Monday, June 05, 2006

Everybody Should Sue Michael Moore

Let’s all sue Michael Moore. Heck, if Iraqi war veteran Sgt. Peter Damon wins the lawsuit he filed in Boston last month, it’s open season for a bunch of folks.

The Middleboro, Massachusetts veteran claims the Oscar-winning writer/director used a clip of him in the film, "Fahrenheit 9/11," without his permission and misrepresented his feelings about the Iraq war.

The segment featuring Damon at Walter Reed Army Medical Center was taken from a "NBC Nightly News" program about the medical treatment provided to veterans. The National guardsman lost both arms while servicing a Blackhawk helicopter. Damon is shown on a stretcher after U.S. Rep. Jim McDermott, (D-Washington) made what many, including Damon, consider an “anti-Bush” statement: "You know, they say they're not leaving any veterans behind, but they're leaving all kinds of veterans behind."

Damon, who reportedly supports the war and President Bush, said the footage makes it appear as if he‘s “anti-war.” He told reporters that he’s “proud of his service” and “has no regrets at all.” The veteran seeks damages of $25 million, punitive damages of $75 million and additional damages of $75 million. His wife wants another $10 million due to "mental distress and anguish."

I sympathize with Damon. He proudly supports Bush’s Big Democracy Adventure and feels he’s been compensated for his injuries. Then, all of a sudden, BAM!, he finds himself in a controversial film criticizing his core beliefs, while ridiculing his president.

Let’s say I were filmed by a news crew after I’d been robbed and beaten by gang bangers. Now suppose that clip was included in a propaganda film geared to stir up emotions for tougher, anti-gang laws or used in a pro-death penalty documentary. Considering I don’t support either position, I’d be pissed.

But would I have grounds for a lawsuit?

Maybe. If the film's narrator said, “Sylvester Brown wants congress to get tougher on gangs and he supports the death penalty,” that would be a clear misrepresentation of my words and image.

If, however, a director of an anti-crime film used the news clip that shows me bruised and wailing in the background, I don’t think I’d have a legal leg to stand on.

Moore didn’t claim Damon was in anyway disappointed with Bush or the war. Moore used licensed NBC footage. Damon, at best, served as a symbol. As in any other war documentary, no one assumes that the soldiers shown in the footage have a pro or anti-war position, unless the soldier specifically makes such a statement.

I’m sure all the victims shown in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina didn’t blame the Bush administration for the horrific emergency response, but their images solidified that position for millions of us watching the news.

If Damon’s claim has legal merit, then several others appearing in "Fahrenheit 9/11” might want to cash in, too.

First in line should be members of the Saudi royal family and members of the bin Laden klan. Moore’s film reinforces the perception that the Saudis and Bush have a lovey dovey relationship. One of the most damning indictments in the film depicts the Bush administration allowing more than 20 members of the bin Laden family to evacuate the United States immediately after the 9/11 attack.

Who knows, though? Maybe some of Osama’s kinfolk share Moore's views. How dare Moore give the impression that all bin Ladens are cozy with the Bushes?

Sue the bastard.

The author of “The Pet Goat” might have a case, too. People who saw Moore's movie watched as Bush sat in a Florida classroom for seven, long minutes after being told the country was under attack. He just sat there, listening as children read "The Pet Goat." Thanks to Moore, this children's story will forever be associated with the image of a clueless, dumbfounded president in the midst of national catastrophe.

Sounds like grounds for litigation to me.

A CNN clip of singer Britney Spears is also used in the film: “Honestly, I think we should just trust our president in every decision he makes and should just support that, you know, and be faithful in what happens."

Hey, Britney, you should, like, you know, go to court, because you came off, like, you know, a totally disillusioned, gum-chomping airhead.

That lapdog dude shown helping Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz prep for an interview, definitely has a case. What self-respecting woman would ever want to be seen in public with the man who fussed over Wolfowitz as he combed his hair with a saliva-soaked, plastic comb?


If a jury helps Damon reap millions from his suit, then all the wounded Iraqis shown in the film have a case, too. I'm sure some welcomed the “liberators” and regime change by military force. Heck, Moore made it appear as though some actually suffered from the invasion and mourned the loss of their loved ones.

The cad. They should take Moore to an international court and, like Damon, sue for misrepresention.

It wouldn’t surprise me at all to learn that Damon’s legal team came courtesy of the Bush/Cheney/Rove “Discredit, Defame & Destroy” propaganda machine. The lawsuit has the stench of the same group now seeking to prosecute journalists with the gall to investigate Bush’s many transgressions and wrongdoings.

At the very least, Damon has bought into the right-wing conservative dogma that fuels attacks against 1st Amendment protections.

The suit is not about misrepresenting or misusing a soldier’s image. It’s about maligning and neutering a badass director who brilliantly demonstrates how grossly this administration has misrepresented and misused power.

If a judge or jury rewards Damon’s claim, then every panicked New Yorker, every frustrated Flint Michigan resident, every wounded soldier and everyone pictured in the documentary may as well cash in, too.

It's not a lawsuit motivated by wrong or right. It's another thinly-veiled attempt to silence critics of a corrupt administration that ... to put it bluntly ... simply can't stand Mike.
Site Feed Subscribe to Sylvester Brown Jr./ Columnist