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Big Media’s Assault on History

Dear Editor,

Many lament how the major news organizations have abandoned journalism and replaced it with dishonest activism.  A more insidious threat comes from the entertainment industry with its less obvious assault on truth and American history.

I learned long ago that you can’t rely on movies for history.  With the rare exception of movies like Lincoln, producers are more interested in an exciting ending than accuracy.  That is why “based on a true story” flicks like Hoosiers, Argo and Oliver Stone’s JFK are more fiction than fact.  Documentaries, however, are supposed to be different.  The intent of a documentary is to present reality, the filmmaker’s biases notwithstanding.  In the last two months, ViacomCBS and Time Warner each aired “documentaries” that twist reality and try to warp our perception of America.

Time Warner struck first with the 537 Votes on HBO.  Using interviews with less than credible bit players –most notably convicted liar and renowned self-promoter Roger Stone– Time Warner would have us believe Al Gore beat George W. Bush in Florida in 2000 (not true) and that a partisan Supreme Court handed the Presidency to Bush.  These lies misinform the citizenry and undermine trust in one of America’s most critical institutions – the SCOTUS.  Why would any responsible media company fund and air such a project?

Last month ViacomCBS joined the dishonest party with The Reagans on Showtime.  Ronald Reagan, considered one of the 10 best presidents in American history, is a Republican and Conservative icon.  Since his death, Hollywood has been trying to tarnish his image – with little effect.  This time, Showtime’s documentary is a masterful smear.  It uses slick editing to weave credible interview snippets into an antagonist’s narrative.  The message: Reagan is a lie. Everything we thought we knew about his values and accomplishments is a lie.  What fools we must have been to reelect him in a massive landslide (525-13 in the Electoral College, 59-41 popular vote) in 1984.  Or were we?  Could it be this recasting of history is the lie?  Clearly it is, but how can anyone who did not live through those times know the truth?    

People who post bogus documentaries (e.g. 9/11 conspiracy theories) on the internet do enough damage.  But that is their First Amendment right.  In this day and age, we should be smart enough to recognize when a YouTube video is too bad to be true.  But when Fortune 100 companies produce and distribute more polished distortions, it is not so easy.  Over the last four years, the media have incessantly fact checked President Trump and cataloged his lies. But who is fact checking Big Media?

“Documentaries” like these are a disturbing development.  An informed citizenry is vital to a democracy; a deceived citizenry is at much greater risk of tyranny. 

Paul King