Socialists: A ♥ Story
Another celebrity romance falls to pieces:
By Guy Adams
Wednesday, 28 October 2009
He's crossed swords, over the years, with all the usual right-wing suspects, from car-makers to gun owners to Wall Street executives, health companies, and George W Bush. Now Michael Moore has picked a fight with a hero of the international left.
The documentary-maker has caused outrage among Hugo Chavez's supporters by using a late-night chat show to tell a humorous anecdote about meeting Venezuela's socialist President in a luxury hotel suite during the recent Venice Film Festival.
His two-minute yarn, told to ABC host Jimmy Kimmel earlier this month, seemed harmless enough. Moore alleged that he and his wife had been woken at 2am by a racket coming from Mr Chavez's room and ventured upstairs to ask him to quieten down.
"A bottle and a half of tequila later," Moore claimed, he had helped the President to write the speech he recently delivered to the UN. "At the very least, the guy owes me a year's worth of free gasoline!" he joked.
But there was a problem with the story. A big one. The meeting that Moore so confidently described never happened. And tequila certainly wasn't consumed: Mr Chavez is teetotal.
The duo did meet in Venice, but only in the daytime. Moore, in town to launch his new film, Capitalism, sat with Mr Chavez, who was there to promote Oliver Stone's documentary South of the Border, for three hours. The US press were excluded from the meeting.
Supporters of Mr Chavez now suspect that Moore fabricated his anecdote to gloss over the chummy nature of that encounter. They have taken to the airwaves in a Monty Python-style PR offensive, to accuse Moore of betraying a supposed comrade.
"Michael Moore is a most unfortunate coward," declared blogger Eva Golinger. She dubbed him "the worst of yellow journalists, a liar and storyteller on the big screen", and said his yarn was "offensive and insulting" and a clear sign of his "hypocrisy and lack of ethics". Franz JT Lee, a Marxist academic and blogger, claimed that the film-maker's comments were "part of the United States' 'war of ideas'" against Venezuela, and said similar "propaganda" led to the rise of the Nazis in 1930s Germany.
They didn't just spark outrage on the left, though. Critics of Mr Chavez have called the level of invective against Moore – some of which was aired on Venezuelan state television – disproportionate. They believe his anecdote was intended to be a harmless, tongue-in-cheek joke. The socialist movement failed to grasp the nuances of his intended irony, they claim, because they lack a sense of humour.
Quite what the affair says about the integrity of Moore and his documentaries remains to be seen. The film-maker has declined to comment or apologise for misleading TV viewers, save for a brief message posted on his Twitter feed on Monday: "For the record, the President of Venezuela doesn't drink."
To go along with this break up, Moore's office responded to Guy Adams' article. Below is the following exchange of emails, according to Mr. Adams (to be updated, I'm sure):
Less than hour after that article had appeared on our internet site, I got an email from Mr Moore’s office. It is printed below (with email addresses and phone numbers redacted). My reply to that email is also carried in full.
"Hamdan, Basel" *****@michaelmoore.com 28/10/2009 00:49
cc: "Weinrib, Eric"
Subject: Michael Moore
I’m Basel Hamdan, a producer in Michael Moore’s office. There is something inaccurate in the below piece:
The long meeting did, in fact, occur extremely late in the evening. I’m not sure who told you otherwise (daytime), but they are wrong. I was present, as was my colleague Eric Weinrib (cc’d).
Could you please correct the piece, if not retract it, as you use the time of day to question the veracity of the story. Please get back to me soon – we don’t want this falsehood to spread…
Dog Eat Dog Films
Guy Adams/Editorial/Independent News and Media 28/10/2009 02:02
To: "Hamdan, Basel"
cc: "Weinrib, Eric"
Subject: Re: Michael Moore
It feels a little rich to be castigated for a very minor inaccuracy, given the extent of the whopper that Mr Moore has apparently told!
I will, however, happily clarify that element of the piece - on one condition.
In the interest of giving our readers a full and accurate picture of what actually went on, I would like either Mr Moore, or someone in his office, to offer an on-the-record explanation as to why he went on the Jimmy Kimmel show and claimed to have both drunk tequila with Mr Chavez and written a significant portion of his speech to the UN.
Provided you're able to do this (and it would surely represent staggering hypocrisy if you were not) then I will of course make the correction you desire.
Los Angeles Correspondent
+1 310 396 ****
So, what happened? Well it may not surprise you to hear that I am still waiting for Mr Moore to agree to my request.
He is, we must therefore assume, happy to broadcast what appear to be substantive lies about someone, without ever explaining, apologizing or issuing proper clarification.
However journalists who write about him are expected to immediately correct any slight - and, I might add, alleged - inaccuracy in their piece, however minor. They are even invited to retract the entire article.
Mr Moore expects, therefore, to apply one rule for himself, and another for everyone else. This is surely the essence of hypocrisy. I can't speak for what this tells us about his journalistic technique, or the reliability of his very moving documentaries. But (at risk of sounding like a tosser) I fear that it speaks volumes about his sense of entitlement.
UPDATE - Wednesday, 2pm GMT
Mr Moore's office have emailed with what journalists among you will recognise as the "Alastair Campbell" response...
"Hamdan, Basel" *****@michaelmoor
Subject RE: Michael Moore
You are clearly not a journalist, so we will take the matter up with your editors.
Oh, that is just sooo rich!
Cross-posted at Flopping Aces