You might have expected this. That the subject of this week's column was last week's headline. The Michael Moore, Fahrenheit 9/11 debate. Could it have been anything different?
So, to be fair from the start, here is a laundry list of my biases.
a) I'm a Democrat. A conservative-liberal, you might say. Liberal enough to think that people should be relatively free to be or say whatever they wish. And conservative enough to support somebody's right to keep their own damn money (i.e. it's nice to be rich and giving, but if you happen to be a rich, selfish prick, you're still entitled to the money you make, without having to pay more in taxes, but without all the damn tax breaks that millionaires get nowadays - but you're still a prick). Agree. Disagree. I don't care.
b) I don't hate Bush. I just dislike him. He's just not president material. And while I don't trust him, I also don't think that he's out there twirling his Snidely Whiplash mustache in the shadows of the White House planning to take over the world. He's a dimly intelligent businessman who has no grasp for how to run a country.
c) I like Michael Moore, but not that much. I take about 50% of what he says as valid, factual information of which people should be aware. The other 50% is hugely and inappropriately biased toward the left and oftentimes abandons the logic, research and reason which makes the other half so appealing. But he does represent something that speaks to me - the Everyman who stumbled upon a big fucking microphone. He's not polished, or overly educated, or a talking-head somewhere on the Sunday news. He's a regular guy speaking his mind, with all the thoughtfulness and bias of any regular guy or girl out there in the world, wishing that their words could be heard on such a level. So whether I agree or disagree doesn't matter. I'm just happy to see an everyday voice shining its colors brightly out there in the electromagnetic spectrum.
So, that said, on to the content.
Over the past week, I've done a lot of e-mailing about the subject - about Moore himself, about the relationship between politics and art, about the first amendment and the degree to which we all interpret, praise, damn and defend it. And so I thought I'd share a few of my thoughts on some of the subjects that have been brought up in these conversations - throw my small voice into an otherwise gigantic ring - and I can do this, all if it, because I have a column. And you don't. But feel free to publicly state your opinions in the message boards below. Disagree loudly and rail against me if you like. I look forward to seeing how people respond.
The following responses are taken directly from my e-mails. The text of subjects stated are abbreviated from their initial e-mails.
FIRST: Is this is a case of censorship? Or is it merely one company seeking to protect its own best interests?
RESPONSE: It's 100% censorship. You can't argue that it's not. Miramax, an independent label, has never once wavered to release a film because of a possible backlash. And neither, really, has Disney (I'm looking at you Kill Bill). You don't put money into something you can't release, unless you know, as an absolute certainty, what the outcome will be. So Eisner's not in his office thinking about what-if's. He's in his office making decisions based on facts. Facts that I'm almost certain, through whatever channels, were communicated straight from George or Jeb.
When Disney has to worry about the possible repercussions of voicing the dissenting voice, of pissing off the President or his family, then this is absolutely a case of political censorship. And it's the worst kind, because it implies that the PRESIDENT is the unpatriotic one in the room -- that it's the president who is refusing to support the right of his constituents to speak their mind -- and it's the president who feels himself above the laws that he was elected to defend. The problem with almost every recent presidential administration is that they fail to see their dissenters as their people, and whether it's Michael Moore or John Kerry or Joe Schmoe journalist, we are ALLOWED to question our leaders, we are ALLOWED to disagree and we are ALLOWED to do so publicly. And if the president can't make himself subject to that, can't realize that he, of all people, must graciously bow to the constitution, even when its words aim to angle against him, then I have such little respect for the man himself. Not the office. The man.
It's censorship. Period.
And for the record, I can understand instances of social censorship, where the majority simply says, "That's not interesting to us," and attempts to push it away. I don't support it, but I understand it. But this is the worst kind. This is the government's great arrogance. And it makes me sick.
SECOND: Is Moore unpatriotic in his statements?
RESPONSE: You gotta love the fact that the principals on which this country was founded have almost totally been forgotten by almost everybody in politics, democrats and republicans alike. Ever since politics became profession, the constitution, for all its great intention, has been rolled down a hill with no bottom in sight.
This country was founded on the great notion of disagreement. We're not a democracy. We're a republic, and we elect our leaders to make decisions for us and we elect them, supposedly, to protect a way of life that is entirely based on our many freedoms. Among them, our freedom to free speech, to challenge those leaders who, in their leadership, do us disservice, and to disagree on just what does and does not constitute such behavior.
That's inherent to our way of life. It is the chief principal on which our patriotism should be based. It is the core of the Great Discussion that America represents.
And so our ability -- and, in my opinion, our duty -- to question those who lead us is the most patriotic thing we can do. To keep this country honest and focused on what it was formed for in the first place.
To blindly follow and give faith to a title is a dangerous thing. Humans are humans, oftentimes selfish and limited and flawed, and just because he sits in an office, in a white house, beneath a eagle's seal, doesn't make him right, or just, or infallible.
THIRD: Is Moore's election-year timetable appropriate?
RESPONSE: OF COURSE, he made the movie to be released at this certain time. If you make a movie based on the idea that the current administration is acting inappropriately, then election time is the most logical time to release it. When the American public can digest and disseminate the information. President Bush has a HUGE microphone in front of his face -- namely an entire nation of media companies that report what he says and does -- so he can certainly spin and filter all the information that he wants the general public to have. So when the little guy fights back, makes a movie or writes a book, subjects himself to the spin of the outward media and tries to get people to see their point of view, suddenly they're picking on the poor, defenseless president? I don't think so. Moore has something to say that he wants people to hear in a timetable appropriate to the election process. And as an artist with both money and ability before him, he has every right to say what he wants.
FOURTH: Isn't Moore's biased filmmaking a form of brainwashing at a time when voters need to be well-informed and thinking clearly?
RESPONSE: How is Moore brainwashing anybody? Do you honestly think that all the dumb rednecks of the world form his core audience? Go to a Michael Moore documentary and you'll likely see a group of largely intelligent, well-educated people, most of whom, in all likelihood, are liberals to begin with, and are therefore in no danger of being "brainwashed" by anything. And if certain people in this country are incapable of making up their own minds, then that's just sad. If you can't think for yourself, then you might as well be brainwashed by somebody. At least that way, you're useful. And in this great country where education is so readily available, no one should ever be able to use ignorance as a defense for anything. Otherwise, they deserve what they get.
And secondly, we have to debate the meaning of "informed." How is anybody really informed about anything? Ask yourself this: How much of what you know do you know firsthand? Really firsthand? Information is subject to the bias of the teller and in a world when we get our political information from five or six media companies, who in turn get their information from the White House or "inside sources," it's pretty hard to argue that we know much of anything, politically speaking. And this is also true on a much larger, philosophical level, that what we know is what we're told and what we're told is seldom completely accurate. So it's not like Moore is muddying the waters much more than they already are.
Okay, that's that. Enough said for now.
Use this as a jumping-off point to voice your own opinions, whatever they are. And keep them coming!
Dont't forget to also check out: Fahrenheit 9/11