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When Hollywood tries to rewrite history

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September 15, 2006

By DAN K. THOMASSON

When my youngest son was barely a teenager, he engaged me in a debate over the Kennedy assassination, announcing authoritatively the existence of a huge conspiracy that reached to the highest levels of government. It was clear that his opinions had been formed through the magic of Hollywood and the fertile imagination of Oliver Stone, whose docudrama about that tragedy was mainly fiction verging on propaganda.

All my entreaties about the lack of substantive proof — in fact, the overwhelming evidence to the contrary — failed to sway him that day. Thankfully, as he matured, he began to understand that there is no end to the distortion of history for commercial purposes by those who put entertainment first and fact second. Feeding the public need to place blame as a balm to national trauma can be hugely rewarding financially.

The recent ABC television spectacular purporting to map the path to the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks is just another in a long line of efforts to accomplish that. Ostensibly based on the report of the 9/11 Commission, its factual flaws were embarrassingly obvious and caused a firestorm of protest from Democrats, who saw it as just another attempt to influence the upcoming elections by dumping much of the failure to thwart the terrorists on the back of President Bill Clinton.

Well, welcome to the world of Michael Moore.

If memory serves, Moore’s attempts to portray George W. Bush as a bewildered, blubbering incompetent in a 2004 presidential election year "documentary" about the first hours and days after the attacks brought about the same response from the Republicans, as it should have. The difference between the two films is that Moore eschewed professional actors, making his twists more credible, but none the less distortions. In fact, Moore has become the propagandist of choice for the left.

At least ABC tried to clean up its presentation. Moore never did.

The truth is, there probably is enough blame to go around for failing to head off the incredibly improbable 9/11, just as there was 65 years ago in the apparent refusal to heed the signs of an impending Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. For years after, conspiracy theorists — including leading Republicans — accused President Franklin D. Roosevelt of doing nothing to stop the assault he knew was coming as a way of dragging the nation into World War II. Their charges were grounded in circumstantial evidence that included sloppy handling of decoded Japanese messages clearly indicating that something was afoot in the hours immediately preceding the air strike. As it was, the commanding officers of both Navy and Army forces in Hawaii became scapegoats unfairly.

During the years preceding 9/11, any number of mistakes can be cited that might have prevented that event. A litany of the intelligence failures alone dating to Jimmy Carter would fill volumes. Crucial among them was the decision to downgrade the CIA’s covert operations. It is certainly clear now that during much of the decade before the attack no American agency regarded Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda as a serious threat to the U.S. mainland. In the months just before 9/11, the documented lapses of the FBI and CIA are monumental.

Let’s be fair. Neither Clinton nor Bush should be held personally accountable for that hideous morning five years ago. Bush had been in office only eight months, after all. Both, like the rest of us, were the victims of the incompetent intelligence. One could blame the fact that Clinton’s abominable personal behavior in the White House, leading to ill-advised impeachment proceedings, was a distraction that furthered the terrorists’ cause. For months, the president’s attention was elsewhere. Or a case probably could be made that Bush didn’t listen to holdover expert advisers like Richard Clarke, who had expressed concerns about potential strikes on American soil.

But in the long run, the arguments about who did or didn’t do what along the path to 9/11 are only useful if they provide a plan aimed at preventing a recurrence and there is a willingness to follow it. No purpose is really served by films that purport to be an accurate depiction of such findings and are really something else altogether.

Unfortunately, those distortions often become indelibly imbedded in the minds of young people and those prone to believe anything bad about government. The 9/11 Commission provided a solid, comprehensive, historic report, outlining the deficiencies and recommending the path to follow to minimize the possibility of another horrible incident. Its work deserved better than an inaccurate film.

(Dan K. Thomasson is former editor of the Scripps Howard News Service.)

21 Responses to When Hollywood tries to rewrite history

  1. Teleri

    September 15, 2006 at 8:58 pm

    As a researcher myself, I see a fundamental flaw in your reasoning.
    I also dislike the conspiracy theorists’ CONCLUSIONS (for the most part – some seem pretty sane).
    HOWEVER, the inconsistencies brought out (especially in the Kennedy case & 9/11, but also to a certain extent in Pearl Harbor) are accurate. And unanswered.
    Wherein lies the problem. Mysteries unsolved & a government refusing to even acknowledge this. That leaves the field wide-open for all kinds of theories & fiction. Fun for all.
    Let me ask you this, without getting into any skeptic/believer thing:
    How long do you think the Roswell incident would have kept in the public eye had the Air Force simply published a disclaimer 2 days after that PAO leaked the unfortunate UFO story – a disclaimer stating simply that a top-secret prototype which they couldn’t talk about had crashed, rather than a UFO?
    Well, they didn’t do this for 40-50 years, & then when they did, the details didn’t match.
    Which kept the story alive.
    My point – you act as if there are no factual discrepancies in these government reports – as if admitting these discrepancies exist somehow makes all the wacky conspiracy theories correct. Well, no. Inaccuracies are just that – something unexplained. Maybe there are simple explanations not needing government conspiracies. But WHY will no one just admit that maybe there are discrepancies that need exploring?
    Ah, fear of the unknown. It’s everywhere.

