Right Wing Nut House



Filed under: Media — Rick Moran @ 7:01 am

It had to happen sooner or later. A major TV network is planning to produce a mini-series with the events surrounding September 11, 2001 as the backdrop.

Some may argue that it’s too soon, that to give 9/11 the Hollywood touch is cruel and unfeeling to the family members who lost loved ones both in the air and on the ground that horrible day.

These reasons haven’t stopped TV moguls in the past. The drama about Lacy Peterson’s murder was aired less than two years after the poor woman’s family went through a trauma no family should have to go through; the loss of a daughter, murdered at the hands of a formerly beloved son-in-law. And who could forget the “Long Island Lolita” Amy Fischer who had three made for TV movies in the can before poor little teenage Amy was sent to the pen for trying to murder her older lover’s wife.

One can imagine Mrs. Buttafucco’s distress at having to live that nightmare over and over again.

In this case, there should be a recognition that 9/11 is different. As much as we feel for the individuals and family members who lost loved ones, September 11, 2001 is a day that belongs to all of us. It was the single most transformational day in American history. Pearl Harbor, for all of its devastating surprise and outrage, was nonetheless carried out at a time when the rest of the world was already at war. The shock was tempered by the foreknowledge that sooner or later, we were going to be involved. FDR’s institution of the first peacetime draft in American history and other signposts like the passage of the Lend-Lease Act that placed the US firmly on the side of Great Britain and Russia against Hitler showed that America, however reluctantly, was moving to intervene.

And the day JFK was shot generated its own degree of shock and horror but was hardly as immediately transforming as that horrible September day. An argument can be made that the triple shocks of assassination/Viet Nam/Watergate demonstrated over a period of a decade or more that America would never be the same. Some say we lost” innocence” as a result of those events. Perhaps its more accurate to say we had our eyes opened to the perfidy and faithlessness of the people we elect to represent us.

But on September 11, 2001 the United States and the world were at peace - or what used to pass for peace in the post cold war pre 9/11 reality. We had troops in the Balkans trying to keep an uneasy peace. We were in a low level combat situation in Iraq trying to keep Saddam Hussein in his box. And there were the usual tribal conflicts, coup d’ etats, genocidal rampages, and border disputes that somehow never quite made it through the screen erected by the guardians of information in the mainstream media so as to penetrate our consciousness and cause us to lose any sleep.

This self-generated myopia disappeared in the clouds of fire and smoke that rose from the ruins of the twin towers. For some, September 11 was a call to arms, a sudden and transmogrifying episode that not only showed how vulnerable we were to our enemies, but that these same implacable foes were hell bent on killing all of us in a very real and very literal sense.

For others, 9/11 remains a tragedy but not much else. They resent measures we’ve taken to protect ourselves be it passage of internal security proposals or the implementation of new military strategies like pre-emptive war.

At bottom, the difference in these two views of the meaning of September 11 is what drives most our politics today. In that respect, there has never been a day before or since in American history that has had such a profound effect on either our domestic political alignments or our foreign policy. America is divided between 9/10 and 9/12 advocates.

The question for ABC is from what perspective will the miniseries approach the events surrounding that day? From the looks of this report on the casting calls, it could go either way at this point:

Here it comes, the miniseries no one wanted to see.

Nevertheless, ABC seems to be readying a major and secret “fictionalized” multi-parter about the history of terrorism, from the 1993 World Trade Center bombing to the disasters of Sept. 11, 2001.

From the looks of it, the story is going to be about how stupid the government was: If only they’d listened to one man, all would have been right!

The title offered on call sheets for actors is “The Untitled ABC History Project.”

Last week, the call went out for dozens of Arab actors. Today, ABC showed a little more of its effort by putting out requests for 16 characters.

The main one? Former FBI agent John O’Neill, who seems to be the lead figure in this ‘history.’

The use of O’Neill as a central character may give away more about the thrust of the story than ABC may have wished. For almost a decade, Agent O’Neill, who was something of a legend in the counter terrorism culture of our national security apparatus, tracked many of the 9/11 hijackers. The excellent Frontline documentary about his exploits and colorful personality gave tantalizing clues to just how close O’Neill came to unmasking al Queda and preventing the attacks on 9/11.

