Sunday, July 11, 2004

Of Movies, Propoganda, Fair Use, and Moore

This year, we've seen no shortage of newsworthy box office events. From The Passion to Fahrenheit 9/11, notable film makers have bucked trends and set the stage, perhaps, for a new era of democracy - one free from restraint and traditional mores.

There's no lack of commentary on this new film making - which may imply less of a budding social movement and more of a passing fad (only time, and DVD sales, will tell). Today's New York Times, for example, features two related stories on this new politicized media.

First, on movies as democratic art forms:

Movies are a democratic art form, and democracy, at its most vigorous, can ride roughshod over polite opinion, responsible judgment and cool appraisal. When that happens, we should relish our discomfort, and gratefully acknowledge that, sometimes, hotter heads prevail.

Second, guerrilla documentaries and the men who love them - this time, a documentarian takes on venerable, lumbering, fair and balanced Fox News, seeking to expose their less fair, less balanced underbelly as the bastion of neoconservative Republican flag waving it really is (and it is).

The Fox documentary, "Outfoxed: Rupert Murdoch's War on Journalism," like Moore's film, might break new legal ground too - as producers prepare for a July 13 release date without securing license from Fox for the clips it uses to paint the right-tilting thematic nature of Fox's broadcasts. Tacitly safe under fair-use doctrine, the move could (this is Fox, perhaps we'd better upgrade that "could" to "will") easily lead to litigation that will open up American freedom to comment - or, given the star legal power I'm sure Fox will throw down - a clamping down on existing fair use rights.

The article notes, probably rightly, that Fox may hesitate a bit since their ill-planned suit against Al Franken's use of Fox-y aspects: far from protecting its trademarks, the only thing the suit did was boost Al's Amazon take.

Message films aren't new. Propoganda is far past its infancy. What's notable these days, it seems, is that the opinions aren't supporting our institutions - they'd prefer their destruction.

The logical end of this may be the death of information-conveyance as we've come to know it. Or, as some have held it, a rebirth of Thomas Paine's spirit in an otherwise been-there, done-that country.

With blogs, the internet, 24 hour news channels, DVD recorders, TiVo, and an increasingly unconventional workforce with time and schedule-maleability allowing them to make commentary a part of daily life (that would be Phoblog and all those like her), news just isn't what it used to be.

What remains to be seen, however, is whether this movement achieves the kind of critical synergy necessary to change anything. What happens in November, then, will either be the fruition of Dean/blog/Moore/ outlet-dreamers, or the denial of a burgeoning field of would-be truth-tellers. Only time will tell . . . .

:: Next up, my take on Michael Moore's movie magic::

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