  2. David

    September 15, 2006 at 10:33 pm

    It is a simple fact, when something happens and the after report just doesn’t say it all, other theories come out.
    What I found to be the biggest flaw in the Warren report was the One Bullet explanation or lack of it.
    The 9/11 report ommitted more then I care to list. They invited the questions that have not been addressed along with the theories, opposing it.
    The blame can be placed at the feet of Bush and his administration. The are proven liars and have tried to cover up other events. Some Americans are just not that dumb or follow like sheep what the gov’t says is so.
    Mr. Thomasson can continue to believe the gov’t stories, I and others still have the Freedom to oppose them. If the time comes when that Freedom is no longer afforded to us, it will be time to use aliases or pen names but, we will still strive to be heard.

  3. rrk1

    September 16, 2006 at 12:57 am

    Has everyone forgotten that the congressional investigation, the only other one besides the Warren Commission, of the Kennedy assassination in the 1970s concluded that there WAS A CONSPIRACY? It never went further than that, how convenient, but the Warren Commission was completely discredited, and rightly so.

    Editors as propagandists are nothing new, and this dupe isn’t either. He may actually believe what he’s saying, in which case he checked his brains at the door. We’ll never know the real story on Kennedy, and we’ll never know the real story of 9/11. Let’s just get used to that. I don’t like accepting that hard reality, but then I still live with the delusion that the American people own this country. Pour me another scotch.

  4. Rick

    September 16, 2006 at 1:10 am

    The only reasoning I can imagine for your viewpoint is that you were another one of those 100 plus authors hired to counter the truth about the Kennedy assasination. I have personally met and talked with Mr. X, and I know he was (a) chief of security for Jack Kennedy, and a credible officer of the Air Force, and (b) was sent to Antarctica on a rouse on the day of the assassination, only to learn on arrival at the pole that there was so situation, no orders, and only a return flight to Washington on which flight he was informed of the assassination by the flight crew. How could anyone be so obtuse as to think anything other than conspiracy, except, of course, a conspirator himself.

  5. Wobba

    September 16, 2006 at 3:14 am

    For those keeping track, this is Dan K. Thomasson. The same Dan K. Thomasson who a few months ago wrote a piece (published here) in which he basically claimed that 9/11 was a naturally occurring event. The word “conspiracy” isn’t in the man’s vocabulary – he uses it all the time, but he doesn’t know what it means. Any time someone mentions the word “conspiracy” Danno launches into a tirade about how it’s impossible, as if he’s under some kind of post-hypnotic suggestion. It’s such an automatic response he doesn’t even check to see if his argument makes any sense, like when he claimed that there was no conspiracy in 9/11 (Hello? Muslim terrorists planning to fly planes into buildings is a conspiracy too, dumbass).

    Surely that’s part of the brainwashing this man underwent when he became a propagandist shill for the Right. Pretending to disagree with ABC’s massively funded “dramaganda” and comparing it to Moore’s biased but true documentary, while simultaneously bashing all truth seekers and absolving Bush of his 9/11 responsibility hasn’t fooled anyone. Amazingly, the readers here have no taste for kool-aid.

    Dan K. Thomasson is no journalist, and his work here has proven it time and time again. He should not be published on a site like CHB, which used to be reputable. He shouldn’t be published anywhere. He should be sitting in a padded room somewhere getting “deprogrammed.” Hopefully that process would involve forcing him to look up “conspiracy” in the dictionary.

  6. Tom

    September 16, 2006 at 6:06 am

    Product Placement before Policy Development – how cynical is that?

  7. South Point Man

    September 16, 2006 at 11:00 am

    Is Scripps Howard News Service some kind of disinformation thingie?

  8. South Point Man

    September 16, 2006 at 11:17 am

    This is completely off-topic but I can’t help it… The compulsive-obsessionist nitpicker in me just won’t let me pass this by…

    It was actually Flavor Aid used in Jonestown rather than Kool Aid. Spiked with a whole lot of you-know-what for that extra zesty zing.

    http://www.jelsert.com/products_flavoraid.asp

    Thirsty?

