Faked headline in Farenheit 9/11?

I haven't seen Fheit 9/11 yet. I'm glad it's having some sort of impact that will help boot Bush out. But, I am concerned with the reports of questionable accuracy in the movie. Found this in our local paper this morning. Apparently, there's a flash of our local paper, dated Dec 11,2001 in the movie with the headline "LATEST FLORIDA RECOUNT SHOWS GORE WON ELECTION." After much combing through of that particular issue, no such headline is to be found. As of yesterday, none of Moore's staff had returned calls to my local paper.

I'm anxious to hear the explanation. Perhaps one of our film/history/social science buffs could explain this to me: It's my understanding that a good documentary can be powerful in its ability to sway opinion. But at what point does persuasion become propaganda? And is it acceptable for propaganda to complete alter the truth? I mean, I believe that the Bush admin is a total propaganda machine, but it's such a bummer to see someone I'd like to have confidence in look like he's resorted to the same. Christopher Hitchens did a brutal deconstruction of MM and the film, in which he made the following statement:

Here we glimpse a possible fusion between the turgid routines of MoveOn.org and the filmic standards, if not exactly the filmic skills, of Sergei Eisenstein or Leni Riefenstahl.I was pretty intrigued, if ultimately dismissive, of Hitchens' piece when I first read it. Now I'm wondering....


It really is simple. The film is not a documentary in any sense of the word as we have understood it in the past. It is propaganda meant to retaliate against Bush. I can see that you might enjoy the film, Bush haters do, but am surprised that you thought you were seeing truth, as that word has been traditionally defined. Even liberals acknowledged how biased and slanted it was, while supporting it with ticket sales and promotions at professional meetings.

Transcript, thanks to Redlinerants.com, of the portion in question -

"NARRATOR: And hope that the other side will just sit by and wait for the phone to ring. And even if numerous independent investigations prove that Gore got the most votes...

"JEFFREY TOBIN: If there was a statewide recount, under every scenario, Gore won the election.

"NARRATOR: It won't matter, just so long as all of your daddy's friends on the Sue-preme Court vote the right way." (end transcript)

Of course nowhere does Moore say that the headlines he is showing are not all news stories (nor does he correct the inaccurate claim by Tobin). The headline in question is almost certainly a letter to the editor. The reason the columnist's date is wrong is because the date is wrong in the movie itself.

Screencap - http://moorewatch.com/index.php/weblog/comments/84 2/

Transcript, thanks to Redlinerants.com, of the portion in question -

NARRATOR: And hope that the other side will just sit by and wait for the phone to ring. And even if numerous independent investigations prove that Gore got the most votes...

JEFFREY TOBIN: If there was a statewide recount, under every scenario, Gore won the election.

NARRATOR: It won't matter, just so long as all of your daddy's friends on the Sue-preme Court vote the right way.

Of course nowhere does Moore say that the headlines he is showing are not all news stories (nor does he correct the inaccurate claim by Tobin). The headline in question is almost certainly a letter to the editor. The reason the columnist's date is wrong is because the date is wrong in the movie itself.

Screencap - http://moorewatch.com/index.php/weblog/comments/84 2/

I know the columnist, and I also know that there was an extremely favorable review of the movie by another columnist (very surprising in our Very Republican community). My guess is that it was more a shoddy search than any sort of intentional game- playing. The columnist, Flick, does refer to it as an "otherwise great movie."

I think it is more accurate to say that it is an "editorial" not a "letter to the editor." There is a difference. While Moore's use may be less than 100% honest, the newspaper columnist is playing games as well. The article with that headline is still listed in the newspaper's website's archive. It just requires registration to view the whole article on their site. There is a big difference between a wrong date and a fake headline and it should be very easy for a writer for that paper to search their own website!

Actually, I can't tell if it's a letter to the editor or an editorial. Based on the word count, I'd have to guess editorial. Still, it's not a news story, but I'm guessing that Moore would say he never said it was a news story. I suppose I'm going to have to shell out the bucks and see the movie. I've been avoiding it because: a) I seldom go to movies at theatres; and b) my coworker said one of the opening sequences had her bawling her eyes out. I'm not real big on sobbing in public, and I'm guessing if it made her cry, it would make me cry.

Thanks from a Lexis-Nexisless librarian! But as I'm reading it, I recognize it as a letter to the editor, not a "news" story. I'd call that less-than-honest use. Will pass it along to the Pgraph, though.

Below is the full text of the "non-existent" article in question. The only difference is the publication date (5th vs. 11th).

Copyright 2001 The Pantagraph
The Pantagraph (Bloomington, IL)

December 5, 2001, Wednesday

SECTION: Editorial; Pg. A10

LENGTH: 410 words

HEADLINE: Latest Florida recount shows Gore won election

Recently, a major media consortium released the results of a painstaking nine-month recount of Florida's vote in the 2000 presidential election.

