PEN America Condemns Attempt to Quash Controversial Michael Moore/Jeff Gibbs documentary 'Planet of the Humans'
Esteemed writers' organization calls the efforts "censorship, plain and simple"
PEN America is coming to the defense of Michael Moore and Jeff Gibbs, blasting attempts to quash their controversial new documentary Planet of the Humans.
Opponents of the film, which argues the "clean energy" movement purveys false hope of saving us from environmental catastrophe, have mounted a campaign to pull the film from distribution, claiming it's full of false and misleading information. In just over a week Planet of the Humans has recorded upwards of five million views on YouTube, where Moore released it for free.
“Calls to pull a film because of disagreement with its content are calls for censorship, plain and simple," wrote Summer Lopez, senior director of free expression programs at PEN America, the venerable writers' organization founded in 1922. "Those who take issue with the film have every right to make their concerns and arguments heard, but first and foremost, the public also has the essential right to view Moore’s film and make their own judgements.”
It is shameful and stunning that any artist, filmmaker or academic would join calls for silencing our free expression.
In a lengthy statement, Moore praised PEN America for taking a stand on the issue.
"I'd like to thank PEN America for forthrightly denouncing and condemning all efforts underway to ban the public from viewing our new documentary, Planet of the Humans," Moore wrote in part. "We have spent the past ten days trying to fight back censorship attempts led by an Oscar®-nominated documentary filmmaker, plus certain leaders who are unhappy with our film’s revelations regarding how the fight against climate change has been co-opted by corporate interests.
"These individuals have pressured websites carrying the film to 'shut it down,' calling the movie 'dangerous' and succeeding in getting one site to block the public from viewing it."
The Oscar-nominated documentary filmmaker Moore referred to is Josh Fox, director of the anti-fracking film Gasland. A week ago Fox posted a letter on Twitter that called Planet of the Humans "shockingly misleading and absurd." He added, "We request that the film be retracted by its creators and distributors and an apology rendered for its misleading content."
The letter was addressed to Moore, Gibbs, "all associated with Planet of the Humans," as well as Films for Action, a website not affiliated with Moore or Gibbs that had posted the film from YouTube.
Apparently ceding to that pressure, Films for Action removed Planet of the Humans from its site for "half a day," before reversing course.
"When Josh Fox first contacted us to discuss the problems with the film, we were initially convinced by his argument to 'retract' the film, as a journalist would do for a misleading article," Films for Action wrote. "Ultimately, we decided to put it back up because we believe media literacy, critique and debate is the best solution to the misinformation in the film."
Matthew Carey is a documentary filmmaker and journalist. His work has appeared on Deadline.com, CNN, CNN.com, TheWrap.com, NBCNews.com and in Documentary magazine.