    “Uh… may be not so much at the moment, thank you…”

  9. southernwood

    September 17, 2006 at 9:51 am

    Big differences between Michael Moore’s work and ABC’s:
    Michael Moore made no pretentions about being a partisan, nor about the personal slant of the piece; ABC presented their piece as factual and the “official story”, when it was at least as biased.

    ABC’s was a piece of “stealth” political propaganda (or would have been, had the outcry not occurred) presented on the public airwaves.

  10. John Bambey

    September 17, 2006 at 8:44 pm

    The CIAs list of debunkers seems to be endless and now we see it includes Thomasson, who cannot be as stupid as he postures. Garrison had the whole thing nailed and if Ferrie had not been assassinated Shaw would have been convicted. Standing alone each of these subsequent details are proof positve of a conspiracy: the “magic bullet”; Kennedy’s and Connolly’s wounds; Demorgansheit’s association with Oswald; the clumsily and obviously forged picture of Oswald holding the Rifle; Ruby, a gun runner to Cuba well tied in with the rabidly Kennedy hating anti Castro Cubans, clumsily cast as “Kennedy’s avenger”; The police BOLO for Oswald Long before any such details or conclusions could be possibly known; The “fair play for Cuba” fliers with the 544 Camp Street address; and finally the picture of Oswald and Ferrie together in the Civil Air Patrol unit dug up By researcher Hopsicker after decades of government denials; and the film showed at the congressional investigation and then conveniently “stolen” from congressional files Showing a whole group of the conspirators including Oswald, engaging in Military training at the Mclaneys Camp. These stand alone proofs are backed up by a whole mass of other details including all the witnesses who suffered untimely deaths, Thomason also ignores the conclusion of that later congressional investigation that there was a conspiracy. Perhaps Mr Thomasson is just another journalistic coward afraid to bite the hand that feeds him, all too aware of what happened to Dorothy Kilgallen the night after she confided to colleagues that she had information that was going to bust the Kennedy Assassination story wide open. Thomasson you have marked yourself and your position in the national media as just another disinformation specialist one of hundreds sucking on the establishments teat.
    On the subject of 9/11 its obvious that there are wacky conspiracy theories but it is also obvious that the pilots of the planes were tied in with some more of the CIAs “contract associates in the Drug smuggling business, As the Connections, once again dug up by Hopsicker are irrefutable For any of those of you wishing more info go to http://www.madcowprod.com/

  11. mike messaros

    September 18, 2006 at 12:41 am

    Mr. Thomasson,here’s a quote from a vice -presidential debate of a few years ago, only I’ll
    change the name of person
    to whom it’s being addressed…”YOU SIR ARE
    NO INVESTIGATIVE JOURNALIST”

  12. ppionerka

    October 13, 2006 at 5:12 pm

  13. Alex

    September 15, 2006 at 3:05 pm

    It is not a conspiracy theory when two planes, flying offcourse, are not intercepted by our military.

  14. Irene

    September 15, 2006 at 3:42 pm

    Regarding the difference between the ABC movie and the Michael Moore movie. You paid to see the Michael Moore movie but ABC broadcast a $40 million movie on TV for all to see free. Then they lie about it being based on the “911 Commission Report”.

  15. Steve Osborn

    September 15, 2006 at 4:00 pm

    Well, I won’t pass you the salt because I’m sure we’ll never know the whole truth about the Kennedy assassination, so I don’t see you having to eat your words. Having previously researched the assassination, when I saw “JFK,” the only Hollywood I could pick out was Stone trying to cram almost 30 years of research into a few hours.

    But one thing I will observe is that Stone didn’t tell us all. I interviewed his man ‘X’ a couple of times, and the part about the standing down of the army unit for additional security wasn’t portrayed quite like it happened. While it did occur over the telephone, what we didn’t see was that the unidentified caller to the unit commander had all the key words and phrases to get that unit to stand down, an important part of a successful assassination operation to remove major portions of the victim’s security. An Oswald doesn’t have resources like that, nor does the mafia or anti-Castro Cubans, at least not without significant inside assistance. The fingerprints of the American intelligence community are all over this event. Just because it isn’t obvious to the casual observer, isn’t that the job and expertise of our intelligence people?