Echoing the consortium's bewildering misrepresentation of its own findings, The Pantagraph proclaims that the "analysis doesn't just validate the outcome of the 2000 election, it validates the American system" (OurViews, Nov. 18).

In fact, the recount does nothing of the sort.

Conducted by the National Opinion Research Center, University of Chicago, the recount examined 175,100 ballots that Florida's vote-counting machines rejected. After establishing seven varied vote-counting standards, the researchers determined that at most, 24,773 of those ballots could be interpreted as legal votes.

The strictest standard included only unambiguously marked or punched ballots that vote-counting machines failed to tabulate. At the other end, the most permissive standard included ballots with the fabled dimpled chads.

Stunningly, the Florida recount determined that under every possible scenario, using the most objective criteria imaginable, Gore received the greatest number of votes in the election. In short, the study proves that the wrong man now occupies the White House. I urge readers to examine the data themselves.

Predictably, The Pantagraph editorial evades the most salient truth of the 2000 election: that the winner was not elected, but rather appointed by a right-wing Supreme Court majority.

Some will recall that the decisive Supreme Court opinion, an intellectually shabby affair, was advanced by Justice Rehnquist, a man credibly accused of harassing minority voters as a 1960s Arizona poll watcher.

Rehnquist was joined by two others, Justices Scalia and Thomas, with family members closely tied to the Bush campaign.

Resolved to justify a predetermined conclusion, a Bush victory, the opinion of these states' rights champions bizarrely invoked the "equal protection clause" of the 14th Amendment.

That addition to the Constitution was intended to protect former slaves against discrimination by states. In the hands of the current conservative majority, however, it disenfranchised thousands of voters.

Trampling on their own vaunted federalist principles, the Rehnquist majority soiled the reputation of the Supreme Court and made a mockery of the rule of law itself.

So much for the legitimacy of the Bush presidency.

Richard Soderlund


LOAD-DATE: December 5, 2001

To paraphrase Siggy: sometimes a Resident is just a Resident.;-)

I wondered if people would appreciate that or take it way too seriously. I'm glad there are still people in the world with a sense of humor.

Although I had to think if 'Resident' was political or Freudian. (although I hadn't heard it before so it gets points for originality).

Both the programs I am considering are distance learning. I'm a librarian I can't afford to go galavanting off to the Continent.

The devil you know is much better than the devil you don't know. At least with GWB you know your country will be safe from those that want to kill us.

I thought the "deconstruction" was worth reading. For the most part I thought it was reasonably accurate, but there is this one major blooper that I'm horrified to see is still there after FOUR updates:


4) The Bush administration sent far too few ground troops to Afghanistan and thus allowed far too many Taliban and al-Qaida members to escape.

I'm sorry, but I thought this was considered fact. When American Generals opted to send Kurdish rebels into the caves and holes of the Afghan mountains, we all sat back waiting for the inevitable dead body to emerge. Instead, Osama Bin Laden got through the Kurds, as well as the few hundred Americans behind them, and was spirited off to Pakistan where he remains to this day. He's not hiding in a cave, he's laughing. He's watching Matrix DVDs and sipping Jolt Cola. He's playing X-Box and ordering pizza, people.

Bush's response to that? He took troops out of Afghanistan and sent them instead to go get Saddam Hussein. Think about that - they know roughly where Bin Laden was, but rather than make his capture a priority, they went after someone else. With TEN TIMES the number of troops that they took to Afghanistan.

If that doesn't warrant mentioning, I'm Dutch.

While I agree with the main point, the author has the actors TOTALLY wrong. It was the Northern Alliance, not Kurdish rebels we sent to find bin Laden. Traditional Kurdish terrority lies in Syria, Iraq, Iran and Turkey, but NEVER Afghanistan. None of the constituent groups in the Northern Alliance are Kurdish.

I stand appalled at such geographic ignorance. If I'd seen an e-mail address for the author, I would have sent him a fifth update.

When I have time next week, I'll try to get to some of the web sites Chuck mentioned.

For the most part, good conversation here. My journal will have some further F911 thoughts in the next week. As a teaser, my basic thought is that like many pronouncements from our administration, there are kernels of truth wrapped around selective use of data, and in some cases, adolescent editing. Still has more facts and defensible assertions than your average Ann Coulter article or Limbaugh radio program.

I can only think of one man, President Bush.

You really had me there, md, until your last line. But I suppose you're right. I don't expect Resident Bush to disappoint me with my expectations for his continued unfathomable and dishonest policies on domestic, humanitarian and international issues.

This doesn't mean I won't still drink with you at midwinter, if you're not studying museums across the ocean come January.

