Michael Moore Hates America

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The movie Michael Moore Hates America attempts a counter blast at Fahrenheit 9/11, Michael Moore's critique of George W. Bush and the war on terror. It premiered on September 12th, 2004 at a small conservative film festival in Dallas, Texas.

Director and financial backer

'Michael Moore Hates America' is directed by Michael Wilson, a young independent film maker. Until May 2004, Wilson's efforts were foundering through a lack of money. However, he then secured funding from Democratic and Republican political donor Brian R. Cartmell, an internet entrepreneur, whose early career was associated with Internet pornography, and who appeared as a defendant in an early cybersquatting lawsuit.

On the film's website, Wilson claims not to be anti-Moore per se. He says "Contrary to its title, 'Michael Moore Hates America' isn't a hatchet job on the filmmaker." However, a link on the website to www.moorelies.com is labelled "A site that tells it like it is". Moorelies.com is no longer published, but its archives remain online as of February 25, 2006. Furthermore, an April 2004 internet posting by Wilson compared Moore's views to those of Osama bin Laden. [1].

In a September 27th 2003 Press Release, Wilson stated "I'm really just interested in the conversation, you know. Why does Mike take liberties in editing, statistics and arguments on things that are instantly verifiable. If it's because he believes so strongly in his political philosophy, I think his audience needs to hear that. Our film really deals with the whole genre of documentary, and how it, more than any other genre can be used to manipulate, if the filmmaker's level of integrity allows that." [2]

Other people working on the movie

According to a 21st February 2004 posting on the Moorewatch.com website [3], the following people are also involved in the production of the movie. The posting was copied from the then version of the "Filmmaker's journal" page on the Michael Moore Hates America website.

  • Chris Ohlsen, producer
  • Carr Hagerman, co-producer
  • Scott Olson, DP
  • Greg Browning, editor
  • Tim Slagle, comedy consultant, is a libertarian comedian who performed at the 2004 Minnesota Libertarian Convention [4]. On his website [5], he recounts how in November 2001, he performed a live show at the Acme Comedy club in Minneapolis. Slagle says of his performance, "I did an impression of Bill Clinton as a Child Molester." Slagle went on to suggest to his audience that "we might prevent another Columbine tragedy by finding suicidal teenagers, and recruiting them into the Special Forces of the military." According to a letter of complaint from a member of the audience featured on his website, some audience members walked out. [6]
  • Maura Flynn, publicist. Flynn is listed as Tim Slagle's publicist for a show he is recording for Stand Up! Records at Zanies comedy club in Chicago, July 2004. The show was promoted on the website of the Illinois College Republican Federation, with the offer of a limited number of free passes to ICRF members [7]. The publicity for the show asks "Do you like edgy humor?" and "Are you sick of political correctness?" In the posting by Michael Wilson reproduced on the Moorewatch website, Wilson says of Flynn that she "has worked tirelessly and without pay for a year, helping us get into over 30 radio markets, tons of publications, and has helped us gain access to interviews and other folks who have offered guidance and insight." [8] A list of credits published on the MMHA website in August 2004 lists Flynn as an 'Associate Producer', but does not mention her work as a publicist [9].
  • Curt Johnson was one of the producers of Michael Moore Hates America and is currently working with Maura Flynn on an untitled documentary about the animal rights movement. Johnson has interviewed the Animal Liberation Front website for information on that organization for his film [10].

Bradley Hillstrom - Executive Producer

Another person involved in the production of 'Michael Moore Hates America' is either Dr. Bradley Hillstrom, Sr. or his son Bradley Jr. The FAQ page of the movie's website lists a 'Brad Hillstrom' as Executive Producer. This information was only added to the website in August 2004 - before then, Mike Wilson had not mentioned Hillstrom's involvement [11]. The page also gives the credit: "Additional Production Services - Hillstrom Entertainment". A combination of information from opensecrets.org and the website of the Minnesota Secretary of State [12] makes it possible to identify the 'Brad Hillstrom' mentioned on the MMHA website as being either Dr. Bradley Hillstrom, Sr. or his son Bradley Jr. [13].

