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Oh, all right. The Disney/Michael Moore thing - The Phantom Librarian
Spewing out too many words since November 2003
fernwithy
fernwithy
Oh, all right. The Disney/Michael Moore thing
For those who don't know, Disney blocked domestic distribution of Michael Moore's anti-Bush film, Fahrenheit 911 by its subsidiary, Miramax. I find it difficult to be quite as outraged as some of the folks on my f-list, though I think, like the business with NASA scientists and The Day After Tomorrow, it shows profound stupidity in high circles.

First and foremost, a major gripe I have with the whole, "I have a right to free speech" argument is that no one stopped Moore from making the film, no one is throwing him in jail for making the film, and no one is stopping him from commenting on this. The right to free speech does not include the right to national and international distribution of such speech. Or to be paid for it. Or to be taken seriously. If Michael Moore wants to get up on a soapbox on the Boston Common and complain about Bush, provided he can elbow the rest of these brutally silenced folks out of the way, he's welcome to do it, and I'd be the first to complain if he were arrested for it. But if he wants to be bankrolled by a corporation, then of course he needs to play by their rules... just leave the money on the nightstand, darlin'. If you don't like the corporation's stances, give back their money and find a new patron. No one, as far as I can tell, is trying to prevent Moore from finding another distributor, and thumbing his nose at Disney if it does well. He's complaining because it's a hassle, not because it's forbidden. And it does look like this couldn't have been much of a surprise; they'd been leary of the project for quite awhile, at least according to the article I read. If I were Moore, after hearing about the first meeting, I'd have been looking for another distributor.

Second, the First Amendment applies to the government. Congress shall make no law, etc. When there's actual legislation forbidding Disney to distribute the film--not just political pressure--then I'd worry about dictatorship. I don't like the political pressure, but the fact that it's widely reported and condemned pretty much by itself argues against the censorship argument. If the story were actually censored, we wouldn't be having this conversation, because we wouldn't know about it.

Third, Disney's reasoning--both versions of it--makes sense. In the more negative version, it's about tax cuts for the parks in Florida. Well, guess what? It's a publicly traded company, and it has some responsibility to keep its costs down. Their stated reason (and I suspect both reasons are true) is that they didn't want to be embroiled in a political scandal, as their customers come from all political stripes. Of course, the minute this film was in their stables, they were destined to have a political scandal, but that's where "profound stupidity in high circles" comes in. If they wanted to avoid controversy, they shouldn't have picked it up in the first place. There are studios that thrive on controversy; Disney is not one of them. Stick to your brand name, Disney.

(As to Moore's statement that it's not partisan, only "Against this stupid war"... er, Mike, that's a partisan statement at election time when a big part of the election is in fact a referendum on the war. If you're going to be disingenuous, at least be clever about it. EDITED: Obviously, that's a paraphrase. He said something like, "It's told from the point of view of poor people who are fodder for the war machine" or something. Same diff.)

None of this should be interpreted to mean that I'm not fairly annoyed. I think it's obvious that there's political pressure on Disney, and that's just stupid. It also shows a lack of confidence, which is never a good trait in a president. (I mean, a confident person would just roll his eyes and proceed to ignore Moore.) It's quite a lot like the Day After Tomorrow business. There's a healthy number of scientists who are a lot more frustrated with Chicken Little-ism than with the administration, but by publicly forbidding anyone to speak, that gives the impression that the administration believes all scientists will definitely agree with the premise of the movie. Which is exactly the opposite of what they intended to foster.

Stupid.

By the same token, pressuring someone to shut Michael Moore up makes it look like he's saying something both valid and dangerous, while ignoring it would make it look like he's saying something vapid and inconsequential. But no. Wee Georgie's feelings are hurt, so he's smashing his toy firetruck on the floor and crying.

Bah. The lot of them can go to hell. Can Hollywood just please get back into the business of making entertaining movies, and Washington get back into the business of, you know, running the country? I know it's a whacky thought, but really.
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Comments
ashtur From: ashtur Date: May 5th, 2004 08:44 am (UTC) (Link)
Fully agreed. Somehow, many people seem to have the idea that freedom of speech doesn't only mean that anyone has the right to speak their mind, but that others have to pay for the forum for them to do so.
In many ways, this is just a larger (and more public) version of the constant battles that go on in chat rooms and net message boards. The first time anyone gets slapped down by the mods (or whatever they are called), they wrap themselves up in the First Ammendment all nice n pretty without ever considering what it actually means.

As a rule, I'm not much of a fan of Moorer, and don't know how good his research concerning these links between Bush and the Bin Ladin family really is, but let him have his say. However, if Disney doesn't want to stink their mouse ears into it, that's their decision. It's not like they don't have enough trouble right now.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: May 5th, 2004 08:54 am (UTC) (Link)
In many ways, this is just a larger (and more public) version of the constant battles that go on in chat rooms and net message boards. The first time anyone gets slapped down by the mods (or whatever they are called), they wrap themselves up in the First Ammendment all nice n pretty without ever considering what it actually means.

Excellent point. That's exactly what it comes off as--'net drama.
calico321 From: calico321 Date: May 5th, 2004 09:00 am (UTC) (Link)
You're certainly right about the 1st Amendment, but the idea of major media conglomorates determining what is shown due to their political leanings is still very wrong (even if not illegal). I'm not as upset over Moore as I am over the Sinclair Group's blocking of Nightline.
kizmet_42 From: kizmet_42 Date: May 5th, 2004 09:06 am (UTC) (Link)
Do you honestly believe that media conglomerates DON'T determine what's shown based on their political leanings?

