July 4th, 2004
Where do I begin? This past week has knocked me for a loop. “Fahrenheit 9/11,” the #1 movie in the country, the largest grossing documentary ever. My head is spinning. Didn’t we just lose our distributor 8 weeks ago? Did Karl Rove really fail to stop this? Is Bush packing?
Each day this week I was given a new piece of information from the press that covers Hollywood, and I barely had time to recover from the last tidbit before the next one smacked me upside the head:
** More people saw “Fahrenheit 9/11” in one weekend than all the people who saw “Bowling for Columbine” in 9 months.
** “Fahrenheit 9/11” broke “Rocky III’s” record for the biggest box office opening weekend ever for any film that opened in less than a thousand theaters.
** “Fahrenheit 9/11” beat the opening weekend of “Return of the Jedi.”
** “Fahrenheit 9/11” instantly went to #2 on the all-time list for largest per-theater average ever for a film that opened in wide-release.
How can I ever thank all of you who went to see it? These records are mind-blowing. They have sent shock waves through Hollywood – and, more importantly, through the White House.
But it didn’t just stop there. The response to the movie then went into the Twilight Zone. Surfing through the dial I landed on the Fox broadcasting network which was airing the NASCAR race live last Sunday to an audience of millions of Americans — and suddenly the announcers were talking about how NASCAR champ Dale Earnhardt, Jr. took his crew to see “Fahrenheit 9/11” the night before. FOX sportscaster Chris Myers delivered Earnhardt’s review straight out of his mouth and into the heartland of America: “He said hey, it’ll be a good bonding experience no matter what your political belief. It’s a good thing as an American to go see.” Whoa! NASCAR fans – you can’t go deeper into George Bush territory than that! White House moving vans – START YOUR ENGINES!
Then there was Roger Friedman from the Fox News Channel giving our film an absolutely glowing review, calling it “a really brilliant piece of work, and a film that members of all political parties should see without fail.” Richard Goldstein of the Village Voice surmised that Bush is already considered a goner so Rupert Murdoch might be starting to curry favor with the new administration. I don’t know about that, but I’ve never heard a decent word toward me from Fox. So, after I was revived, I wondered if a love note to me from Sean Hannity was next.
How about Letterman’s Top Ten List: “Top Ten George W. Bush Complaints About “Fahrenheit 9/11”:
10. That actor who played the President was totally unconvincing
9. It oversimplified the way I stole the election
8. Too many of them fancy college-boy words
7. If Michael Moore had waited a few months, he could have included the part where I get him deported
6. Didn’t have one of them hilarious monkeys who smoke cigarettes and gives people the finger
5. Of all Michael Moore’s accusations, only 97% are true
4. Not sure – – I passed out after a piece of popcorn lodged in my windpipe
3. Where the hell was Spider-man?
2. Couldn’t hear most of the movie over Cheney’s foul mouth
1. I thought this was supposed to be about dodgeball
But it was the reactions and reports we received from theaters around the country that really sent me over the edge. One theatre manager after another phoned in to say that the movie was getting standing ovations as the credits rolled – in places like Greensboro, NC and Oklahoma City — and that they were having a hard time clearing the theater afterwards because people were either too stunned or they wanted to sit and talk to their neighbors about what they had just seen. In Trumbull, CT, one woman got up on her seat after the movie and shouted “Let’s go have a meeting!” A man in San Francisco took his shoe off and threw it at the screen when Bush appeared at the end. Ladies’ church groups in Tulsa were going to see it, and weeping afterwards.
It was this last group that gave lie to all the yakking pundits who, before the movie opened, declared that only the hard-core “choir” would go to see “Fahrenheit 9/11.” They couldn’t have been more wrong. Theaters in the Deep South and the Midwest set house records for any film they’d ever shown. Yes, it even sold out in Peoria. And Lubbock, Texas. And Anchorage, Alaska!