Life is really disappointing when the people you want to admire turn out to be liars, cheats, swindlers, criminals, perverts or freaks of any sort. It would be like seeing Mother Teresa buying an eight ball.

Some people thought Michael Moore was the working mans' Thomas Payne, they saw him battling HMO's and multinational corporations, they felt he was their white knight come to save them and restore truth and decency to America.

Then came Centigrade 9.11 and some people saw that he was just another member of the establishment out to fatten his purse (among other things). Not that there is anything wrong with making money, but when you trample on the people who supported you, who encouraged you, who relied on you to paint an accurate picture, by lying and intentionally misleading the you just disappoint people.

I guess people are used to being disappointed these days, Pete Rose betting on baseball, Darryl Strawberry doing drugs, The Congressional bad check debacle of a decade ago, Jim Belushi dying of an overdose, Harry Morgan beating his wife, Dana Plato overdosing on pills, Enron, Martha Stewart, Bernie Ebbers, Bill Clinton not knowing the meaning of the word "is". Who is left in public life that we can look up to now that even the common mans' hero has gone the way of the great prevaricators that have come before him? It is not anger so much, nor hate, but it is indeed disappointment, Michael Moore we expected more from you. We expected responsibility and accuracy to the best of your ability.

Who is left that we can count on not to disappoint us?

I can only think of one man, President Bush.

I agree that Hitchens's piece is more a polemic than a systematic examination of F9/11. Here are links to several much more substantive pieces:

In fact, there is at least one blogblogspot.com> devoted to inaccuracies in Fahrenheit 9/11.

If you find untruths or distortions in the four articles listed above, please let me know. They seem reasonable to me, and I intend to use in my discussions of F9/11, but I don't want to rely on any parts of them that might be incorrect. I am sincere in this request.

I have to say, the Hitchens debunking doesn't have a promising start:

Well, it didn't take long. The partisan hacks were out for blood on Bowling For Columbine within days of its release, but with Fahrenheit 9/11, they're out before the flick is even in theaters.

I don't think one has to be a partisan hack to "have issues" with Bowling. You can read about two examples of the films distortions in my journal (herelisnews.com> and herelisnews.com>).

There seem to be discrepencies between Parry's debunking of Hitchens and what I've read elsewhere. For instance, the notion that the Bush admin gave $43 million to the Taliban. Here's what Spinsanityspinsanity.org> has to say:

So it is with the myth that the Bush administration gave $43 million to Afghanistan's Taliban government last year to reward it for banning opium production. That money actually paid for food aid and security programs run by nongovernmental organizations and agencies of the United Nations to help relieve a famine in Afghanistan. While the Taliban reportedly stole some of the aid, none of it was given directly to the oppressive regime. At the time, Secretary of State Colin Powell hinted that the aid was connected to recent moves by the Taliban to crack down on opium production, but made clear no money would be going to the government.

If Spinsanity is right, this is a classic case of deceiving without lying. Yes, the Bush admin gave $43 million that was spent on Afghanistan. Yes, the Taliban benefited from some of the aid. Yes, the aid was connected indirectly at least to Taliban moves against poppy cultivation. But, if what Spinsanity says is true, can it have the significance that Moore implicitly imputes to it, namely that the Bushies were buds with the Taliban? Hardly.

If the substantive critiques (v. the mere polemics) I've read of F9/11 are correct, then Moore's technique lies in making or implying propositions that are accurate as to the details, but that don't add up to the significance that he wants his viewer to impute to them because he presents only a small subset of the relevant propositions. I plan to have more to say about this in my LISNews journal, and you are very welcome to enter corrections (or opinions) as comments.

I can't speak to the accuracy or inaccuracy or Moore's headline. Speaking as someone who will dance in the streets if Bush and company lose on November 2nd, I have no love for Michael Moore. He uses a lot of the same tactics that I loathe in rightie blowhards like Hannity and Limbaugh and Coulter (ie demonization of everyone on the other side of the spectrum.) It cheapens political debate when the loudest and most influential voices are those that proclaim that their opponents are not just wrong, but evil.

That being said, I think the Hitchens article, in its own way, goes as overboard as Moore himself does. This is no surprise; Hitchens specialized in character assassination back when he was a liberal, and he's still doing it now that he's gone over to the other side. Here's a deconstruction of Hitchens' deconstructionefilmcritic.com> that points out many of the more egregious examples. (You have to click through an advertisement to get to the article, but it's worth it.)

Having verified the article through our proquest database and on microfilm, I can say that it is a letter to the editor and not an editorial. The lexis-nexis word count is too high--perhaps it included abstract and descriptors?

Hasn't Moore offered a big cash award to anyone who can find any factual errors in the movie? Maybe that's why there's so much bulldoggish interest in this issue.