OPEN UNIVERSITY SEPTEMBER 8, 2006
by David GreenbergIn the Times today, Sheryl Gay Stolberg makes an outrageous accusation that somehow slipped by
There is a wide range of narratives competing to define how the Sept. 11 attacks came about and played out, from the liberal version embodied in Michael Moore's "Fahrenheit 911" to the partly fictionalized account in a coming ABC miniseries "The Path to 9/11," which has drawn intense criticism from former Clinton administration officials who say it misrepresents what they did to confront Al Qaeda.
Michael Moore is a leftist, not a liberal, and it's amazing that the Times can hold up someone of his views as "embodying" liberal ideas. Moore is well known to be hostile to liberalism. Sure, his film had its merits, notably the footage of troops in Iraq (too little of which we ever see on the nightly news) and his interview with a mother of a dead soldier. But does any liberal fully endorse his view of 9/11?
The distinction between liberalism and leftism was once widely understood. People knew that the radical left saw liberalism, even more than conservatism, as its chief enemy. Today that distinction has slipped from common understanding. (If anything, as Geoff Nunberg has noted, liberals are starting to get labeled as leftist!) But with the hard left
growing vocal and active in politics, it's time to remind journalists of the difference--if only so Michael Moore isn't held out as "embodying" any liberal "narratives" about anything.
Then there's the small problem in the Times article of reducing the story of what happened before, on, and after 9/11 to "a wide range of competing narratives" instead of figuring out what's true and what's false. That ABC miniseries is fictional, after all. In fact, elsewhere in the Times today, Mark Mazzetti does a great job of fact-checking Bush's speech about the benefits of torture. This kind of journalism *can* be done.