The problem from ABC’s perspective is how to show that the Clinton administration and especially FBI Director Louis Freeh tried to thwart O’Neil at almost every turn without making it seem as if the worst attack on American soil in history could have been prevented. Part of the problem was O’Neill’s personality. The way Frontline portrayed him, O’Neill was something of a roue who liked fast women, fast cars, and fast times. Part beefy Irish cop, part dandy, O’Neill was a bulldog when he got a hold of a case. His relentless pursuit of al Quaeda led him to accidentally stumble upon elements of Mohamed Atta’s 9/11 cell in the Philippines and Indonesia. Realizing that something was being planned, O’Neill haunted the locations of terrorist attacks throughout the 1990’s; in Africa at the site of our embassy bombings, in Saudi Arabia at the Khobar Towers bombing, and finally in Yemen where the USS Cole was struck by suicide bombers and where O’Neill could have just about cracked the 9/11 conspiracy wide open.

The conspiracy to bomb the USS Cole had the involvement of at least two of the 9/11 hijackers. But due to bureaucratic infighting between the FBI and the State Department, the connection was missed. Shortly after being rebuffed in continuing the investigation in Yemen and marginalized by Director Freeh back home, O’Neill resigned from the FBI.

And in one of the supreme and tragic ironies of 9/11, O’Neill took a job as Chief of Security at the World Trade Center. He started his new job in late August, 2001 and died a few days later in the attack.

Clearly the dramatic potential is there for a blockbuster series. The real problem appears to be in the creative staff hired to make the project:

Historians should have a field day with this version of the decade-long terrorist plot. But why not? Screenwriter Cyrus Nowrasteh got his start on another soap opera, “Falcon Crest.” He also wrote the upcoming miniseries “Into the West” and was cited for “The Day Reagan Was Shot.” Marc Platt is the producer, and David L. Cunningham — who helmed the recent miniseries revival of “Little House on the Prairie” and several B-movies — will direct.

“The Day Reagan was Shot” was an excreable effort that portrays President Reagan’s cabinet as a bunch of hapless buffoons with Richard Dreyfuss’s portrayal of Secretary of State Al Haig as some sort of megalomaniac intent on overthrowing the government a low point in “docu-drama” film making. The fact that this hack has been hired to write the script for a mini-series on 9/11 does not bode well either for history or entertainment for that matter.

Regardless of who writes or directs, the fact that such a series is even being contemplated is probably a good thing. Even the upcoming release of “The Great New Wonderful” which will track the lives of New Yorkers who lived through that awful day (and in which the star Maggie Gyllenhaal has said “America has done reprehensible things and is responsible in some way” for 9/11) will be a valuable contribution to our national dialog on the subject.

And given the impact of that day, perhaps its time to put the events of 9/11 into the pantheon of American myth as only Hollywood can do. Like movies about World War II that followed closely on the heels of the end of that conflict - “From Here to Eternity” comes to mind - sometimes a close perspective to a particular event can crystallize emotions and sharpen the senses about an incident that will haunt those of us who lived it until the day we die.

Cross-Posted at Blogger News Network and Cao’s Blog


  1. I agree that it will help in the dialouge of the nation.

    Comment by Jay — 5/4/2005 @ 9:35 am

  2. Supper: 5/4/2005
    Try one of these specials with your supper: Diane found a diet that works … for somebody else. Riehl World View has an update on the Sgrena report situation. Right Wing Nut House says just when you thought it was

    Trackback by basil's blog — 5/4/2005 @ 12:48 pm

  3. Louis Freeh had to be one of the worst disasters in our country’s history. He was a political compromise that both Democrats and Republicans have to share the blame for.

    He squeezed tons of money out of Congress to pay for a computer upgrade the FBI computer system. When he left, Congress found out he’d blown all the computer money on expenses and travel costs and the FBI didn’t have a single Internet connection in DC on 9/11.

    Comment by Denny Hix — 5/4/2005 @ 3:10 pm

  4. I’de like to see a 9-11 movie that shows how people reacted to the attacks…the fears and tears. The anger that many of us felt, not towards our government but towards the Islamafreakoids who did it. I have tape after tape of the news coverage of those days, me and my daughters watched…it serves as our history.
    Something we will never forget, and no movie will change our perceptions and feelings of that day.

    Comment by Raven — 5/5/2005 @ 5:52 am

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