As Michael Moore’s controversial film “Fahrenheit 9/11” nears its June 25 nationwide release, opposing political groups are treating it as a litmus test of patriotism.
The 110-minute film, which examines the alleged agenda of the Bush administration before, during and after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, is set to unspool in more than 500 theaters this Friday—with one group asking citizens to pledge to attend, and another group asking citizens to bombard exhibitors with so much anti-Moore mail that they refuse to show the film.
Move America Forward, a national organization aiming to build support for the military and the war on terror, is overseeing a campaign in partnership with NewsMax.com to “Stop Michael Moore” and his “anti-American movie.”
“‘Bash America’ filmmaker Michael Moore is about to unleash an attack on the U.S. Military, the heroic men and women of the Armed Forces and our Commander-In-Chief via his film ‘Fahrenheit 9/11,'” read the Move America Forward site.
“Michael Moore and his anti-American film distributors are hoping to cash in to the tune of millions of dollars and also change U.S. politics,” it continued.
The campaign called the movie a “political advertisement” that should be regulated by the Federal Election Commission’s campaign finance laws.
The campaign intends to mobilize millions of Americans to send messages to theater chain executives demanding they not exhibit the film. The site lists 22 theater chains and the e-mails, addresses and phone numbers of almost all of them.
It singles out New York-based Loews Cineplex Entertainment, which it says is already promoting the movie.
“Please join us in telling the movie theater companies below your opinion as it relates to their attempt to profit from the showing of ‘Fahrenheit 9/11,'” read a preface to the contact information listings. “Since we are the customers of the American movie theatres it is important for us to speak up loudly and tell the industry executives that we don’t want this misleading and grotesque movie being shown at our local cinema.”
On the other side of the issue is MoveOn, a grassroots organization dedicated to giving citizens a greater voice in their government.
MoveOn and its political action committee headed by Eli Pariser are campaigning to support Moore and the film.
“Given how devastating Michael Moore’s new film Fahrenheit 9/11 is to President Bush’s carefully crafted facade,” read the campaign at MoveOnPAC.org, “it’s hardly surprising that right-wing groups who call Moore a ‘domestic enemy’ are using censorship and intimidation tactics to try to get it pulled from theaters. That’s why we’ve got to do everything we can to make the opening a huge success” (bolded original).
MoveOn wants folks to pledge to see the film on opening weekend by filling out an online pledge form and buying tickets early.
“MoveOn members will pack the theaters that night [June 25], and we’ll all wear something blue so we can see our strength,” the site said.
Michael Moore himself is commenting on the fray at his Web site, www.michaelmoore.com.
In a June 18 posting, Moore wrote, “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.'”
“The right wing usually wins these battles,” Moore wrote. “Their basic belief system is built on censorship, repression, and keeping people ignorant. They want to limit or snuff out any debate or dissension.”
In classic Moore style, he then added: “They also don’t like pets and are mean to small children. Too many of them are named ‘Fred.'”
Moore also bemoaned the fact that the Motion Picture Association of America has given the film an R rating (though Moore is appealing the decision, with former New York Gov. Mario Cuomo having offered legal counsel for the appeal).
“However it turns out, I trust all of you teenagers out there will find your way into a theater to see this movie,” Moore wrote. “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.”
“Fahrenheit 9/11” won best picture at the Cannes Film Festival even as it was embroiled in a distribution dispute involving Miramax, which funded the film, and Disney, which owns Miramax and decided the film was too much of a political hot potato to distribute.
A month after Disney backed out, the film secured a new distribution deal through a partnership between Lions Gate and IFC Films.
Cliff Vaughn is culture editor for EthicsDaily.com.
The film’s trailer is here.