By Dan Kennedy • The press, politics, technology, culture and other passions

Damon un-Moored

Some more tidbits about Peter Damon, the injured Iraqi war veteran who’s suing filmmaker Michael Moore for using a news clip of him in “Fahrenheit 9/11” in a way that Damon claims falsely portrays him as a critic of President Bush. (Earlier items here, here and here.)

— MSNBC.com gossip columnist Jeannette Walls today quotes Damon’s lawyer, Dennis Lynch, as denying that Damon and his parents joined Sen. Ted Kennedy on the podium for an anti-war speech in 2004. Lynch is wrong, which raises the question of why he chose to deny reality rather than come up with a plausible explanation. Walls also writes:

In another film, one blasting Michael Moore [Walls is apparently referring to the Dick Morris-narrated “Fahrenhype 9/11”], Damon was quoted as saying that he disagreed with Moore’s documentary, which he called “propaganda.” But when asked if Moore had he right to make the movie, Damon replied, “That’s the reason we go off to fight — to defend his right to make a movie.”

Of course, that was before Lynch dangled visions of $85 million before his eyes.

— Speaking of Lynch, this post to the Democratic Underground has a bunch of material on his ties to ultraconservative causes. D.U. is obviously a partisan site, and I don’t like the idea of guilt by association. But, as you’ll see, the post consists almost entirely of links to Lynch’s own writings. Moreover, it fills in a few pieces of the puzzle regarding Lynch’s agenda, if not necessarly Damon’s.

Boston trivia fans will note the tenuous connection to former Boston mayor Ray Flynn.

Here are some interesting thoughts on the fair-use exception to copyright law. As the blogger A.J. Schnack observes:

While the lawsuit is clearly part of a larger effort to get that leftie-commie Michael Moore, it is going to be an interesting and important test case that will either chill the work of nonfiction filmmakers (if it succeeds) or set in stone a rule to guide us in the future — we can use clips from news programs (and the people interviewed in them) to make our own case — even if the case we are making is the opposite of what the person being interviewed believes.

Moore-haters, pay careful attention to what Schnack is saying. He’s not saying that Moore has the right to distort or alter Damon’s words. What he is saying is that a journalist, a nonfiction filmmaker or an author has the right to use someone’s words in the service of his or her own agenda, even if that person is offended, as long as the person is portrayed accurately. It’s that right that Damon and Lynch are trying to topple. You might know it by a more familiar name: the First Amendment.

— Finally, it’s now been four days since we learned that Damon might have been against the war before he was for it. I’ve done a pretty thorough search, and can find no evidence that he has spoken since that revelation was posted at Reason.com.

Certainly Damon had proven that he can deliver some pithy sound bites. Has Dennis Lynch told him to shut up? And why might that be?

Go, Jon, go. My friend Jon Keller did a long interview with Damon last week, before the Ted Kennedy revelation. Here’s how Keller ends his piece: “One final note. Damon says he supported the war when he went over, and he still supports it now.” Time for a follow-up, I’d say.


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9 Comments

  1. Anonymous

    First off, I haven’t seen Moore’s movie, nor would I. But it seems to me that the issue here isn’t whether or not Moore can use interview footage of Damon done by someone else in his movie – of course he can – but rather the context the filmmaker provides surrounding the footage. My understanding is that prior to introducing the Damon footage, Moore talks about veterans being left behind by the miliary, or something to that effect. Then they cut away to the footage of Damon being interviewed in his hospital room. The implication is that Damon is one of those veterans who felt left behind, which Damon claims is not the case. What if someone was making a movie about, say, the high percentage of pedophiles among journalists. They talk about the issue some and then – wham – fire up some footage of Dan Kennedy on Greater Boston talking about journalistic issues. Now the filmmaker has the right to use that footage, but it would be completely irresponsible to show it in that disjointed context. That’s my two cents. I’m sure the pro-Moore factions, including the blog boss, will tell me I’m full of crap.

  2. Anonymous

    Pro-Moore factions? Don’t you mean the pro-First Amendment factions? Oh wait, I forgot. The conservatives led by Albert Gonzales are trying to cut the heart out of that as well.Now if in your example they cut to Dan Kennedy playing with a bunch of kids, you *might* have a valid comparison. As it stands, this nebulous idea that Damon was somehow harmed with “guilt by association” won’t last five seconds in court.You’re not full of crap, you’re just intellectually dishonest. Big difference.

  3. Church Secretary

    The implication is that Damon is one of those veterans who felt left behind, which Damon claims is not the case. This is a specious point of argument. I saw “Fahrenheit 9/11”, and I got the distinct impression that Michael Moore thought that Damon was one of the veterans ‘left behind.’There is no deception to that sequence in the film. The objections of Damon to the sequence might be personal and/or ideological, but they are not factual. Hence, any deep-pocketed-right-winger-backed ‘lawsuit’ in his name on that issue would have no merit.This is just another case of the right wing (and some chicken-hearted ‘lefties’) smearing Moore. Talk about killing the messenger. Get used to it, Cro-Mags, the Bush administration is the worst the country has ever seen (even considering the Woodrow Wilson cabal). Don’t get mad at Michael Moore for having the balls to call them out.

  4. Little Thom

    Uncached too, sorry:CNN

  5. Another face at Zanzibar

    Well, if nothing else has come from this, at least we know Jon Keller has a friend.

  6. Anonymous

    Heckuva job, dare, Jon.

  7. neil

    As long as somebody’s doing a follow-up, it might also be time to ask Damon or others what “support the war” actually means anymore. Does it mean, “as long as it takes” to do…what exactly–establish a secure democracy? But at this rate that will take decades.I think in order to claim to support the war these days you have to assume that we are making timely progress. If you don’t think so then it follows that it will take longer to achieve than we have resources available to finish the job. Then what?The more that we can see progress, the more tenable is the position of “supporting the war”. And the reverse is true too.

  8. neil

    I wanted also to mention that for veterans, particularly injured vets, it is obviously especially difficult to come to terms with the possibility that your suffering may have been in service to a bad idea. To confront such a realization is intolerable–it adds insult to injury. But what is the source of the insult–the bad idea, or those who point it out? In the heat of the moment it’s easy to mix them up. Maybe, unfortunately, it really was a bad idea.Born on the Fourth of July, the movie about Ron Kovic working through this ordeal in the Vietnam era, was on TV recently.

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