Of course, this would be quite laughable if they weren't so serious about their charges. But they are. I may soon be a wanted man in Michigan -- simply because I convinced a few slackers to change their underwear and eat a healthy meal of artificially flavored noodles.
UPDATE: 7 SEPTEMBER 2004
I thought I'd seen it all this year -- Disney refusing to distribute the film they paid for, right-wingers harassing theater owners who showed "Fahrenheit 9/11," conservative action groups trying to get the FEC to kick our film ads off the air, the unnecessary restrictive R-rating that forced teenagers to sneak in to see it, and all the stupid, crazy attacks on me and my movie that I've had to listen to as I watched the public ignore them and pack the movie houses anyway, where my film was being shown. And when all that failed, five different Republican groups made five different attack dog tapes (oops, "documentaries"!) against me in a period of about six weeks. But they were all so bad, so boring, so right-wing, no one wanted to watch them and they too went away, a sad waste of good videotape.
Now, after enduring all this, with no tricks left in their bag, they've just decided, "Let's toss his sorry ass behind bars -- him and his noodles and his gift of clean underwear!"
My friends, they will not catch me. Though I may be on the run, and I may never be able to return home to my beloved Michigan, I make this solemn vow to you and yours: The slackers of America shall not be denied their noodles, they will proudly wear their clean underwear as free Americans, and they will vote Bush out of office come November 2nd (though they will not show up to the polls until well after noon)!
Stay strong, stay slacker, and please remember to turn the underwear inside out every three days. As for the noodles, add boiling water, stir.
P.S. My favorite moment of the VP debate: Cheney saying to the moderator that this was the first he heard that that many black women in America had AIDS. Clueless. Cheney, for an entire 90-minutes, only mentioned Bush's name -- that's his running mate, the "president" -- once. They should have called this the "President (Cheney) -- Vice President (Edwards) Debate."
P.P.S. Tomorrow's letter, as promised for today, will be about my new book, "Will They Ever Trust Us Again?: Letters from the War Zone." And thanks, everyone, for sending "Fahrenheit 9/11" on its first day to #1 on Amazon. If you find that your store didn't order enough copies, or to report other problems, please e-mail Sony Home video at HeySony@michaelmoore.com.
Why I Will Not Seek a Best Documentary Oscar
(I'm giving it up in the hopes more voters can see "Fahrenheit 9/11")
More Updates Michael Moore Page II
I had dinner recently with a well-known pollster who had often worked for Republicans. He told me that when he went to see "Fahrenheit 9/11" he got sodistraught he twice had to go out in the lobby and pace during the movie.
"The Bush White House left open a huge void when it came to explaining the war to the American people," he told me. "And your film has filled that void -- and now there is no way to defeat it. It is the atomic bomb of this campaign."
He told me how he had conducted an informal poll with "Fahrenheit 9/11" audiences in three different cities and the results were all the same.
"Essentially, 80% of the people going IN to see your movie are already likely Kerry voters and the movie has galvanized them in a way you rarely see Democrats galvanized.
"But, here's the bad news for Bush: Though 80% going IN to your movie are Kerry voters, 100% of those COMING OUT of your movie are Kerry voters. You can't come out of this movie and say, 'I am absolutely and enthusiastically voting for George W. Bush.'"
His findings are similar to those in other polls conducted around the country. In Pennsylvania, a Keystone poll showed that 4% of Kerry's support has come from people who decided to vote for him AFTER seeing "Fahrenheit 9/11" -- and in an election that will be very close, 4% is a landslide.
A Harris poll found that 44% of Republicans who see the film give it a "positive" rating. Another poll, to be released this week, shows a 21-point shift in Bush's approval rating, after just one viewing of the movie, among audiences of undecideds who were shown "Fahrenheit 9/11" in Ohio.
My pollster friend told me that he believes if Kerry wins, "Fahrenheit 9/11" will be one of the top three reasons for his election. Kerry's only problem, he said, is how many people will actually be able to see it before election day.
The less that see it, the better for Bush.
But 20 million people have already seen it -- and the Gallup poll said that 56% of the American public has seen or plans to see "Fahrenheit 9/11" either in the theater or on home video.
The DVD and home video of our film, thanks to our distributors listening to our pleas to release it before November, will be in the stores on October 5. This is very good news.
But can it also be shown on TV? I brought this possibility up in this week's Rolling Stone interview. Our contract with our DVD distributor says no, it cannot.
I have asked them to show it just once, perhaps the night before the election. So far, no deal. But I haven't given up trying.
The only problem with my desire to get this movie in front of as many Americans as possible is that, should it air on TV, I will NOT be eligible to submit "Fahrenheit 9/11" for Academy Award consideration for Best Documentary.
Academy rules forbid the airing of a documentary on television within nine months of its theatrical release (fiction films do not have the same restriction).
Although I have no assurance from our home video distributor that they would allow a one-time television broadcast -- and the chances are they probably won't -- I have decided it is more important to take that risk and hope against hope that I can persuade someone to put it on TV, even if it's the night before the election.
Therefore, I have decided not to submit "Fahrenheit 9/11" for consideration for the Best Documentary Oscar.
If there is even the remotest of chances that I can get this film seen by a few million more Americans before election day, then that is more important to me than winning another documentary Oscar.
I have already won a Best Documentary statue. Having a second one would be nice, but not as nice as getting this country back in the hands of the majority.
The deadline to submit the film for the documentary Oscar was last Wednesday. I told my crew who worked on the film, let's let someone else have that Oscar. We have already helped to ignite the biggest year ever for nonfiction films. Last week, 1 out of every 5 films playing in movie theaters across America was a documentary!
That is simply unheard of. There have been so many great nonfiction films this year, why not step aside and share what we have with someone else?
Remove the 800-pound gorilla from that Oscar category and let the five films who get nominated have all the attention they deserve (instead of the focus being on a film that has already had more than its share of attention).
I've read a lot about "Fahrenheit" being a "sure bet" for the documentary Oscar this year. I don't believe anything is truly a "sure bet."
And, in the end, I think sometimes it's good for your soul to give up something everyone says is so easily yours (ask Olympic swimmer Michael Phelps why he gave up his spot in the last race to someone else equally deserving, and you'll know what I am talking about).
I have informed our distributors of my decision. They support me (in fact, they then offered to submit our film for all the other categories it is eligible for, including Best Picture -- so, hey, who knows, maybe I'll get to complete that Oscar speech from 2003! Sorry, just kidding).
Don't get your hopes up for seeing "Fahrenheit 9/11" on TV before the election. In fact, I would count on NOT seeing it there (you know me, I'm always going after something I probably shouldn't).
Get to the theaters soon, if you haven't already, or get it from the video store in October and hold house parties. Share it with everyone you know, especially your nonvoting friends.
I have included 100 minutes of extras on the DVD -- powerful footage obtained after we made the movie, and some things that are going to drive Karl Rove into a permanent tailspin -- more on this later!
Thanks for all of your support.
And go see "Super Size Me,"
"Orwell Rolls Over in His Grave,"
Robert Greenwald's films and the upcoming "Yes Men."
You won't be sorry!
P.S. If you want to read my dispatches for USA Today from inside the Republican Convention, go to www.michaelmoore.com.
UPDATE: 24 AUGUST 2004
THE BEGINNING OF HISTORY
Fahrenheit 9/11 has touched millions of viewers across the world. But could it actually change the course of civilisation?
by John Berger
Tuesday August 24, 2004
Fahrenheit 9/11 is astounding. Not so much as a film - although it is cunning and moving - but as an event. Most commentators try to dismiss the event and disparage the film. We will see why later.
The artists on the Cannes film festival jury apparently voted unanimously to award Michael Moore's film the Palme d'Or. Since then it has touched many millions across the world. In the US, its box-office takings for the first six weeks amounted to more than $100m, which is, astoundingly, about half of what Harry Potter made during a comparable period.
Only the so-called opinion-makers in the media appear to have been put out by it.
The film, considered as a political act, may be a historical landmark. Yet to have a sense of this, a certain perspective for the future is required. Living only close-up to the latest news, as most opinion-makers do, reduces one's perspectives. The film is trying to make a small contribution towards the changing of world history. It is a work inspired by hope.
What makes it an event is the fact that it is an effective and independent intervention into immediate world politics. Today it is rare for an artist to succeed in making such an intervention, and in interrupting the prepared, prevaricating statements of politicians. Its immediate aim is to make it less likely that President Bush will be re-elected next November.
To denigrate this as propaganda is either naive or perverse, forgetting (deliberately?) what the last century taught us. Propaganda requires a permanent network of communication so that it can systematically stifle reflection with emotive or utopian slogans. Its pace is usually fast.
Propaganda invariably serves the long-term interests of some elite.
This single maverick movie is often reflectively slow and is not afraid of silence.
It appeals to people to think for themselves and make connections.
And it identifies with, and pleads for, those who are normally unlistened to. Making a strong case is not the same thing as saturating with propaganda. Fox TV does the latter; Michael Moore the former.
Ever since the Greek tragedies, artists have, from time to time, asked themselves how they might influence ongoing political events. It's a tricky question because two very different types of power are involved. Many theories of aesthetics and ethics revolve round this question. For those living under political tyrannies, art has frequently been a form of hidden resistance, and tyrants habitually look for ways to control art. All this, however, is in general terms and over a large terrain. Fahrenheit 9/11 is something different. It has succeeded in intervening in a political programme on the programme's own ground.
For this to happen a convergence of factors were needed. The Cannes award and the misjudged attempt to prevent the film being distributed played a significant part in creating the event.
To point this out in no way implies that the film as such doesn't deserve the attention it is receiving. It's simply to remind ourselves that within the realm of the mass media, a breakthrough (a smashing down of the daily wall of lies and half-truths) is bound to be rare. And it is this rarity which has made the film exemplary. It is setting an example to millions - as if they'd been waiting for it.
The film proposes that the White House and Pentagon were taken over in the first year of the millennium by a gang of thugs so that US power should henceforth serve the global interests of the corporations: a stark scenario which is closer to the truth than most nuanced editorials. Yet more important than the scenario is the way the movie speaks out. It demonstrates that - despite all the manipulative power of communications experts, lying presidential speeches and vapid press conferences - a single independent voice, pointing out certain home truths which countless Americans are already discovering for themselves, can break through the conspiracy of silence, the atmosphere of fear and the solitude of feeling politically impotent.
It's a movie that speaks of obstinate faraway desires in a period of disillusion. A movie that tells jokes while the band plays the apocalypse. A movie in which millions of Americans recognise themselves and the precise ways in which they are being cheated. A movie about surprises, mostly bad but some good, being discussed together. Fahrenheit 9/11 reminds the spectator that when courage is shared one can fight against the odds.
In more than a thousand cinemas across the country, Michael Moore becomes with this film a people's tribune. And what do we see? Bush is visibly a political cretin, as ignorant of the world as he is indifferent to it; while the tribune, informed by popular experience, acquires political credibility, not as a politician himself, but as the voice of the anger of a multitude and its will to resist.
There is something else which is astounding. The aim of Fahrenheit 9/11 is to stop Bush fixing the next election as he fixed the last. Its focus is on the totally unjustified war in Iraq. Yet its conclusion is larger than either of these issues. It declares that a political economy which creates colossally increasing wealth surrounded by disastrously increasing poverty, needs - in order to survive - a continual war with some invented foreign enemy to maintain its own internal order and security. It requires ceaseless war.
Thus, 15 years after the fall of communism, a decade after the declared end of history, one of the main theses of Marx's interpretation of history again becomes a debating point and a possible explanation of the catastrophes being lived.
It is always the poor who make the most sacrifices, Fahrenheit 9/11 announces quietly during its last minutes. For how much longer?
There is no future for any civilisation anywhere in the world today which ignores this question. And this is why the film was made and became what it became.
It's a film that deeply wants America to survive.
UPDATE: 8 JULY 2004
Will Fahrenheit 9/11 Singe Bush?
Sure, Michael Moore may have won an Oscar for his 2002 film, Bowling for Columbine. And the French film jury at Cannes this spring may have fawned all over his latest effort, Fahrenheit 9/11. But few imagined that the filmmaker from Flint, Mich., would try to play kingmaker in the 2004 election.
Now that Moore's relentless screed against President Bush has broken box-office records, that scenario is haunting conservatives, whose clumsy efforts to suppress the movie have only increased its appeal.
So could this be the first Presidential election ever decided by a film? Not likely, but Moore is creating buzz -- and a political machine -- that can only hurt Bush in a razor-thin contest.
Moore is straightforward about Fahrenheit's goal: to deny Bush reelection. The movie itself defied expectations and grossed $24 million on its debut weekend of June 25, establishing it as the biggest nonmusical documentary ever.
Moore's distributor is preparing to more than double its screens to 2,000.
Lefty Moore can thank conservatives for some of that boffo reception. The right-wing group Citizens United petitioned the Federal Election Commission (news - web sites) on June 24 to restrict advertisements for the movie, charging that they are political ads. Others pressured theater owners to shun the movie, only generating more attention.
But the bad news for Bush supporters doesn't stop there.
Moore plans to use the movie as an organizing tool. On June 28, he conducted a virtual town hall meeting with the liberal group MoveOn.org. Moore exhorted the 55,000 listeners who logged in or turned out at 4,600 MoveOn parties around the country to sign up as foot soldiers in an anti-Bush crusade. Once people see his flick, said Moore, anyone who once supported Bush and the war in Iraq "will feel deceived and betrayed, and they will respond with a vengeance."
That's a stretch. The movie tenaciously attacks the President for his decision to invade Iraq, his fealty to wealthy supporters, and his pre-September 11 inattention to terrorism. But Moore is largely preaching to the converted. While a BusinessWeek-Ipsos poll of 1,002 adults during Fahrenheit's opening weekend found that an enormous share of respondents, 77%, had heard about the movie, only 17% of Republicans were inclined to see it, vs. 62% of Democrats and 40% of independents. Few said viewing the film would influence their vote.
Still, says Ipsos pollster Janice Bell, "people tend to underestimate how much they are influenced by the media."
One of the movie's biggest boosters is shock jock Howard Stern, formerly a rabid Bush supporter.
Stern claims to have turned on the Prez after reading Moore's book, Dude, Where's My Country? -- an epiphany that closely coincided with the Federal Communications Commission (news - web sites) crackdown on so-called airwaves smut. A poll conducted for the centrist New Democrat Network claims that 4% of the electorate are swing voters who regularly hear Stern's anti-Bush rants. MoveOn is targeting undecideds, too.
Members are being asked to take fence-sitters to Fahrenheit or invite them over to watch the DVD.
The release date? This fall -- just before the election.
Michael Moore's web site www.michaelmoore.com
OUR FAHRENHEIT 9/11 MOVIE REVIEWS
Grokking Real Eyes Flip Book:
Alien Invasion - M Theory
Read about Mike's book signing Police raid
Read A primer on understanding conspiracies
Related Reading: The Corporation - The Pathological Pursuit of Power
My First Wild Week with "Fahrenheit 9/11"
By Michael Moore
Where do I begin? This past week has knocked me for a loop. "Fahrenheit 9/11," the #1 movie in the country, the largest grossing documentary ever. My head is spinning. Didn't we just lose our distributor 8 weeks ago? Did Karl Rove really fail to stop this? Is Bush packing?
Each day this week I was given a new piece of information from the press that covers Hollywood, and I barely had time to recover from the last tidbit before the next one smacked me upside the head:
** More people saw "Fahrenheit 9/11" in one weekend than all the people who saw "Bowling for Columbine" in 9 months.
** "Fahrenheit 9/11" broke "Rocky III’s" record for the biggest box office opening weekend ever for any film that opened in less than a thousand theaters.
** "Fahrenheit 9/11" beat the opening weekend of "Return of the Jedi."
** "Fahrenheit 9/11" instantly went to #2 on the all-time list for largest per-theater average ever for a film that opened in wide-release.
How can I ever thank all of you who went to see it? These records are mind-blowing. They have sent shock waves through Hollywood – and, more importantly, through the White House.
But it didn't just stop there. The response to the movie then went into the Twilight Zone. Surfing through the dial I landed on the Fox broadcasting network which was airing the NASCAR race live last Sunday to an audience of millions of Americans -- and suddenly the announcers were talking about how NASCAR champ Dale Earnhardt, Jr. took his crew to see “Fahrenheit 9/11” the night before. FOX sportscaster Chris Myers delivered Earnhardt’s review straight out of his mouth and into the heartland of America: “He said hey, it'll be a good bonding experience no matter what your political belief. It's a good thing as an American to go see.” Whoa! NASCAR fans – you can’t go deeper into George Bush territory than that! White House moving vans – START YOUR ENGINES!
Then there was Roger Friedman from the Fox News Channel giving our film an absolutely glowing review, calling it “a really brilliant piece of work, and a film that members of all political parties should see without fail.” Richard Goldstein of the Village Voice surmised that Bush is already considered a goner so Rupert Murdoch might be starting to curry favor with the new administration. I don't know about that, but I’ve never heard a decent word toward me from Fox. So, after I was revived, I wondered if a love note to me from Sean Hannity was next.
How about Letterman’s Top Ten List: “Top Ten George W. Bush Complaints About "Fahrenheit 9/11":
10. That actor who played the President was totally unconvincing
9. It oversimplified the way I stole the election
8. Too many of them fancy college-boy words
7. If Michael Moore had waited a few months, he could have included the part where I get him deported
6. Didn't have one of them hilarious monkeys who smoke cigarettes and gives people the finger
5. Of all Michael Moore's accusations, only 97% are true
4. Not sure - - I passed out after a piece of popcorn lodged in my windpipe
3. Where the hell was Spider-man?
2. Couldn't hear most of the movie over Cheney's foul mouth
1. I thought this was supposed to be about dodgeball
But it was the reactions and reports we received from theaters around the country that really sent me over the edge. One theatre manager after another phoned in to say that the movie was getting standing ovations as the credits rolled – in places like Greensboro, NC and Oklahoma City -- and that they were having a hard time clearing the theater afterwards because people were either too stunned or they wanted to sit and talk to their neighbors about what they had just seen. In Trumbull, CT, one woman got up on her seat after the movie and shouted "Let's go have a meeting!" A man in San Francisco took his shoe off and threw it at the screen when Bush appeared at the end. Ladies’ church groups in Tulsa were going to see it, and weeping afterwards.
It was this last group that gave lie to all the yakking pundits who, before the movie opened, declared that only the hard-core "choir" would go to see "Fahrenheit 9/11." They couldn't have been more wrong. Theaters in the Deep South and the Midwest set house records for any film they’d ever shown. Yes, it even sold out in Peoria. And Lubbock, Texas. And Anchorage, Alaska!
Newspaper after newspaper wrote stories in tones of breathless disbelief about people who called themselves “Independents” and “Republicans” walking out of the movie theater shaken and in tears, proclaiming that they could not, in good conscience, vote for George W. Bush. The New York Times wrote of a conservative Republican woman in her 20s in Pensacola, Florida who cried through the film, and told the reporter: “It really makes me question what I feel about the president... it makes me question his motives…”
Newsday reported on a self-described “ardent Bush/Cheney supporter” who went to see the film on Long Island, and his quiet reaction afterwards. He said, "It's really given me pause to think about what's really going on. There was just too much - too much to discount." The man then bought three more tickets for another showing of the film.
The Los Angeles Times found a mother who had “supported [Bush] fiercely” at a theater in Des Peres, Missouri: “Emerging from Michael Moore's ‘Fahrenheit 9/11,’ her eyes wet, Leslie Hanser said she at last understood…. ‘My emotions are just....’ She trailed off, waving her hands to show confusion. ‘I feel like we haven't seen the whole truth before.’"
