MEDIA WATCH: Oscar acceptance speech adds to Moore's controversial image

Filmmaker Michael Moore is known to be a direct and controversial figure. The Detroit Free Press (March 24) referred to the Michigan native as "a professional provocateur with deeply held left-wing beliefs," and described his latest film, Bowling for Columbine, as a "scathing, darkly satirical indictment of America's gun culture."

Filmmaker Michael Moore is known to be a direct and controversial figure. The Detroit Free Press (March 24) referred to the Michigan native as "a professional provocateur with deeply held left-wing beliefs," and described his latest film, Bowling for Columbine, as a "scathing, darkly satirical indictment of America's gun culture."

So when Columbine won the Oscar for best documentary, Moore had an opportunity to bask in the glow of recognition and acceptance from his peers and his industry. He received a standing ovation from the crowd. Instead, Moore used his acceptance speech as a platform to launch into an intense diatribe against the President. Moore called Bush an illegitimate president who was leading the US into war under false pretenses. He shouted, "We are against this war, Mr. Bush. Shame on you!" Backstage, when asked about the mixed reaction of the audience to his speech, Moore told a reporter, "I saw the entire place stand up and applaud, applaud a film that talks about how we are manipulated by the fear that's put forth by the White House, and put forth by corporate America to create a culture of violence....Don't report that there was a split decision in the hall because five loud people booed." (Chicago Tribune, March 24). But was that the way it happened? If so, was that the most newsworthy aspect of the night? An analysis of media coverage from around the US in the following days showed that coverage focused most intently on Moore being booed. By a margin of more than three to one, the crowd booing Moore earned more attention than the standing ovation he had received just moments earlier. There were just a handful of articles that described the reaction of the audience as equal parts applause and booing. There were no reports that portrayed the speech as only being cheered, with no jeers. Aside from the focus on the crowd's unfavorable reaction, a number of articles indicated that the Academy should have known that awarding the Oscar to Moore, and presenting him with that type of forum to express his views, would be too tempting for him to pass up. The Dallas Morning News (March 24) wrote, "Mr. Moore's comments were hardly surprising. He has made a career out of being a muckraking activist. What's more, he'd vowed in interviews to speak out if he won." Moore himself unapologetically said, "I think anybody voting for me knew that they weren't going to get a speech thanking agents, lawyers, lawyers of agents, and agents of lawyers" (Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, March 25). A number of reports indicated that the Academy Awards was an inappropriate venue for Moore's political views, especially in light of the concerted effort that Hollywood had made to rally behind the troops (or at least stay mum on the subject) during the toughest days yet of the war. While Moore probably solidified his status with his current fan base, his performance at the Oscars didn't appear to win any new converts. In fact, his outburst appeared to undercut publicity for his Oscar win, changing headlines' focus from the increasing widespread support he enjoys to how out of sync he is with the majority of Americans. -----
  • Evaluation and analysis by CARMA International. Media Watch can be found at www.carma.com.

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