Dr. Bradley Hillstrom, Sr. is a major political donor, with 91% of his donations for the 2000-2004 election cycles going to Republican politicians. His son has also made one political donation, to George W. Bush [14].

Dr Hillstrom's spouse, Tina O. Hillstrom, is also a major donor to the Republican party [15], and is on the Board of Directors of the Minnesota Film and TV Board [16] [17].

Hillstrom Entertainment Inc. was registered with the Minnesota Secretary of State on 28th March 2003 [18]. Fifteen days later, on the 12th April 2003, the internet address for 'Michael Moore Hates America' (michaelmoorehatesamerica.com) was registered [19].

The drive to raise funding from 'some very connected, staunch conservative types'

In the February 23, 2004 update to his 'Filmmakers Journal', reproduced on the Moorewatch.com website [20], Michael Wilson described his efforts to raise the "$400,000... we need to shoot, edit, distribute and market the flick".

He describes a series of (unsuccessful) meetings with wealthy conservative potential funders: "We had lots of meetings with important people with more money than you or I will ever see. But they earned it through their hard work and wouldn't easily part with it. Even some very connected, staunch conservative types were hesitant. They love the film, and they're glad someone else is doing it. But when it came time to write a check, they couldn't." [21]

Wilson did not say who the "conservative types" were, or indeed who they were "connected" to. Nor did he explain why , given their "love" of the movie and how "glad" they were that "someone else is doing it" they were unable to offer financing.

Wilson's apparent pride about meeting a series of rich conservatives, and their praise for his efforts, both seem at odds with his claim in a June 1 2004 Variety Magazine interview that he was trying to produce a non-partisan movie. According to the article, "'I need some more people on the left of the spectrum,' said Wilson, who said that he isn't right- or left-wing, but libertarian." [22]

In the end, according to Wilson, MMHA had to rely on personal loans and credit cards (plus a small amount of donations from visitors to the website) for several more months until Brian Cartmell contacted him with an offer of funding, which according to his 28th May Film Makers journal [23] was "about three weeks ago" (i.e early May). Wilson stated that he and Cartmell "had a couple of phone conversations, and hit it off instantly", he also stated that they "share similar views".

Mike Wilson denounces 'shrill and obnoxious' anti-Moore websites

Having used anti-Moore sites such as Moorewatch.com to raise money (see MMHA external links page), Mike Wilson denounced such sites in a September 15th 2004 interview with citypages.com. He stated "The title was always meant to be satiric; it wasn't some thesis that I set out to prove. I started researching [Moore's] inaccuracies, looking at a lot of anti-Moore websites. And what I found was that the people who were criticizing him were being just as shrill and obnoxious as he was being onstage at the Oscars. Everywhere I went, it was, "Michael Moore hates America, Michael Moore hates America." And I just thought that was fascinating...As a nation, we've become shrill--a bunch of shouters" [24]

Mike Wilson's voting record, and aims for the movie

In a June 5th 2004 interview with the Ledger-Enquirer, Wilson was quoted as describing himself as "a Libertarian who voted for Bush". He also stated: "What I'm out to influence is how people perceive what he's telling them. I just want them to know documentary makers are inherently dishonest. They walk into something with a point of view," Wilson says.

He doesn't exclude himself from that charge. "I'm being very honest," he says. "I'm manipulating (audiences) with this film." [25]

Criticisms of Michael Moore made by Mike Wilson and/or his movie

Wilson condemns 'shrillness that has engulfed the American conversation', yet compares Moore's views to those of bin Laden

Michael Wilson has stated that his movie is not an attack on Michael Moore, but rather, he wishes to satirize "the shrillness that has engulfed the American conversation." [26]

However, Wilson arguably injected his own note of shrillness in the 16th April 2004 update to his Filmmaker's Journal, reproduced on the Moorewatch.com website [27]. Titled "The Sympathizer", it compares Michael Moore's views to those of Osama bin Laden, stating "Mike Moore has become so obsessed with his hatred for Bush that he's now firmly on the side of the bad guys." Wilson goes on to say "I guess the best way to explain what I'm feeling is to lay out some of Moore's words and some of bin Laden's words, side by side".