All of this had to be the absolute worst news for the White House to wake up to on Monday morning. I guess they were in such a stupor, they "gave" Iraq back to, um, Iraq two days early!
News editors told us that they were being "bombarded" with e-mails and calls from the White House (read: Karl Rove), trying to spin their way out of this mess by attacking it and attacking me. Bush spokesman Dan Bartlett had told the White House press corps that the movie was "outrageously false" -- even though he said he hadn't seen the movie. He later told CNN that "This is a film that doesn't require us to actually view it to know that it's filled with factual inaccuracies." At least they're consistent. They never needed to see a single weapon of mass destruction before sending our kids off to die.
**editor note**(OR READ THE PATRIOT ACT before signing it!!)
Many news shows were more than eager to buy the White House spin. After all, that is a big part of what "Fahrenheit" is about -- how the lazy, compliant media bought all the lies from the Bush administration about the need to invade Iraq. They took the Kool-Aid offered by the White House and rarely, if ever, did our media ask the hard questions that needed to be asked before the war started.
Because the movie "outs" the mainstream media for their failures and their complicity with the Bush administration -- who can ever forget their incessant, embarrassing cheerleading as the troops went off to war, as though it was all just a game -- the media was not about to let me get away with anything now resembling a cultural phenomenon.
On show after show, they went after me with the kind of viciousness you would have hoped they had had for those who were lying about the necessity for invading a sovereign nation that was no threat to us. I don't blame our well-paid celebrity journalists -- they look like a bunch of ass-kissing dopes in my movie, and I guess I'd be pretty mad at me, too. After all, once the NASCAR fans see "Fahrenheit 9/11," will they ever believe a single thing they see on ABC/NBC/CBS news again?
In the next week or so, I will recount my adventures through the media this past month (I will also be posting a full FAQ on my website soon so that you can have all the necessary backup and evidence from the film when you find yourself in heated debate with your conservative brother-in-law!).
For now, please know the following: Every single fact I state in "Fahrenheit 9/11" is the absolute and irrefutable truth. This movie is perhaps the most thoroughly researched and vetted documentary of our time. No fewer than a dozen people, including three teams of lawyers and the venerable one-time fact-checkers from The New Yorker went through this movie with a fine-tooth comb so that we can make this guarantee to you. Do not let anyone say this or that isn't true. If they say that, they are lying. Let them know that the OPINIONS in the film are mine, and anyone certainly has a right to disagree with them. And the questions I pose in the movie, based on these irrefutable facts, are also mine. And I have a right to ask them. And I will continue to ask them until they are answered.
In closing, let me say that the most heartening response to the film has come from our soldiers and their families. Theaters in military towns across the country reported packed houses. Our troops know the truth. They have seen it first-hand. And many of them could not believe that here was a movie that was TRULY on their side -- the side of bringing them home alive and never sending them into harms way again unless it's the absolute last resort.
Please take a moment to read this wonderful story from the daily paper in Fayetteville, NC, where Fort Bragg is located. It broke my heart to read this, the reactions of military families and the comments of an infantryman’s wife publicly backing my movie -- and it gave me the resolve to make sure as many Americans as possible see this film in the coming weeks.
Thank you again, all of you, for your support. Together we did something for the history books. My apologies to "Return of the Jedi." We'll make it up by producing "Return of the Texan to Crawford" in November.
May the farce be with you, but not for long,
P.S. You can read letters from people around the country recounting their own experiences at the theater, and their reactions to the film by going here.
P.P.S. Also, I’m going to start blogging! Tonight! Come on over and check it out.
Fahrenheit 9/11 A Review
There are no secrets – Just things that you don’t know yet…
Today, Vice President Dick Cheney dropped an F Bomb on a Democratic Senator.
Tonight, Michael More dropped THE F-Bomb on the Bush Administration.
The following is not an ego stroke – I simply want you to be able to judge the source (Me) so you can better understand my perspective.
I am white, successfully self-employed, and an independent feature filmmaker. I was at NYU when the first Gulf War claimed the hearts and minds of 2 dear friends, and was speaking at a NYU alumni reunion when the CNN Night Vision enhanced web cam ushered in Shock and Awe.
I have no love of politics, but when this government’s math stopped adding up, I was quickly drawn into the vortex of the DU.
While lurking, I’ve seen the tell-tale signs of thought-leaders, and the outrage of patriots at the very edge of reason. Even while I’ve been carefully considering all sides of just about every post ever written in the last 3 months – I haven’t had much to contribute.
Despite the fact that Fandango trailers bother me, and Loews theaters will soon be another statistic in the monopolizing of our media, my business partner and soul mate decided to brave the midnight showing of Fahrenheit 9/11.
We arrived early, and surprisingly found a fabulous seat center row, center theater. Only about 50 other folks shared the theater with us, all looking around nervously – watching for protesters, I suspect.
But, as midnight drew closer, wave after wave of every type of person walked up the aisle.
By 5 minutes of 12 – the fire marshal was “escorting” folks to another theater where an impromptu showing was quickly arranged.
The house was packed.
And the mood? Positively electric!
Though it’s hot in New Jersey this time of year, the air tonight was chilly. As the audience settled into their seats, jackets came off – revealing t-shirts with American Flags, and silk screen prints with “Any Body But Bush” emblazoned across chests and shoulders.
Almost a party. Almost a good time. And it got better before…
Michael Moore’s film begins in a masterful but predictable way. For the first 10 minutes or so, he leads us through a survey of a stolen presidential election, an impotent Senate, a failing, vacationing president, and an atmosphere of American political malaise…
Just like any other day in the US.
We’ve seen this material and have heard this testimony before. Indeed, as we watched, I was amused by the audience reactions. Laughter, Mirth, and a true appreciation of the irony of an unqualified leader doing just a little bit of damage to the Institution of Government.
Then the screen just stopped glowing. No images.
We’ve seen what happened on 9/11/01 over and over again. We’ve watched with horror, disbelief and grief.
But you’ve never heard it. Not like this.
Unless you were at ground zero that day – you’ve never felt it.
From behind us, a shriek of an aircraft in a power dive shook the stadium seating. It passed over our heads and into the dark screen.
Then it exploded. And then lower Manhattan screamed.
And then it happened again.
There is no use trying to describe this sensation to you. It rattled my chair.
And it ripped my heart into shreds.
Everything old, everything healed – is new again.
As the images begin to re-appear on the screen, the soundtrack whispers into the background. It becomes just quiet enough so you can hear the sobs - the crying of the people sitting next to you.
Even in a theater full of young people, the reverence and anguish was unmistakable.
And that’s when Fahrenheit 9/11 really begins.
If you’ve been a regular visitor of DU for long, chances are that you’ve been witness to most of the articulated discussions of issues that Michael Moore presents in the film.
With that said – there’s a lot here that you haven’t seen. And for the parts that you have – you’ve never seen it like this.
We spend a great deal of time here at the DU debating different perspectives, and every once in a while, a situation comes along that gives us cause to band together and support one another, or rejoice in a victory for our cause.
F-9/11 does something more, something that’s difficult for us to do, with our text based medium.
It shows us – the implications, and the results.
As the United States War Machine prepares for its inevitable confrontation with Saddam Hussein, we get a glimpse of the humanity that our coalition of the willing is about to destroy.
Yes, there are children in Iraq that fly kites, go to amusement parks and ride Ferris wheels (This little tidbit didn’t make it onto Fox), families cooking out, riding bikes, getting married, and singing songs.
All the while, the US War Machine spools it’s turbines up to full throttle, and unleashes utter devastation on Iraqis who are…
a lot like us.
The reports of Moore’s death as a talented director have been, in a phrase, Highly Exaggerated.
This is a masterful work of film making. Slick, Polished, well paced, full of vim and vigor, and -
not anywhere as unfair as the critics on the Right would have you think.
It’s clear when Moore is pontificating. It’s clear when he’s poking fun and razzing the establishment. What’s so very telling, and in my opinion, so very clever is his silence.
Michael Moore doesn’t rub political salt into the continuous incompetence of this administration, or it’s behavior.
He doesn’t have to.
He doesn’t need to say anything when the AG starts singing his own national fight song (Let the Eagles Soar!). He doesn’t need to comment on GWB’s “I call you my base” fund raising dinner.
He let’s the “talkies” do the work – and the effect is maddening.
I’ve never heard an “Oh Jesus” or “What the F**K?” muttered from an audience member during Lord of the Rings, or Harry Potter.
Tonight, these utterances came after every scene.
Have you ever looked behind you in a crowded theater during a sad moment in a film? Then you’ll understand what I’m about to describe.
A very gracious woman who gave her only soon to the service of the United States Marine Corps decided to take a trip to the White House only a few months after her son was lost in a Black Hawk crash.
While in the area in front of the White House, she happens upon a woman who has erected an ad-hoc shrine to protest the war.
The two woman break down almost immediately, but then…
Some “person” which can only be described as a “Do-Good-er with ill intentions” decides that this meeting is a “Set-up”.
This 3rd woman cries “This is Staged! This is Staged!” and tries to position herself between the camera and our 2 grieving mothers.
Meanwhile, the mother who had buried her son that spring lets this representative of the Thought Police know that her boy was killed in Iraq.
Unbelievably, this Monster wants proof! So she then counters with “Where? What Date? Hmmmm? Come On! Where? What Date?”
“Karballah, April 2nd.”
I turned around, startled by all of the sniffing and explicatives coming from the upper level of the theaters.
And there, in the bright-reflected light of the film’s screen, hundreds of cheeks, streaked with tears – faces contorted in to rage.
This film will mark a turning point in our country's consciousness.
I could spend the better part of a week coming to grips with what I saw early this morning. And I’m sure that I’ll spend the better part of the rest of this year doing everything that I can to stop the degeneration of the land I live in.
But let me leave you with a few thoughts, and some of the conclusions I drew from this film.
We actually have been duped.
There’s no conjecture here. You don’t need to stretch your imagination or suddenly become “un-stubborn” in order to connect the dots.
There’s no benevolent Blue Blooded family trying to make our world a better, safer place. Even though that’s what they’d have you believe.
The Bush Family's legacy of greed, and their perfect execution of power manipulation, good old boy network, and their lemming constituency have succeeded in usurping power from the citizens of this country.
You don’t need to be wary of this conclusion. You don’t need to be humble amongst your friends, family, republican brother-in-law or right-winged co-workers.
Not any more.
We’re about to see a whole branch of our government, of corporate controlled media and fundamentalist right-wing groups leap into damage control mode with a flurry of denials and outrage like we’ve never seen.
Well, maybe not like we’ve ever seen, but…
The point is – it’s all there. Sure, there’s humor, sarcasm, irony…
There’s juxtaposition of images and events in order to amplify emotions, in order to illustrate ideas and foster connections between the “Players”.
But there’s no showmanship in the testimony of our troops that languish in Iraq, wondering what the hell they’re doing there.
Michael Moore didn’t write the script for the roving Marine Corps Recruiters – the ones that, well, I’m not sure that there’s a stronger expression for the word “Lie”…
But after seeing this film, there ought to be.
He didn’t need to. So he doesn’t.
Because he’s got this "thing" working for him.
I’m sure some of the Bush Administration wonders what it’s like to have truth on their side.
I’m sorry if you just now got over the tragedy of 9/11. Maybe you’ve found peace with the state of our world, even the hypocrisy and failure of our democracy.
If you’d like to continue, blissfully unaware of just how much trouble your way of life is in, then don’t see this film.
On the other hand, if you need just a little push…
You know, just a little incentive to start a march on Washington… ... Then this is it.
It's almost funny to watch how far a child will go to avoid admitting he's made a mistake. In a steady downward spiral, he will grasp at almost anything that convinces him that he's right, no matter how desperate it makes him look. It's more sad than it is funny, but we can smile because we understand the game this child is playing, and we patiently let time lead the child to the inevitable truth
The Decline and Fall of the Bush Fans
UPDATE: JULY 1 2004
When someone is attacked with such operatic ferocity, one thing is certain: That person is successful
Mauling Michael Moore
The attack on Fahrenheit 9/11
In just one weekend, Fahrenheit 9/11 earned more money than any feature-length documentary in history. This despite a campaign against the film by the White House and its surrogates. Everyone expected George Bush's media shills to go after Moore, but who would have thought Fox News would keep its attack dogs relatively muzzled while ABC and NBC launched remarkably unbalanced attacks.
So far, Fox's main complaint is that Moore won't give them an interview. However, he did allow himself to be interrogated by George Stephanopoulos on ABC's This Week. During that chat, he addressed his critics' major points. Take the fact that Saudi nationals, including members of the bin Laden family, were allowed to leave the United States after 9-11 even though all commercial flights were grounded. Moore implies that the president cleared those flights because of family business ties to the Saudis. But Richard Clarke, the former security adviser—and prominent Bush critic—insists it was he who authorized the flights. When Stephanopoulos brought this up, Moore replied that Clarke's decision had been an error, adding that Clarke has admitted making mistakes "and he apologized to the 9-11 families for those mistakes."
Maybe this was an evasion, maybe not; but it certainly constituted a response, and ABC could easily have included it in subsequent news stories about Fahrenheit 9/11. Instead, the network launched a two-pronged attack on the film's accuracy—one that advanced from Good Morning America to World News Tonight—without giving Moore a fair chance to respond to the most damaging claims. Both segments began with the graphic "Fact or Fiction?"—the journalistic equivalent of asking a defendant when he stopped beating his wife. Both relied heavily on Clarke's statements and let them go unanswered.
"My feeling is that ABC News gave Michael Moore a fair chance to respond," says Bridgette Maney, the publicist for Good Morning America. ABC News spokesperson Cathie Levine noted that World News Tonight had run a clip from the Stephanopoulos interview after airing Clarke's statement. But that clip did not contain Moore's response to Clarke's comments.
NBC ran highly negative assessments of the film on both its Nightly News and its cable channel MSNBC. The network referred to its coverage as a "truth squad report." As part of this exposé, senior correspondent Lisa Myers targeted the hilarious moment in Fahrenheit 9/11 when Moore asks legislators to sign up their children to fight in Iraq. Myers noted that Moore had failed to include comments by Republican congressmember Mark Kennedy, who appears in that scene looking baffled. "My nephew had just gotten called into service and was told he's heading for Afghanistan," Kennedy told Myers. "He [Moore] didn't like that answer, so he didn't include it." Moore had addressed this allegation in the Stephanopoulos interview: "When we interviewed [Kennedy], he didn't have any family members in Afghanistan. . . . We released the transcript and put it on our website." But NBC made no mention of these readily available rebuttals. (A network spokesman declined to comment.)
Note that none of the facts in Fahrenheit 9/11 are in dispute. What ABC and NBC called into question is Moore's extrapolation and interpretation of information; in other words, his slant. But by using loaded phrases like "truth squad" and "fact or fiction," and by omitting Moore's answers to key questions, these networks did the very thing they accuse him of doing. I would argue that this sort of distortion is far more dangerous in the context of a news broadcast than in a clearly opinionated film.
Why did NBC and ABC take the administration's line? Well, NBC is owned by General Electric, a prime defense contractor. ABC is owned by Disney, which has no need of Pentagon largesse—but Disney is dependent on the kindness of federal regulators, and to the Bush administration those mouse ears have a lot to answer for. After all, it was Disney subsidiary Miramax that initially planned to distribute Fahrenheit 9/11, and even after the studio pulled out under pressure from the parent company, Miramax chief Harvey Weinstein formed a consortium of companies to release the film. Last Thursday's Wall Street Journal reported that Disney may sever its ties with Miramax next year. And Disney is about to release a feel-good documentary called America's Heart and Soul. With its theme parks under siege for allowing desecrations of family values, such as Gay Day, Disney has much to gain by joining the attack on Moore's movie, which is regarded in certain congregations as the Great R-Rated Satan.
But how to account for Fox's relatively merciful coverage (or the exceedingly odd editorial in Monday's New York Post defending Moore from the Federal Election Commission's attempt to muzzle his ads)? Here's my explanation: Rupert Murdoch is covering his ass in case John Kerry wins. For that matter, his news machine doesn't have to prove itself to the Bushies—and besides, an attack from Fox would have easily been dismissed as partisan. Better to let NBC and ABC lend the imprimatur of their "objectivity." I'm not saying these networks acted in cahoots; they merely expressed their interests.
That may explain why CNN, whose audience skews slightly leftward, took a careful pro-and-con approach to Fahrenheit 9/11, as did CBS News. Was CBS's neutrality a reflection of its traditional resistance to the right; was it part of a bid for the sizable anti-Bush audience; or is the network's owner, Viacom, banking on an advantage in a Kerry administration? Maybe all of the above.
When you consider how well the film is doing despite this pile-on, you have to conclude that most people haven't been affected by the media's negative spin. They want to see what all the fuss is about. Of course, the real question is whether audiences will leave the cineplex arguing about Moore's truthfulness or his insights into Bush. If the film turns out to have an impact on the fall election, we'll learn something about the limits of the media's power to shape perceptions. Since this is a recurring theme of mine, I hope Fahrenheit 9/11 affirms my conviction that the press distorts but we decide.
Y Tu Mamá También
In the printosphere, the line on Fahrenheit 9/11 was mixed. The film garnered overwhelmingly favorable reviews and mostly negative reactions from media pros with Washington connections. Michael Isikoff's Newsweek feature was typical: a point-by-point rebuttal accompanied by a photo of Moore captioned "Problem with authority." But the most florid outrage was expressed by George Orwell's demon seed, Christopher Hitchens.
It's never enough for Hitchens to condemn an enemy. He must enlist every epithet in the English language. Here's a partial list of the imprecations Hitchens hurled at Fahrenheit 9/11 in just one piece posted on Slate:
"Dishonest . . . demagogic . . . a piece of crap . . . an exercise in facile crowd pleasing . . . a sinister exercise in moral frivolity . . . a spectacle of abject political cowardice . . . a big lie [sustained] by a dizzying succession of smaller falsehoods beefed up by wilder and (if possible) yet more contradictory claims . . . loaded bias against the work of the mind . . . so flat-out phony that 'fact-checking' is beside the point." As for Moore himself, Hitchens calls him "a silly and shady man" and "one of the great soggy blimps of our sorry, mediocre, celeb-rotten culture."
When someone is attacked with such operatic ferocity, one thing is certain: That person is successful.
UPDATE: 27 JUNE 2004
Filmmaker Michael Moore appears on ABC News Live.
Michael Moore Calls Fahrenheit 9/11 a Valid, Alternate View.
June 25, 2004— Michael Moore's political documentary Fahrenheit 9-11 is facing critics for its accusations about the Bush administration's reasons for invading Iraq. The filmmaker defends his film in an interview with ABC News correspondent Jake Tapper. The following are excerpts:
UPDATE: 26 JUNE 2004
TAPPER: Well there are some questions about the substance of the film, and I would just like to give you the opportunity to respond to these questions. So they don't go unanswered.
To begin with your film showcases former counter-terrorism czar Richard Clarke, using him as a critic of the Bush administration. Yet in another part of the film, one that appears in your previews, you criticize members of the Bush administration for permitting members of the bin Laden family to fly out of the country almost immediately after 9/11. What the film does not mention is that Richard Clarke says that he OK'd those flights. Is it fair to not mention that?
MOORE: Actually I do, I put up The New York Times article and it's blown up 40 foot on the screen, you can see Richard Clarke's name right there saying that he approved the flights based on the information the FBI gave him. It's right there, right up on the screen. I don't agree with Clarke on this point. Just because I think he's good on a lot of things doesn't mean I agree with him on everything.
