The (Rewriting) History Channel

One Sunday afternoon in December, the History Channel (an NBC owned station) broadcast a replay of Clear and Present Danger, the film based upon the Tom Clancy novel.  Co-hosting the rerun were the Channel’s in-house liberal historian, Steve Gillon, and guest liberal political commentator Neal Gabler. Neither, of course, was identified ideologically.

In brief, the movie’s storyline, centers on a fictional presidential administration that cuts off assistance to American soldiers involved in anti-drug efforts in Columbia and leaves them to be slaughtered. 

They do so as a part of a deal with the second-in-command Columbian bad guy, in exchange for his handing over his boss, reducing by half the amount of cocaine brought into the United States and arranging periodic big time arrests for Administration public relations purposes.

Harrison Ford’s Jack Ryan gets to the bottom of it and at the film’s close begins his blockbuster testimony before Congress.  After which we are sure a great many members of the fictitious administration, including the president, would be soon after frog-marched in shackles out of the White House.

The real-life Iran-Contra affair occurred during the Reagan Administration.  In it, outmoded and outdated weapons were sold to Iran, with the proceeds therefrom going to fund Contra rebels fighting the Communist Sandinistas in Nicaragua.

It was –at the time — a huge scandal, at least according to Congressional Democrats and the media.  Independent counsel Lawrence Walsh — hell bent on indicting the president — had to settle for a few minor convictions.  Major figures who may or may not have done anything illegal received pardons from Reagan successor George H. W. Bush.

Clear and Present Danger and Iran-Contra are eerily reminiscent of one another, no?  Of course not. The fictional script of one does not even qualify as a caricature of the real life other.

Unless you are the in-house liberal historian and a guest liberal political commentator on the History Channel.  In which case you spend a great deal of your in between scenes time drawing just such a comparison, and even connecting characters in the fictional film to members of the real life Reagan Administration.

Knowing very well both the movie and the facts and mythology of Iran-Contra, the unavoidable conclusion is that the Dynamic Duo’s assessment was breathtakingly ridiculous.  But it was, unfortunately, par for the History Channel course. 

The film was released in 1994, the book published in 1989.  These two clowns, playing on camera at being historians, are so thoroughly ensconced in a modern, post Michael Moore-Al Gore mindset that they forget that once upon a time movies were made and books were written for purely fictional and entertainment purposes.

Which is why it was so painful to watch these two practice such excruciatingly advanced intellectual yoga in an attempt to contort Tom Clancy’s plot to meet theirs: he obviously meant for no such thing to be done. 

And even if Clancy was thinking of Iran Contra, his story telling skill is far better than that of these two, so it at least made for interesting reading and viewing.

It can be said that Clancy is SO good, it never occurs to (nearly) anyone that it was a comparison he meant for us to draw. 

The same can not be said of what the Channel’s Frick and Frack offered up while they were repeatedly interrupting Clancy’s tale.

As Ronald Reagan (actually) said, it is not that liberals do not know anything, it is that they know so many things that are not so.  The only thing worse than not being taught history is being taught fictional facts disguised as history. 

If seeking facts, do not look to fiction.  If seeking history, do not look to the History Channel.