Monday, June 21, 2004

The Big Fat Pot Calls the Jumping Kettle a Black Shark

... or something. You figure it out.

Now that's chutzpah: Michael Moore threatening people with libel suits for wilfully distorting the truth.

Just read that sentence again to make sure you've absorbed it fully (but don't read it too many times, or your head might very well go Scanners).

As serious legal claims go, it's almost impossible to even conceive of a realistic libel claim that Moore might have against anyone criticizing his movie. That's doubly true when one considers his suggestion that the reason he's making this statement now is because there was a whole slew of actionable libel made in response to Bowling For Columbine that he could've and should've pursued but didn't. He implies that there was some sort of tort liability incurred by at least some of those hundreds of people who publicly dissected the dishonesty in BFC, but for some reason he didn't respond soon enough and is now precluded from legally vindicating himself.

Sorry, Mikey. We're not that grotesquely stupid, unlike that choir you preach to with your mendacious little piles of celluloid refuse. The statute of limitations for libel and slander are almost always at least two years, and often as many as four. BFC came out in October of 2002. The public take-downs of the movie's credibility only came when the movie had gained wide notoriety in 2003. If Mike actually had some sort of libel case, he's still well within his ability to pursue it.

But of course he doesn't, and that's what this is all about. A successful libel claim requires that the defendant printed and represented as true something that he personally knew was false, or knew that there was a high probability of it being false. No criticism of BFC that I ever saw or heard about even came close to this standard. And of course, the elephant of irony in this room is the fact that BFC itself is a credible instance of libel on several counts, since it dishonestly edited material to distort the public statements of several people.

What this threat is really about is bluster and intimidation. I think Moore is beginning to realize that F-911 is no less sloppy and objectively dishonest than BFC was, and he's starting to sweat at the prospect of all the errors being prominently pointed out before the film even has a chance to establish itself like BFC did. This is about blunting that well-earned criticism through specious legal threats. After all, it doesn't cost anything to threaten a lawsuit. In addiiton it might just be the case that Moore is egomaniacal enough that he actually believes that his millions and his fame are enough to bring the legal system to bear as a cudgel and make the little people tremble. Maybe he really believes all that twaddle he peddles about millionaires being able to use the law as their own personal plaything. I dunno.

What I do know is that these threats are like everything else he puts out into the public sphere: annoying, empty and deceitful.