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Wednesday, June 30, 2004

Would a filmic Fisking of Farenheit 9/11 pass “fair use” muster? Could it be decentrally coordinated?

The internet is filling up with point by point exposes of Michael Moore’s deceptions. (See for instance MooreWatch, fahrenheitfact, and various reviews.) Would it be legal to compile these Fiskings into a filmic refutation of Fahrenheit 9/11, using the same video feeds that Moore uses, and some of his own footage? Would it be “fair use” to in effect take clips from Fahrenheit, replace Moore’s narration with honest narration, and run the modified clips side by side with the originals?

Perhaps the effort could be decentralized, with lots of people or little groups of people each putting together individual snippets. Surely fair use allows a person to put together one little comparison piece. These could then be compiled on a website or a DVD. Maybe some of the best could even be run as TV ads. People who saw the movie would then get to see some examples of the day that they were duped into thinking was night. Some such effort should be legal, and it and has the potential to provide an extremely powerful antidote to Moore’s traitorous propaganda, letting viewers who see how dishonestly they have been manipulated against their own country’s war efforts. Something needs to be done, because a lot of gullible people ARE being duped by this slick traitor (and paying for the privledge). Any lawyers out there who can weigh in on what would and would not be legal?

Consider one example of the effect a filmic Fisking could have. There is a point in the film where Moore has just depicted Bush as chummy with the Taliban, and only interested in waging war in Afghanistan so that Unocal and Halliburton can lay a gas pipe. So we kick Taliban butt (not mentioned) and Hamid Karzai is installed as President. “Who was Hamid Karzai?” Moore asks. Not a legitimate Afghan leader, only “a former advisor to Unocal.” Moore then narrates:

Faster than you can say Black Gold Texas Tea, Afghanistan signed an agreement with her neighboring countries to build a pipeline through Afghanistan carrying natural gas from the Caspian Sea. Oh, and the Taliban? Uh, they mostly got away. As did Osama bin Laden and most of al Qaeda.

Cut to President Bush saying: “Terror is bigger than one person. And he's just, he's, he's a, he's a person who's now been marginalized, so, I, I don't know where he is, nor... and I just don't spend that much time on it, Ellie, to be honest with ya.” [Blockquote from Fahrenheit transcript Part II, available on RedLineRants, along with Part I.]

It would be a simple matter to take the exact same footage and treat it honestly. Karzai is a respected Afghan leader (even if he lacks the charisma of the Northern Alliance leader who Al Queda managed to assassinate just before 9/11). There is no gas pipeline. Narration: “And how did Bush respond to naysayers who tried to depict the routing of Al Queda and the Taliban as a failure because Bin Laden had not been caught?" “Terror is bigger than one person…” Put in actual context, the Bush clip is totally stand up, as everyone will immediately recognize. We smashed the state they were holed up in and some of the cockroaches made it to holes in other states--Pakistan, Iraq, Syria, and Iran--where there were already lots of other cockroaches. Its going to be a long war. We are going to kick the shit out of the terrorists in a lot of countries. Get hungry for it, or get used to it. Your choice. Remember this picture? WTC, 9/11.

Showing the effect of the voiceover HAS to be fair use (according to this non-expert). This could be done for dozens of spots. Show the CNN shot of the errant claim that Gore would have won in 2000 if the Florida recount had proceeded, then rerun the same piece with honest narration: “Some in the press jumped to the conclusion that Gore would have won.” Show the CNN clip. “But a through study conducted by abcd…xyz newspapers found the opposite, that Bush would have won under any recounting rules.” Show an honest headline. (This tidbit, by the way, is hammered by Christopher Hitchens in his Slate review.)

The fact that the film is presented as a documentary would seem to open the door to broader “fair use” than with other copyrighted forms. Moore is making claims to an honest characterization, which is certainly subject to citation and refutation in the same medium. In liability law, people who have pushed themselves to become “public figures” have substantially weaker legal rights than ordinary folks. The same rationale—public interest—would seem to be raised with documentary claims.

Second, much of the film uses video that is public domain, so Moore’s contribution here is just his editing points and his commentary. The editing points are a legitimate subject for critique, which ought to bring them under fair use, and the commentary would alternately be critiqued and replaced. It only seems fair that Moore’s actual work in amassing the public footage and executing the editing points not be stolen, so it might well be necessary to collect the various feeds and splice them by hand, but that shouldn’t be too hard, given either a bit of funding, or a cooperative decentralized effort by bloggers and others sharing information over the internet.

The only original Moore footage that would be important to use are some choice scenes with him in them, which could be augmented by what he edited out. Remember the Congressman who was asked about Congressmen needing to “send their children” to Iraq. He was annoyed when Moore did not include his reply—that he had two nephews serving in Iraq—and would probably be glad to say so on film. Such brief uses of Moore’s actual footage and voiceovers, together with editing points of public footage where the editing points are subject to legitimate scrutiny, seems like it ought to be protected. Can any lawyers clarify?

I think this would work, but only if you could get it into the realm of parody- which is, if I understand correctly, the only really airtight way to do it.

I think what might work as well would be to make something of what was left out of Fahrenheit 9/11- after all, I think it is Moore's omissions that are the greatest truthsayer. For example, explain that only $X of actual money passed hands, or that Unocal backed out of a pipeline deal. Say that the facts are all "loosely collaborated"- if you know what we mean?

I think something along these lines would be easier. Most of the footage in Moore's film is news clips, which are easy to obtain. We wouldn't need to go around D.C. eating all the ice cream- sorry- I mean using an ice cream truck to make an ass out of ourselves, right?

What about a pro-bush documentary? Michael Moore Hates America is already aiming for Moore- why don't we try to prop up Bush?
Have you considered a file which only contains additional captions for the film? It would be a separate data file for use with a DVD of the film (when that shows up).

Also another "language" captions file could have similar text, designed to be spoken by a computer. So those who want audio commentary can hear it.
This is to let you know that the clip of Michael Moore's Fahrenheit 9/11 with facts fixed is available on alt.binaries.multimedia or as a bittorrent. The bittorrent version is release 1, and is 14 minutes long. It can be found at:

The one on alt.binaries.multimedia is release 2 and is almost 28 minutes long.

For those who are unfamiliar with this project, it is to take Fahrenheit 9/11 in its entirety and "enhance it" with facts and citations - as well as identify where Michael Moore is trying to deceive his audience.

While this isn't exactly what Alex describes, we didn't want to stretch the movie to four hours by addressing everything that Moore says. We overlay text during his speaking, and you will probably have to pause the video as a lot of stuff goes by quickly.
I'd love to see clips of just about any Bush speach with the "facts" corrected. Of course that would take up most of the screen...
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