I have no links unfortunately about the item below and I’m lazy. (ny times article and other articles)
There have been studies on the way people accept or reject new facts that contradict their preconceived (political) notions. They are more likely to defend their disproved notion and reject the new fact then not, even if, (in fact I think it is ESPECIALLY if) this new fact is from a reputable source. The softer the sell, the more likely the new fact will be accepted. This is all within the exciting fields of behavior psychology and behavioral economics. Someday it might be scientifically proven that Michael Moore and Rush Limbaugh techniques serve mainly to close the minds of BOTH the people who agree with them AND the people who don’t. interesting. So that means Michael Moore documentaries might someday be scientifically proven to be merely calls to action for people who already believe his premises. Which does have some social value. some. not a lot.
here’s a link that talks about what I was trying to say above-
To Bazin the source of cinema should not be reality in itself, but the mark it leaves on the cellulloid.
@Two plus two
@Yamamoto – dont know what that means. Source of cinema? Should not be reality in itself but the mark it leaves on the actual film? Your position thus far has been kind of a complaint about deceptive editing, so I don’t see how this fits in. Still reading.
Yamamoto, the political debate in the US has always been hyperbolic in nature. We don’t have real political debates where two sides build their arguments in a more or less civilized manner. Instead, we have two sides shouting at each other, and the side that shouts the loudest and hurls the most accusations that stick usually wins. There is no deep level of exchange taking place.
We have a greatly romanticized view of the past. Jefferson had to fend of accusations of being a half-breed throughout the 1800 election. Lincoln had to deal with a recalcitrant South which refused to accept him as anything other than an usurper who would take away their god given right to own slaves. A self-fulfilling prophecy as it turned out. Kennedy, being Catholic, had to overcome the fear that the US would be ruled by the Pope to eek out his electoral victory.
We live in a highly charged political atmosphere that for the most part doesn’t respond to reason. Michael Moore knows this as well as anyone. So, he opts for the same hyperbolic tactics that American filmmakers, political pundits and pamphleteers have used in the past. He is perfectly within the American tradition when it comes to making these films, although typically it has been the right wing that engages most heavily in this type of agitprop.
Moore hopes that by shaking off the limitations imposed by “reason” he can make his arguments louder, more brash, and have them seep into the American political debate, which he has succeeded in doing beyond his wildest expectations.
Bowling for Columbine was a watershed event. Like it or not, this was a new milestone in “documentary” filmmaking, as no doc had stirred up quite so much controversy as this one did, nor had reached the number of viewers. Moore took aim specifically at the National Rifle Association, which for years had been lobbying against any form of gun control. The symbol of the NRA had long been Charlton Heston, outspoken advocate of unregulated gun ownership and former NRA president. Eddie the Eagle hasn’t fared as well. Getting a chance to interview and have his way with Heston was a real coup. You may not like the way he treated Heston, but it was perfectly within his right as a filmmaker and provocateur to edit it any way he liked, because he wanted to drive home the point that guns kill and those lives at Columbine might have been saved if we had stricter gun controls in the US.
@Dzimas: This statement — “You may not like the way he treated Heston, but it was perfectly within his right as a filmmaker and provocateur to edit it any way he liked, because he wanted to drive home the point that guns kill and those lives at Columbine might have been saved if we had stricter gun controls in the US.” — represents a classic instance of “the ends justify the means” reasoning.
Although I agreed with most of what you said about the tone of U.S. politics, I still believe that filmmakers can be held accountable for their ethical lapses, even if they have good intentions. Likewise, when politicians use distortion and outright lies, their opponents call them out for it.
They do, but that doesn’t stop them from perpetuating these lies.
I don’t think Moore was lying in Columbine, or even Fahrenheit 911 and subsequent films. Rather, he was presenting his side of the story. A documentary filmmaker is not bound by any ethics or laws to present both sides of a story. Look at Morgan Spurlock’s Supersize Me,another example of this type of one-sided “documentary,” albeit more personal in nature. It is up to the viewer to form his or her own opinion on the matter. (S)he can either accept or reject these documentaries.
I didn’t accuse Moore of “lying” nor did I mention that he had to present “both sides of a story.” In fact, most stories have more than one side.
I do believe that much distortion is involved in Moore’s films and that it compromises his believability for intelligent viewers (even those who may agree with his politics). Furthermore, the right can so easily pick through those distortions that many come to distrust Moore and the left in general.
I think if one is looking for more balanced documentaries, one looks beyond Michael Moore. I do.
As for the current state of American politics, it is so polarized that even when the Democrats offer up a centrist like Obama, the Republicans still scream “Socialist.” The Republicans have moved so far to the right that even Reagan looks like a centrist . The level of political debate in America has never been worse. The Republicans are bound and determined to retake Congress by any means necessary, grossly distorting the recovery act, health care and now energy bill. They also don’t want to listen to any reasonable attempts to balance the budget, which includes rolling back their precious tax cuts. And, the media seems to relish this ideological battle like it would the build up to the Super Bowl.
