Moore to it than that

There’s something about Michael Moore’s film Fahrenheit 9/11 that seems to make the national journalism community crazy. Perhaps it’s that he’s doing the scrutiny of the Bush administration that the mainstream press has failed to do all these years. Whatever the reasons, the major media outlets have been running “news” reports about him and his movie that are nothing more than hatchet jobs.

Here’s an example: Last Friday evening, ABC News ran a report on its evening news that found three errors or other problems with Fahrenheit 9/11. Setting aside the fact that they could only find three problems in a movie an hour and a half long, one of their grievances against Moore is his contention that after the Pentagon and World Trade Center attacks, when air traffic was grounded, the Bush administration arranged to fly members of the Bin Laden family out of the country.

ABC interviewed terrorism expert Richard Clarke, who said this was the appropriate thing to do for the safety of the family, that the United States had no investigative interest in the Bin Ladens. ABC didn’t interview anyone else. But Moore’s film contains an interview with a former FBI agent who said the United States did have an interest in questioning the Bin Ladens. Why was that contention not represented in the ABC report? The network didn’t provide an interview to represent the FBI agent’s point of view. ABC was doing what it accused Moore of doing—slanting its coverage to represent only one viewpoint. Moreover, Moore’s interview was more directly relevant than ABC’s—Clarke, after all, is a terrorism policy expert, not an investigative expert. Moore’s FBI agent is.

There can be little doubt that this presidential election has caused the biases and conflicts of interests of some of the United States’ major (and minor) corporations to be displayed with an unusual candor. For example, ABC News’ parent company, Walt Disney Co., initially refused to distribute Fahrenheit 9/11 because the company, as Disney chief executive Michael Eisner said, “did not want a film in the middle of the political process” because he believed that consumers “do not look for us to take sides.” Presumably, that means consumers are not so picky as to want fair news coverage.

Our point is simple—don’t take the networks’ word for it about this film. Don’t take ours, for that matter. See it yourself and decide for yourself.