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Topic: George Orwell 2004

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  1. #1

    George Orwell 2004

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    Today\'s NY Times


    Disney Forbidding Distribution of Film That Criticizes Bush

    By JIM RUTENBERG

    Published: May 5, 2004

    WASHINGTON, May 4 - The Walt Disney Company is blocking its Miramax division from distributing a new documentary by Michael Moore that harshly criticizes President Bush, executives at both Disney and Miramax said Tuesday.

    The film, \"Fahrenheit 911,\" links Mr. Bush and prominent Saudis - including the family of Osama bin Laden - and criticizes Mr. Bush\'s actions before and after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

    Disney, which bought Miramax more than a decade ago, has a contractual agreement with the Miramax principals, Bob and Harvey Weinstein, allowing it to prevent the company from distributing films under certain circumstances, like an excessive budget or an NC-17 rating.

    Executives at Miramax, who became principal investors in Mr. Moore\'s project last spring, do not believe that this is one of those cases, people involved in the production of the film said. If a compromise is not reached, these people said, the matter could go to mediation, though neither side is said to want to travel that route.

    In a statement, Matthew Hiltzik, a spokesman for Miramax, said: \"We\'re discussing the issue with Disney. We\'re looking at all of our options and look forward to resolving this amicably.\"

    But Disney executives indicated that they would not budge from their position forbidding Miramax to be the distributor of the film in North America. Overseas rights have been sold to a number of companies, executives said.

    \"We advised both the agent and Miramax in May of 2003 that the film would not be distributed by Miramax,\" said Zenia Mucha, a company spokeswoman, referring to Mr. Moore\'s agent. \"That decision stands.\"

    Disney came under heavy criticism from conservatives last May after the disclosure that Miramax had agreed to finance the film when Icon Productions, Mel Gibson\'s company, backed out.

    Mr. Moore\'s agent, Ari Emanuel, said Michael D. Eisner, Disney\'s chief executive, asked him last spring to pull out of the deal with Miramax. Mr. Emanuel said Mr. Eisner expressed particular concern that it would endanger tax breaks Disney receives for its theme park, hotels and other ventures in Florida, where Mr. Bush\'s brother, Jeb, is governor.

    \"Michael Eisner asked me not to sell this movie to Harvey Weinstein; that doesn\'t mean I listened to him,\" Mr. Emanuel said. \"He definitely indicated there were tax incentives he was getting for the Disney corporation and that\'s why he didn\'t want me to sell it to Miramax. He didn\'t want a Disney company involved.\"

    Disney executives deny that accusation, though they said their displeasure over the deal was made clear to Miramax and Mr. Emanuel.

    A senior Disney executive elaborated that the company had the right to quash Miramax\'s distribution of films if it deemed their distribution to be against the interests of the company. The executive said Mr. Moore\'s film is deemed to be against Disney\'s interests not because of the company\'s business dealings with the government but because Disney caters to families of all political stripes and believes Mr. Moore\'s film, which does not have a release date, could alienate many.

    \"It\'s not in the interest of any major corporation to be dragged into a highly charged partisan political battle,\" this executive said.

    Miramax is free to seek another distributor in North America, but such a deal would force it to share profits and be a blow to Harvey Weinstein, a big donor to Democrats.

    Mr. Moore, who will present the film at the Cannes film festival this month, criticized Disney\'s decision in an interview on Tuesday, saying, \"At some point the question has to be asked, `Should this be happening in a free and open society where the monied interests essentially call the shots regarding the information that the public is allowed to see?\' \"

    Mr. Moore\'s films, like \"Roger and Me\" and \"Bowling for Columbine,\" are often a political lightning rod, as Mr. Moore sets out to skewer what he says are the misguided priorities of conservatives and big business. They have also often performed well at the box office. His most recent movie, \"Bowling for Columbine,\" took in about $22 million in North America for United Artists. His books, like \"Stupid White Men,\" a jeremiad against the Bush administration that has sold more than a million copies, have also been lucrative.

    Mr. Moore does not disagree that \"Fahrenheit 911\" is highly charged, but he took issue with the description of it as partisan. \"If this is partisan in any way it is partisan on the side of the poor and working people in this country who provide fodder for this war machine,\" he said.