After performing this provocative exercise, Wilson concludes: "Whether it comes from Michael Moore or Osama bin Laden, the reasons behind the hatred of our way of life - to work hard, persevere and be rewarded - are becoming transparent.". Wilson's claim that the title 'Michael Moore Hates America' is satirical and not an attack on Moore is somewhat contradicted by the claim in his original one-sheet[28] which states that "the truth is Michael Moore hates America and Mike Wilson is the guy to prove it"

Characterizing Moore's work as an attack on the American Dream and personal responsibility

Both the publicity material for the movie, and Mike Wilson's personal statements in blogs and on his website, have made frequent reference to the American Dream, and suggested that Moore is trying to undermine or belittle it. The original press release for the movie stated that Wilson would be "scouring the country in search of the America that inspires people to greatness" [29] . The original 'one-sheet' expanded on this theme: "It's a search for the America that most Americans have always believed in... an America where hard work is rewarded and liberty gives everyone a chance" [30].

In June 2003, shortly after losing his job, Wilson made explicit his belief that Moore's work is an attack on the American Dream: "I am in the position now that the people in Moore's films lament. I can bitch about it and talk about how it was unfair that I lost my job as the company was making millions in profit, but I won't. I will get up tomorrow and the next day and the next day and I will live my American Dream. I will because that's what I choose." [31]

In the same Filmmaker's Journal entry, Wilson linked this theme of support for the American Dream with Moore's attitude to the welfare state: "I'm making a film about personal accountability and sending the message that each of us has a responsibility to our own lives... a message that Michael Moore has tried to undermine by praising the welfare state in his films and books" [32].

Criticism of Michael Moore for making a demonstrably false statement

The trailer for Michael Moore Hates America features a clip from a television interview where Moore was asked if he would grant Michael Wilson an interview. Instead of simply stating that he had no desire to appear in a movie called 'Michael Moore Hates America', Moore evaded the question by saying that he doesn't appear in any movies other than his own. The trailer then goes on to show a list of movies that Michael Moore has appeared in that were not his own. Moore's critics contend this is symptomatic of the inaccurate statements which they claim Moore makes in F/911. [33]

Personalities featured in the trailer

According to a July 23rd 2004 article by Bill Berkowitz [34], the trailer for Michael Moore Hates America features:

  • J.C. Watts - former Republican Congressman, Oklahoma.
  • Dinesh D'Souza - political commentator. D'Souza is the author of the race baiting book The End of Racism: Principles for a Multiracial Society. The book contains offensive and inflammatory statements such as "the criminal and irresponsible black underclass represents a revival of barbarism in the midst of Western civilization" (p. 527)
  • John Stossel - ABC television commentator, variously characterized as a libertarian or a conservative.
  • Penn Jillette - entertainer and illusionist.

Although Wilson notes in his current publicity 'one-sheet' available on his website [35] that "We'll interview celebrities like Penn Jillette and John Stossel, scholars like Jerry Taylor, Dinesh D/Souza and Robert Levy", this is slightly at odds with his more ambitious claim in his original 'one-sheet' [36] that "We'll interview celebrities and experts who haven't bought into the rhetoric like Penn Jillette, Dennis Miller, Goldie Hawn and Bruce Willis" . There is no evidence in the original or the new trailer that the movie features interviews with Miller, Hawn or Willis.

Edits to this article from the MMHA post-production studio

Post-production of the movie took place at the DV-ENT Artist Group, a consortium of independent editors and artists in Minneapolis [37]. Greg Browning, the editor for Michael Moore Hates America, is the president of DV-ENT.

On the 5th July 2004, edits lauding Wilson's movie, and supporting Brian Cartmell's behaviour over the Cocos-Keeling Islands top-level domain name, were made to this article from IP address That address resolves to a computer at DV-ENT.