TAPPER: But the film, you don't as a narrator of the film, discuss Richard Clarke's involvement in that part of the decision to let bin Laden family members to fly out of the country.
MOORE: Because it was the FBI who ultimately gave the information to Richard Clarke, that's correct.
TAPPER: Discussing pre-war Iraq, your films shows many tranquil scenes of the country, kids flying kites, smiling Iraqis, but knowing what we do know about the brutality of Saddam's regime, which you do mention at one point in the film, are those pictures a fair representation of pre-war Iraq?
MOORE: They're a fair representation of the civilians that were killed by our bombs. And I wanted to spend just 20 seconds so that the people in the United States could see what human beings look like in Iraq. Children flying kites, a kid getting his hair cut in a barber shop, a couple getting married — these were human beings.
And we bombed and we bombed in an indiscriminate manner and according to The New York Times two weeks ago 50 airstrikes, we were zero for 50 in hitting our targets and what we did hit were a lot of civilians. And that is what I show in this movie. The ABC News and the other networks did a very good job and have done a good job in showing what a brutal dictator Saddam Hussein was. But we rarely got to see images of everyday life in Iraq and I wanted to show that, just as one human being that thought that we should see these human beings and not have them dehumanized as statistics in a war.
TAPPER: But would it not be a more fair representation in your film to have also included some images of the brutality of Saddam's regime, the Kurds he gassed, the Iraqis he oppressed, the millions of Iraqis he killed?
MOORE: I do show Saddam Hussein shaking hands with Don Rumsfeld in 1983 back when he was our good friends and our ally. A Saddam Hussein that received nearly $4 billion in some form of aid from the United States during that time. We also supplied him with satellite photos of Iranian troop movements which he then used to gas Iranian troops. He was our good friend in the 1980s, Don Rumsfeld and others are well aware of that because they were involved in the Reagan administration. And that's what I show in my movie, things you haven't seen that much on the news.
TAPPER: Well, the picture of Rumsfeld shaking Saddam's hand is fairly well-known but …
MOORE: Oh no, the American people don't know that. The American people are not that aware that Saddam Hussein was our ally, that we helped to create the Saddam Hussein that he became. See, this is our problem as Americans, we create these monsters like Osama bin Laden, we helped to fund his mujahadeen in the 1980s, we helped to train him and his troops in the 1980s to defeat the Soviets in Afghanistan and then once the Soviets are gone Osama gets other ideas in his head and we're going "Whoa, what's he doing that for?" It's like, what, what were we doing funding a guy like that I the first place? We need to seriously examine this as Americans, why we back brutal dictators, like we did with Saddam Hussein, why we fund terrorists like we did with Osama bin Laden, these are legitimate questions to ask.
TAPPER: Is it not also legitimate to question whether, however, you are doing the same thing you're accusing the U.S. government of doing? You fault Saddam Hussein for being a brutal dictator back in the '80s when the United States was allied with Iraq during the Iran-Iraq war, yet when it comes to the part of the movie where you discuss going to war in Iraq in 2003, that's not a part of the movie you talk about how brutal Saddam Hussein was.
MOORE: Because people like you and this network and other networks over and over and over again told us that. Look, we all get it. We all know that. I'm just trying to present another side of the story. Why don't you think that's a good idea to have a filmmaker out there presenting a point of view and a side of the story that really wasn't well represented in our mainstream media?
TAPPER: You declare in the film that Hussein's regime had never killed an American …
MOORE: That isn't what I said. Quote the movie directly.
TAPPER: What is the quote exactly?
MOORE: "Murdered." The government of Iraq did not commit a premeditated murder on an American citizen. I'd like you to point out one.
TAPPER: If the government of Iraq permitted a terrorist named Abu Nidal who is certainly responsible for killing Americans to have Iraq as a safe haven; if Saddam Hussein funded suicide bombers in Israel who did kill Americans; if the Iraqi police — now this is not a murder but it's a plan to murder — to assassinate President Bush which at the time merited airstrikes from President Clinton once that plot was discovered; does that not belie your claim that the Iraqi government never murdered an American or never had a hand in murdering an American?
MOORE: No, because nothing you just said is proof that the Iraqi government ever murdered an American citizen. And I am still waiting for you to present that proof.
You're talking about, they provide safe haven for Abu Nidal after the committed these murders, uh, Iraq helps or supports suicide bombers in Israel. I mean the support, you remember the telethon that the Saudis were having? It's our allies, the Saudis, that have been providing help and aid to the suicide bombers in Israel. That's the story you should be covering. Why don't you cover that story? Why don't you cover it?
TAPPER: I've been told that's all the time we have. Thank you very much for this spirited debate, I appreciate your time, good luck with the movie — Michael Moore in New York.
Good for Business, Bad for the People
Daniel Patrick Welch
It's funny. I'd seen all this stuff before--I mean it isn't as if there was anything really new here for anyone who's been paying attention for the past few years. And yet, I cried. Maybe it's the deprogramming of having at least some of what we've seen replayed with any decent focus for One Brief Shining Moment, beyond the self-imposed straitjacket of a docile and dangerously inept US press. Maybe it's just the oxygen given to all those impulses so many of us have kept in check, all those shoots of anger, sadness and embarrassment blossoming into full blown consciousness.
My own thought process in response to Michael Moore's new film reminded me of one of those dessicated sponges you put in water-a few hours later and voila: your tiny piece of foam has bloated into a full blown fish, or frog, or palm tree ten times its original size. Or maybe like opening an archive, unzipping a million saved files at once. My brain fairly exploded with repressed anger going back to the Florida recount disaster: things I had known in much more detail before Moore scratched the surface again and brought it all flooding back..
In fact, as soon as we got home, my wife and I started searching through old folders of emails from that period tucked away, too important to throw away, yet too disheartening to face on a more regular basis. This is the potential power of Fahrenheit 9/11: rousing the natural, inevitable rage against the machine of war, lies and fabricated videotape. Of course, many people will be exposed to new (for them) truths or aspects of the current crisis they haven't fully thought through. But more, I suspect, will be nudged into acknowledging nagging feelings that something is terribly wrong in this country, feelings they have been harboring but afraid to express.
What Moore does is let the cat out of the bag, so to speak. When we left the theater, there was a crowd of young aspiring journalists waiting to ask our impressions of the film. One young man in front of us was a bit evasive, simply offering that it was "mostly stuff he had known all along, but maybe people will start to wake up." As he walked away, one of our crowd recognized him from high school. "Hey, isn't that so-and-so? His father died in the military, right? And he just got out from a four-year stint."
It is this level penetration that is familiar, yet still surprising. Since even Republicans are bolting left and right from the sinking, stinking ship that is the Bush administration, it stands to reason that the defection goes more than skin deep. Still, it is gratifying to see that the disaffection with The Way Things Are affects such a broad swath, from soldiers in Iraq to unemployed workers in Michigan and elsewhere.
Of course, I was wary, as usual, that I would wind up hating something so overhyped. But I was pleasantly surprised at how moved I was by this film. Yes, Moore resorts to his tired old frumpy-schmuck tactics of ambushing targets and coming away the rejected loser who is, after all, only looking for the truth. But it is hilarious watching congresspeople scurry away from him like cockroaches in the sun as he tries to enlist their ruling class kids-made especially poignant by the marine at his side, who would rather risk jail time than go back to Iraq "to kill other poor people."
In fact, one of the more didactic subplots of the film, in which Moore painstakingly follows the transformation of a military mother who, early on, proclaims herself a 'conservative democrat,' is also the most moving, probably because Moore eschews his earlier guerilla theater instincts and lets the drama play out. Mining the dramatic gold of this mother reading her dead son's Last Letter Home may be Moore's stock and trade, but there were few dry eyes in the theater (mine not among them).
It may be a bit discomfiting for astute American viewers to find themselves more focused on--and perhaps more moved by--this woman's plight than of earlier shots of Iraqi civilian dead. Moore does create the echo of mourning parents in each country, the plaintive Iraqi mother's cries to Allah: "what did he do? Why did he have to die?" Michael Pederson's mother eerily refracts this plaint, calling on Jesus to help her and questioning "why did they have to take him? He was a good kid!" This brilliant parallel makes the transformation one Moore apparently hopes domestic viewers can identify with: seeing this mother, wracked with grief, after a confrontation with some brain-dead loser who accuses her of "staging" her son's death at an antiwar display outside the white house. In fury and self-blame, she laments that "People think they know, but they don't. I thought I knew, but I didn't know." Then her legs seem to buckle under her as she cries out with a mother's grief: "I need my son!" while Moore's probing yet tender camera keeps running, helpless, distant, paralyzed by the same realizations.
It is rousing the US public out of this paralysis that may be the chief goal and result of this film, as tall an order as that may seem. It fairly burns to see the puffy red face of Jim Baker from Florida 2000, the oil-greased slide of power, death and war profits that motivates these bastards, the total contempt for the poor and working-class kids they snare in relentless, targeted recruiting shams--all while yucking it up with the "haves and have-mores," what Bush loathsomely refers to in one of his scripted, awkward, podium-joke deliveries: "some people call this the elite-I call it my base!"
But more importantly, even while focusing on what a jackass Bush is--hey, it's funny--Moore manages to delve deeper than his ill-conceived fawning over War Hero Clark last Spring would imply. In particular, the Democrats take the pasting they deserve for the abysmal fact that not a single Senator would come to the aid of the Congressional Black Caucus in officially protesting the 2000 election. Deftly, Moore is able to tie this spineless moral failure in with an even more criminally immoral system where salivating recruiters hunt down (there is no other word for it, as the footage makes clear) brown and poor kids to fight the wars of the rich. The disingenuousness of the "opposition" party is laid bare, despite a few important interviews from members of congress fighting the good fight, as the consummate corporate ass-kisser it is, too addicted to campaign cash to effectively oppose the president's march to war. War is, as one eager potential profiteer sheepishly concedes on film, "good for business, bad for the people."
Enraged and ashamed (hopefully), the audiences at Moore's film can indeed rise up if they seize the opportunity, throwing off the bullshit-encrusted mantra that "we are stuck in Iraq," along with the sham arguments that sold a pack of war crimes disguised as "liberation." A friend's reaction was simple and succinct: "It makes me mad. I probably should have been more aggressive with people at the grocery store, or people at my old job. You know, people you just feel like choking." Is it too late to turn back the rising tide of ignorance and budding fascism? For the sake of humanity, we have to hope not.
© 2004 Daniel Patrick Welch. Reprint permission granted with credit and link to danielpwelch.com. Writer, singer, linguist and activist Daniel Patrick Welch lives and writes in Salem, Massachusetts, with his wife, Julia Nambalirwa-Lugudde. Together they run The Greenhouse School. His website is at danielpwelch.com.
UPDATE: 25 JUNE 2004
OK I've seen the film, Now what do I do?
Contact the media and the good people in our government
By selectively ignoring stories, relying on misinformation or government propaganda, and confusing opinion
with fact, the media presents a picture of war that is nothing like the reality that US soldiers and Iraqis
face daily. The mainstream media has a unique ability to sway public opinion, and for this reason, they
have been complicit in the justification for war and subsequent occupation of Iraq.
From minimizing growing discontent among occupied Iraqis to largely ignoring civilian casualties and even downplaying the personal
stories of US soldiers who were killed, the media was guiding US opinion to support war and shielding the
public from stories unpleasant enough to change their minds.
They considered it too dangerous to report
on the raw facts and brutal reality of war, so instead, a self-censored version appeared, in which the US
"liberated" the Iraqi people with little harm done to the population or the infrastructure of the country.
Embedded journalism only allowed reporters to see one side of the story, in a place where there are
multitudes of opinions and realities to report on.
Independent media sources, human rights groups, and some brave mainstream media outlets, like the New
Yorker, reported on instances of torture months ago, but all was widely ignored.
Whenever these reports
did find their way into larger news sources, they were an afterthought, a brief mention negated by a
pro-war context. Once photos documenting soldiers torturing Iraqis emerged, the media began to pick up
on the story, but even then, as this article points out, they were still slower to catch on and less
comprehensive in their reports than was the foreign press. It only became a huge story when the
sensational nature of the photos turned into a scandal, and newspapers could use it to shock readers and sell papers.
The government, of course, has a major influence over the media. For example, when the Department of
Defense banned images of coffins of US soldiers killed in the war, it was readily accepted and only
challenged by an independent website. Few news agencies challenged the guidelines for embedded
journalism or strayed from the information they were "allowed" to report on. In addition, reporters' own
pro-war views were reflected in their commentaries. Even Dan Rather admitted that his coverage of war was slanted because he wanted the US to win.
Not every major news source is outright lying, or even intentionally dishonest. In most cases, it was
laziness and an absence of critical thought. The New York Times is the first paper to admit to their mistakes. It's not a giant conspiracy. But it is troubling, given the amount of influence the media has on public perception of political issues, that reporting is at times inconsistent with facts, repeating one half truth until it takes on a life of its own, and profiting from this gross misinformation. In general, war is good for the media, because it prompts people to tune in.
If the media won't or can't become more responsible and less subjective in their reporting, then it's up to
you to seek out the real news. This may mean accumulating information from a variety of sources, mainstream media included, and deciding for yourself. Or you could just stay slightly skeptical and question stories that only report from one angle. Just be aware, inform yourself, and always ask questions.
We've compiled a comprehensive directory of media contacts. You can write letters, call, fax, or email to let them know that you're intelligent enough to see through their thinly veiled propaganda. Whenever they attempt to pull the wool over your eyes, you need to be right there, writing and calling them until they learn that biased journalism is unacceptable. If they arenմ reporting the whole story or if they are simple ignoring the realities of a situation altogether, then they need to hear from you. A concerted effort to call their fluff for what it is may well result in fairer, more objective coverage.
Before the Opening of Fahrenheit 9/11
We're a week away from the nationwide opening of "Fahrenheit 9/11" and not a day goes by where we don't have some new battle to fight thanks to those who are still working overtime to keep people from seeing this film. What's their problem? Are they worried about something?
A Republican PR firm has formed a fake grassroots front group called "Move America Forward" to harass and intimidate theater owners into not showing "Fahrenheit 9/11." These are the same people who successfully badgered CBS into canceling the Reagan mini-series a few months ago. And they are spending a ton of money this week to threaten movie theaters who even think about showing our movie.
As of this morning, a little over 500 theaters have agreed to show the movie beginning next Friday, June 25. There are three national/regional theater chains who, as of today, have not booked the movie in their theaters. One theater owner in Illinois has reported receiving death threats.
The right wing usually wins these battles. Their basic belief system is built on censorship, repression, and keeping people ignorant. They want to limit or snuff out any debate or dissension. They also don't like pets and are mean to small children. Too many of them are named "Fred."
This new nut group is the Right's last hope in limiting how many people can see this movie. All of their other efforts have failed. Let's recap:
1. Roger Friedman at FOX News reported that the head of the company which first agreed to fund our film ?got calls from Republican friends? pressuring them to back out. And they did. But... Miramax immediately picked up the film! Except...
2. Michael Eisner, the chairman of Disney, then blocked Miramax (a company owned by Disney) from releasing the film once it was finished. But... public attention and embarrassment forced Disney to let the Weinstein brothers of Miramax find another distributor! But...
3. Instead of a new distributor stepping right in -- as all the media predicted would happen -- it took another month to find distributors who would take on this movie. A number of other distributors, thanks to various pressures, were afraid to get involved. It looked for a while that we would be distributing this ourselves. But then Lions Gate and IFC Films rode in to the rescue!
So, we have beaten back all attempts to kill this movie, and the only thing in the way of you now seeing "Fahrenheit 9/11" is this Republican big-money front group trying to force theaters not to show the movie.
Please, contact your local theaters and let them know you want to see "Fahrenheit 9/11." Tell them that some people don't know that this is America and that we believe in freedom of speech and the importance of ALL voices being heard. (The members of MoveOn.org--an ACTUAL grassroots organization--have done a very cool thing. They are pledging to send a message to theater owners and are planning to attend a showing of the film on its opening weekend.)
I appreciate their efforts, but you don't have to be a member of MoveOn to help stop this effort to keep "Fahrenheit 9/11" from making it to screens across the country. If a theater in your area is planning to show the film, just give them a call and thank them for standing up for the freedom of speech. If your local theater isn't showing the film, call them and let them know that you would like to see it and you'd like them to show it.
The White House and their minions in our media have presented one distorted version of the truth after another for the past four years. All we are asking for is the right to show what they HAVEN'T shown us, the real truth. The truth that ain't pretty (and is, sadly, damningly hilarious).
On top of all this, the MPAA gave the film an "R" rating. I want all teenagers to see this film. There is nothing in the film in terms of violence that we didn't see on TV every night at the dinner hour during the Vietnam War. Of course, that's the point, isn't it? The media have given the real footage from Iraq a "cleansing" -- made it look nice, easy to digest. Mario Cuomo has offered to be our lawyer in appealing this ruling by the MPAA. Frankly, I would like to think the MPAA is saying that the actions by the Bush administration are so abhorrent and revolting, we need to protect our children from seeing what they have done. In that case, the film should be rated NC-17!
However it turns out, I trust all of you teenagers out there will find your way into a theater to see this movie. If the government believes it is OK to send slightly older teenagers to their deaths in Iraq, I think at the very least you should be allowed to see what they are going to draft you for in a couple of years.
Finally, some very sophisticated individuals have been hacking into and shutting down our website. It is an hourly fight to keep it up. We are going to find out who is doing this and we are going to pursue a criminal prosecution. I'm preparing lots of cool stuff for the site so watch for new items on it next week (www.fahrenheit911.com and www.michaelmoore.com).
Thanks again for your support and I hope to see you at the movies on opening night, June 25.
PS. I am sponsoring a number of benefits around the country next week for local and national peace and justice groups, including Military Families Speak Out and September 11th Families for Peaceful Tomorrows. Please check your local papers and my website next week for further details.
PPS. Also, I am going to be on the "Late Show with David Letterman" on Friday night. It's on CBS at 11:35 PM Eastern and Pacific. And on Monday morning (June 21) I will be on ?The Today Show? on NBC. Next week, Jon Stewart and Conan. I'd go on O'Reilly but, like a coward, he walked out on a screening we invited him to (with Al Franken just a few rows away!). I personally caught him sneaking out. Embarrassed, he tried to change the subject. He said, "When are you coming on my show?" and I said, "Turn around and watch the rest of the movie and I will come on your show." He walked out.
Fair and balanced.
ZOMBIE GROUP ANGRY AT THE TRUTH OF FAHRENHEIT 9/11 FILM
WASHINGTON - A conservative group asked federal election officials on Thursday to investigate whether television ads for director Michael Moore (news)'s anti-Bush documentary "Fahrenheit 9/11" violate campaign finance law regulating when commercials may feature a presidential candidate.
UPDATE: MAY 2004
The Federal Election Commission (news - web sites) might take months to issue a ruling on the complaint, making it unlikely the commission would act in time to affect the film's ad campaign. The two-hour documentary, which depicts President Bush (news - web sites) as lazy and oblivious to warnings in summer 2001 that al-Qaida was poised to strike, opens nationwide on Friday.
The group Citizens United contended that commercials for "Fahrenheit 9/11" fall under federal campaign finance law. Regulations prohibit the use of corporate money to air ads identifying a presidential candidate in the 30 days before his party's nominating convention and the 60 days before the Nov. 2 election.
Bush will be nominated by the GOP during its New York convention Aug. 30-Sept. 2. Citizens United argued that "Fahrenheit 9/11" ads that identify Bush and are paid for with corporate money should be banned after July 31.
