Accuracy standard should be consistent

The outrage surrounding “The Reagans” came to a head last week when CBS announced it was pulling the miniseries because the network believes “it does not represent a balanced portrayal of the truth for CBS and its audience.” After portions of the script were publicized, conservative groups pressured CBS to pull the show. How is it that people argue inaccurate historical portrayals are unacceptable and yet remain silent on the dramatization of the Jessica Lynch story?

Applauding CBS’s decision, Brent Bozell, founder of the conservative Media Research Center – an organization dedicated to combating the supposed liberal bias in media – said, “There is no such thing as creative license to invent falsehoods about people.” This is an interesting statement in light of NBC’s airing of “Saving Jessica Lynch” on Sunday. Although the Lynch movie attempts to elucidate a balanced portrayal of the event, many of the details are still severely dramatized and injected with patriotic symbolism.

Diane Sawyer’s interview with Lynch will air tonight on ABC and aims to clear up many of the contradictions and much of the controversy surrounding Lynch’s rescue. Since the beginning, the U.S. military has been criticized for seizing the event for public relations propaganda. Lynch said, “They used me as a way to symbolize all this stuff,” which she claimed was wrong. Although NBC’s movie portrays the rescue far more accurately than the military’s assertions – namely, by showing the operation in the Iraqi hospital as bloodless rather than a triumphant battle – nevertheless, the depiction is not without controversy. Yet it is difficult to find conservative outrage directed at the military for sensationalizing the rescue mission – including bringing unnecessary filming equipment.

The fact remains: Television fictionalizations are inaccurate. Anyone who watched “Saving Jessica Lynch” ought to agree. If it is unacceptable to recount the history of a Republican demigod, it should not be acceptable to “invent falsehoods about people” when it comes to encouraging patriotism.