Fuse #8

Thursday, September 07, 2006

I'm Getting All Political Now. Watch Out!

Remember the Scholastic Book Club, oh you children of the 80s? Wasn't it fab? You'd be sitting there in your fifth grade classroom and like manna from heaven those translucent little multicolored pages of paper would be bestowed upon you. Cheapo paperbacks for the buying, that's what they were. It's thanks to them that I STILL to this day have my original paperback copy of Willo Davis Roberts's, The Girl With the Silver Eyes. Aside from the relative size of her glasses on the cover, that book STILL stands up to post-1988 scrutiny. I wish the same could be said of Scholastic Books.

Here's the deal. Ever heard of a little docudrama called The Path to 9/11? Oh, it's all sorts of delightful right-wing goodness! This television movie is set to air on ABC on September 10th and 11th, and let me tell you, it's a hoot. My favorite part of the show is when it manages to blame 9/11, to a great extent, on the Clinton/Lewinsky scandal. I'll set the stage for you. It's the Clinton administration and our boys in Afghanistan have gotten the okay to "snatch" Bin Laden. Then, as Editor and Publisher put it:
Right away comes a quick cut to Clinton making his famous statement about not having "sexual relations" with Lewinsky. Clarke tells O'Neill that Clinton won't give the order to get bin Laden in this climate, with Republicans calling for his impeachment. O'Neill says that Clinton wants bin Laden dead -- but not if he has to order it. "It's pathetic," he declares.
Needless to say, the words "My Pet Goat", does not appear at any point in time. There are other examples of this kind of thing. I just liked this one the best.

Why do I tell you all this? Because, my sweet darlings, guess who's offering teaching guides on the show? Yup. My dear beloved Scholastic.

Or maybe not. As of right now a Google search of Scholastic Books Path to 9/11 takes you to this page. But the top link? Not in operation. One can hope that this is a response of some kind. Still, it's a bit creepy that this kind of thing appeared in the first place. Teaching guides for inaccurate right-wing tv movies? Surely there are better uses of a publisher's time.

A thank you to Maud Newton for the info.


At 11:20 AM , Blogger alvinaling said...

I won't comment on the politics, mainly because I don't have time right now to follow the links, but I will say, I LOVED The Girl with the Silver Eyes! A few years ago I kept comparing submissions to that book in our editorial meeting, but now the only other editor who had read it is no longer with the company so nobody knows what I'm talking about.

At 1:05 PM , Blogger Disco Mermaids said...

I won't comment on the politics either, but mainly because I don't have time to write a 43-page rant.

Okay, just one point! They claim to have based this movie on the 9/11 Commission Report, yet some of the scenes go completely against what the report found...and they're admitting it!


- Jay

At 1:18 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

How about Scholastic issues 100,000 teachers guides for Fahrenheit 9/11. Oh, wait, that's right. That contains things that actually happened.

Sheesh. My outrage button is getting worn out these days.

At 1:59 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wow. I'm torn between my horror at Scholastic's role in promoting the evil 9/11 docudrama, and my blissful incredulity that there are other people on the planet who share my love of Girl with the Silver Eyes. Can we form a club? With t-shirts?

At 3:35 PM , Blogger Nancy said...

If Scholastic offered the teaching guides, it looks like they've pulled them.

I'm interested to see the show now, rather than just listening to what the Right and the Left have to say about it. I didn't even know it was coming until I read all the news today. But I'm always much happier judging for myself than believing second-hand reports. (Please don't hate me for not condemning it yet!)

Bonny's comment makes me think of an alternative way to use this for education. Show this (which if reports are true, takes a sharply different view of things than Michael Moore's movie) alongside Fahrenheit 911, as a lesson in politics rather than history.

At 3:37 PM , Blogger fusenumber8 said...

T-shirts, yes. There must be t-shirts.
You can imagine my relief when, years later, I discovered that the book's author was not only a legitimate author in her own right but kept on publishing. Her last posthumous (sp?) novel came out this year. It did not, suffice it to say, have the thrill factor of TGWTSE.

At 3:41 PM , Blogger fusenumber8 said...