Moore called the complaint "a blatant attempt on the part of a right-wing, Republican-sponsored group to stop people from seeing my movie." He said he would fight the complaint, and members of the Congressional Black Caucus (news - web sites) appearing with him at a news conference near the Capitol promised to help.
"It's a violation of my First Amendment rights that I cannot advertise my movie. It's a movie," Moore said.
"I have not publicly endorsed John Kerry (news - web sites). I am an independent, I am not a member of the Democratic Party."
An exemption to the law frees a wide array of media organizations from the ban on the use of corporate
money for ads identifying federal candidates close to elections. Moore, an Oscar-winning documentary filmmaker, and the film might be covered by the media exemption. Citizens United contends that "Fahrenheit 9/11" is propaganda and doesn't qualify for the media exemption.
It is among conservative groups that have tried to mobilize the public against the film, arguing that Moore's portrayal of the Bush administration is inaccurate.
The group's complaint names Moore; companies involved in the film's marketing and distribution, including Lions Gate Entertainment Corp., Cablevision Systems Corp., Viacom International; and brothers Harvey and Bob Weinstein, executives at the film company Miramax who formed a separate company to find a way to distribute Moore's film.
The complaint also contends that because Lions Gate is foreign-owned, the ads are subject to a ban on the use of foreign money for ads identifying presidential candidates close to elections.
"Fahrenheit 9/11" won the top honor at last month's Cannes Film Festival (news - web sites). Moore and his distributors lost their appeal Tuesday to lower its rating from R to PG-13.
The FEC issued a decision Thursday on ads involving another film, but commissioners said it doesn't address Moore or ads promoting "Fahrenheit 9/11." In that ruling, the FEC told an Arizona man he couldn't use corporate money to run ads promoting his documentary film and identifying Bush and congressional candidates close to the election.
David Hardy, president of the Bill of Rights Educational Foundation in Tucson, Ariz., had asked the commission for its advice on whether he could use foundation money for the ads. Hardy didn't ask the commission whether his ads would qualify for the media exemption.
Associated Press Writer Aparna Kumar contributed to this report.
On the Net:
Michael Moore: http://www.michaelmoore.com/
"fictitious president" elected in "fictitious elections" was sending Americans to war for "fictitious reasons".
Privatizing the Military : A Department of Defense/Free Market Film
Moore Crowned Cannes King
By Sarah Hall
Nobody seriously believes that what happens in a chic French seaside resort in the heart of ''Old Europe'' will have a decisive bearing on the US election. But Michael Moore's Fahrenheit 9/11 has certainly raised the political temperature and if President Bush does watch the documentary that savages his presidency he should be advised not to have a bowl of pretzels within reach.
The award was given by a jury with just one French member and four Americans and was not, as some commentators have suggested, a sly dig at the White House over strained US-Franco relations. It was, though politically motivated in the broadest and best sense, a documentary that struck right at the heart of its subject.
Moore may make an unlikely knight in shining armour for the American left but documentaries at their best make the viewer sit up and take notice. And no one does this better than Moore on the Bush presidency.
By SHARON THEIMER, Associated Press Writer
Special to Gulf News
He did it! Michael Moore, genius, man of the people, cult hero or muckraker – depending on where one stands within the political spectrum – walked away from Cannes with the coveted Palme d'Or for his controversial documentary film Fahrenheit 9/11 and received an unprecedented 20-minutes standing ovation to boot.
The Guardian has described Moore as "an ursine figure in an ill-fitting suit", George W. Bush's description might well be unprintable at this point. When Governor of Texas, Bush told the director: "Behave yourself will you. Go find some real work." Moore took his advice and has since been busy trying to topple the Bush machine starting with Stupid White Men down to his latest book Dude, Where's my Country?
Fahrenheit 9/11 is the icing on Moore's "Get Bush" cake, which some pundits say could influence United States election results, provided it finds an American distributor.
A message to his fans, posted on his website last Sunday reads: "No, we still don't have a distributor in America as I write this but after winning the world's top film prize, I'd give it about one more day (if that) because we have someone brave enough (and smart enough) to show Americans what the world can already see…
"I fully expect the right wing and the Republican Party to come at me and this film with everything they've got," he ominously predicts. "They will try, as they have unsuccessfully in the past, to attack me personally because they cannot win the debate on the issues the film raises– namely, that they are a pack of liars and the American people are on to them." Perhaps this explais the three burly minders who tower over the millionaire, whom he refers to as his masseur, Pilates teacher and fitness trainer.
Disney, which owns Fahrenheit 9/11's production company Miramax, has prohibited the latter from distributing the documentary. According to a May 5 article in the New York Times this is because the film might anger the President's brother Jeb Bush, Governor of Florida, thereby endangering millions of dollars in tax breaks Disney receives from that state.
Admittedly the anti-war film doesn't pull any punches when it comes to ridiculing Bush and his right-wing coterie. It shows Bush, Cheney, Rice and Wolfowitz smirking and preening; Bush on the golf course prior to 9/11 during a period when, according to Moore, he was vacationing over 40 per cent of the time; and the President with an inane expression reading My Pet Goat after he was informed about the attacks on America.
Bush is quoted in the film as saying, "A dictatorship would be a heck of a lot easier, no doubt about it," referring to the US, and "They're [the Iraqis] not happy they're occupied. I wouldn't be happy if I were occupied either."
Perhaps the secret of this one-man powerhouse's effectiveness largely rests on the humour he never fails to inject in his work. The first page of his latest book Dude, Where's my Country? spoofed as a message from Bush "Commander in Chief of the Fatherland" and Tom Ridge "Secretary of the Homeland" reads: "This is a good Christian book, written by a patriotic American who knows that we will crush him should he ever step out of line. If you have purchased this book we are required to notify you per Section 29A of the USA Patriot Act that your name has now been entered into a database of potential suspects should the need to declare martial law ever arise… If you are, indeed, a bona fide terrorist and have purchased this copy in a bookstore, or obtained it in a library, rest assured that we already know who you are."
In Fahrenheit 9/11, when Moore hears from Republican John Conyers that no Congressman had actually read the Patriot Act in its entirety before voting to pass it, he gets hold of an ice-cream van and reads it out via a loudspeaker before dogging senators to send their own sons and daughters to Iraq.
Fox News, which employs Bush's cousin John Ellis as an executive, has naturally been busy pulling out the stops to discredit Moore and his prize-winning piece of art. One after the other its anchors declare Moore "unpatriotic" before once more attacking the French and France, saying it isn't surprising that the anti-American French - referred to by Rumsfeld as a member of the "axis of weasels" - would reward the dissenter.
Moore, however, has a message for Fox. "When you hear the wackos on Fox News and elsewhere refer to this prize as coming from 'the French' please know that of the nine members of the Festival jury, only one was French. Nearly half the jury (four) was American and the president of the jury was an American (Quentin Tarantino). But this fact won't stop the O'Reillys or the Lenos or the Limbaughs from attacking the French and me because, well, that's how their simple minds function."
Tarantino has been lambasted by a few for politicising the awards but he maintains the film stands on its own merits. "I want to make it really clear that if this movie was showing everything that I wanted to see and wanted to believe but it wasn't some of the best film-making of the festival… I would have driven a stake through its heart."
He told one of his critics: "I think you're coming from a narrow view of what requires to be a good film. I think you're talking about pretty pictures and a movie doesn't have to be about pretty pictures."
Moore is no pretty picture. Love him or hate him, he isn't about to be ignored, as Bush and friends may soon find out to their cost. Moore says he will get the film shown by America before the elections even if it means breaking the law or committing an act of civil disobedience. Now that's a real rebel with a cause! Whether it's deserving or not, is for us to know and the American voter to decide.
Linda S. Heard is a specialist writer on Middle East affairs. She can be contacted at email@example.com
Michael and me
The film-maker who could help to bring down Bush has been larging it at Cannes. He has made millions asking awkward questions of corporate America. But there are a few awkward questions we'd like to ask him...
Press reviews: Fahrenheit 9/11
Sunday May 23, 2004
It would be wrong to suggest that all of human life passes through the lobby of the Majestic hotel in Cannes. Better to say that beneath its exotic arrangement of palm trees, hanging rugs, Roman statues and permanently illuminated chandeliers goes all of human life with a movie to sell. And therefore followed, of course, by a few other forms of life.
In this baroque setting, on any given day during festival fortnight, the movers, the shakers, the wheelers, the dealers, the chancers, the prancers, the stars and the starlets perform a complex social dance that, with its anxious overlapping non-conversations, might have been choreographed by Robert Altman. Never stopping for more than a moment, the parties embrace, scan the room for someone more powerful, more famous or more beautiful, promise to fix something up, and then move swiftly on. Later, these fleeting encounters will be described as meetings.
Not much stops the palm-squeezing and back-slapping. No one, for example, is too distracted when David Carradine, the star of the Seventies TV series Kung Fu, blows kisses from the top of the stairs, even though he is wearing a Mao jacket and sunglasses and a pair of pumps with 'Kill Bill' lettering to promote his role in Quentin Tarantino's film. Nor are there more than a few jerked necks when Harvey Weinstein, the dark prince of the deal, walks through brandishing a terrifying grin. But everything freezes as a large man with a fast-food gut and a laboured waddle, wispy beard and glasses, makes his way to the door.
Extended hands are left unshaken, air-kisses go unaired, the hubbub softens and two strikingly elegant women teeter on their kitten heels to get a better view, their faces a portrait of rapt admiration. Here comes Michael Moore, film-maker, author, political activist, global phenomenon.
Last week on the baking Côte d'Azur, there was no one hotter than the big fellow from Michigan. Among the stylish hordes of the Croisette, there was no greater attraction than this ursine fig ure in his ill-fitting suit. Everyone wanted a piece of him, and there is a lot of him to go around, but after months of requests, I had the only one-on-one interview. Michael and Me, we had a real meeting arranged.
Moore arrived in Cannes by his traditional mode of transport - on a wave of controversy. Disney had announced that it would not distribute his new film, Fahrenheit 9/11, in America, which left the film's producers, Miramax, a division of Disney, looking for a new partner. Moore accused Disney of censoring his film to protect the tax breaks its Disneyworld complex enjoys in Florida, the state controlled by Jeb Bush, brother of the President (Fahrenheit 9/11 details the cronyism and corruption of the Bush regime, as well as its failings in the 'war against terror').
Disney countered that Moore had known for more than a year that it would not handle the film and was only complaining now to publicise his film. Nevertheless, the director once again successfully positioned himself on the moral high ground in a battle against a multinational corporation. He finessed the same manoeuvre with Stupid White Men, his bestselling critique of American capitalism, by claiming that Harper Collins had tried to suppress the book, and that it only agreed to publish him following a protest by librarians.
Moore, the king-sized millionaire, walking testament to American consumption, is a master of making himself appear the little guy. He told reporters that before Disney, Mel Gibson's company, Icon, had also dropped the film, following a phone call from a man in Washington who told Icon that if they continued with the film Gibson would no longer be welcome at the White House. Icon denied the story, but how could they prove that the mysterious Washington caller did not exist?
The net effect of all these claims and counter-claims was that Fahrenheit 9/11 was the film that everyone on the Croisette wanted to see. But as not everyone had tickets, the old-fashioned capitalist marketing ploy of making demand outstrip supply ensured maximum frenzy and thus still greater demand. In Cannes, nobody wants to hear the word can't. Naturally, the bidding on buying the distribution rights just went up and up.
The film, as it turned out, is Moore's strongest since Roger and Me, his debut documentary 15 years ago which examined the damage wrought by General Motors on his home town of Flint. Whereas the Oscar-winning Bowling for Columbine was hit-and-miss, self-contradictory, and more than a little sanctimonious, Fahrenheit 9/11 seldom loses sight of its target - the Bush administration - or its sense of humour.
It is also, with a couple of exceptions, a triumph of editing. Indeed, Moore is arguably the most ideological and emotive editor since Sergei Eisenstein, the Soviet propagandist who developed a kind of didactic montage. Juxtaposing heroes and villains, he cuts between political comedy and tragic reality with intoxicating glee. There is no information that is vitally new, nor are there any images that are more shocking than those from Abu Ghraib prison, but such is the cumulative force of the film, with its kinetic humour and insistent sentiment, that it is hard to come away from it without concluding a) that George W Bush is not fit to be president of a golf club let alone the world's most powerful nation and b) the war in Iraq was woefully misconceived. In the year of an election that could well prove close, it's the kind of film that could make a historic difference.
In the past, Moore has been accused of twisting chronology and events to suit his agenda. While neither Bowling for Columbine nor Roger and Me can be accused of major factual errors, both trade on a series of misleading implications. For example, in Bowling for Columbine the audience is led to believe that the two teenage killers at Columbine high school may have been inured to violence by the proximity of a local weapons factory. Yet it later emerged that the factory produced nothing more lethal than rockets to launch TV satellites. The film critic Richard Schickel labelled Moore 'the very definition of the unreliable narrator'.
If there is a question mark over the trustworthiness of Moore's work, few can doubt its power, still less its influence. Bowling for Columbine was by far the biggest-grossing documentary in history. Stupid White Men , an easy-read satire, was the bestselling non-fiction book in the US in 2002, with 4 million copies in print worldwide, and 600,000 of those in the UK. At one point the book, and its follow-up, Dude, Where's My Country?, stood at numbers one and two in the German bestseller list. The sales of his films and books have made him known across the planet, as well as very rich, but the image he has sold of himself - fat, bumbling, nerdy, but indefatigable - has made him something else: an international man of the people.
As the limousine carrying Moore to his Cannes press conference pulls out of the Majestic, bound for the Palais less than 200 yards up the road, an Argentinian TV crew rushes out into the road to interview the director. The automatic tinted windows slide down and a few brief words are exchanged before a security guard steps in. The man with the microphone tries to give Moore an Argentinian flag but the security guard won't allow him. 'Put that down,' he warns, as if it were a semi-automatic weapon. The window goes up and the car moves off.
More than Moore's wealth, the question of security is perhaps the issue that most threatens his down-to-earth ordinary Joe persona. In Bowling for Columbine, he posits the theory that America's gun violence problem stems from a culture of fear created by a racist media. Last year, during a residency at the Roundhouse in London, he suggested that if the passengers on 11 September had been black, they would have fought back against the hijackers, and that spoilt whites were too used to having other people look after them.
But during the same series of dates in London, he complained about the lack of security so vehemently that the Roundhouse staff threatened to boycott the show. I got a taste of the air of paranoia surrounding Moore when, because I was without a suitable pass, a friendly PR snuck me into the main press conference alongside his entourage. Suddenly, one of his assistants turned to me and demanded to know who I was. The PR explained that I was with her.
'And who are you with?' asked the assistant.
'You,' replied the perplexed PR. 'I'm working with you.'
'I've never seen you before in my life,' announced the assistant and a security guard duly intervened to bar both of us. It was only when the PR persuaded the assistant that in fact they had been working together all day that the guard relented. On stage, Moore was asked why it was that he was flanked by three security men, who stood with their feet apart, hands clasped at their crotches, in an intimidating military stance. The director did as he always does when asked this question, and claimed that they were his fitness trainer, pilates teacher and masseur, then turned the idea that he needed protection into an elaborate joke. 'I'm not afraid of anything,' he mugged. 'Should I be?' The room broke into laughter.
Moore knows how to field difficult questions before a crowd. When one reporter told him that she had spoken to Icon and they knew nothing of the supposed caller from Washington, Moore told her to speak to his agent - 'He knows all about it.' She told him she had spoken to his agent, that he had professed ignorance of the matter, and had told her that she should speak to Moore. The director simply referred her back to his agent.
After the conference, Moore went to the official screening of his film, which is in competition for the main jury prize. The end of the film brought a standing ovation that, observers estimated, lasted somewhere between 12 and 15 minutes, a Cannes record, and possibly unmatched since Stalin's audiences used to continue clapping for mortal fear of being the first person to stop.
The applause here, though, was genuine. For the Americans who made up a large section of the audience, this was their first opportunity to stand up straight after the shaming horrors of Abu Ghraib, and for the French, well, there is nothing the French love more than an American criticising America. The following evening on French TV, I watched Moore thank the French peo ple for being 'friends who can tell you the truth to your face'. He might have returned the favour and told the French about their government's appalling role in Rwanda a decade before - but there are limits to truth-telling, even among friends.
The charge that Moore, who turned 50 last month, has only ever established a partial relationship with the truth is one that stretches way back into his career. Although he has lived in the rarefied neighbourhood of Manhattan's Upper West Side for the past 14 years, Moore very rarely lets an interview go by without referring to himself as 'working-class'. In fact, he grew up in a middle-class suburb of Flint, in a two-car family. His father was an auto-plant worker who played golf, retired in his fifties, and was well-off enough to send his three children to college.
Moore dropped out of university and, after stints as a hippie DJ, and a period running a crisis centre for teenagers, he set-up an alternative newspaper, the Flint Voice. He edited it with such verve, exposing corrupt officials and racist businesses, that in 1986 the San Francisco-based magazine Mother Jones asked him to become its editor. But just a few months after taking up the position, he was fired. According to the owner of the magazine, the staff said that he was impossible to work with. As far as Moore was concerned, he lost his job because he was set against a piece that was critical of the Sandinistas' record on human rights.
Either way, he won $58,000 damages in a suit for wrongful dismissal, sold his house and put all the money into making Roger and Me . The documentary was a notable critical, if not spectacular commercial, success. Thereafter Moore moved to New York and television, making zany political series such as TV Nation and The Awful Truth, which were full of Moore's trademark stunts designed to mock greed and ignorance and humbug.
Behind the scenes, however, a different picture was forming. Moore's employers were confronted with ever more regal demands. He insisted that Channel 4 house him at the Ritz when he worked in England on The Awful Truth, a fact he now portrays as the revenge of the working class against corporate might. Meanwhile employees grumbled. 'He's a jerk and a hypocrite and didn't treat us right and he was false in all of his dealings,' said one former worker. His former manager, Douglas Urbanski, has said that Moore 'was the most difficult man I've ever met... he's money-obsessed'.
To such complaints, Moore has a stock Nietzschean-cum-Obi-Wan Kenobi answer, which is that whatever attacks his critics launch at him, only make him stronger. 'The readership only expands, the viewership for the movies only expands, and they just look ridiculous.'
And, statistically, he's right. Currently, there is no more powerful anti-war protester in America, and therefore arguably the world, than Moore. In this country, the Mirror named him 'the greatest living American'. Recently, when he called Bush a 'deserter' it caused a scandal in the States, but it also put Bush's dubious record as a National Guardsman during the Vietnam war at the top of the agenda for the first time. He plays sell-out stadiums wherever he travels, and while he has become something of a bogeyman to the American right, and an embarrassment to a small section of the liberal left, he is to many millions the world over the underdogs' most heroic spokesperson. It's a reputation that was cemented by his celebrated Oscar speech at last year's awards ceremony, in which he lambasted Bush and told the assembled actors that they lived in 'fictitious times'.
He would tell interviewers afterwards that he had not planned the speech, assuming that he would not win, but elsewhere he has said that he warned his fellow competitors that he was going to make an anti-war statement. That's the problem with Moore: you can't be certain of the veracity of what he says. Is he the radical who has claimed to give a third of his income to worthy causes or a ruthless self-aggrandising hypocrite, or both?
Now, with my exclusive one-to-one interview, I was, I hoped, about to see the real Michael Moore. But a small cloud had appeared in the brilliant blue Mediterranean sky. The publicity company dealing with Moore in Cannes had resigned, as a fractious working relationship had become intolerable, with the director and Weinstein apparently reducing one of the publicists to tears. The new publicists, drawn and anxious-looking, were at pains to let me know that the interview would still go ahead. They just couldn't be sure what time it would be. And, oh, one other thing, it had been cut to 15 minutes. Fifteen minutes! That was barely enough time to ask a question, let alone hear it answered.
