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Tuesday, June 22, 2004

Moore on Letterman

Eugene Volokh posts an inaccurate transcript of Michael Moore's appearance on Letterman from Friday night:

David Letterman: How do we know what's in your film [Fahrenheit 9/11] is true?

Michael Moore: Because I got most of my information from The New York Times.

Audience: Wild laughter.

Letterman: Strains to repress laughing

Moore: What's so funny?

There was laughter, though not "wild." Letterman chuckled. Moore, as I recall, never asked what was funny. And the crucial omission is that Moore said something like, "I got my information from sources like the New York Times, Wall Street Journal..." Somehow the WSJ mention didn't find its way into Volokh's account. I think this is the segment on Adam Curry's site, though I won't know until I get onto a better computer later. In any case, all of the source materials will be at Moore's web site come Friday for everyone's perusal.

ADDENDUM: Since I'm drawing some traffic via the Volokh technorati cosmos, I'll add a brief discussion of this matter. What Volokh seems to be implying is that people don't believe the New York Times. While that may be true, I think it stems more from the fabrications of Jayson Blair than any dissatisfaction with "liberal media," which I take it would be Volokh's preferred reasoning (judging from the usual bent of his blogging). In fact, though, the Times' faulty reporting, led by Judith Miller, helped promote Bush's drive to invade Iraq, even as the editorial page voiced opposition. The Wall Street Journal, by contrast, has a very bellicose editorial page paired with a more cautious news operation that has, among other things, reported that the June 30th handover of "sovereignty" is all but meaningless. So things are more complicated than the oversimplified message that I think is meant to be conveyed by the Volokh post.

I've been unable to view the clip from Curry, nor have I located a full transcript, but here's another quote from Moore on Letterman that more accurately reflects the tenor of his remarks on Friday:

"The media in this country did us such a disservice by not asking the hard questions before we went into this war, and by not putting the administration on the hot seat," Moore said on the Late Show with David Letterman. "That's their job. And instead they played cheerleader."

Moore is far from taking everything that appeared in the newspaper--even the so-called liberal NYT--at face value. Also, a documentary by its nature involves raw materials--documenting events, as the name implies--so most of the content and force of Fahrenheit 9/11, I suspect, will be right there on the screen for people to see. Facts and figures from newspapers cited by Moore's narration will probably have far less impact on viewers anyway than imagery, archival footage and interviews.