Michael Moore's Next Film

Fahrenheit 911 is such a huge success, that it will undoubtedly allow Michael Moore a huge platform for his next film (poosibly even more than he had for this one). While in the past he has dealt mostly with issues of corporate power and violence, criticism of "the media" is a frequent topic in most of his recent films. As a recent dailykos diary has noted, it would certainly be would not be difficult for him to make an entire film on this topic: As for his film being propaganda, he says, "No. I consider the CBS Evening News propaganda. Why don't we talk about the news on this and the other networks that didn't do the job they should have done at the beginning of this war, demanded the evidence, asked the hard questions.

"We may not have even gone into this war, had these networks done their job. I mean, it was a great disservice to the American people because we depend on people who work here and the other networks to go after those in power and say, `Hey, wait a minute. You want to send our kids off to war? We want to know where the weapons of mass destruction are. Let's see the proof. Let's see the proof Saddam Hussein had something to do with Sept. 11.' There was no proof and everybody got embedded and everybody rolled over and everybody knows that now," he says.

Moore is correct on this front. The media happily banged the drum of war (because, let's face it, wars get good ratings). As a FAIR study from last year noted, In Iraq Crises, Networks are Megaphones for Official Views:

Among the major findings in a two-week study (1/30/03=2/12/03) of on-camera network news sources quoted on Iraq:
  • Seventy-six percent of all sources were current or former officials, leaving little room for independent and grassroots views. Similarly, 75 percent of U.S. sources (199/267) were current or former officials.
  • At a time when 61 percent of U.S. respondents were telling pollsters that more time was needed for diplomacy and inspections (2/6/03), only 6 percent of U.S. sources on the four networks were skeptics regarding the need for war.
  • Sources affiliated with anti-war activism were nearly non-existent. On the four networks combined, just three of 393 sources were identified as being affiliated with anti-war activism-- less than 1 percent. Just one of 267 U.S. sources was affiliated with anti-war activism-- less than half a percent.

FAIR examined the 393 on-camera sources who appeared in nightly news stories about Iraq on ABC World News Tonight, CBS Evening News, NBC Nightly News and PBS's NewsHour with Jim Lehrer. The study began one week before and ended one week after Secretary of State Colin Powell's February 5 presentation at the U.N., a time that saw particularly intense debate about the idea of a war against Iraq on the national and international level.

When faced with Moore's charge against the media, his interviewer responded with the following: Storm notes the one thing that journalists try to do is present both sides of the story and "it could be argued you did not do that in this movie." They do? The media tries to present both sides so Moore should as well? That would make this difficult to explain: TV, Newspapers and Radio Over Represent Conservative Think Tanks.
Percentage of Think Tank Citations by Ideology in Popular Media
		 2003	    2002
Conservative	  47%	     47%
Centrist		  39%	     41%
Progressive	  13%	     12%
If by both sides Strom means Conservative and Moderate, then Strom might be on to something. Moore is presenting a side of the story frequently ignored by the mainstream media. While we are making some progress in the SCLM myth, we are a long way from victory. A broader attack, including a film by Moore, could help.

Get Your Tickets, Support Jim Stork

This is the Sunrise Cinemas Gateway in Ft. Lauderdale, the Stork for Congress campaign is attending the 7:50 showing, or share some Stork Bakery food with them at 7:30. I've put here in the extended entry the same post as over on Daily Kos, from visiting the Stork campaign today.

There's more...

Movie Trailer and Game

Check out the movie trailer for The Hunting of the President, a new documentary on the attempt by wingers to perform a coup d'etat against Clinton.

Also, check out The Center for American Progress's new game, Contractopoly. Robert Boorstin of the CAP claims, "we put more hours of research and hard work into producing Contracopoly than the Administration did in planning for post-war Iraq."