Mike Wilson's Conflicting Claims

Since May 5th 2003, Mike Wilson and his team have made several conflicting statements about the movie's release date:

  • "Michael Moore Hates America is on track for submission to the Sundance Film Festival in January where the production team hopes to attract interest from distributors" - MMHA Press Release , May 5th 2003 [38]
  • " "Michael Moore Hates America" is on schedule for release in the summer of 2004... around the same time Moore's next film "Fahrenheit 9/11" hits theaters" - MMHA Press Release, September 27th 2003 [39]
  • "Now for the state of the film... I'm busy writing the final outline. Chris is shopping the film around at Real Screen next week, so he's taking some DVDs and a complete outline/script" - Mike Wilson Film-Makers Journal, January 21st , 2004 [40]
  • "Our goal is to get the film on screens by August 27th 2004" Mike Wilson Film-Makers Journal, May 28th 2004 [41]
  • "So in a matter of a few short weeks, we've gone from being in a situation where I didn't know if I'd ever get the flick finished, to a situation where the film is fully funded, and where we will be announcing a distributor within a few short days.... I'm willing to deal with whether people love it or hate it, and whether it's a smash or a bomb, because I crafted it out of nothing. It's on my shoulders right now. The next few days are going to be the part of the ride where we crest and start screaming at 100MPH" - Mike Wilson, Film-Makers Journal, June 13th 2004 [42]
  • "An article ran in Variety that brought us to the attention of a slew of awesome distributors.....Today we will finalize a distribution deal for Michael Moore Hates America, and my little American Dream will be on its way to coming true....In the next day or so, there will be a big announcement about who will be distributing it, how many theaters it will be in, and when it will be born into the world. I'm excited for all of you to share this moment with me, so stay tuned. " - Mike Wilson, Film-Makers Journal June 19th 2004 [43]
  • "We had a bit of a bidding war on our hands a few weeks ago....On the bright side, we're finishing the film in the next week to 10 days, and will be selecting a distributor at that time.....So we're almost there" - Mike Wilson, Film-Makers Journal June 29th 2004 [44]
  • "Our first cut came in at around three hours, but as we cut it back, the content gets tighter, funnier and more poignant. This film is absolutely rocking right now, and will only get better....We'll have a tight rough cut ready by the end of the week… so early August looks reasonable for the film's release" - Mike Wilson, Film-Makers Journal July 6th 2004 [45]
  • "I did a couple of radio things this morning here locally, and then headed down to Greg's to look at the rough cut. It's looking great....We have some shuffling to do with the segments, so that the story arcs more effectively, but after taping note-cards and Post-Its to the wall all afternoon, it looks like we have it figured out. So we'll be moving stuff around all night, and then tightening up individual segments tomorrow.....Deadlines suck, and we're trying to get a lot done in a short amount of time" - Mike Wilson, Film Makers Journal July 7th, 2004 [46]
  • "First, we put in a very hard week of cutting, and the film is starting to work well. We have a lot to get done before Wednesday (I'll tell you why that day is important in a later post), but I think we can get there. All the content is there and the comedy is starting to emerge. The music is coming along, and I'm feeling better. I've actually stepped away for a few days to clear my head and so that Greg and Curt can tighten the flick without my "hovering". " - Mike Wilson, Film Makers Journal July 21st 2004 [47]
  • "We've had distributors flying in this week to screen the film and more will be looking at it in the next few days....We'll be shacked up in the edit suite to tighten the film, add more sparkle and work with Bob and Levi to get the score just right. After that, and after the distribution deal is finished, the MMHA World Tour will begin." - Mike Wilson, Film-Makers Journal, July 29th 2004 [48]
  • "The flick is almost done....So we'll be color correcting and mixing audio in the next week or two, then dropping in a couple of last minute items that will be corrected and mixed separately. Then the film will be sent out to be printed....We've promised it by the end of summer, and summer ends in late September. We'll make it by then" - Mike Wilson, Film-Makers Journal, August 18th 2004 [49]
  • "So here's the news… movie's done. There's stuff going on in the distribution realm, but I'm not saying shit until it's done...Hang in there… It's coming to a theater near you soon. I'll let you know when there is a national release date" - Mike Wilson, Film-Makers Journal, September 1st 2004 [50]
  • "Meanwhile, we're still working on distribution. I'm on my way to LA from Dallas to meet with the folks who are repping the film, and then heading out to Toronto on Wednesday before that film festival ends to meet with more distributors....The ride is really just beginning" - Mike Wilson, Film-Makers Journal, September 13th 2004 [51]
  • "Things are moving fast[er] than I ever imagined when I picked up a camera 18 months ago" - Mike Wilson, Film-Makers Journal, September 27th 2004 [52]