I waited in the lobby of the Majestic, and was finally allotted a time. The hour came and passed. There was no sign of Moore. Was he pulling a Naomi, the no-show interview technique perfected by supermodel Naomi Campbell? He once told an interviewer that he didn't like interviews because he had 'no control over what you're going to write'. One form of control, of course, is not to arrive.
The publicist told me that Moore's lunch meeting had run over but that she was sure everything would be OK. It was clear from her stricken expression that she had no idea where Moore was. She went away and what seemed like a week later returned with a definite slot and disappointing news. Owing to Moore's other engagements, the interviews now had to be compressed, and I would be sharing my limited time with one journalist from Australia and another from Japan.
Inside a well-manned salon, Moore was sporting a baseball cap with the legend 'Made in Canada', a blue hooded tracksuit top, khaki shorts and sandals. Crouched over a circular conference table, he looked like a lumpen tourist at a Vegas blackjack game, uncertain, ill at ease.
'You cool with them being here?' he asked me conspiratorially, though quite brazenly, in front of the Australian and Japanese journalists.
When I told him that it wasn't what was advertised on the brochure, he said: 'Yeah, I don't know what to do here. They've got me so jammed. No offence to you, the Japanese,' he gestured to the Japanese woman, 'but you both deserve your own time,' now gesturing to the Australian woman and myself. Either he doesn't sell too well in Japan or there was a hint of racism in that distinction, but Moore was too caught up in his own drama to notice. 'This is bullshit, you know. Don't they understand the difference between the Observer and a Portuguese magazine, no offence to the Portuguese, but don't they know? I'm just asking, man.'
From being the architect of this farrago, Moore turned himself into the victim, betrayed by the nameless, omnipotent 'they'. He continued in the same vein, currying my favour with his appreciation of the Observer until, to her great credit, the Japanese woman asked if we could begin the interview. At which point Moore burst out laughing, to his credit at himself.
My strategy, given the rushed circumstances, was to dispense with formal inquiries, let the other two ask about the film and general matters, and restrict myself to awkward questions. I wondered if he has any regrets about supporting Ralph Nader, the independent candidate in the previous American presidential election. Most observers think that the votes Nader took from Al Gore were vital in gaining Bush's disputed victory.
'None whatsoever,' he says without hesitation, although he's called on Nader not to stand this time round. What's the difference?
'Wrong year. Even the Green party in the US have said they're not going to campaign in the swing states... I've been very disappointed and very saddened by Ralph, who's a great American who's done many great things. But in his later years he has become, you know, somewhat bitter and vindictive. And I don't want to speak ill of him because he's done so much good, but he has not a single... except I think I heard maybe Patti Smith is supporting him.' His silent ellipses could mean nothing but 'celebrity endorsement'.
I ask him why his old friend and longtime collaborator Ben Hamper, a former Flint auto-worker whom he helped become a writer, told the New Yorker magazine, in among a number of otherwise flattering comments, that Moore 'didn't treat people well'.
'Right,' says Moore, rising to the charge, 'and then he sent me a letter saying that he said that while he was drunk. He has a horrible alcohol problem and I don't really want to talk about it,' he says, going straight on to talk about it, 'because I feel bad because he's a friend. He sent me this painful, painful letter. He hasn't been able to write a book in over 12 years. He's literally had this writer's block that has not been helped by the prescription drugs and the alcohol problem. I care deeply about him. And it's hard for someone like that because here we were putting out this paper in Flint and I've gone on and written my books, made my films, I have this life and, you know, he's struggling. My wife and I have tried to help him [but] at some point in this situation you've got to stop being the enabler and he's got to get it together himself.'
He then tells me how well he pays his employees the best independent film rates around, and even calls in a young assistant and asks him to tell me how much he earns. 'Eight hundred dollars a week?,' he says gingerly. 'What else?' asks Moore. 'You pay for my cell phone.' 'So,' says Moore, 'roughly a thousand a week.' Sounds like roughly $800 to me, but who's quibbling?
The point is, he insists, he's not fallen out with any employees since 1994. I ask if he worked out how to be a better employer.
'I just think I'm a better person,' he says, his head bowed in theatrically solemn contemplation, 'because I'm always struggling to be a better person. I'm a highly flawed individual, as we all are, and because I was raised by Jesuits, I'm constantly, "What is it about me and what I can do to be better?"'
It is doubtless to this mission that he refers in Stupid White Men, when he writes: 'If you're white, and you really want to help change things, why not start with yourself?'
With this thought in mind, I ask him why he decided to send his daughter to a private school in Manhattan.
'Oh,' he says brightly, 'I went to private school. Just a genetic decision. My wife and I, we both went to Catholic schools, we're not public-school [which in the US means state school] people.
So it's not important.
'No, I think it's important and the first five years she went to public school, then we moved to New York and we went to see the local public school and we walked through a metal detector and we said, "We're not putting our child through a metal detector." We'll continue our fight to see to it that our society is such that you don't have to have a metal detector at the entrance to schools. But our daughter is not the one to be sacrificed to make things better. And so she went to a school two blocks away. She just went to the nearest other school.'
He makes it sound as if the other school was just a random choice, but private schools on the Upper West Side are all restrictively expensive, and mostly white, just as the state schools are disproportionately black.
'Is that a bad thing?' he asks rhetorically of his decision, 'I don't know. Every parent wants to do what's best for their child. Whatever I can afford, I'm going to get my kid the best education I can get.'
I suggest that, while that may be a natural instinct, it's hard to see why it's any different from the Republican philosophy of each man for himself and his family.
'I'm not a liberal. When you come from the working class and you do well enough whereby you can provide a little bit better for your family, get a decent roof over their head and send them to a good school, that's considered a good thing. If,' he emphasises, 'you're from the working class. What's bad about it is if you get to do that and then shut the door behind you so nobody else can do that.'
Of course, it's nobody's business but Moore's where he sends his child, except he makes it his business to detail the hereditary privilege of his subjects and tends to make his political arguments personal. In Fahrenheit 9/11 one of his stunts is to attempt to get Congressmen to sign their children up for the war in Iraq.
I ask him finally - the interview has now stretched either side of another with Italian TV - which other documentary film-makers he admires. He names Errol Morris, and a few others, but does not mention Nick Broomfield, whose signature style of putting himself in the frame Moore has to some extent borrowed. I ask how he rates Broomfield.
He pauses. 'I consider him a friend.'
I wait for his answer, as he tucks into a bowl of pickles.
'Do you think he wants to be on camera?' he puts the question back to me. 'Do you think he looks like he's enjoying it?'
What I think, after my short time in his company, is that Moore is a man you would not want as an opponent, but also one you'd think twice about calling a friend. Though a talented film-maker and a clever showman, a populist who knows how to play the maverick, he is too often both big-headed and small-minded. In his desire to be seen as the decent man telling truth to power, he is too ready to blame those less powerful than himself for his shortcomings. He was justly revered in the Palais, but out on the street no one had a kind word to say about him. At Cannes, Moore may have been the star but he was not, it seems, the man of the people.
Michael Moore's controversial documentary, Fahrenheit 9/11, which has received its world premiere at Cannes, has met with a mixed response from UK and US critics:
What's remarkable here isn't Moore's political animosity or ticklish wit. It's the well-argued, heartfelt power of his persuasion. Even though there are many things here that we have already learned, Moore puts it all together. It's a look back that feels like a new gaze forward.
Documentaries turn up cinema heat
This is an angry film about greed, the abuse of power, the betrayal of the people by their leaders. Moore says he hopes to keep it up to date between now and a pre-election US release in July - assuming Miramax find a distributor to their liking. Republicans will be infuriated by the film's simple emotional message. The rest of us will hope it reaches as wide a congregation as The Passion Of The Christ.
Moore's big omission is Tony Blair and the UK. He has a clever pastiche of the opening title-sequence of the old TV western Bonanza, with Bush and Blair mocked up to look like cowboys. But in a section about the ramshackle "coalition of the willing" which was supposed to lend international legitimacy to the invasion, there is no mention of the part played by this country. This can only be because of Moore's insistence on America's international isolation and arrogance. It's a strange, skewed perspective.
Fahrenheit 9/11 may be seen as another example of the liberal media preaching to its own choir. But Moore is such a clever assembler of huge accusations and minor peccadilloes that the film should engage audiences of all political persuasions.
It's a storming work of tempered polemic, gripping from start to last, that uses the war in Iraq as a starting point for offering a largely convincing class-based analysis of contemporary America. Small wonder that few US distributors want to touch it.
There are still some classic Moore moments here, notably when squirming US congressmen are invited to sign up their own children to fight in Iraq. The director has always been strongest on the cusp between anger and humour, but there are simply too few such inspired episodes here. Fahrenheit 9/11 hits enough of its targets to qualify as an important and timely film. But it should have been a smart bomb, and it feels more like a blunt instrument.
Told with passion and cutting sarcasm, the film has a good deal of the Moore trademarks, from a deft use of various television and pop culture clips to embarrassing encounters with the great and the good. Moore is mischievous as ever - at one point he tries to convince members of the Congress to encourage their children to enlist and fight in the war. The irony and childish iconoclasm are still there but this is a film in which an adult sense of anger and frustration also dominate.
Its title notwithstanding, Michael Moore has delivered a film rather less incendiary than might have been expected - or wished for by his fans - in Fahrenheit 9/11. The sporadically effective documentary trades far more in emotional appeals than in systematically building an evidence-filled case against the president and his circle.
What Moore seems to be pioneering here is a reality film as an election-year device. The facts and arguments are no different than those one can glean from political commentary or recently published books on these subjects. Only the impact of film may prove greater than the printed word. So the real question is not how good a film is Fahrenheit 9/11 - it is undoubtedly Moore's weakest - but will a film help to get a president fired?
The victory of Michael Moore's controversial film Fahrenheit 9/11 at Cannes is further proof of the rise of the cinema documentary.
The movie has already been accused of being anti-George Bush propaganda, maliciously scheduled to make its debut in the run-up to the presidential elections.
But there is no doubt millions will watch it to gain exactly what Moore pledges to give them - food for thought.
Moore himself said he aims to make movies that make people "leave the theatre changed". But he is not the only documentary-maker to cause a stir at cinemas worldwide.
UPDATE: October 2003
Michael Moore's New Book, "Dude Where's My Country?" Hits the Streets This Tuesday
I have written a new book, and this Tuesday it’s being released. It’s called, “DUDE, WHERE’S MY COUNTRY?” Because its content is likely to upset more than a few people, the publisher has “embargoed” the book until midnight Monday (which means no store or media outlet or anyone has access to a copy of the book until then).
They have taken these measures because I have written a book that seeks not to defeat the Bush people next year, but to have them removed from Washington right now. I know, I’m not asking for much. But I have spent the better part of the past year researching and writing this new book, and when you read it you’ll see why the current criminal investigation of the White House for outing a CIA agent in revenge is, in my opinion, just the tip of the iceberg. I can only hope that my book will make a small contribution toward that day when we’ll see one long perp walk of administration officials in handcuffs being led out of the White House and into a waiting paddy wagon. Like I said, I’m not asking for much.
“Dude, Where’s My Country?” is also my humble attempt to violate the Patriot Act on every single page of the book. And, I have learned that many want to get on John Ashcroft’s evildoer list with me. There are already a record number of orders from bookstores across the country. The first printing alone is almost one million copies (my last book’s first printing was 50,000). Chapters include “Oil’s Well That Ends Well,” “The United States of BOO!”, “How to Talk to Your Conservative Brother-in-law,” and more. (Click here to see the cover that will win me a free ticket to Gitmo)
If you get the New York Times, you may have noticed a mysterious ad for the past four days in the Arts section. Each day, the ad simply asks a new, pointed question of Mr. Bush. They are questions from my new book, from a chapter entitled, “Seven Questions for George of Arabia.” We are running one ad each day until the book comes out on Tuesday. In case you’ve missed them, here are the first four:
1. Dear Mr. Bush, is it true that the bin Ladens have had business relations with you and your family off and on for the past 25 years?
2. Dear “Mr. President,” what is the “special relationship” between the Bushes and the Saudi royal family?
3. Dear “Mr. President,” who attacked the United States on September 11th—a guy on dialysis from a cave in Afghanistan, or our friends, the Saudi Arabians?
4. Dear “Mr. President,” why did you allow a private Saudi jet to fly around the U.S. in the days after September 11th and pick up members of the bin Laden family and then fly them out of the country without a proper investigation by the FBI?
In my book, I provide some of the answers and all of the background evidence. It is astounding, and it is criminal. Will there be one Democrat in Congress willing to begin the investigation?
After the book’s release, I take off on a 30-city tour over 25 days. Many of these dates are already sold-out, so check my website first to see where you can find me. I will also be on the “Today Show” on Tuesday, and “The View” and “Conan” on Wednesday.
You may want to stay in touch with my website as I’ll be putting up a lot of new stuff over the next few days and weeks. I’m also planning to keep a diary of my tour, complete with photos from the road.
For me, this is the kickoff of a 12-month campaign for regime change in Washington, DC. I hope you can join me and the millions of other Americans who are committed to Bush Removal in ’04. “Dude, Where’s My Country?” is my guidebook on how to create a majority of sane Americans who are increasingly fed up and want their country back.
Click here to get your copy, and I hope to see you somewhere across this great land in the next month.
PS. As I head into the release of this new book, I want to thank EVERYONE who read “Stupid White Men” and made it the largest selling non-fiction hardcover book of the year. It is now in its 53rd printing in the U.S., with over 4 million copies sold worldwide. This success only strengthens my resolve that things are getting better and we are not alone.
PPS. For my friends outside the U.S., “Dude, Where’s My Country?” is being published in over four dozen countries this autumn. In the UK and Ireland, it’s coming out this Tuesday. That’s one of the perks you get when one of you are in the Coalition of the Willing!
September 2003 Update
A Citizen's Appeal to a General in a Time of War
Dear General Wesley Clark,
I've been meaning to write to you for some time. Two days after the Oscars,
when I felt very alone and somewhat frightened by the level of hatred toward me
for daring to suggest that we were being led into war for "fictitious reasons,"
one person stuck his neck out and came to my defense on national television.
And that person was you.
Aaron Brown had just finished interviewing me by satellite on CNN, and I had
made a crack about me being "the only non-general allowed on CNN all week." He
ended the interview and then turned to you, as you were sitting at the desk with
him. He asked you what you thought of this crazy guy, Michael Moore. And,
although we were still in Week One of the war, you boldly said that my dissent was
necessary and welcome, and you pointed out that I was against Bush and his
"policies," not the kids in the service. I sat in Flint with the earpiece still in
my ear and I was floored -- a GENERAL standing up for me and, in effect, for all
the millions who were opposed to the war but had been bullied into silence.
Since that night, I have spent a lot of time checking you out. And what I've
learned about you corresponds to my experience with you back in March. You seem
to be a man of integrity. You seem not afraid to speak the truth. I liked your
answer when you were asked your position on gun control: "If you are the type of
person who likes assault weapons, there is a place for you -- the United States
Army. We have them."
In addition to being first in your class at West Point, a four star general
from Arkansas, and the former Supreme Commander of NATO -- enough right there that
should give pause to any peace-loving person -- I have discovered that...
1. You oppose the Patriot Act and would fight the expansion of its powers.
2. You are firmly pro-choice.
3. You filed an amicus brief with the Supreme Court in support of the
University of Michigan's affirmative action case.
4. You would get rid of the Bush tax "cut" and make the rich pay their fair
5. You respect the views of our allies and want to work with them and with the
rest of the international community.
6. And you oppose war. You have said that war should always be the "last
resort" and that it is military men such as yourself who are the most for peace
because it is YOU and your soldiers who have to do the dying. You find something
unsettling about a commander-in-chief who dons a flight suit and pretends to be
Top Gun, a stunt that dishonored those who have died in that flight suit in the
service of their country.
General Clark, last night I finally got to meet you in person. I would like to
share with others what I said to you privately: You may be the person who can
defeat George W. Bush in next year's election.
This is not an endorsement. For me, it's too early for that. I have liked
Howard Dean (in spite of his flawed positions in support of some capital punishment,
his grade "A" rating from the NRA, and his opposition to cutting the Pentagon
budget). And Dennis Kucinich is so committed to all the right stuff. We need
candidates in this race who will say the things that need to be said, to push the
pathetically lame Democratic Party into have a backbone -- or get out of the
way and let us have a REAL second party on the ballot.
But right now, for the sake and survival of our very country, we need someone
who is going to get The Job done, period. And that job, no matter whom I speak
to across America -- be they leftie Green or conservative Democrat, and even
many disgusted Republicans -- EVERYONE is of one mind as to what that job is:
Bush Must Go.
This is war, General, and it's Bush & Co.'s war on us. It's their war on the
middle class, the poor, the environment, their war on women and their war against
anyone around the world who doesn't accept total American domination. Yes, it's
a war -- and we, the people, need a general to beat back those who have abused
our Constitution and our basic sense of decency.
The General vs. the Texas Air National Guard deserter! I want to see that
debate, and I know who the winner is going to be.
The other night, when you were on Bill Maher's show, he began by reading to you
a quote from Howard Dean where he (Dean) tried to run away from the word
"liberal." Maher said to you, so, General, do you want to run away from that word?
Without missing a beat, you said "No!" and you reminded everyone that America was
founded as a "liberal democracy." The audience went wild with applause.
That is what we have needed for a long time on our side -- guts. I am sure
there are things you and I don't see eye to eye on, but now is the time for all
good people from the far left to the middle of the road to bury the damn hatchet
and get together behind someone who is not only good on the issues but can beat
George W. Bush. And where I come from in the Midwest, General, I know you are
the kind of candidate that the average American will vote for.
Michael Moore likes a general? I never thought I'd write these words. But
desperate times call for desperate measures. I want to know more about you. I want
your voice heard. I would like to see you in these debates. Then let the chips
fall where they may -- and we'll all have a better idea of what to do. If you
sit it out, then I think we all know what we are left with.
I am asking everyone I know to send an email to you now to encourage you to
run, even if they aren't sure they would vote for you. (Wesley Clark's email
address is: mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org). None of us truly know how we will
vote five months from now or a year from now. But we do know that this race
needs a jolt -- and Bush needs to know that there is one person he won't be able
Take the plunge, General Clark. At the very least, the nation needs to hear
what you know about what was really behind this invasion of Iraq and your fresh
ideas of how we can live in a more peaceful world. Yes, your country needs you to
perform one more act of brave service -- to help defeat an enemy from within,
at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, an address that used to belong to "we, the people."
Lottery # 275, U.S. military draft, 1972
Conscientious Objector applicant
January 2003 Update:
The Time For Talking Is Over
By George Monbiot
The rest of Europe must be wondering whether Britain has gone into hibernation. At the end of this month our Prime Minister is likely to announce the decision he made months ago, that Britain will follow the US into Iraq.
October 30, 2002
If so, then two or three weeks later, the war will begin.
Unless the UN inspectors find something before January 27, this will be a war without even the flimsiest of pretexts: an unprovoked attack whose purpose is to enhance the wealth and power of an American kleptocracy.
Far from promoting peace, it could be the first in a series of imperial wars. The gravest global crisis since the end of the Cold War is three weeks away, and most of us seem to be asking why someone else doesn't do something about it. It is not often that the people of these islands have an opportunity to change the course of world events.
Bush knows that the Americans' approval of his war depends, in part, upon its credibility overseas: opinion polls have shown that many of those who would support an international attack would withdraw that support if they perceived that the US was acting alone.