    Mr. Moore said the film describes financial connections between the Bush family and its associates and prominent Saudi Arabian families that go back three decades. He said it closely explores the government\'s role in the evacuation of relatives of Mr. bin Laden from the United States immediately after the 2001 attacks. The film includes comments from American soldiers on the ground in Iraq expressing disillusionment with the war, he said.

    Mr. Moore once planned to produce the film with Mr. Gibson\'s company, but \"the project wasn\'t right for Icon,\" said Alan Nierob, an Icon spokesman, adding that the decision had nothing to do with politics.

    Miramax stepped in immediately. The company had distributed Mr. Moore\'s 1997 film, \"The Big One.\" In return for providing most of the new film\'s $6 million budget, Miramax was positioned to distribute it.

    While Disney\'s objections were made clear early on, one executive said the Miramax leadership hoped it would be able to prevail upon Disney to sign off on distribution, which would ideally happen this summer, before the election and when political interest is high.

  2. #2

    Re: George Orwell 2004

    While it smells like censorship (at first whiff), I think it\'s more about the Florida tax breaks...it could easily run into millions and millions of dollars, potentially dwarfing any profit the film would make...
    You know...Money talks...bull <font color=\"red\"> censored </font> walks...
    I could be mistaken, of course...

  3. #3

    Re: George Orwell 2004

    Censorship, as it pertains to true freedom and liberty, is only something the government can do. If a private entity decides not to promote a particular view, that\'s their right as private citizens. Nobody should be forced to promote a view to which they object. It\'s a corollary to free speech.

    As for Moore himself, while I do believe much is amiss with regard to 9/11 (as well as other previous terrorist attacks on US soil), I do not trust him one bit to portray things honestly. He is one of the most blatantly dishonest demagogue

  4. #4
    Moderator/Developer Brian2112's Avatar
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    Re: George Orwell 2004

    Hi Mr. Brady,

    [ QUOTE ]
    Censorship, as it pertains to true freedom and liberty, is only something the government can do. If a private entity decides not to promote a particular view, that\'s their right as private citizens. Nobody should be forced to promote a view to which they object. It\'s a corollary to free speech.


    [/ QUOTE ]

    With all respect I must disagree.


    Censorship: (according to the dictionary)


    1) the suppression of all or part of a publication, play, or film considered offensive or a threat to security

    2) the suppression or attempted suppression of something regarded as objectionable

    (Note that the word \"government\" does not appear).

    You may be correct in that it is not \"goverment censorship\" but then again, maybe not. You, yourself have pointed out so many times the interwoven nature of our government and corporations. Corporate censorship is no different or less harmfull.


    Brian

  5. #5

    Re: George Orwell 2004

    Brian:
    [ QUOTE ]
    Corporate censorship is no different or less harmfull.

    [/ QUOTE ]

    While corporate/government collusion is definitely harmful, what is often labeled “censorship”, when exercised by private parties, is an essential element of liberty. In such a context, “censorship” is simply the invocation of one’s right to express themselves in the manner they see fit (and the corollary to this is that everyone has a right to NOT express views with which they disagree). Now assuming there isn’t some unseen hand of government at play here, I totally support the right of citizens to refuse to use their resources and property to support a view to which they’re opposed – even if I personally don’t like it. If Nick Phoenix, for example ( [img]/ubbthreads/images/graemlins/wink.gif[/img] ), owned a TV station or newspaper and didn’t want to air/print Rush Limbaugh’s latest diatribe because he found such views to be repugnant, then that is his right and I would support him in exercising that right.

    If, however, choices are being made because of fear of tax laws or other laws being used against the entity in question, that is 100% wrong. But even at that I wouldn’t necessarily condemn the choices so much as I would condemn the laws and their use as a tool to silence certain views. For example, if a Church in any way promotes a particular candidate or is “too political”, it will have its tax-exempt status revoked. I take issue with that. It’s essentially a method for manipulating people into silence.