Persons like Moore fight back using whatever means they have at their disposal, demanding to be heard over the cacophony that passes for political debate these days. If you want to get into a discussion about ethics in politics and the nature of documentaries then you have to look beyond Moore, not expect him to conform to any norms given the current political climate in America.
I mostly agree with Dzimas. The only caveat I have is that as political documentaries go, Moore has been an utter failure.
Case in point:
Roger and Me – political goal: stop GM from closing plants in Flint, MI
The Big One – political goal: unionize Border bookstore employees
Bowling for Columbine – political goal: gun control
Fahrenheit 9/11 – prevent Bush from winning a second term
Sicko – political goal: universal health care
Result: Michigan worse off than it’s ever been, unions are in worse shape than ever before, the NRA is more powerful than ever (Democrats don’t even touch gun control anymore), Bush won reelection and in his one very minor victory, there’s watered down health reform in the US with no public option.
Of course, it’s not Moore’s fault and speaks to a larger issue with political documentaries but I think part of it s a problem with Moore himself.
But compare it to Errol Morris whose Thin Blue Line helped reopen an investigation of a wrongly convicted man and save him from the death penalty.
Depends on what you regard as a failure. I don’t think Moore expected GM to reopen those plants in Flint, but it did call attention to the problem.
Bowling for Columbine did lead to K-Mart pulling all ammo from the shelves and eventually guns too. K-Mart was apparently where the two kids bought their ammo. The movie sparked the gun control debate, although it hasn’t gone very far in terms of legislation, and the recent SC decision makes it even tougher for cities and states to have tighter gun control.
Fahrenheit 911 was a flop. No doubt about it. Pretty much a rush job and it showed.
Haven’t seen Sicko or Capitalism. Worn out on Moore after F911.
Well, part of the problem, from a political perspective, with Moore’s films is that many people use them as a way to feel involved with political issues without the demands of actually getting involved, so rather than fostering real political activism, his films are substituted for it. This may comfort people, but it’s not likely to change the world.
Now we have Wyclef Jean running for President of Haiti, feeling the need to make a greater political commitment. I don’t know how seriously to take this campaign. A CSM article I read recently doesn’t make Jean sound like the brightest bulb in the world.
But, yes, there is a certain amount of sublimation going on, where the average Joe feels he is politically involving by going to Michael Moore movies, becoming a “friend” of Sarah Palin on Facebook, etc. Makes sense I guess in this increasingly commercialized world. Who knows, maybe another actor or some other celebrity will run for President?
Dzimas, generating debate is all nice and good but what if the debate you start backfires against the cause you are ostensibly promoting? Moore didn’t start a debate on gun control but I think you can say the film helped the NRA as much as Fahrenheit helped Bush. Gun control is now dead in the U.S. Hell, even this thread alone proves that even people sympathetic to Moore’s politics were so put off by the film that they ended up feeling sorry for that asshole Charlton Heston!
There are two problems. The first is what Matt identifies. That people sympathetic to Moore’s position watch his films as a self-congratulatory action. So hence groups like Moveon.org organize “watching parties” for Moore’s films. And they come out of his films feeling good about themselves – with a nice pat on the back. This is not a problem but I think documentaries should challenge rather than reinforce peoples’ world views.
Second is that by embracing such Big Issues as his own, Moore’s films end up more being a tribute to Moore’s own hubris than anything else – the triumph of the baseball cap wearing, overweight common self-stylized crusader for the little man.
Yea, there is that “Underdog” persona Moore has cultivated. More a self-parody than anything else, although probably not intentional. From what I’ve read, Moore has a very high opinion of himself.
However, I think the visceral reaction to Columbine is more in the wake of what Moore has done since than it was this particular film, as I thought it was very well done and did make an impact. Seems that Moore now saw himself as caped crusader after being able to get K-Mart to yank handgun ammo from the shelves, and staring down the great Charlton Heston.
Gun control is dead thanks to the SC, which had no right to weigh in on the DC and Chicago gun ordinances. The gall of Clarence Thomas using the 14th amendment to defend the right to bear arms. I was really suprised that Kennedy went along with this decision, as it has to be one of the broadest interpretations of the Constitiution yet, and this fromjustices who pride themselves on the “original intent” of the Constitution.
This is why I say such a discussion is much broader than Michael Moore, and should look at the ethical conduct of the media and filmmaking in general, and how it has come to shape opinion on so many levels. Moore’s “documentaries” are no more than rocks skipped across the surface of this big pond.
… or a very small part of a much bigger picture, if you prefer.