The media are there to make money. They don't make money by alienating their customer base. Of course their decisions are based on politics.

Nightline. Shesh. Tempest in a teapot (another political reference, IIRC). It's a bid for ratings during Sweeps month, nothing more, nothing less.

Kizmet
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: May 5th, 2004 10:32 am (UTC) (Link)
Yeah, I'm pretty sanguine about these things. The corporations are interested in making money. If you want different products, buy different products, show that you're a big market force.

I do have a bigger problem with news being monitored than feature documentaries, which are just extended Op-Ed pieces. But seriously, it works. FoxNews capitalized on the fact that a large segment of the audience was sick of liberal bias, so they started a conservative bias show and got an audience. I imagine that people now demanding to see Moore's film will get him a sweet deal with another studio with dollar-sign shaped stars its eyes. Capitalism works from any political angle.
lothi From: lothi Date: May 5th, 2004 09:02 am (UTC) (Link)
Bah. The lot of them can go to hell. Can Hollywood just please get back into the business of making entertaining movies, and Washington get back into the business of, you know, running the country? I know it's a whacky thought, but really.

Hear, hear. Fern for President! ;)
quiller77 From: quiller77 Date: May 5th, 2004 09:03 am (UTC) (Link)
Hi Fernwithy. I'm not sure who mentioned something you said that tipped me to the fact that you have an LJ. I've been reading and enjoying your entries for a few weeks, so thought I should say hello (from one former SW fanfic writer to another).
A fair amount of news filters north of the 49th, but this is one I hadn't read about before today. The politics of the situation struck me as funny. In Canada, we have a Prime Minister who stepped into his job when his predecessor retired (how weird is that?) and now is reluctant to call an election because his party is down in the polls. I'm sure Mr. Bush is just as leary about his coming date with the electorate. It seems to me that politicians everywhere are the same: if they can't win, they don't want to play. This is one instance where I prefer the American approach, since your elections are set, not called, no president can delay the inevitable.
Queer thought you had there, expecting politicians to do their jobs. ;-)
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: May 5th, 2004 03:26 pm (UTC) (Link)
:waves to Quiller:

This is one instance where I prefer the American approach, since your elections are set, not called, no president can delay the inevitable.

Yeah, I think that's the point--no president was supposed to be all that comfy in office. It's a scheduled revolution every four years. Handy, that. :)

And yes, the politics are funny, except when they're crazy-making. I don't actually mind Bush horribly (I don't get the Bush-hate), but this petty, paranoid streak of his irritates me, so I'll be glad to get rid of him. At least, thank heaven, the system is set up so that a president with a petty and paranoid streak can't really do much serious damage in the short time he's there. Too much red tape to cut through, too many cooks in the kitchen.

You have to love a system that's designed to stop up the gears.
quiller77 From: quiller77 Date: May 6th, 2004 08:15 am (UTC) (Link)

You have to love a system that's designed to stop up the gears.

*g* True. Unless you're the one trying to get something accomplished. What ever happened to that health care initiative that Hillary Clinton was advocating? Did it die in committee? Is there a dead initiatives graveyard somewhere in Washington? If so, it must be very crowded. In Ottawa, all the buried ideas were put forward by the opposition, but every once in a while the party in power digs one up, resurrects it and calls it their own.
jiminyc From: jiminyc Date: May 5th, 2004 09:26 am (UTC) (Link)
Can Hollywood just please get back into the business of making entertaining movies, and Washington get back into the business of, you know, running the country?

*stands and applauds*

And if Hollywood and Washington get back to their businesses, perhaps the American public could follow suit...or is that too much to hope for?
sonetka From: sonetka Date: May 5th, 2004 09:50 am (UTC) (Link)
YES!!! You nailed it perfectly, Fern. To be honest, I'm not that impressed by Moore anyway - saw "Bowling For Columbine" and even I, the humanities major who is ill-informed on the subtleties of gun control, wondered why Heston's tie kept changing colour between clips...but anyway, that's another story. Even if Disney has dumped him, he's obviously still got many a platform for expressing his free speech - hence, why we're hearing about this story.

Entertainment and politics should mix as little as possible. When you start getting crossovers - shows and movies become political weapons, and actual politicians start trying to act like their fictional counterparts - it makes for both lousy politics and lousy television. I'd be willing to see an amicable divorce between the two entities.
alphabet26 From: alphabet26 Date: May 5th, 2004 12:28 pm (UTC) (Link)
There's also the fact that according to the New York Times article, "We advised both the agent and Miramax in May of 2003 that the film would not be distributed by Miramax," said Zenia Mucha, a company spokeswoman, referring to Mr. Moore's agent. "That decision stands."

They told Michael Moore this almost a year ago, and he's just now making a big deal of it? And this isn't partisan? Riiiiiiiight.
maidenjedi From: maidenjedi Date: May 5th, 2004 02:58 pm (UTC) (Link)
I think you've been particularly articulate about this. All good points, especially about Moore's not having been jailed or physically prevented from *making* the movie in the first place.

(Deleted comment)
lazypadawan From: lazypadawan Date: May 5th, 2004 04:27 pm (UTC) (Link)
When the studios wouldn't touch "The Passion" with a 50-foot pole, Mel partnered up with a small never-heard-of-it distributor and got it out anyway. And he ended up keeping a bigger chunk of the box office take than if he'd gone with a major studio in the first place. Suck it up and release it yourself, Mike. (Personally I think the bellyaching is for publicity purposes.)

I don't see political pressure per se as Disney paranoia of a boycott coming from conservatives at a time when their stock is down and Michael Eisner was thisclose to getting the boot.
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