Actually, I think Nancy's idea to make this all an educational project is a good one. It would be fabulous to examine it closely in school, giving it the proper amount of time and energy. The kids could examine sources and determine what's true and what's false. However, with the onslaught of No Child Left Behind, that kind of classroom time is probably a thing of the past. *sigh*

At 3:51 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Here's an interesting link describing the ABC/Scholastic classroom discussion guide.


At 1:24 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Nothing to add about politics -- why bother? -- since the real thing is that one of my prized Scholastic purchases is also by Willo Davis Roberts: The View From the Cherry Tree. I don't own the one I bought (or rather my mum bought), but recently I re-purchased it, and it was just as enjoyable now as it was then. As far as I can tell, I only have one book from my fifth-grade Scholastic days: Humbug Mountain, by Sid Fleischman. It's survived countless purges, a few moves precipitated by the sadly-completed quest for useless college degrees (which themselves precipitated even more purges after I was done, due to needing extra cash), and I suspect it will survive until I give it to my daugher, who may or may not enjoy it as much as I did.

At 11:13 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Now that the Clintonites have screamed for censorship, I'm sure the documentary that airs this Sunday will be slightly different from the original intent. Yes, the conservatives screamed about the Reagan miniseries when that came out, but no one screamed censorship. I'm afraid of what might happen should the democrats win the next election. I'm not too worried about ABC showing a right-wing documentary - I mean c'mon people, this is ABC we're talking about, they wouldn't get all conservative on us now would they? Besides, I think this is all a fantastic publicity stunt. What airs will be a modified version to appease their leftist audience.

At 12:57 PM , Blogger Greg Pincus said...

Anonymous2 -- I'm confused about your comment on the Reagan miniseries. As you know, CBS simply cancelled the showing of it, pushing it to Showtime. Many screamed censorship on both sides of the political spectrum, though the project saw the light of day.

The question here is whether one is presenting drama or documentary or a combo... and how one labels the presentation. Perhaps to you it's fine if a project is presented as faithfully adapted from a document, but it actually isn't. Since I haven't seen the show, I can't say. But I'm curious if that would be acceptable to you. Again, how is this being labelled? This is not an issue of politics, or at least it shouldn't be.

Personally, I'm more amused by ABC's claims that the project is still being re-worked. It's possible, of course, but you usually aren't re-doing projects this close to airdate, unless you don't care about color correction, spotting and sound work, standards and practices, and on an on.

At 3:47 PM , Blogger J. L. Bell said...

The anonymous comment about censorship is inaccurate. As Gregory K. stated, there was so much right-wing pressure on CBS not to show its miniseries about the Reagans that the network canceled the show, and it aired on Showtime instead.

Furthermore, right-wing objections to the Reagans miniseries were not as substantial as the current objections to the Path the 9/11 miniseries. Reagan fans complained, for instance, that he never said about AIDS victims, "They that live in sin shall die in sin." According to his biographer Edmund Morris, Reagan actually said, "Maybe the Lord brought down this plague [because] illicit sex is against the Ten Commandments.”

The difference between those two statements is clearly much smaller than the differences between documented facts and the scenes in Path to 9/11. To take one example, the miniseries as screened for reviewers showed NSC Advisor Berger hanging up on a conversation over whether the CIA should proceed with a raid to capture Osama bin Laden, who was in agents' sights. CIA agents were never that close to bin Laden. Berger never called off such a raid. And he certainly never did so by slamming down the phone, as the miniseries makers have acknowledged.

At 2:21 PM , Blogger Greg Pincus said...

J. J. -- this shouldn't be an argument about whose claims are more substantial, I don't think. Framing it that way becomes a shades of gray argument that's not winnable by anyone.

Again, dramatic license is all well and good, but if you say "this is true" and it isn't, then that's not so well and good. The slamming down a phone moment is a red herring to me. If this is a "this is what happened" story and the basic dramatic element of that scene never happened, then it's false, whether or not the person in question ever slammed down a phone in their lifetime. If the basic dramatic elements did happen, then to make a movie you sometimes add a bit to it for visual/dramatic effect while still keeping with 'the truth.' I don't think this is a subtle distinction, but I do think it's one that everyone needs to keep their eye on.


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