Politics & Policy

Michael Moore, Moveon, and Fahrenheit 9/11

A political campaign disguised as a movie.

The left-wing activist group MoveOn.org, which last week launched a campaign to encourage members to see Michael Moore’s Fahrenheit 9/11 during its premiere weekend, is now taking partial credit for the early success of the anti-Bush documentary.

”Due in part to your efforts, Fahrenheit 9/11 was the number one movie in the nation this weekend,” Eli Pariser, head of the MoveOn Political Action Committee, told supporters during a nationwide conference call Monday night. “Now we’re going to talk about how to turn that enormous momentum into action to beat Bush.”

Last week, MoveOn asked members to sign a pledge to see Fahrenheit 9/11 during its first showings Friday, Saturday, and Sunday nights. Announcing the plan, Pariser praised the movie, but said the real reason MoveOn wanted members to turn out during the film’s first days in theaters was to create the impression that a wave of anti-Bush anger was sweeping the country. “We launched this campaign around Fahrenheit 9/11 because to the media, the pundits, and the politicians in power, the movie’s success will be seen as a cultural referendum on the Bush administration and the Iraq war,” Pariser told MoveOn members. “Together, we have an opportunity to knock this ball out of the park.”

Fahrenheit 9/11 took in $21.8 million at the box office during its first few days in theaters, making it the most popular movie of the weekend.

Moore himself joined the MoveOn conference call Monday night, which organizers say included 55,000 listeners. The filmmaker thanked MoveOn members for helping make Fahrenheit 9/11 a quick success. But more than success, Moore told MoveOn, he wanted the movie to help defeat President George W. Bush in November. “None of us want this just to be a movie, where people just eat some popcorn and go home,” Moore said. Instead, Moore explained, he wanted the movie to become the inspiration for thousands of new anti-Bush voters.

“I’ve actually put up a little pledge sheet on my website,” Moore said, referring to a list of get-out-the-vote strategies he is endorsing for the presidential election. The first thing Moore is asking people to do is to take off work on November 2, so they can spend part of the day helping others get to the polls. The second thing is “to take one weekend in October and drive to a swing state” to work for Democratic candidate John Kerry. Finally, Moore is “asking everyone to identify five non-voters that they know and adopt them,” to convince them to vote.

The MoveOn meetings underscored the overtly political nature of Moore’s Fahrenheit 9/11 promotional campaign.

Last week, MoveOn set a goal of persuading 100,000 members to take the pledge to see Fahrenheit 9/11 as early as possible. In fact, according to MoveOn, 116,649 MoveOn members signed up. While that number seems like a relatively small part of the movie’s total audience, Pariser says MoveOn’s influence is far larger than the official number suggests. “When I went to Waterville, Maine and asked how many people from MoveOn were there, probably three-quarters of the people there said yes,” Pariser told Variety on Monday.


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