An international attack, in this case, means an attack supported by Britain. If Blair pulled out, Bush could be forced to think again. Blair will pull out only if he perceives that the political cost of sticking with Bush is greater than the cost of deserting him.
Bush's war, in other words, depends upon our indifference. As Gramsci remarked, "what comes to pass does so not so much because a few people want it to happen, as because the mass of citizens abdicate their responsibility and let things be".
There are several reasons why most British people do not seem prepared to act. New military technology has removed the need for a draft, so the otherwise unengaged young men who might have become the core of the resistance movement are left to blast imaginary enemies on their Gameboys.
The economy is still growing, so underlying resentment towards the government is muted; yet we perceive our jobs and prospects to be insecure, so we are reluctant to expose ourselves to trouble. It also seems that many people who might have contested this war simply can't believe it's happening. If, paradoxically, we were facing a real threat from a real enemy, the debate would have seemed more urgent.
But if Blair had told us that we had to go to war to stop Saruman of Isengard from sending his orcs against the good people of Rohan, it would scarcely seem less plausible than the threat of Saddam of Iraq dropping bombs on America. These factors may explain our feebleness.
They don't excuse it. It is true that our chances of stopping this war are slight: both men appear determined to proceed, with or without evidence or cause.
But to imagine that protest is useless if it doesn't lead to an immediate cessation is to misunderstand its purpose and power. Even if we cannot stop the attack upon Iraq, we must ensure that it becomes so politically costly that there will never be another like it.
And this means that the usual demos will no longer suffice.
There have, so far, been many well-organised and determined protests, and several more are planned over the next six weeks.
On January 18, demonstrators will seek to blockade the armed forces' joint headquarters at Northwood, in North London.
Three days later, there'll be a mass lobby of parliament; at 6pm on the day the war is announced, protesters will gather in almost every town centre in Britain.
On February 15, there'll be a massive rally in London.
These actions are critically important, as they'll demonstrate the level of public opposition. But they're unlikely, by themselves, to provoke one of Blair's famous sweats. We must raise the temperature.
The Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament has already tried one bold and unprecedented measure: seeking to persuade the courts to rule that attacking Iraq without a new UN resolution would be illegal.
But on December 17th, the judges decided that they do not have the power to interpret the existing resolution.
It seems that we now have few options but to launch a massive, though non-violent, campaign of disruption.
CND and the Stop the War Coalition have suggested an hour's stoppage on the day after the war begins.
Many activists are now talking about building on this, and seeking to provoke wider strike action, or even a general strike. This is, of course, difficult and dangerous. Some general strikes have been effective, forcing the tsar to agree to a constitution and a legislative assembly in 1905, for example, reversing the Kapp Putsch in Berlin in 1920, and overthrowing the Khuri regime in Lebanon in 1952.
Others have been counter-productive, in some cases disastrous. When the French general strike was broken in 1920, the labour movement all but collapsed.
Mussolini used the announcement of a general strike in 1922 to represent himself as the only man capable of restoring order; he seized power, with the king's blessing, after the fascists had routed the strikers and burnt down the Socialist Party headquarters.
If we call for a strike and almost everyone goes to work, Blair will see this as a sign that he can do as he pleases.
But this is the scale on which we should be thinking. If we cannot mobilise the workforce, there are still plenty of means of concentrating politicians' minds. We could, for example, consider blocking the roads down which Blair and his key ministers must travel to meet their appointments, disrupting the speeches they make and blockading the most important public buildings.
Hundreds of us are likely to be arrested, but that, as the Vietnam protesters found, serves only to generate public interest. Non-violence, however, is critical: nothing did more harm to the anti-war movement in the late 1960s than the Days of Rage organised in Chicago by the Weathermen.
But peaceful, well-focused and widespread nuisance, even if it irritates other members of the public, forces the issue to the front of people's minds, and ensures that no one can contemplate the war without also contemplating the opposition to the war.
We must oblige people to recognise that something unprecedented in recent times is taking place, that Bush, assisted by Blair's moral slipstreaming, is seeking to summon a war from a largely peaceful world.
We will fail unless we stage a political drama commensurate with the scale of the threat. All this will, of course, be costly. But there comes a point at which political commitment is meaningless unless you are prepared to act on it. According to the latest opinion poll, some 42% of British people - against the 38% who support it - want to stop this war.
But if our action is confined to shaking our heads at the television set, Blair might as well have a universal mandate.
Are you out there?
Or are you waiting for someone else to act on your behalf?
To: Charlton Heston, President, NRA
From: Michael Moore, Winner, NRA Marksman Award
Subject: Your Visit to Tucson Today in the Wake of Another School Shooting
Dear Mr. Heston:
When you showed up in Denver to hold your pro-gun rally just days after the
massacre at nearby Columbine High School, the nation was shocked at your
incredible insensitivity to those who had just lost loved ones.
When you came to Flint to hold another rally in the months after a 6-year
old boy shot a 6-year old girl at a nearby elementary school, the community
was stunned by your desire to rub its face in its grief.
But your announcement that you are on your way to Tucson today, just 48
hours after a student at the University of Arizona shot and killed three
professors and then himself, to hold ANOTHER big pro-gun celebration --
this time to get out the vote for the NRA-backed Republican running for
Congress -- well, sir, I have to ask you: Have you no shame?
I am asking that you not go to Tucson today. Do not cause any more grief,
any more pain. Let the relatives and friends of the deceased mourn. Why
show up to play the role of the bully, kicking these good people when they
are down, just so you can prove that you have a right to your big, bad
guns? These are not the actions of a once brave and decent man. They are
the acts of a coward, as no man of courage would think of picking on his
fellow citizens when they are so consumed with tragedy.
Obviously, you couldn't care less. Because to you, The Gun is supreme --
and wherever it is used to kill multiple people (preferably at a school),
there shall we find you gloating about some misbegotten right you think you
have to own a device that is designed to eliminate human life.
Well, Mr. Heston, this time I think you have crossed the line. I hope that
your efforts as a gun supremacist -- you are now, I understand, in the
middle of a 12-state tour to help elect Republicans -- backfire on you in
the surest way that it can: total rejection of you, the NRA, and the
candidates you back come next Tuesday. The American people have had enough.
To the people of Tucson and the students at the University of Arizona, I am
so sorry for the tragedy you have suffered, and I feel terribly sad that
you will have to endure the sight of Charlton Heston and his gun nuts
today. Take some solace in knowing that your fellow Americans by an
overwhelming margin want tough gun laws -- and that the day of obtaining
them is not far away. There is one small way to make sure Heston and the
NRA are stopped in their tracks -- just check out the website of the man
(http://www.grijalva2002.com/) they have come to Tucson to defeat. Let them
pack their guns -- we will pack the polls!
October 23, 2002
The note from the sniper could not have been more clear: "Your children are
not safe, anywhere at anytime." How did snipers get to be so smart? Have
truer words amidst such madness been spoken before? "Your children are not
And so the parents of the DC area are now in a state of holy terror. The
news media is at full throttle: "Keep your children home! Your child could
be next! The sniper is everywhere!"
And this morning, for the first time, there is talk that perhaps election
day in the Capital area should be postponed -- or at, the very least, the
polls must be manned by armed troops. Fear reigns. The democratic process
can wait. Our children are not safe.
Yes, our children ARE not safe. They have not been safe for some time.
Every single day in America, at least 8 children (19 yrs. old and younger)
are killed by gun violence in the United States. EVERY SINGLE DAY in
America between 30 and 40 people are murdered by someone using a gun. EVERY
SINGLE DAY in America another 40 to 50 people use a gun to kill themselves.
None of this has created a panic. These 80+ deaths a day by gunfire do not
lead off the evening news. We have, sitting in our homes, a quarter-BILLION
guns. And, yet, not one of those guns would have saved anyone shot by the
sniper. The sniper knows -- "Your children are not safe."
But it is not just because of his actions or the actions of those who
collaborate each day in his -- and our -- carnage that makes our children
Your children are not safe because we live in a country where we value
bombs and missiles more than we do textbooks and teachers.
Your children are not safe because we still will not provide them with the
most basic of human rights, one that nearly every other country on earth
has: that ALL children have a right to free health care should they get
Your children are not safe because we stuff them full of McDonald's and
Ritalin and then wonder why they have diabetes at 13 or shoot up the school
a week before graduation.
Your children are not safe because they saw us adults allow a man to steal
the White House, and then we did nothing about it. They learned that lying
and stealing are OK, but "one person, one vote" is a sham.
Your children are not safe because one in six of them live in poverty,
while Bush's friends and business partners make off with loot from the
pension funds and the stock market.
Yes, the sniper has got it figured out. The children have been targets for
some time, and the "snipers" who take their lives, ruin their lives, run
If you want to do something to make our children's lives a bit safer, one
thing you can do is to participate in one of the various demonstrations
taking place this Saturday around the country protesting Bush's war against
Iraq (check out my website, www.michaelmoore.com
, for details). Nearly a half-million Iraqi
kids have died already in the last decade, thanks to our sanctions which
have starved them and our bombs which have killed them.
Now Bush the Sniper has a new message to the Iraqi people: "Your children
are not safe, anywhere at anytime."
Death in DC, death from DC. It is all too much, and it all has to stop. If
Bush and his NRA buddies hadn't prevented the formation of a national
database for ballistics fingerprinting, the police would have been able to
trace the sniper's bullets to the actual gun that he is using. He might
have been caught by now. But no -- we must protect the rights of the sniper
to make sure that his constitutionally-protected assault weapon is not
registered or on any kind of list anywhere, anytime.
I am sick and tired of the children not being safe. I want this insanity
ended now. Remove the Republicans and Republican-wannabes on November 5th,
pack the rallies this Saturday, and tell your children that we are sorry
that this is the world we have created for them and that we will now do
whatever we can to make it a safer place.
PS. Sniper Porn -- a.k.a. nonstop news coverage that tells you nothing new
but titillates and scares the bejeepers out of you
Michael Moore Announces the Opening of "MIKE'S OFFICE OF HOMELAND SECURITY"
June 7, 2002
My fellow Americans,
We live in really, really, scary, scary times. BOO! See, you jumped, didn't
you? I don't blame you. I did too, as I typed it! SCAAARRY TIMES!
Yes, there are thousands of evildoers who are working 24/7 to mess us up.
Well, actually, it may only be a few hundred.
OK, fine. I'll come clean: It's just three guys -- and they go by the names
of bin Bush, al-Ashcroft and Abu Cheney.
Yes, these three have put us all in grave danger. Whether it was their
inaction before September 11th, or their actions since September 11th, they
have made this a less-safe country -- and they are doing their damnedest to
destroy our constitution and our American way of life. They must be
stopped. Or at least sent on a very long Carnival Cruise.
That is why today I am announcing the creation of MIKE'S OFFICE OF HOMELAND
This Office will, each day, issue the necessary warnings to the American
people (and to the other freaked-out inhabitants of this planet) about what
precautions and action you and they will need to take. Though not yet a
cabinet-level department (this would first require removing the squatters
at 1600 Penn. Ave.), Mike's Office of Homeland Security will act as THE
one-stop shopping and command center charged with monitoring the movements
of the doers of true evil. This Office will dispatch the forces of the
American Public (the vast majority of whom never elected a single damn one
of the men who now "lead" us) to conquer evil wherever it may be, from DC
to Wall Street to the Republic of Texas.
Let's face it, folks, it's not that these are simply bad men. It's just
that now, with all the recent revelations, it has become sadly evident they
are just plain stupid ("Mr.'President,' we think Osama is going to hijack
planes and crash them into buildings!" Bush: "Hey, I'm on vacation -- send
my aides a memo!"). When George W. promised last week to "securitize" the
country, who among us felt really safe (or "safetized")? When General
Ashcroft (as the Democratic senators on the "oversight" panel reverently
addressed him recently) spends our money on expensive drapes to cover up
the statue of Lady Justice at the Justice Department because he does note
want to see a stone breast exposed, who among us feels the cover-up at
Justice stops there? When Dick Cheney disappears for long periods of time,
who among us doesn't
So the CIA knew this, and the FBI knew that. And they did nothing. But THEY
will not be part of Bush's new cabinet department for HIS Office of
Homeland Security. No, of course not! Why have the two of them stinkin' up
the room? And what do THEY have to do with making sure SICKOS DON'T KILL
US??!! No, instead, W. is going to whip the Coast Guard and the fruitfly
inspectors at Immigration into shape, those lazy bastards! No wonder our
lives are still in jeopardy -- it's the out-of-control toll collectors at
the Windsor Tunnel in Detroit! Thank God the FBI and the CIA will be
allowed to continue on their own separate paths, kicking the crap outta
each other, and answerable to no one. AS IT SHOULD BE!! I mean, where would
we be today (and how many may have lived) had the FBI not siphoned off the
resources of 200 full-time FBI agents who spent the better part of the late
'90s on the Clinton-Lewinsky case -- investigating the national security
crisis of how to get a stain out of a blue dress! What if they had been
doing their REAL job -- like investigating dip-shit flight training schools
in Florida and Texas and SAVING PEOPLE’S LIVES?! What a waste of time! And
still, to this day, not a single apology from any Republicans for that
costly misdirection of police protection. (You see, if I were to go call
9-1-1 right now and send the cops off to some stupid non-crime scene, I
would be arrested. When the Republicans did it, they got the White House.)
Well, enough carpin' about these losers. Nothing they do will prevent the
next attack, sad to say. So, at the very least, I can offer to help protect
our constitution, our civil liberties, and our precious right to watch
football, eat Tostitos, and NOT fall off the couch.
Plus, my Office of Homeland Security will give out prizes! All the Bush
Office is doing is giving out secret warrants to arrest Americans, throw
them in secret prisons and
never charge them.
My color codes of various security levels will come in everything from CODE
MAUVE to CODE PERIWINKLE. I will explain the day's "Crisis Situation" and
give you "Your Mission." By turning to Mike's Office of Homeland Security
you may not survive the next terrorist attack, but you will definitely make
it to November 2, 2004. And wake up happy on November 3.
By what authority do I establish this Office? Well, I may not be the
President, but they've just told me I've sold more books this year than
Harry Potter -- and, dammit, that should bestow some sort of superpowers on
me to protect the rest of us, right?
Thank you. Good night. And God Bless America Except Florida.
To check in at Mike's Office of Homeland Security or to get your copy of
"Stupid White Men, click here:
"Bowling for Columbine" Wins Cannes Prize
May 27, 2002
By now you may have awakened to the news that last night, in Cannes,
France, my new film, "Bowling for Columbine," was awarded the Special Prize
of the 55th Cannes Film Festival. It had already made history by being the
first documentary chosen to be part of the official festival competition in
almost 50 years. And, last night, it was the only prize awarded that
received a unanimous decision from the festival jury. The film's crew and I
have never experieced anything like this.
Now, you're probably wondering what happened to that guy who wrote "Stupid
White Men?" I know it seems like I disappeared for the better part of April
and May. Contrary to the wild rumors I helped to initiate, I was not
abducted by the Ashcroft Aliens for violating the new Patriot Act.
In truth, the book tour spun out of control when I couldn't say no to all
the places that asked me to come and speak. Before I knew it, I had done 64
appearances in a total of 47 cities. Then, on the morning of my birthday, I
was awakened with a call from France, asking me if I would allow my film to
be shown in competition at the Cannes Film Festival. What do you say to a
call like that? "Hey, it's my birthday, dammit, I'm trying to sleep!"
So I rushed back to New York and went into overdrive to put the final
touches on the film. We finished it 3 hours before we left to go to France.
Well, that was two weeks ago. I have been here in Cannes since then -- and
the response has been nothing short of overwhelming. The director of the
festival announced that the standing ovation our film received as the
credits rolled set a new record in the history of the Cannes Film Festival
-- 13 minutes long. Within hours, dozens of countries from around the world
bought the distribution rights to the film from the Canadian conglomerate
which "owns" our movie, breaking the previous record for a documentary set
by "Roger & Me" (yes, the producers get all the money and we get... well,
we get nada plus a plane ticket home!)
The day began yesterday with "Bowling for Columbine" winning "Best Film"
from a vote of hundreds of French teachers and students from arond the
country who each year come to Cannes and award one movie their "Cannes Prix
Educational National." It's the only "people's prize" at Cannes where
everyday citizens get to screen the films and vote. It was a wonderful
moment and a great honor to receive this award. The Education Ministry in
France has made "Roger & Me" part of the French national curriculum and it
is shown each year in every school in France. The same will now happen with
"Bowling for Columbine."
So, when do you get to see it? United Artists bought the film for the U.S.
and is planning on releasing it this fall. But don't hold your breath. I
hate to sound a note of pessimism or warning, but my experience this year
in fighting to get my book released (from a publisher that was hell-bent on
NOT releasing it) has made me justifiably wary of anyone who says they will
distribute my work. I wish the good people at UA all the best.
There is no getting around the fact that "Bowling for Columbine" is a
provocative, controversial film that is going to make a lot of people
angry. That is not my intention. I do not relish the hassle I am in for.
But the work I do must be an honest expression of what I see and believe --
and I am not inclined to soften what I do to appease those whom I must beg
for money in order to do my work.
"Bowling for Columbine" is my personal view of America at the turn of this
new century. It is not specifically about Columbine and, no, it is not
about bowling. My favorite quote I read during the festival was, "This film
will single-handedly guarantee that George W. Bush will never see a second
term." Well, one can only dream. After all, it is just a movie. If it go as
planned, the film will be released in October.
I have to say that things have turned around a bit for me in the past few
months. I have no one else to thank for this except for all of you. Against
incredible odds that included a publisher who demanded I choose between
censoring my work or destroying the 50,000 copies they had printed, you
made "Stupid White Men" the most-read non-fiction book in the country --
and it remains at or near the top of every best-seller list in the U.S. and
Canada for the 15th week in a row.
To now have this record-setting response to "Bowling for Columbine" happen
here at Cannes is beyond belief. It's more than I deserve and I feel truly
blessed and privileged. Thank you from the bottom of my heart. I wish there
was some way to repay all of you, like an internet version of let's all go
out for a pizza. Maybe someday!
Lifetime Member, N.R.A.
"Stupid" Stays at #1 on NY Times List, 4 Weeks in a Row
I woke up in Tampa, Florida, yesterday, picked up the Sunday newspaper, and
there it was: the New York Times today had declared that, for the fourth week in a
row, "Stupid White Men" is the #1 book in the country.
I am out of explanations at this point as to how this thing has stayed atop on
the Times bestseller list for a month. I've been informed that the book is now
in its 19th printing. Also, it remains #1 in Canada, and it has gone to #1 this
week in Britain and Ireland, according to the Sunday Times of London.
All this has occurred in spite of a virtual press blackout on the book. Or
maybe because of it. The more the book is ignored by the media, the better it does.
So, if you are a newspaper editor or a TV producer, PLEASE do NOT pay any
attention to this book! Just because more Americans are reading it than any other
book in the country for the past month should NOT persuade you to ask crazy
questions of yourselves like, "How can this be happening when the 'President' has
the highest approval ratings ever?" Just concern yourselves with repeating your
mantra of the past 7 months -- "America Loves Bush! America Loves Bush!" It's a
comforting mantra, one that seems to bring you solace at a time of journalistic
confusion. It's also simple and easy to repeat -- and it means that you don't
have to go out and do the work you are supposed to do (like rooting out the
Enron-backed criminals in the White House or finding out what really happened
before and after September 11th ).
