (Doesn't Horowitz read his own magazine?)

....Although Iger and ABC trimmed as much as thirty minutes of deceptive footage from Sunday's episode of The Path to 9/11, it appeared nonetheless as a mostly faithful adaptation of Horowitz's anti-Clinton essay. Indeed, The Path to 9/11 still contained its most egregiously false scene, in which Sandy Berger refuses to authorize a CIA officer's request to capture bin Laden, who is completely surrounded by rival Northern Alliance soldiers. After the halted (and totally fictional) operation, "Kirk," the (completely imaginary) CIA op played by Donny Wahlberg of New Kids on the Block fame, stands on a hilltop beside the Northern Alliance's quixotic warlord, Ahmed Shah Massoud.

"Are there any men left in Washington?" the script has a frustrated Massoud asking "Kirk." "Or just cowards?"

"Cowards?" The question is quietly being raised in the corridors of ABC-TV's headquarters in Burbank, California. Besieged in his lush office, Iger privately agonizes that he was complacent about an attack on his network's reputation by a band of political terrorists. But when faced with his own version of the Taliban, he appeased them.

It's a testament to our growing power that Iger is being forced to reckon with his inattention -- and his decision to let Horowitz run a mini-"network within a network" at ABC. That reckoning is far from over. At the very least, I hope Max and the rest of us will keep digging until we get an answer to the $40 million question: Who ponied up the funds for this extravaganza -- and picked up the bill for six hours of prime-time advertising?

We will also need to keep the pressure on ABC until they evict Horowitz and his mouseketeers from the premises. (Iger's story should be a caution to corporate leaders everywhere: Don't ever put right-wing ideologues like Horowitz in charge of so much as the parking lot, unless you can afford the legal, financial, PR, and shareholder catastrophe that will inevitably follow.) Beyond that, we can now assume that YWAM moles are probably scattered in media companies from coast to coast. They may go underground for a while after this fiasco, but we almost certainly haven't heard the last of them.

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