Wilson has not explained why there has as yet been no announcement about theater distribution, despite the myriad distributors who were 'flying in' to view the movie in late July and the 'bidding war' that occurred prior to June 29th. And although he noted in his June 29th Journal message [53] that 'we had to walk away' from a proposed distribution deal 'after about a week of negotiations' due to 'sticking points that we couldn't work out', he did not explain what these 'sticking points' were. However, the film has been booked for a limited engagement at the Twin Cities Mann Theaters starting October 22.

Hillstrom Cartmell Wilson Films LLC

Sometime in early October, Wilson updated the 'contact' section of his website, referring 'Business, Distribution and Screening Enquiries' to a number with the prefix '702' [54]. This prefix covers some of the city of Las Vegas, Nevada.[55]

A search of the business database of the Nevada Secretary of State shows that on September 29th, 2004, a company called Hillstrom Cartmell Wilson Films LLC was incorporated. The File Number is LLC22384-2004 [56].

Hollywood Debut And The Republican Congressional Nominee

A September 22nd Press Release from the 'Victor D. Elizalde for Congress' group, announced that "The hotly anticipated documentary, "Michael Moore Hates America" will make its Hollywood premiere on Thursday, September 30 at 8 p.m". The release further stated that "The film will premiere in conjunction with a fundraiser to benefit Hollywood Congressional Candidate and Studio Executive, Victor Elizalde". Tickets, the press release announced, are available through the campaign office of Mr Elizalde. The statement concluded: "The 30th Congressional District, for which Victor Elizalde is the Republican nominee, is arguably one of the most notable districts in the nation, being home to some of the world's most recognized cities".

In the same media release, Mike Wilson was quoted as saying "We're excited that Victor wants to be a part of this big American Conversation. An honest, open dialogue is what this country needs right now, and in that spirit we've also invited Congressman Henry Waxman to attend this event", although he did not state how likely he thought it was that a congressman would attend a fundraising event for his opponent. [57] In June 2004 Waxman attended a special showing of Fahrenheit 9/11 for Democrat politicians in Washington, DC, which would suggest he is less than likely to accept Mike Wilson's invitation [58].

World Premiere

MMHA was premiered on September 12th at the American Renaissance Film Festival in Dallas, Texas [59] , billed as 'the first and only pro-American film festival in the country'. AFR co-founder Jim Hubbard has stated that the festival was chiefly bankrolled by "big-time conservative donors." [60], although he did not state who these donors were. Wilson further states that "we're also booked for the SMAASH Festival, right here in my hometown of Minneapolis in October". This is presumably a reference to the SMMASH Festival [61] ('Strictly Midwest Movies and Short Hits') held from October 15th to October 21st 2004. Rule One of the eligibility rules state: * "1) The film must have been produced, directed, written, edited by, or starring an individual who currently resides in the the Midwest (MI, OH, IN, IL, IA, MN, WI, KS, MO, NE, SD, ND, OK, TX) or lived in the one of these states for at least four years" Or, according to a Michigan government website : "* Entries must have some tie to the following states: MI, OH, IN, IL, IA, MN, WI, KS, MO, NE, SD, ND, OK, TX. See entry rules for more detail but if anyone from your production lives or lived in one of the above states for 4 years, you're in! " [62]

The movie was also shown at the Liberty Film Festival in LA. This festival was held from October 1st-3rd in Hollywood California. [63] The festival website claims (in an echo of the claims made by the American Renaissance Film Festival) that the festival is " America's first conservative Film festival". The website also notes that "The 2004 Liberty Film Festival is the first major event showcasing films that celebrate the traditional American values of free speech, patriotism, and religious freedom". In his journal entry of 9-3-04, Wilson said that he would be showing a "private screening in DC", although he did not mention what group, organization or individual this private screening was being arranged for.[64] Mike Wilson notes on his website that he is "available for speaking engagements and screenings" at colleges and universities [65] and provides contact details.