The front page of the Tampa Tribune yesterday was all ablaze with the news
about the convention of Florida's Democrats on Saturday in Orlando. There was a
color photo of a smiling, waving Al Gore. Lieberman was there and so was Kerry and
a host of other stars of the Democratic Party. About 2,500 Floridians were in
But in Tampa, on that same night, I was looking out from the stage at the Sun
Dome at a crowd of nearly 7,000 people who had come to the "Democracy Rising"
rally organized by Ralph Nader. Tampa has now produced the largest crowd of the
book tour (I signed the 2000th book of the evening somewhere around 2am). This
is 3 times the crowd that the Democrats got and, again, there is virtually no
But remember -- it NO LONGER MATTERS that most of the media ignores the real
news. It no longer matters because much of the media has chosen to make itself
irrelevant through its lazy reporting, sleazy presentation, its obedience to the
corporate agenda, and all the blowhard pundits who scream out their useless
opinions. A political shift has occurred in the country and the media has
completely missed it. We have become a nation where the majority of citizens are very
liberal and progressive on the issues. The majority of Americans now call
themselves pro-environment, pro-choice, pro-labor, and anti-Big Business. 154 million
out of the 200 million voters in this country did NOT cast a vote for George W.
That is the America in which we now live. Liberal, progressive, and sick of the
stupid white men who run the country.
Hey, here's something that you haven't seen on the Fox Nuisance Channel - there
are now over 140 college campuses in the U.S. with an active student Green
organization. The Green kids in Florida are everywhere and their numbers are among
the largest. You wouldn't think so, not after the blame that was heaped on the
Greens for causing Gore to "lose" Florida. But they are building a mass
movement, and the turnout I saw in Tampa was proof to me that there is a ruckus afoot
in America, and if it's rockin' in a place like central Florida, then it's
happening just down the street from where you live.
The Democrats could have stopped this. They could have spent the past two years
fighting to raise the minimum wage or to lower the amount of pollutants spewed
into the air or to call for a Special Prosecutor to investigate Bush and Enron.
But, no. The Democrats have spent their time trying to act like Republicans,
thinking that's how they will win back the House this November. Note to
Democrats: You will not win the House by being your usual weak, lame-o selves. The
Greens will deny you the chance you have had to take charge. Until you get a clue,
the Greens will thrive and grow. You want to avoid a repeat of 2000? Fight for
the working people of this country! You want to stop the Greens? Act like a real
Stand up for something! Do the math: A couple of thousand in Orlando come to
see the stars of the Democratic Party, while, at the same exact moment, nearly
three times that number is in Tampa to cheer on a progressive agenda -- which is
greater? If the Democrats can't add 2+2, then they are doomed.
I should also mention that Tampa is the command headquarters for the war on
Afghanistan. It's all done via remote control from the comfort of Florida's
beautiful Gulf coast. How many civilians have we killed now? I believe the last
number I read, it was more than the civilians who died on September 11th. Oh, I know
the Bush boys over at Macdill Air Force Base have their rationalization as to
why, in wartime, sometimes civilians have to die. The terrorists of 9-11 had
their rationalizations, too. Everybody's got their rationalizations. Well, here's
mine -- there is NO rationalization for the killing of other human beings
except in the rare and extreme cases of true self-defense.
Today is the beginning of National Library Week. As many of you know by now, it
was a single librarian who saved my book from the corporate shredder. In the
next day or so, I will send you another letter telling you about what she did and
what you can do to support the libraries of this country.
Thanks again to everyone for your support. I'll be in the Northwest later in
the week. Hope to see many of you there.
Detroit Tigers fan
Wed, 06 Mar 2002
This is just a quick note of thanks for the support all of you have given my book. "Stupid White Men" debuted at #3 on the New York Times bestseller list this week, and at #1 on the Publisher's Weekly nonfiction bestseller list for
independent bookstores. It's still #1 for all books on Amazon, and, my personal favorite for a good laugh, #4 on the bestseller list for the Wall Street Journal. By
the fifth day of release, the book had gone into its 9th printing. /8/854418745145454
More copies have been sold in one week than "Downsize This" sold in a whole year. Pundits and publishers are stunned. "But the president has an 80% approval
rating!" There's something going on here, and they don't know what it is...
I am writing this from northern California, two weeks into the book tour, on a drive with my family to visit small towns like Ukiah and Arcata.
Last night in Santa Rosa, at the local high school, they had a thousand people packed inside and another 500 out on the lawn who couldn't get in. It's like
this in all the places I visit. Hundreds, thousands, turning out to discuss all the sorry excuses for the state of the nation.
People have had it with keeping silent for the past 6 months. They resent having felt like if they chose to question what the government is up to or, God
forbid, dissent, they would somehow be considered unpatriotic.
Let's get one thing straight -- this is what it means to be "unpatriotic:"
1. When you shred our constitution and eliminate our civil liberties, passing
laws that make it illegal to encourage opposition to the government's actions, THAT is un-American.
2. When you send our kids to go fight and die on a foreign land so that you can
finally build a pipeline for your oil backers across that country, THAT is un-American.
3. When you use the dead of September 11 to try to get huge tax cuts passed
that will only benefit your rich benefactors, THAT is un-American.
4. When you allow criminals who are stealing the pensions of workers and
retirees to come in and hand-pick the head of the agency which is supposed to be
regulating them, and then you place some of the criminals' top brass in your
administration to "serve" as the secretary of the army and White House counsel, and
then these criminals turn out to be your number one financial backers -- and
their law firm turns out to be your #3 backer -- and, in spite of all this you
still haven't resigned in disgrace, THAT is un-American.
I want all of you to share this success with me and feel heartened and
reassured by the response to this book. It is an overwhelming rebuke, first to those
who sought to censor or ban it, and now to the oft-repeated conventional wisdom
that the whole country is whistling the same tune and marching in lockstep to
the vision of Cheney/Ashcroft/Bush. It's a bunch of hooey, folks, and I have seen
it first hand -- and not in the usual centers of leftist discontent.
This tour has taken me to Ridgewood, New Jersey (area that always returns its
Republican congressman), Arlington, Virginia (a town filled with military
people), Grass Valley, California (in the middle of nowhere in a congressional
district represented by a right-wing Republican). In each of these towns it's been a literal mob scene.
The Virginia bookstore says that "this crowd is an all-time record." The line
is out the door in downtown Ridgewood, and the store does not have enough books.
In Grass Valley, so many have come from hundreds of miles across the Sierras
that can't get in, so I tell the hundreds out in the street that I'll stick around and do a second show. Three hours later they are still there, and I do it all over again.
I want to thank all of you who have written. I read your emails at night and I
am so sorry I don't have the energy to respond. Hundreds of you have written to
say that your bookstore does not have the book.
The main reason that is happening is that the publisher has not printed enough
books and cannot ship them fast enough when they do. Often, it is because the
bookstore did not order enough copies. A few stores, and one chain in
particular, have not been exactly overjoyed to be carrying the book. On the other hand,
Barnes & Noble have put it on their bestseller list and are offering it at 1/3
Every single independent bookstore I have stopped into has been out of books
and they tell me that both the publisher and the distributors are not sending
them books. I do not know what to do about this. I have made my calls. I am told
everything is OK. I can see first-hand on the road that it is not OK, and that
many stores simply do not have the book.
You can help me by letting HarperCollins know when you cannot find the book.
Write them at ...Contact HC
Again, my sincerest appreciation to all of you and I look forward to seeing
many of you on the rest of this tour.
On Thursday I'll be in L.A., Friday in San Diego, Saturday in Denver and
Boulder, and next week it's on to Michigan and the Midwest. More cities are being
added, so check in at my website, www.michaelmoore.com.
Off to shadow the Cheney shadow government,
Wednesday, March 8, 2002
Police Raid, Shut Down My Booksigning in San Diego
It's a few minutes before midnight, on Friday night on 3/8/2002.
I'm in San Diego, and I have just escaped being arrested by the
San Diego police. This book tour keeps getting more surreal, but
the last hour has been unlike anything I have yet seen.
I have come to San Diego to speak at an event organized for my book
("Stupid White Men"). The event is being held at a middle school in an
auditorium that seats about 800 people. I have spent the week in
California, pretty much at my own expense. Weeks ago, the publisher
informed me that they would not be sending me to this state if they had to pay to get me there.
So I called up my friends at "Politically Incorrect" and asked if they
could book me on the show and bring me out there. They were more
than happy to help out. I can't believe the crap this show has had
to endure because its host one night, early on in "America's NEW
War" had the guts to state the truth as he saw it. Now advertisers
have dropped like flies, affiliates in DC, Columbus, and other cities
have canceled the program, and ABC seems eager to deep-six the whole
hour it shares with "Nightline." But, for now, they have come to my aid, and I am grateful.
In the past six days, I have spoken to 15 separate mobs of people.
I don't know what other word to use because, quite simply, wherever
I go, there is this unbelievable pandemonium. Every day, every night,
hundreds -- or thousands -- jam themselves into halls, arenas, churches,
auditoriums to listen to me talk about my book and whatever else
is struggling to make its way through my brain. Forget about standing
room only -- these venues look more like breathing room only. A
clever fire marshal could have made a small fortune tailing me across
this state. As I look out at the crowds of humans doing their best
to impersonate sardines, I worry not that some deranged person may
shout "Fire!" but rather that someone may belt out,
"There's an extra six inches over here by the radiator!"
I have visited the most out-of-the-way places in California and,
no matter where I go or how right-wing the congressman is that represents
their district, all sorts of people are desperate to get inside
to be with the thousands of others who want to be part of "United
We Stand Against the Thief-in-Chief." Grass Valley, Hayward, San
Francisco, Santa Rosa, Ukiah, Arcata, Berkeley, Westwood, East L.A., Koreatown (L.A.) –
I wish all of you could see what I have seen. In every town, at
every stop, huge throngs of Americans who are sick and tired of
the silence that has been demanded of them, lest they be thought
of as "unpatriotic" should they dare to question the actions of
George W. Bush and company. That's what this tour is all about.
It's time to come out and start acting like Americans again.
And then there was San Diego.
Over a thousand people are packed inside the 800-seat auditorium.
Outside, another thousand people are on the lawn trying to get in.
The traffic on the street is tied up and the stream of San Diegoans
keeps filing up the sidewalk. I tell the organizers that I am going
to spend a half-hour outside here speaking to the people who cannot
get in. They are, after all, like me -- slackers who are habitually
late. The crowd outdoors is wired and jazzed that they are being honored for being tardy.
Then I go inside, give my usual talk, and begin to sign books. There's
a 90-year-old lady whose granddaughter has driven her down from Orange
County. There's a union organizer from the antiunion San Diego
Union-Tribune newspaper who announces that his grandfather was a
sit-down striker with my uncle back in 1937 in Flint. Some punk-poet
kid tries to finish me off for good by offering me two Krispy Kreme
donuts. Hundreds line up to have their books, their "Awful Truth"
DVDs and, in one case, an Iron Maiden jean jacket, signed. I am
told that we are getting close to the time when we will have to
leave the school, as it has only been rented until 11pm. That is
not good. Hundreds are still in line.
I don't think any of these signings this week have been over before midnight.
Somewhere around 11:30pm, I hear a commotion at the back of the
auditorium. I see people start to scatter. The San Diego police
are coming down the aisle, their large flashlights out (the auditorium
lights are still on, so we all understand the implied "other" use
of these instruments). The police are telling everyone to "VACATE
THESE PREMISES IMMEDIATELY OR YOU WILL ALL BE ARRESTED!" I cannot
believe what I am hearing. "YOU WILL NOT RECEIVE ANOTHER WARNING. LEAVE NOW -- OR FACE ARREST!"
The cops approach the stage where I am signing the books. People are
visibly frightened -- and about half the book-line bolts toward the doors.
I stand up and speak to the officers. "I am the author of this book," I
tell them politely. "These people are only here to get a book and
all I am doing is signing them. We will be done shortly."
"I don't care who you are," they reply. "We have received a call
from the school district and we have been told to remove you. You
were supposed to be out of here at 11:00pm." We had apparently violated our curfew.
"C'mon guys, you can't be serious," I said. "Are you saying that
you are going to arrest me for signing people's books, and arrest
the people who are here because they want to read this book?"
"I don't care what you are doing -- this is your last warning. I
am ready to arrest you and everyone else."
"Who is your superior?" I ask.
"I'm it. Only the Chief is above me at night, and I am not going
to wake him up. This has already gone through many channels. We
are here because this has already gone through many people in the
last half-hour, people in authority, and the decision has been made
to clear you out of here or arrest you."
I have never been arrested, strange as that may seem. I could not
believe that, of all I have done, all I have stood for over the
years, that it has come down to this -- and I was about to be hauled away for autographing books!
"OK," I said. "We'll leave." I then mumbled something about the
last time I checked, this was still the United States of America
-- even if we were just five miles away from where it ends. They
escorted me and the few remaining souls out of the building. The
brave lady who was the owner of the independent bookstore and who
was there selling my book, leaned over and whispered to me, "I am
willing to go to jail for this if you want me to." Ya gotta hand
it to the independent bookstores -- they've been through hell lately,
so much so that they are now ready to be led away in handcuffs!
I walked outside and about 40 people ask me if I would still sign their
books in the dark of the parking lot. A girl gets out her pocket
flashlight. A guy runs over and turns on his headlights. I remark
that it feels like we're in some sort of banana republic or East
Berlin, secretly meeting so we can have our little book gathering.
"Sign quick, Mike, here come the police!"
I finish the last book and hop in my sister's car. She remembers
to give me a plaque that had been presented to me in abstentia (while
I was outside talking to the people who couldn't get in). It was
from the city councilwoman from the area of San Diego we were in.
It read "Official Proclamation: City of San Diego Declares -- March 9, 2002, 'Michael Moore Day.'"
"Maybe we should have shown this to the cops, " she says. We drive
to her house where I catch four hours sleep before I get up and head for Denver.
PS. I have heard from so many of you about how hard it is to find
my book in the bookstores. It's true -- the book does not exist
in most stores. Yet it is #1 in most cities across the country on
the bestseller lists. I don't get it. HarperCollins has been very
slow to print books and get them out there. Why this is, I do not
know. No doubt they have been caught by surprise with the overwhelming
response to the book. You can't really blame
them -- they thought the "president" had an 80% approval rating.
Bookstore owners have been desperately pleading with me to help
them get books shipped to their stores. I called HarperCollins,
and their official line is that "There are plenty of books out there
and the book has never been out of stock." Everything that I and
others have personally seen says the exact opposite.
So, I need your help. If you go to a bookstore and they don't have the
book, please send an email to HarperCollins at ...
... and be sure to c.c. me at ...
Hopefully, this will help.
You can also call the Customer Service Hotline at ...
(Punch in 1,1,0 to get to message center.)
PPS. This week, you can catch my Stupid Tour in Ann Arbor and Detroit on
Tuesday, Flint on Wednesday, Chicago on Thursday, and Minneapolis/St. Paul
"Stupid White Men" Shoots to #1 on New York Times Bestseller List, Bush/Cheney
Prepare to Weep and Leave
Tonight, while standing in downtown Flint outside the commuter college I
dropped out of because I couldn't find a parking space one day, I learned that my
book, "Stupid White Men...and Other Sorry Excuses for the State of the Nation" is
now the #1 book in the country on the New York Times Bestseller List.
I want to thank all of you who bought the book and made this happen. I am truly
grateful and I want you to know how much I appreciate you.
The book went into its FOURTEENTH printing today, and has now sold hundreds of
thousands of copies.
The #1 ranking will appear in the Sunday March 23rd edition of the Book Review
section of the New York Times.
I just wanted to get this brief note out to you so you could share in the good
Also, if you live in the Chicago area, a second event has been scheduled for
this evening at the Walter Payton School at 9pm (the first one at 7pm is nearly
sold out). You do not have to have bought the book from the sponsoring bookstore
in order to get in. All are welcome. And Friday night, I'm in
The publisher is rushing the book to press in Great Britain where it is already
on the bestseller list without any books being available for sale. You can find
it in the stores within the next 10 days.
More dates to be added to the book tour, especially in Canada...
Thanks again, everyone.
College parking lot dropout
Monday, March 18, 2002
Hey, whose idea was it to keep this diary? I guess I thought I would have a
normal book tour, and each night before bedtime I would have a few minutes to type
up what happened today...
Bedtime? What's bedtime?
A good night for me these past two weeks is three hours of sleep. The week of
March 3rd was spent mostly in the state of California. Much of it involved
driving -- and because every venue that had invited me was too small, I would tell
the crowds to come back in a couple hours and I'd do it all over again. If too
many came back the second time, I would ask that crowd inside, "Would you mind
watching a video of mine while I spend a half-hour with the crowd outside?" and
no one objected.
This past week, it only got worse -- or better, actually. I spent the week in
the Midwest -- Michigan, Chicago, and the Twin Cities. In Ann Arbor, I asked the
crowd of 1600 if they would like to see a rough cut of my latest documentary
film. That screening sealed it for me -- it may have been the best screening I've
ever had for any of my movies. My life-long friend, Jeff Gibbs, who helped me
produce a lot of the stuff we shot in the field, sat there with me in the front
row of the balcony as the film played. Now I can't wait to get back to New York
to finish it up and get it out.
After Ann Arbor, Jeff and I drive to Detroit for a speech and signing at St.
Andrew's Hall. We arrive about an hour late. Hundreds have jammed inside the hall
in downtown Detroit. The area looks like a ghost town, and the only thing lit
up within a mile are the two large casinos which were heralded as the answer to
Detroit's problems. It's all very sad, pathetic, but somebody tells me that the
new mayor may be the right guy to turn things around.
The Green Party and other groups have organized the event. It's a raucous crowd
for a Tuesday night, and people have driven from places like Cincinnati,
Kalamazoo and Canada. Usually the book tables at my events are stores that report
their sales to various bestseller lists. I am informed that the organizers could
not find a single store in Detroit whose sales numbers were wanted by any of the
major lists -- so the store doing the table tonight is Revolution Books. They
tell me that HarperCollins made them pay for all the books in advance. This is
unusual, as most stores don't have to pay until they sell them -- and what they
don't sell, they can send back and not be charged for them. To make matters
worse, HC has sent Revolution Books more books than there are seats for in the
hall. I feel bad them and promise that, if any books aren't sold tonight, I will
see that they are sold to the list of stores I now keep of those who simply
cannot get enough books from the publisher or the distributor.
We finish up around 1:15 am and head north to Flint for the night...
The next day, Wednesday, I spend with my family in the Flint area. In the late
afternoon, I stop by Flint U of M where the kids are showing "Roger & Me."
Though most have grown up in Flint, many of them are seeing it for the first time.
Just before I go in, I get a call from HarperCollins to tell me that my book
has now gone to #1 on the New York Times Bestseller List (to be published March
24). I have already heard the news about a dozen times in the past few hours as
someone at the Times had leaked it to Matt Drudge and he put it out over the
Internet. The phone started ringing and I was very happy to get this news while I
was back home in Flint.
I give an emotional speech to the students. I am upset that the city is now in
even worse shape. The vast majority of kids in Flint live in poverty. Nothing
has been done to change this -- except last week when the voters threw the
do-nothing mayor out of office in a recall election. It was a first step, and I hope
the first of many.
I then head out to the suburbs for an evening event at Border's. The place is
packed. Someone shouts, "Welcome home!", and I see numerous friends and former
cohorts in the audience. What a rush this is. I am very humbled by it all, the
Border's people are extremely kind to me. The first person in line is my high
school English teacher, the man who encouraged me to write, Mr. Hardy. I am
thrilled to see him, but he will take none of the credit for this path of life I
have chosen. I want to tell everyone there that this teacher is THE one, but he is
turning red and I am embarrassing him. I sign his book and he leaves. I sign
the last book sometime after midnight...
