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Jewish World Review May 13, 2004 / 22 Iyar, 5764

Jill "J.R." Labbe

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Michael Moore surprised when big media company acts like one | The poster child for renegade filmmakers signs a contract with the epitome of Corporate America to make a flick, and then he's flabbergasted when the men in the expensive suits put the kibosh on releasing it 'cause it could jeopardize their bottom line?

Please. If Michael Moore is truly shocked by this turn of events, he lives in a Fantasyland more spectacular than anything drawing tourists to Orlando.

Moore forfeited his right to play indignant man of the people with any credibility when he sold out to one of the big boys of media conglomerates to make and distribute "Fahrenheit 9/11." reportedly a "documentary" about the links between the sons of prominent and powerful oilmen: George W. Bush and Osama bin Laden.

Walt Disney Co. CEO Michael Eisner told reporters Wednesday that his company is nonpartisan, politically speaking, and that the public doesn't "look to us to take sides."

Moore countered that the studio dumped the documentary because it didn't want to tick off Bush's brother Jeb, the governor of Florida, and jeopardize tax abatements that the company gets in the Sunshine State.

The links between the Bush White House and the Saudis have been established by the likes of authors Craig Unger in "House of Bush, House of Saud," Kevin Phillips in "American Dynasty" and Bob Woodward in "Plan of Attack."

Of course, reading serious, researched books isn't nearly as entertaining as sitting in a theater watching someone like Moore put his special twist on the truth.

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Defining Moore's latest work as a documentary is itself dicey, especially if this production is anything like "Bowling for Columbine." It was laugh-out-loud funny that "Bowling" took the 2003 Oscar for Best Nonfiction Cinema, given that so much of it was pure-D fiction.

Moore's warping of facts, bending of truths and flat-out fabrications in "Bowling" have been well detailed, with much more precision than Moore exhibited in the movie. Former Interior Department lawyer David Hardy's and Ben Fritz for offer the best descriptions of Moore's deceptions, along with The Wall Street Journal's John Fund's Political Diary.

Moore deflects the criticism of spliced and diced video footage and staged encounters by calling his work "comedy." What a shame there's no Academy Award for that.

Moore may hold visceral feelings about the evils of media conglomerates, but that didn't stand in the way of his inking a deal with one of the biggest of the big. His overriding passion for fame and fortune may explain his seduction by Disney subsidiary Miramax.

His defenders are rallying around the "all big business is bad" message. The author of a letter to the editor lamented that "no corporation should have the right to tell me what films I can see. ... I am concerned that this is yet another example of the dangers of media consolidation, as corporations decide what people should and shouldn't see."

Hate to break this to you, sweet cheeks, but media companies large and small make decisions every day that affect what you see, hear and read. It's called editorial control. Don't like it? Start your own Web site.

In truth, consumers of information have more choices today than ever. As long as the Internet's giant plug remains firmly stuck into that great currency generator, people will have an access to more information than they can possibly digest in a lifetime.

It is left to the individual consumer to discern truth from fiction.

Expect more of Moore's liberal interpretation of the truth when "Fahrenheit 9/11" is released - and it will be. Disney may not be the company to distribute the film, but the world will not be denied Moore's latest creation. It was selected for debut at the famed Cannes Film Festival this month, and one suspects that the brouhaha over the Disney decision will only enhance its buzz. A deal was said to be already in the works.

"For nearly a year, this struggle has been a lesson in just how difficult it is in this country to create a piece of art that might upset those in charge (well, OK, sorry - it WILL upset them ... big time. Did I mention it's a comedy?)" wrote Moore in his May 5 message on his Web site.

Bet it'll be a real knee-slapper.

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JWR contributor Jill "J.R." Labbe is senior editorial writer and columnist for the Star-Telegram . Comment by clicking here.

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© 2001, Jill "J.R." Labbe