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'Fahrenheit' groups tally Moore 'lies'

PROVO — Some say that maybe Michael Moore should call his next book "I'm a Big, Fat Liar."

According to David Kopel of the conservative Independence Institute, there are 59 lies in "Fahrenheit 9/11," the documentary directed by Moore, whose scheduled stop Wednesday at Utah Valley State College has caused a furor in Utah Valley.

Another Web site, which describes itself as "an independent, non-partisan guide to the issues and questions in 'Fahrenheit 9/11,' " needs seven chapters and an appendix to sort the fact from the fiction in the documentary. The Web site — FootnoteFahrenheit.com — will soon release a free book version, in PDF form.

It is expected to reach 200 pages.

They take issue with such things as . . .

Moore makes much of the cozy relationship between the Bush family and the Saudis, suggesting that because of close business ties, bin Laden family members were allowed to leave the United States without being properly screened by authorities when all other flights were grounded.

According to the bipartisan 9/11 commission report, 22 of 26 people on those flights were interviewed, and "nobody was allowed to depart on these six flights who the FBI wanted to interview in connection with the 9/11 attacks, or who the FBI later concluded had any involvement in those attacks."

They say the flights were authorized by Richard Clarke, former counterterrorism chief and one of Bush's outspoken critics, not the White House, as Moore suggests.

Moore's suggestion that the real motive behind the 2001 war in Afghanistan was not to hunt Osama bin Laden but to build an oil pipeline across the country that would make President Bush and his cronies rich.

According to Michael Isikoff, an investigative reporter with Newsweek, the project was actually being pushed in the late 1990s by Unocal, an oil company that met repeatedly with the Clinton White House.

Because of Taliban resistance, he said, the idea was scrapped in 1998.

Then, say other Moore-haters, there are other inaccuracies that need no explanation, such as scenes that portray pre-war Iraq as a country of happy kite-flying children. In another scene, American soldiers are shown making fun of an Iraqi man who appears to be dead.

According to Kopel, they were actually mocking a drunk passed out in the street.

As National Public Radio's Scott Simon said to the Wall Street Journal, Moore "seems to regard facts as mere nuisances to the story he wants to tell."

So why does any of this matter?

It matters because Moore makes documentaries, which are supposed to be true.

"Documentary means documentary. I'm sorry. It is not kosher to tell conscious lies," Vanity Fair columnist Christopher Hitchens said during a July CNN panel discussion on Moore.

So why is Moore celebrated when journalists, who essentially do the same kind of work, are fired without question for similar indiscretions?

In 1981, Janet Cooke won a Pulitzer Prize for writing about an 8-year-old heroin addict. Her Washington Post piece was moving and expertly crafted. But it wasn't true, and when that was discovered, Cooke was fired and her prize revoked.

Since then, a long line of journalists have been canned for making up quotes, plagiarizing or purporting to be in two places at once.

Why? Because journalism — and documentary filmmaking is a form of journalism, regardless of what Moore says — doesn't work without an implicit understanding that the facts being reported are actually facts.

"Fahrenheit 9/11" is a compelling piece of filmmaking that raises legitimate questions and has provoked debate among people who typically could not care less.

It's just too bad, say the folks at FootnoteFahrenheit.com, the documentary requires a 200-page reference book to sort the fact from the fiction.


E-mail: jhyde@desnews.com