Newspaper after newspaper wrote stories in tones of breathless disbelief about people who called themselves “Independents” and “Republicans” walking out of the movie theater shaken and in tears, proclaiming that they could not, in good conscience, vote for George W. Bush. The New York Times wrote of a conservative Republican woman in her 20s in Pensacola, Florida who cried through the film, and told the reporter: “It really makes me question what I feel about the president… it makes me question his motives…”
Newsday reported on a self-described “ardent Bush/Cheney supporter” who went to see the film on Long Island, and his quiet reaction afterwards. He said, “It’s really given me pause to think about what’s really going on. There was just too much – too much to discount.” The man then bought three more tickets for another showing of the film.
The Los Angeles Times found a mother who had “supported [Bush] fiercely” at a theater in Des Peres, Missouri: “Emerging from Michael Moore’s ‘Fahrenheit 9/11,’ her eyes wet, Leslie Hanser said she at last understood…. ‘My emotions are just….’ She trailed off, waving her hands to show confusion. ‘I feel like we haven’t seen the whole truth before.’”
All of this had to be the absolute worst news for the White House to wake up to on Monday morning. I guess they were in such a stupor, they “gave” Iraq back to, um, Iraq two days early!
News editors told us that they were being “bombarded” with e-mails and calls from the White House (read: Karl Rove), trying to spin their way out of this mess by attacking it and attacking me. Bush spokesman Dan Bartlett had told the White House press corps that the movie was “outrageously false” — even though he said he hadn’t seen the movie. He later told CNN that “This is a film that doesn’t require us to actually view it to know that it’s filled with factual inaccuracies.” At least they’re consistent. They never needed to see a single weapon of mass destruction before sending our kids off to die.
Many news shows were more than eager to buy the White House spin. After all, that is a big part of what “Fahrenheit” is about — how the lazy, compliant media bought all the lies from the Bush administration about the need to invade Iraq. They took the Kool-Aid offered by the White House and rarely, if ever, did our media ask the hard questions that needed to be asked before the war started.
Because the movie “outs” the mainstream media for their failures and their complicity with the Bush administration — who can ever forget their incessant, embarrassing cheerleading as the troops went off to war, as though it was all just a game — the media was not about to let me get away with anything now resembling a cultural phenomenon. On show after show, they went after me with the kind of viciousness you would have hoped they had had for those who were lying about the necessity for invading a sovereign nation that was no threat to us. I don’t blame our well-paid celebrity journalists — they look like a bunch of ass-kissing dopes in my movie, and I guess I’d be pretty mad at me, too. After all, once the NASCAR fans see “Fahrenheit 9/11,” will they ever believe a single thing they see on ABC/NBC/CBS news again?
In the next week or so, I will recount my adventures through the media this past month (I will also be posting a full FAQ on my website soon so that you can have all the necessary backup and evidence from the film when you find yourself in heated debate with your conservative brother-in-law!). For now, please know the following: Every single fact I state in “Fahrenheit 9/11” is the absolute and irrefutable truth. This movie is perhaps the most thoroughly researched and vetted documentary of our time. No fewer than a dozen people, including three teams of lawyers and the venerable one-time fact-checkers from The New Yorker went through this movie with a fine-tooth comb so that we can make this guarantee to you. Do not let anyone say this or that isn’t true. If they say that, they are lying. Let them know that the OPINIONS in the film are mine, and anyone certainly has a right to disagree with them. And the questions I pose in the movie, based on these irrefutable facts, are also mine. And I have a right to ask them. And I will continue to ask them until they are answered.
In closing, let me say that the most heartening response to the film has come from our soldiers and their families. Theaters in military towns across the country reported packed houses. Our troops know the truth. They have seen it first-hand. And many of them could not believe that here was a movie that was TRULY on their side — the side of bringing them home alive and never sending them into harms way again unless it’s the absolute last resort. Please take a moment to read this wonderful story from the daily paper in Fayetteville, NC, where Fort Bragg is located. It broke my heart to read this, the reactions of military families and the comments of an infantryman’s wife publicly backing my movie — and it gave me the resolve to make sure as many Americans as possible see this film in the coming weeks.
Thank you again, all of you, for your support. Together we did something for the history books. My apologies to “Return of the Jedi.” We’ll make it up by producing “Return of the Texan to Crawford” in November.
May the farce be with you, but not for long,
P.S. You can read letters from people around the country recounting their own experiences at the theater, and their reactions to the film by going here.