Ron Rosenbaum

I Woke Up on September 12 and...

…watched the rest of the ABC’s controversial “Path to 9/11” I’d taped the night before. It was slick powerful and emotional–horribly emotional. All the more reason I tend to agree with those who call it irresponsible. The locus of irresponsiblity can be found in one sentence of the long and repeated disclaimer: “for dramatic and narrative purposes it contains fictionalized scenes.”

While to some this may sound innocent and understandable, on a matter as momentous, and history-changing as this, the problem is that the presence of any fictionalized scenes, puts every scene in doubt. Unless the fictionalized scenes are labelled as such we have no basis for knowing whether even what may be indisputably non-fictional scenes are fictionalized. Fictionlization undermines trust in fact. A disclaimer does not remedy the situation.

Perhaps this is excusable in less urgent matters. But when a tv drama presents itself as a true account and points the finger of blame for a national tragedy so freely and doesn’t tell us which scenes are fictionalized and how, I think “irresponsible” is not too strong a word.

I don’t see any solution to this. Put the documentably truthful scenes in black and white and–like The Wizard of Oz put the fictionalized ones in Technicolor? Not likely.

What’s needed is a genuine old fashioned, serious documentary (remember them) which could present and evaluate the conflicting versions of who failed to do what to protect us from 9/11. It wouldn’t perhaps be as “cinematic”, but it would add to our perspective rather than confuse it. Some tv network should actually make the effort to sort things out in a documentary that does real reporting rather than a docudrama that ficitonalizes and confuses. It’s not too late.

And speaking of real reporting I recommend you take a look at The Unaccountables a powerful example of scrupulous journalism about the role of private contractors in the Abu Ghraib scandal, by Tara McKelvey in the September issue of The American Prospect(

It advances a story that we all think we know all about by spotlighting the way such contractors operated in a gray area that makes it hard to hold their employees’ conduct up to judicial scrutiny. Just the way a “docudrama” operates in a gray area unacountable to verification.

What we need at this moment in history is more real reporting, more acountability from both politicians and the media, and less “fictionalization”.