Peddling "The Path to 9/11" to Kids

Disney/ABC’s “docudrama” “The Path to 9/11”, is a slanderous and fictional illusion about that tragic day five years ago. It will not only be peddled on our public airwaves, the corporate media is seeking to manipulate our cherished public school teachers. “The Path to 9/11” an ABC miniseries, touted on their tagline as “based on the 9/11 Commission Report” plans to rewrite history and further invoke the bogeyman of terrorism. It airs at 8:00 P.M. (east coast time) on Sunday, September 10th and Monday, September 11th .

100,000 letters apparently were sent to high school teachers so they may collude in this travesty and only muddle the real history behind the tragic day of 9/11. Scholastic, Inc., known to children nationwide as the home of “Clifford, the Big Red Dog” is the catalyst behind the mailing. Go to the Scholastic website and you may download the “Setup and Prepare lessons” for September 7th and 8th . There is a follow-up lesson for 9/12. They are misleading and woefully deficient lessons. Crucial information about the “apparent” Iraq-9/11 connection, the origin of most of the 9/11 terrorists and hard data about Osama Bin Laden is missing in action. Disney and Scholastic have no shame and little integrity for a serious investigation into the 9/11 tragedies.

Shouldn’t we applaud such a civics lesson that ensures a logical and factual discussion surrounding 9/11? If we ever needed a serious dialogue it is now. Yet, historians and educators like myself would probably point to five key points that cast a dark cloud of suspicion on the ABC/Disney production:

* Richard Clarke, the respected counter-terrorism czar for President Clinton (and consultant for ABC News) describes a key scene in the movie. In the footage, a CIA agent places calls to get an okay on a plan to kill Osama Bin Laden: yet, a senior Clinton official hangs up the phone. Clarke states it is “180 degrees from what happen.” A Bush and Clinton counter-terrorism official, Roger Cressey, calls it, “something straight out of Disney and fantasyland. It’s factually wrong.”

* Once again, the Washington Post is accused in the film of blowing the secret that American undercover experts were tracking Bin Laden’s satellite phone calls: a blatant falsehood.

* If the “Path to 9/11” program is “based on the 9/11 Commission Report” why was only the Republican co-chair of that Commission, Tom Kean, asked to be an advisor?

* Why are conservative media outlets screening the program: is this another example of the liberal media myth?

* Lastly, historic and the 9/11 Commission evidence shows that President Bill Clinton used every effort to track down Bin Laden. The chief script writer of “Path to 9/11” Cyrus Nowraseteh chooses to rewrite history by depicting Clinton as lacking the will to stop terrorism? Ironically, Mr. Nowraseteh is a friend of Rush Limbaugh.

The discussion guide for teachers includes some noble goals: encourage students to gain a global understanding of cultures, engage in critical thinking skills and promote media literacy? Media literacy? If their trusted teachers are encouraging high school students to watch this film, isn’t that validation enough of its accuracy? Only the most fluent and well-read teachers could lead their students through this media fiasco.

Teachers must give facts, Scholastic doesn’t, ABC misleads

On Student Sheets #1 provided by Scholastic (the last page) it states, “as part of the war on terror, President Bush has led the United States into Afghanistan and Iraq and has reorganized the national government in an attempt to combat terrorist activity.” Really? Mr. Bush misled Americans to believe that Iraq had connections to 9/11. Where is the activity sheet that discusses that 15 of the 19 terrorists on 9/11 were from Saudi Arabia? Where is the CIA data on how Bin Laden was trained and supplied with equipment in the 1980’s by US interests? This “fact sheet” claims that Pakistan’s President Pervez Mu sharraf is an ally on the war on terror? Didn’t ABC just report that Pakistan is offering Osama Bin Laden a safe haven in Pakistan? Reorganize our national government? How? Is the undermining of civil liberties, the illegal wiretapping of phones and the deliberate desecration of the Bill of Rights the new centerpiece of a democratic republic?

The general and misleading questions in this “discussion packet” are far from a farce. It stinks of the worst form of a lie: omission. They denigrate the role of young adults as civic- minded decision makers. A potentially healthy discussion is instead a healthy serving of fear and falsehoods. This is a dangerous exercise that attempts to simplify and sanitize the truth: at the expense of millions of young minds. During these contentious times in our democracy where Muslims are grouped together as “Islamofacists” and akin to the Nazis and high ranking government officials hide facts and distort information: our citizens are entitled to taste the truth. To enlist teachers to poison that fountain of knowledge is beyond contempt. The shrill propaganda machine of commercialized television only breeds more apathy, fear and bumper sticker patriotism.

Teachers, if you have received that letter from Scholastic, send it back to Scholastic’s CEO Richard Robinson and tell him you are ashamed of Scholastic. Explain to your students that “good television” doesn’t make for good history. Contact Robert Iger (CEO of the Walt Disney Company 500 S. Buena Vista Street Burbank, CA 91521) and insist that ABC tell the truth. Overt and calculated propaganda for any political cause has no place on the airwaves or in our public schools. Teachers refuse to be bamboozled, don’t play into the fear game: teach facts. Your students will only make our country stronger.

John F. Borowski, teacher of 26 years enlists citizens to fight the corporate invasion of schools. His pieces have appeared in the NY Times, UTNE Reader, Commondreams and other sites, he may be reached at jenjill@peak.org



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John Borowski is an environmental educator in Oregon.

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