Matt Drudge links to a New York Times article titled, “Disney Forbidding Distribution of Film That Criticizes Bush”. Of course, it could have better been titled, “Latest Controversial Michael Moore Film Being Slightly Delayed”, because even if Disney doesn’t distribute Fahrenheit 911, it’s a safe bet that somebody will. Because if there’s a buck to be made in Hollywood, somebody will rise–or stoop–to the challenge. (Witness: Caligula, the sleazy film version of Bob Woodward’s Wired, and Moore’s previous propaganda fest, Bowling For Columbine. And those just a handful of examples.)
But it’s understandable that Disney doesn’t want to get near this political hot potato:
A senior Disney executive elaborated that the company has the right to quash Miramax’s distribution of films if it deems their distribution to be against the interests of the company. Mr. Moore’s film, the executive said, is deemed to be against Disney’s interests not because of the company’s business dealings with the government but because Disney caters to families of all political stripes and believes Mr. Moore’s film could alienate many.
“It’s not in the interest of any major corporation to be dragged into a highly charged partisan political battle,” this executive said.
Despite the increasingly PC-tone of Disney’s films, and its partisan news shows at ABC, hopefully Disney recognizes that a fair number of the attendees of its films, its theme parks, and its television viewers, especially for ESPN, are conservative and moderate folks who aren’t Michael Moore’s chief audience.
Curiously, the Times article omits previous reports that Disney wouldn’t touch the film. Did Moore’s agent try to end-run Disney itself by using its Miramax subsidiary?
Naturally, the multi-millionaire Moore is in his high dudgeon populist “man of the people” mode over (temporarily) losing his distribution:
Mr. Moore, who will present the film at the Cannes film festival this month, criticized Disney’s decision in an interview on Tuesday, saying, “At some point the question has to be asked, `Should this be happening in a free and open society where the monied interests essentially call the shots regarding the information that the public is allowed to see?’ “
Michael–who put up the money for your film? Who’s putting up the money to distribute it? At some point, the question should be asked–shouldn’t whoever’s footing the bill have control over how their money is spent?
And as far as the “information”, the information itself is fungible–put it out on your Website. Release it as a book. Send the movie straight to DVD. Who’s stopping the public from seeing anti-Bush information? Has The Nation’s offices been raided? Did a MOAB hit the Village Voice? Have leftwing blogs been shutdown? I guess I missed the article in the Times when John Ashcroft ordered a raid on Moore’s 1.9 million dollar Manhattan townhouse.
But the issue isn’t “the information that the public is allowed to see”. The actual issue is whether or not Moore will get his movie distributed to theaters–and how will any profit it makes be distributed, something the Times article does address:
Miramax is free to seek another distributor in North America, although such a deal would force it to share profits and be a blow to Harvey Weinstein, a big donor to Democrats.
But Moore’s quote implies some sort of broad conspiracy from on high–from the very people who give Moore the money to make his films!
Also from The Times:
Mr. Moore does not disagree that “Fahrenheit 911” is highly charged, but he took issue with the description of it as partisan. “If this is partisan in any way it is partisan on the side of the poor and working people in this country who provide fodder for this war machine,” he said.
All in all, this is a surprisingly shoddily written article from “The Newspaper of Record”. I can understand them being sympathetic towards the far-left Moore. But they could at least present some of the facts about the guy–and in the issue of appearing to provide non-partisan journalism, at least question some of his statements.
UPDATE (5/5/04): Michael Eisner seems to agree with my assessment–“That film will get a distributor easily”, he told CNBC.