Friday, May 07, 2004

What A Mickey Mouse Affair.

As most of you probably know, Disney is blocking the release of documentarian Michael Moore's new film "Fahrenheit 911", which Moore claims highlights the links between the Bush Dynasty and the Houses of Saud and Bin Laden.

Moore is undoubtedly as biased as me when it comes to politics, but that shouldn't preclude his film being offered to the general public. If overt bias was a means by which films and other media were blocked from release, there would be no Fox News, no talk radio, and no film by Governor Arnold featuring "teah-rah-rists", as he pronounces the word.

Disney claims they are trying to stay neutral and above the political fray, which is odd for such a politically active company (see this Miami Herald story). Even if this excuse can be taken at face value, its still pathetic. (More on Disney politics from

Therefore I decided to write to George Mitchell, former senator from Maine (where I live) who now serves as chair of Disney. As I find out more about this (such as the optimum place for you to send your own letter) I'll post it to the blog. In the meantime, here's the letter:

March 7, 2004

Dear Senator Mitchell,

If we in Maine were to suddenly become temperamentally inclined to idolize anyone, you would be our first choice. For us, you represent all that is great about this state: independence, fairness, and our right to speak our minds, however unpalatable our opinions might be to the powerful. I would hate to think that we are going to have to assign those attributes to you in the past tense, but if you don’t come out in defense of Michael Moore’s right to express his opinions by releasing the film “Fahrenheit 911” you will leave us with no choice.

Nobody of sound judgment is going to equate Mr. Moore’s film with official Disney corporate policy or opinion. After all, we gave you the benefit of the doubt when Disney put Rush Limbaugh on their ESPN network. Most decent Americans won’t ascribe partisan bias to a movie studio based on what one filmmaker has produced. We all know that Mr. Moore has an ideological position that rejects the policies of President Bush (a position, it must be noted, that was shared by over half the electorate in the 2000 election) but don’t we deserve the chance to see for ourselves what he has to say and make our own minds up as to the validity of his position? I am deeply saddened that you, of all people, are chair of a company that seems so afraid of the first amendment.

The President so opposed by Mr. Moore has involved us in two wars in three years supposedly in defense of our freedoms, including the right of free expression. American service people have died in these wars, fighting regimes and ideologies that sought to censor and ban ideas and debate. Surely Disney does not want to act like the Taliban, silencing artists because they offer up uncomfortable, non-conformist work?

If film studios had taken this attitude throughout the history of the movies, MASH, All The President’s Men, and many other politically challenging films would never have seen the light of day. Is it because Mr. Moore’s film is non-fiction, because he has already won an Oscar for asking difficult questions, and because his books shoot to the top of the best seller lists as soon as they released that Disney wants to lock the prints of “Fahrenheit 911” in the vault? Are you worried that his film might actually engage people rather than just passively wash over them?

Disney has presented me with a simple decision by this action. I’m going to miss Jeopardy, NYPD Blue, Nightline and ESPN. I’m going to miss watching all those great films your various studios produce. I won’t be coming to Disneyworld anytime soon. It’ll take some research, but I have no choice but to avoid your publishing imprints and TV network advertisers. In short, you have lost a customer until Disney reverses its craven refusal to release Mr. Moore’s film. Furthermore, I will be actively encouraging my friends and neighbors to spend their money with less cowardly companies.

Senator Mitchell, I doubt that this will actually reach your desk. The day is long gone apparently when heads of corporations actually cared to listen to their customers, and sad as it is, maybe even you have succumbed to this complacency. However, to whoever is reading this and either replying to or ignoring this in your name, please consider this. In his Oscar acceptance speech Mr. Moore decried the fact that “We live in fictional times.” When he wins at Cannes this year, or when he wins his next Academy award, I hope he doesn’t have to add “with fictional constitutional protections” to his sorrowful litany.