In an October 4th Update to his film-makers journal, Wilson said he was "looking forward to a couple of days at home before heading out with the flick on a little college tour". He described the "amazing" Hollywood premiere, a "private screening on Friday which was very cool" (he gave no further information), and a "sold out" Liberty Film Festival which the audience 'loved'

He made no mention of a distribution deal. [66]

Reviews of 'Michael Moore Hates America'

Ebert and Roeper give "Michael Moore Hates America" Two thumbs up.

The conservative news site WorldNetDaily carried a brief but positive item. According to reviewer Ron Strom, the movie "received a huge response at the American Film Renaissance festival in Dallas, packing out two showings and eliciting a 10-minute standing ovation." It quotes festival director Jim Hubbard as saying of the movie's producers, "They're going to get distribution... This thing is just too huge." [67]

A detailed review in the left-leaning Salon.com conceded that 'Michael Moore Hates America' was "easily the most interesting movie [at the festival] and the only one likely to make it to real theaters." The reviewer, Michelle Goldberg, pays the movie's director a backhanded compliment: "Wilson's movie had surprising nuance and commendable sincerity - though not enough to make up for the thuggish bathos at its core."

Goldberg praises Wilson for calling Moore on some of his alleged misrepresentations, but criticizes him for "cheap" and "pointless" segments on Canada and Flint, Michigan. She concludes: "In his movie, Wilson seems genuinely disturbed by the degree of polarization of America. He leaves an interview with right-wing Jacobin David Horowitz unnerved by Horowitz's shrillness. Part of him wants to broker a truce between the warring Americas that Herb Meyer speaks of. There seems to be a struggle in him between decency and demagogy. Ultimately, though, demagogy wins." [68]

Robert Koehler of Variety called the film "Far more jocular, good-natured and thoughtful than Moore partisans might expect." [69]

Andrew Leigh of National Review said: "MMHA is a good movie. And considering the $250,000 budget, tight timeframe, and the fact this is Wilson's first full-length feature, it's an extraordinary achievement." [70]

A review in American Prospect stated, "While I disagreed with Wilson's 'the lack of personal responsibility in America is its biggest problem' stance, his film had an unusual humility and nuance. He couldn't help but stack the deck sometimes (picking imbeciles to represent opposing opinions, for example), but was often unafraid to expose his own moral failings or to let viewers make up their own minds without bludgeoning them into submission - a refreshing change after the bullying oeuvre of Moore." [71]

According to the Minneapolis City Pages, "this shrewd documentary dismantling of objectivity in...uh, documentary isn't just for Moore-haters after all." [72]

Brian Orndorf of 'OhMyNews.com' savaged Wilson in October 24th article. Scarcely finding a good word to say about the movie, Orndorf's piece was slugged: "'Michael Moore Hates America' is a desperate, hypocritical film that misses its mark" and concluded "He's trying to siphon off some of Moore's substantial spotlight to jumpstart his own filmmaking career that, if this unprofessional film is any indication, has absolutely no justification to continue" [73]

Business entities associated with 'Michael Moore Hates America'

The following business entities appear to be associated with the movie:

  • MMHA Productions, LLC. Registered 22nd May 2003. [74]
  • MMHA Creative Group, LLC. Registered 27th June 2003. [75]
  • MMHA Partners, LP. Registered 30th June 2003. [76]

To obtain more detailed information about these business entities from the office of the Minnesota Secretary of State (via the above links), one needs to be a resident of Minnesota, and pay $4.00 per entity.

SourceWatch resources

External links

Due to the length of this article, external links have been moved to a separate article.

Note: Michael Wilson has challenged the fairness of this article. To see his comments, read the talk page.