The Press is a Failed Institution

In a June interview with The Progressive, Howard Dean made the following statement:

I think the press in general is a failed institution in this country. For two reasons. This has nothing to do with the race. I'm not sure it would have made any difference. But the biggest problem with the media is first that 90 percent of Americans get their news from eleven corporations so that the loyalty in the editorial staff and higher up is principally to the shareholders rather than to the public. And the second problem is that entertainment has supplanted news value.

For years, if not decades, wingers have complained about "the liberal news media bias." In fact, as I demonstrated in a previous post, complaints about the media are actually the most frequent topic of discussion on the biggest conservative blogs. While I disagree with the notion that "the media" slants left, it is obvious that conservatives, moderates and liberals alike are, by and large, disgusted with mainstream news reporting and journalism in this country. If you need proof, look no further than the recent Pew study on this topic.

The problem conservatives have when making complaints about the media is that they are unable to identify the source of the problem the same way Howard Dean can. Almost all Americans value the ideal of objective, responsible, "fair and balanced" journalism, even if we have different ideas about what that sort of news reporting would look like. In a very real way, the vast majority of the country views the news as a public trust that should seek truth and objectivity over ratings and partisanship. However, as Dean points out, the news media in this country is not a public trust. Instead, it is a privately owned, for-profit, plutocratic enterprise that excludes the public from any significant role in its production.

We want the news media to be a public trust, but because the news media operates in the private sector, it cannot be a public trust. It is impossible for conservatives to make this complaint about the media, because of the degree to which they value arch-capitalistic, unregulated markets. For them, the private sector can do no wrong, and so instead conservatives are forced to blame their disgust with the news media on a conspiratorial, all-encompassing, liberal elite.

I find this contradiction reminiscent of the fundamental flaw of the Christian right. On the one hand, they seek a morally upstanding, uniform and, above all, restrained society. On the other hand, they promote a form of radically deregulated capitalism that not only has no interest to encourage people to act in a restrained fashion, but actively promotes that people do not do so. Further, capitalists will market products to any variant lifestyle that has money to burn. Why is pornography an eleven-digit industry? There are a few reasons, but the most obvious one is that because people want to buy it and, in an unregulated environment, many other people will be perfectly free and eager to sell it to them. If Christian conservatives really wanted to make a dent in the pornography industry, they will need to heavily regulate and tax it, actions fundamentally at odds with their economic outlook.

The same goes for the news media. Conservatives can complain about it all they want, but if they really want to fix the problem they will need to at least somewhat take it out of the private sector (or, at the very least, increase regulation in part of the private sector). If the news media is going to regain the public trust, then it must, to at least some degree, be a place where the public can participate in its production. If private news media is going to regain trust, then it must be forced to compete with a well-funded, independent, public-sector, not-for profit branch of the news media solely interesting in "objectivity," such as the BBC in Britain. If the private news media is going to be a vibrant and diverse institution that represents all the varying viewpoints of "objective" news reporting, than the huge media giants must be broken into smaller pieces and not allowed to re-merge into conglomerates. In other words, it will be necessary for conservatives to take much reviled "liberal" economic measures in order to fix the "liberal media bias" about which they complain so vociferously. This is because, as Howard Dean put it, "the press in general is a failed institution in this country," and you cannot fix something that it broken by using the same free-market techniques that ruined it.

Of course, conservatives will not recognize this, because surely a conspiratorial clique from Central Park West is at the source of their problems, rather than broad, underlying economic structures.

Movie Trailer: "The Corporation"

When I was in Chicago, I had the fortune of viewing The Corporation for free. It does not have the wide release of "Fahrenheit 911," but if you have an opportunity to see it, please check it out. It is a truly remarkable piece of agitation.

Considering Michael Moore, "Super Size Me," and this film, the left wing, populist cinematic documentary appears to be an up and coming genre.

UPDATE (Jerome): Also, this trailer is making its rounds on the internet, from Hijacking Catastrophe, 9/11, Fear & the Selling of American Empire. You can view the trailer for free, or find it and other documentary films on MEF.tv

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