  6. #6

    Re: George Orwell 2004

    I would also like to add that, assuming government is not involved here (and so far there\'s no proof that it is), a reference to George Orwell is unwarranted here. Orwell’s writings, 1984 in particular, were about the all-powerful state. The key element there is that information was controlled through the threat (and use) of force. When a private entity decides not to produce a film because it either disagrees with its message or isn’t interested in stirring the wrath of the public, it doesn’t use force to accomplish this end. It holds no guns to anyone’s head, it threatens none with incarceration, it simply peacefully refuses to cooperate. There is a world of difference between conscientious objection and outright force. The former is a right while the latter is not.

  7. #7

    Re: George Orwell 2004

    [ QUOTE ]

    1) the suppression of all or part of a publication, play, or film considered offensive or a threat to security

    2) the suppression or attempted suppression of something regarded as objectionable

    (Note that the word \"government\" does not appear).


    [/ QUOTE ]

    Brian, the key word here is \"suppression\". Only the government has the means to suppress the distribution of this film. Disney, or Gibson or any other studio or investor has every right to not support the film. They can\'t suppress it without help from the government. Disney can\'t prevent another more liberal-minded investor from backing distribution.

    Yes, Moore\'s road to distribution will be more difficult. But watch ... he will eventually get the film out and those that want to see it will be able to. If true censorship were in play here that would NOT be the case!

    That being said ....

    Assuming that the Fla tax-break story is the driving force here, this is an object lesson for what happens when the government hands out favors ... be they tax-breaks, educations grants or whatever. If you take the favor, you have given up your freedom. This applies whether you\'re a single mother on wellfare or the Disney Corp.

    My guess is there is probably a third and maybe a fourth side to this story with all involved manipulating the truth to their advantage.

    It\'s just human nature [img]/ubbthreads/images/graemlins/tongue.gif[/img]

  8. #8

    Re: George Orwell 2004

    Layne, all your points are 100% spot-on. Great observations!

  9. #9

    Re: George Orwell 2004

    Brady:
    [ QUOTE ]
    Layne, all your points are 100% spot-on. Great observations!

    [/ QUOTE ]

    Thanks, Brady.

    I think you and I are going to eventually have to find something to disagree about, just so we maintain our street cred. [img]/ubbthreads/images/graemlins/grin.gif[/img]


    [ QUOTE ]
    As for Moore himself, while I do believe much is amiss with regard to 9/11 (as well as other previous terrorist attacks on US soil), I do not trust him one bit to portray things honestly. He is one of the most blatantly dishonest demagogue

    [/ QUOTE ]

    I have to agree. I do think a lot about the Bush/Saudi thing smells very fishy. However, with Moore, you have to strap on some pretty serious filters.

    I\'ve also been eyeing Craig Unger\'s \"House of Bush, House of Saud\". Unfortunately, Unger also brings a pretty leftist agenda to the table. I\'ll eventually take a couple of big salt tablets and read/watch both.

    I just wish someone would address this subject who was equally willing to address the Clinton/China hanky-panky. [img]/ubbthreads/images/graemlins/mad.gif[/img]

  10. #10

    Re: George Orwell 2004

    It\'s possible that it\'s all a big PR stunt.

    - Disney says they won\'t distribute it, making the Jebster and the Crhistian Right happy. (Keep in mind that the biggest threat to Disney in recent years have been proposed boycotts by the Christian Right regarding media released by Disney subsidiaries. We\'re talking lots of families with kids here.)

    - It splashes information about the film all over the news media. Free advertising!

    - Miramax continues with it\'s international business plan.

    - Miramax finds a co-distributor for the US.

    - Everybody who wants to see the film sees the film.

    - Disney makes as much money as possible without the risk of boycotts and political backlash.

    - Whoever wins the presidency will continue to pander to the media and vice versa. (I saw President George Bush in person once - at NAB circa 1990. He knew that the broadcasters held a lot of the cards for his re-election campaign. His topic? The importance of US propoganda broadcasted across foreign borders. He phrased in differently as I recall...)

    I will plan to see the film, and I have little doubt that I will be able to see it on the big screen in the US - though I\'ll likely have to drive to downtown Portland to do so.

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