The next morning, Thursday, a car picks me up to take me to Detroit to fly to
Chicago. The driver says he drives Kid Rock and tells me over and over that
Pamela Anderson is "a very very sweet gal." I ask him to tell the Kid thanks again
for getting me through a police line at the MTV video music awards when Tim,
the Rage bass player, decided to charge the stage and climb a 30-foot prop. We
talk about how both the Red Wings and the Pistons are in first place this week,
simple solace for what we know is just ahead of us -- another shitty year for
The media guy in charge of my day in Chicago, Bill Young, is one of the
smartest and nicest people I'll meet on this tour. His wife is Elizabeth Berg, a
well-known author of fiction and one of my wife's favorites. Bill is the first
person in the last few weeks to specifically break it down for me as to just how
well the book is doing. Bill is blown away by the sales so far for my book. He
says it is rare to see anything like this. The numbers are beyond amazing he
explains. It has a bigger momentum than any other book out there and there are no
signs of it stopping. None of this had sunk in yet for me. "Downsize This"
debuted at 15 and rose all the way to 14 on the NY Times list -- and 4 weeks later it
was off. But now, here in Chicago, it has sunk into my head how this book has
crossed-over into a wide mainstream audience. I've become convinced more than
ever that the country is ready to end its silent support of the Commander in
Chief and start demanding some answers.
As we walk to a radio interview with the great Steve Dahl (the man who once
saved rock-n-roll from disco), a CNN satellite truck has pulled up on Michigan
Avenue. We ask what's up, and the producer says that Arthur Andersen,
headquartered in the building behind us, has just been indicted. They are going to wait for
the Andersen execs to come out of the building and videotape them. Wow, I
thought, how fortuitous is this? I get to watch a perp walk of corporate crooks!!
Handcuffed, shackled, their coats pulled up over their faces -- this I had to
Well, no one was coming down. Bill asks the producer if she would like to
interview me. She says she has never heard of me. When Bill looks surprised, she
says, "Hey, I'm sorry I don't know who he is -- I've only been in Chicago 6
weeks." Not knowing what to do with that we headed off to our next interview.
Tavis Smiley is the only black host with a daily show on NPR. It's a great
show, a fresh voice for a stuffy network. No other NPR show, despite numerous
pleadings from the book publicist, will interview me or put me on the air. Robert
Siegle, the host of "All Things Considered," was the person responsible for
ending my monthly commentaries I used to do for the show back in the mid-80s. He
felt, or so I was told, that my commentaries were too out there, especially the
one I did comparing Daniel Ortega to George Washington. Then there's Terry Gross
of "Fresh Air." For 12 years she has turned down all my requests to appear on
her show. Why, I have no idea (for a radio network that focuses so much on
things like books, it seems odd that they will not speak to the person with the
number one book in the country, but hey, I don't run the place so maybe there is a
good reason. For the record, I do love listening to NPR and contribute money to
So, for now, Tavis is their only black guy and the only NPR host who will talk
to me. We have a rollicking interview. He loves all the race stuff in the book,
especially the humor, and is grateful that I, a white guy, will talk openly
The bookstore in Chicago that has sponsored the evening event is a much-loved
bookstore in Chicago. But it has been hard getting them to put tonight's signing
in a location that can handle the crowds. The bookstores would prefer that the
signings be done on their premises. That way, it brings in lots of customer
traffic and many of the people who come will buy other books. But I now have to
insist that these events be held in an off-site venue because it is not fair for
those who drive hours to come see me to find that they and thousands of others
cannot get in.
I had made it clear to HarperCollins that no store is to charge anyone
admission for any of my appearances. They are to be free. If they want to pass the hat
for a local community group to raise money for them, that's OK by me -- but it
has to be VOLUNTARY giving.
I have been lied to so much on this tour that now, when the lies come, I accept
them like a bad cheese sandwich you are forced to eat because there is nothing
else left in the house. I found out that people in Berkeley, L.A., Boulder, and
Boston had to pay to get in. Other places, like one college campus, would not
let in any townspeople until all the students who wanted to come were seated
first (by then, there were only a few seats left for the "outsiders"). On the
positive side, in most of these places, the money went for a good cause, and the
people in L.A. said no one was turned away who couldn't pay.
But it is already outrageous enough to be charging $24.95 for a book (a good
way to keep the masses ignorant and not reading if there ever was one). To charge
people more money on top of that is just wrong. But I was given STRICT
assurance from HarperCollins (after they had earlier refused to lower the price of the
book by just two dollars) that NO ONE would have to pay money to come hear me
talk or get their book signed.
Well, tonight in Chicago, people outside the event are screaming at me because
the bookstore has insisted the you MUST BUY the book in order to enter and you
MUST buy it from their bookstore. Hundreds are in line with books bought at
other stores, or online, or they have no money to buy the book. They are not
allowed in. I ask the person in charge what is going on. I am told that the people
were not required to buy the book from this bookstore to get in. But during the
Q & A, a number of people stood up and said how they had already bought the
book online or elsewhere but were, tonight, forced to buy ANOTHER copy of the book
just to get in. I am embarrassed by all this and am reminded of how little
control I have at times on this tour and how easy it is to keep me in the dark as I
am shuffled from state to state. Later, as I sit down to sign books, I ask some
of those who were forced to buy a second book in order to get in what they do
for a living -- and, for a few of them who work for minimum wage, I reach in my
pocket and give them their money back, with my apologies. The bookstore people
are shocked at this and now think I'm nuts.
Because they wouldn't listen to me and get a larger venue, I feel obligated to
the hundreds of people who can't get in to tell them to come back in a couple
hours and I'll do it all over again for them. I get back to the hotel around 2am
and ask Bill if it's OK to cancel the first interview at 7am. He is the first
media person on this tour to feel my pain, and says he will call the producer
The next night, in St. Paul, Minnesota, another 2000 people show up. People
have come from as far away as North Dakota, Iowa, and St. Louis. I am so
overwhelmed by this I have now started to hand out gas money to anyone who has driven
more than five hours. I tell my wife this, and now she thinks I'm nuts. She is
visiting our daughter at college. It's 2:30am and I have to get up at 5:00am and
catch a flight back to New York as the edit crew will be in the edit room at
10am to finish the final cut of the movie...
A primer on understanding conspiracies
November 14, 2001—Those of us who spend any amount of time searching for information on the Internet have noticed that the number of conspiracy theories involving US government actions, in a wide variety of areas, have exploded off the charts. This is particularly true in matters evolving from September 11, 2001.
By James Higdon
While conspiracy theories surrounding watershed events are not unusual, I believe that the extreme number of theories that we are currently experiencing derive from the fact that we are being provided with so little information from within our national borders that we have a need to answer our own questions. The mainstream press, trying to imbue a frat boy Napoleon with God-like virtue by selling all the stories that Karl Rove wants sold, and giving the press' civic responsibility as government watchdogs a pass, are failing to provide even enough lies to sustain us against the few facts that are able to leak out.. The "Fourth Estate," still apparently hampered by a few remaining ethics, has failed to become the efficient propaganda machine necessary to provide the bastard child with royal legitimacy.
I think that these conspiracy theories are a good thing, whether or not they are true. One or two of them may make so much sense, in the face of available information, that they may take hold of popular thought and require the government to disprove them. As such, they become the questions the press refuses to ask. I've tried to answer a few of my own questions, and what I've come up with by searching the Internet and foreign news services isn't pretty. But I have to make sense out of the lack of sense that our government is displaying for all the world. Either we are witnessing the most incompetent administration of all time (a strong possibility), or there is some design to this madness.
The specious sound-bite, always provided by the mainstream press to dispel conspiracy theories, is that the conspiracy would have to be so vast that it couldn't possibly remain a secret in the Beltway sieve of leaked information. Join me in upending the misinformation that a conspiracy need be "vast" (at least in regard to specific knowledge of the overall plan) in order to have a major impact on national or world events. Let's start by examining what a conspiracy actually is.
Just a Little Agreement Between Friends
The common law definition of conspiracy is quite simple. An agreement between two or more persons to do either an unlawful act, or a lawful act by unlawful means. And frankly, early in common law, neither the act nor the means needed to be unlawful, but merely wrongful. But for the sake of simplicity in our examination, the crime has developed over the years to where a minimum of two people must reach agreement to either seek a lawful purpose by unlawful means, or an unlawful purpose by any means. The conspirators need not carry out their goal through any spoken or written contract, but actions alone can imply the agreement between them if their actions suggest that such acts would not have been carried out absent an agreement.
This touches, somewhat, on the reason that we recognize such a crime to begin with. For surely we could simply convict anyone who commits a crime, agreed on with someone else or not, of the crime he actually committed. The problem arises where some of the members of the conspiracy carry out no illegal act whatever, and achieve no benefit from the target crime. They conduct purely legal activity and achieve their benefits from those lawful acts, so that others may benefit from the unlawful result. The law provides that participation in the conspiracy itself is a crime so that the lawful actor, knowingly seeking the occurrence of an unlawful event, will not escape liability.
But if that lawful actor has knowledge that the target result will, or may foreseeably, result in an event that costs lives, shouldn't that person suffer more liability than a simple conviction for conspiracy? The solution is in what is called vicarious criminal liability. If a prosecutor can prove that one who acted under the law, but whose actions furthered the unlawful result, that such individual(s) had knowledge of the intended result, and conducted activity accordingly, that person, or persons are vicariously criminally liable for all criminal acts committed in the due course of the conspiracy, and can be punished as though they committed the target crimes, or even the reasonably foreseeable crimes, themselves.
Over time, the law has recognized three types of conspiracies. First is the simple conspiracy that we commonly think of where, for instance, two or more get together with the intention of robbing a bank. The second is most often referred to as a "chain link" conspiracy, the best example of which is a series of drug deals, from manufacturer to the street dealer. Each group of individuals go about their function, committing illegal transaction after illegal transaction. Each link is only vicariously criminally liable for the crimes of the other links if they have known of the specific role of each link, as each link carries out its unlawful activity.
When Hillary Clinton talks of a "vast right wing conspiracy" to bring down her husband, the mainstream media calls to mind the first type; discrediting the notion that large numbers of individuals in the courts, in the press, in business, and in politics must have sat in some convention hall somewhere to devise a common plan to attack her husband, and then to have maintained the secret. But, in fact, what the former First Lady was referring to was a third type of conspiracy. Commonly called a "hub and wheel," or a "spoke and wheel" conspiracy. It is the most intricate, and the most difficult for a prosecutor to prove. It requires a minimum of people in the hub with actual knowledge of the overall plan, as long as the hub has diverse influence over the various spokes. This is the type of conspiracy that is most common in corporate crimes, such as anti-trust, free trade infringements, and SEC violations.
For a clear picture of this, imagine a wagon wheel. The hub, the portion attached to the axle, is an individual or group who devises the overall plan, represented by the rim of the wheel, the portion that meets the ground. In between, and reaching out in all directions, are the spokes. The spokes are essentially the tools, used by the hub, to transport the hub's intentions to the business end, the rim. The hub and wheel conspiracy can be as simple as a wagon wheel, or it can be as complex as the wire mesh of spokes on a Jaguar XKE where, sometimes, even the spokes seem to have spokes. But the principle is the same. Few, if any, of the spokes need act in an unlawful manner, and few, if any, need to have any knowledge of the intentions of the hub. Similar to the chain and link conspiracy, the spokes are only vicariously criminally liable for the actions of the other spokes or the hub, if they have knowledge of the criminal activity of those entities, and the final business of the rim.
For a simple example, let's play out Clinton's "vast right wing conspiracy" to discredit Bill Clinton's presidency (the rim), from a suggested hub and a few of the spokes. For the purposes of discussion, let's call Richard Mellon Scaife the hub. He is a man with a great deal of control over the press (at least the press he owns), and he has a great deal of political influence (controlling a number of foundations, funding several PACs and many political candidates). He has also been known to own a judge or two in his time, giving him influence over at least a portion of the judiciary.
Carrying this through with some known facts, Scaife (the hub) hires some private detectives (spokes) to dig up as much dirt on Bill Clinton as possible. It doesn't matter if it's stuff that is provable or even true, just so long as it's difficult to disprove. (It should be noted here that it is always intensely more difficult to prove that something never occurred than to prove something did occur, and this is why our system of justice demands of the prosecution or the plaintiff to prove that the defendant committed an act rather than demanding that the defendant prove that he didn't.) The hub hires "journalists" to write stories for his publications that carry this material, that is not easily disproved, to extremes. Editors are instructed to spend little time cross checking facts in the articles written by the journalists. The hub uses his political influence to bring about congressional hearings, even giving publicized support by having Scaife's media editorials demand investigations as well as the appointment of an independent counsel. That influence, both political and judicial, gets carried over to get Scaife's bought and paid for lawyer, Kenneth Starr, named to head the investigation. It certainly helps that Starr has his own political bone to pick with Bill Clinton. The private investigators continue to feed the "journalists," who feed Scaife's political lackeys and the Grand Inquisitor with endless material to investigate and, subsequently, to feed to grand juries. In the mean time, the political action committees are set into the field, filing lawsuit after lawsuit against the president and his associates. It is all designed to put Clinton, and every person he has shaken hands with, under oath, for the purpose of snaring any or all in a perjury trap, which will ultimately be used as sufficient grounds for impeachment.
This, of course, is somewhat simplistic, but it serves our purpose. We see here a hub (Scaife), and spokes (private investigators, PACs, political lackeys, Ken Starr, journalists and editors, and the judiciary), all working toward the rim (the unlawful purpose of undermining the authority of the President of the United States by the use of defamation). We see, also, that all (except for Scaife and his immediate circle) are conducting lawful activity and benefiting accordingly, that few need even know of the underlying intentions of the others, and that there is only one person, or at least a very few, who understand the workings of the entire wheel. But it is a conspiracy nonetheless. Even though it only has the outward appearance of a "loose cabal," as described by Joe Conason and Gene Lyons in their excellent work, The Hunting of the President. Sadly, I believe that this is something more than an analogy, and that the book by Conason and Lyons is the most accurate historical record of the events of the late 1990s.
Allow me to say here that I believe that the phrase "history is written by the winners" is too general a statement. Recent history is written by the winners. As for the rest, I agree with Lincoln that we cannot escape history. I believe that each and every one of us will be ultimately remembered "in honor, or dishonor, to the latest generation." Ken Starr, for example, will be known by our children, or our children's children, as a petty and vile man—a man out of time, a fifteenth century man wheeling corrupting influence into the late twentieth century. If there is any doubt, just read his recent comments in the Washington Post, arguing that torture, disappearances, and threats against family are viable, present day police powers, and that we should return to them.
At any rate, the key for any effective hub is to recognize the self-interest of his spokes, to manipulate them accordingly, and to allow each spoke only the knowledge that it needs to further those interests. Returning to our analogy for a moment, those working directly for Scaife, and for him by extension (the private investigators, and the journalists/editors) must please their employer to advance their careers and/or their fame. The PACs and political lackeys must find means to continue Scaife foundation contributions to their campaigns and political agendas. The ambitious Mr. Starr, in addition to being only one of two prosecutors to bring about the impeachment of an American president, a president whose politics Starr finds repugnant, must remove the Democrat if his dream of becoming a Supreme Court Justice is to be fulfilled.
Following this reasoning, entire corporate conglomerates can be set in motion as spokes if they can be convinced that their corporate interests are best served by giving support to the hub, whether or not they fully appreciate precisely what they are ultimately supporting. In this manner a "Fourth Estate," that is primarily owned by a few megacorporations, can relatively quickly be transformed into the officially sanctioned propaganda engine of one who wishes to become a dictator. If you doubt this, I suggest that you examine the history of Adolph Hitler's relationship with the German press as that country was transformed from a republic, that aspired to democratically achieve justice for all of its citizens to the most oppressive dictatorship the world has ever known, ultimately murdering millions of Europeans.
In a well written series of articles by David Podvin and Carolyn Kay, at www.makethemaccountable.com, Podvin and Kay analyze Jack Welch's transformation of NBC News into the pursuer of GE corporate interests, completely abandoning public trust as mandated by the Fairness Doctrine, and skewing the 2000 presidential election coverage in order to push the nation toward electing an apparent incompetent illiterate. Further, Podvin and Kay follow the extenuation of the Welch philosophy to the rest of the corporately owned broadcast and print news media.
After outlining the self-interest involved in the mainstream press' getting Bush elected, Podvin and Kay discount the notion that there is any conspiracy here, but rather a simple matter of corporations seeking dramatic financial gain on their own behalf. But the flaw in the reasoning of Podvin and Kay is that they merely examine spokes and go no further. Part of the Watergate lexicon tells us to "follow the money." But for an effective hub and wheel conspiracy, much more is required. Often by merely following the money, only the spokes are examined, which never leads the investigators to either the rim or the hub. An investigator must also ask, "What larger environmental change has the profit of the spoke led to?" and "Who has the proper connections to manipulate all of the spokes, and which of those people have greatly profited by the larger change in the environment?"
Convert This Wagon to an XKE
Every week the little emperor, and the Anti-justice Department issue a fresh warning that more Americans are about to be murdered in massive numbers. In answer to this, we are force fed the USA Patriot Act. This piece of constitutional sedition, passed by all Republicans and almost all Democrats (that many now admit they never read in full) pretends to attack foreigners who come to this country with terrorism on their minds. Make no mistake, this act is so loosely worded that, as I write this, Ashcroft could decide, in a heartbeat, that this writing supports a terrorist cause. He could then have me arrested without a warrant, hold me incommunicado, confiscate my property, search all of my personal effects and, now that he has decided that this unconstitutional act gives him the right to monitor conversations between client and legal counsel, deny my Sixth Amendment right to an attorney. All of this can be done—right now—without the slightest measure of judicial oversight. Understand this—he has the power to drop me behind bars for life without legal representation, and thereby the benefit of a fair trial, based on nothing more than my dissent and his response to it.
If you have openly dissented against this illegal administration, you—yes, you—are also in danger. George W. Bush and John Ashcroft, while issuing bogus terror warning after bogus warning, claiming that another massive attack (even involving nuclear weaponry) is just around the corner unless we give them the vast tools to fight terrorism, are putting a loaded gun to the head of every American citizen and brazenly asking, "What would you rather have—your life or your rights?" It is now unpatriotic to demand the rights we have fought for and protected for more than 200 years. With this in view, students of history should not fail to apply a comparison to what happened on September 11 with the Reichstag and Nazi Germany.
In this country—in America—people are disappearing from their homes, being held incommunicado without specified duration, without charge, without judicial oversight, and without benefit of counsel. In this country—in America—political opponents of the officially sanctioned parties in Washington are being denied their right to travel, and are being put on "watch" lists. In this country—in America—the doors and windows of the Executive branch have been officially closed and silenced to the scrutiny of the people, the courts, and Congress. In this country—in America—the taxes paid by the majority of American citizens are being doled out to a small elite class of Americans. In this country—in America—there is an officially sanctioned news service that openly warns its employees to broadcast no news unless it is accompanied by sanctioned government propaganda.
For those of you, like me, who have been looking forward to the presidential election in 2004 to cure the ills of November and December, 2000, are you quite certain that in this country—in America—we will have an election as designed by a democratic society, or will we have only one, officially sanctioned, candidate? In this country—in America—we can no longer presume that "it couldn't happen here."
Editor's note: What Mr. Higdon has written is of such importance to all freedom-loving people that we give blanket permission for the reprinting of his article in any publication—print or online—that wishes to do so, as long as credit is given to the author and Online Journal. We also encourage every reader to print it out, make multiple copies and distribute them as widely as possible
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