    With due respect to your career, the mainstream media, for some agenda, has historically ignored the disturbing questions of the whole matter. President Nixon, at the time a sitting president, stated that the Warren Commission “was the greatest hoax that has ever been perpetuated.” I find his use of the word ‘perpetuated’ quite fascinating, as though it was designed for us to never know. But perhaps the greatest has now been replaced by the 9-1-1 Commission investigation.

    On second thought, pass that salt, because I think I’ll need it to finish your story.

    Steve Osborn

  16. Garry Puffer

    September 15, 2006 at 4:19 pm

    Am I misreading something here? Mr. Thomasson thinks there is overwhelming evidence against the idea of a conspiracy in the JFK assassination? Wow. He must have read absolutely nothing beyond the Warren Report. I have no tolerance for such simplistic thinking. I would suggest he spend a few hours perusing the stuff on the internet about 9/11 also. It takes only a few minutes of open-minded reading to realize that there is a lot wrong with the official story. The 9/11 report is mostly fiction. Why not object to that first?
    Mr. Thomasson, do you see nothing wrong with Bush’s reaction upon being told about the second plane? If not, why not?

  17. P J McConnell

    September 15, 2006 at 4:35 pm

    Just one insightful article about Pearl Harbor may be of benefit to Mr. Thomasson. Pearl Harbor: The Facts Behind the Fiction, The New American, June 4, 2001. After reading Mr. Thomasson’s article and the three events mentioned, I’m afraid he lacks credibility on all counts.

  18. Shado

    September 15, 2006 at 4:36 pm

    Looks like you bought the whole government 9-11 story. And that’s a pity. Here’s a similarity between Assasination Day and 9-11: destruction of evidence by high-placed individuals. These same people then turn around and thru their propaganda organs say, “There’s no evidence to support these wild theories.” A lot of the “conspiracy” people point to Building 7’s collapse as an unexplained anomaly. How about Building 6 just blowing up before the towers had even collapsed? And how do you figure Michael Moore “distorted” things? An army of lawyers had to vet everything in his film or it could never have run in theaters.

  19. R. Farris

    September 15, 2006 at 5:25 pm

    Who is the propagandist here? You knock down so much, with no specifics, & only assumed conclusions.
    So, Moore was wrong when he protrayed Bush as a goofball? How so? In retrospect, it looks like Moore vastly undershot the danger of Bush’s idiocy. You say Bush can’t be blamed for 911? Did you ever read Richard Clarke’s book? Where on earth have you been the past 5 years?
    Oliver Stone’s “docudrama” is a sham? Verus what? ABC’s piece of crap called “Case Closed?” I have personally met the writers of Stone’s movie, and they were dead serious about their research. I also met the son of the lawyer who was protrayed. He was dead serious about backing Stone’s movie. Their views are not unique, nor the first. They simply brought together the hard work of others and put it to film. And to this very day, people like you try to denigrate them as obvious fakes. But nobody, has ever aired a documentary that tries to present boths sides with equal weight, so the public can decide for themselves. That has never happened. Even Nightline failed to make an unbiased presentation. A fair public case has never been produced. Not ever. Which is very sad for a country that prides itself on being able to supposedly think.
    You sound like just another Swiftboat. High on accusation, short on proof. What’s next? OJ’s trial? Dan Rather’s thoughts on Bush’s military record? Maybe the Dixie Chicks? Let’s get them all out there so you can get the soldiers back into salute formation.

  20. peter

    September 15, 2006 at 5:26 pm

    yah c,mon
    where is the evidence that oswald acted alone.
    the warren report?
    seems like your son is more on the ball than you

  21. Ray

    September 15, 2006 at 6:04 pm

    I find it incredibly amazing that there are journalists who make a living being investigative and being aware ( supposedly) of the facts that shape world events both past and present, who can write such b.s. as this. Overwhelming evidence of conspiracy exists in the JFK and 911 events abounds. One simply has to see who benefits from those tragic events. And then ask why since 1963 has our country become the aggressor with obvious designs of world domination, guided by corporate power and absolute greed. There has never been a truely independent investigation of those life changing events, let alone any believable conclusions. The lie after lie from our leaders while they slop at the trough and sell out the people they were hired to represent is more than dispicable. Mind control is a larger problem than most realize. What else explains the passive attitudes towards the obvious genocide of so many people in the name of Democracy and Freedom. The terrorists were funded, trained, and permitted to murder innocent americans so this adminstration could launch thier plan for the New Century World Order of Global Corporate Rape. Paid for by american taxpayers and dead soldiers. There is no moral conscience in the White House, Nowhere. Only Greed for Power and Money.

    Your Son is right, you are dead wrong.