My Divided State (a movie review)

Once upon a time, I was an angst-ridden college student living in Utah, shocked and appalled at what I saw as the BYU administration’s inexcusable hostility to academic freedom. I had just returned from my mission and English professor Cecilia Farr was being denied tenure under what appeared to be pretty dubious circumstances. Professor Farr had, among other things (or maybe not among other things, which was itself part of the controversy), publicly espoused a rather moderate pro-choice position on abortion (carefully clarifying that she agreed with the Church’s stand as to abortion’s immorality) and all Hell had broken loose. My vision of what academic freedom at a university should be (yes, even a Mormon one) was not consistent with BYU’s actions, and I was quite the unhappy camper. Although there were a lot of lessons to be learned from this episode (and a lot of different ways of framing the issues that were in play), one of the bottom lines, as I saw it at the time, was this: An inordinately large number of Mormons have an inordinately difficult time recognizing the difference between their passionately-felt political views and the religious doctrines of their Church.

It’s been quite a few years since I lived through the angst and irritation of my BYU days, but much of it came flooding back to me the other evening, as I watched THIS DIVIDED STATE, a documentary that has just been released on DVD. THIS DIVIDED STATE documents the decision of UVSC Student Body President Jim Bassi and Student Vice-President of Academic Affairs Joe Vogel to invite filmmaker Michael Moore to campus to speak to the community just days before the 2004 presidential election. The university coughed up about $40,000 to bring Moore to campus, all of which was to be recouped by private donations and ticket sales. Nonetheless, UVSC student-activist Sam Vreeland spearheaded a petition campaign calling on UVSC not to spend school funds on Moore (as well as another unsuccessful campaign calling for Bassi’s and Vogel’s resignations). Meanwhile, wealthy community activitist Kay Anderson (who has to be seen and heard to be believed), campaigned vigorously and publicly against Moore’s invitation, offering to reimburse UVSC all its money if it agreed to cancel Moore’s speech. He also eventually filed a civil lawsuit against Vogel and Bassi. Then there was the visit to campus by Sean Hannity (of Fox News’ “Hannity and Colmes”) a few days before Moore’s speech, complete with his typical lambasting of “liberals,” John Kerry, and all the rest of it.

This was quite a fun, if maddening, movie. I say “fun,” because watching a bunch of Utah college students spew out tired, sophomoric cliches about “relativism,” “objectivity,” “morality” and “contention” is like watching a grisly car wreck: It makes you cringe, but you just can’t look away. (Can we all just admit that in Mormonism, 9 times out of 10, he who accuses his opponent of “contention” is usually more guilty of it than the person he’s accusing?) I say “maddening” because over the last few years, I had perhaps kidded myself into believing that maybe the bulk of LDS college students now-a-days weren’t suffering from the adolescent confusion over religious doctrine and their own political opinions that afflicted my college comrades back in the day. This film promptly disabused me of that notion.

THIS DIVIDED STATE contains numerous memorable scenes and unforgettable exchanges. Ken Brown, a Utah film projectionist who looks remarkably like Michael Moore, has some great moments posing as the notorious filmmaker. Sam Vreeland comes off a bit silly when he’s called on his apparently misleading claims about the funding of Moore’s visit, and he refuses (or is unable) to discuss the issue intelligently. But the most awkward moment of the film was probably when Dennis Potter, of LDS-PHIL fame (and who has participated here), poses a question to Sean Hannity concerning the Bush Administration’s foreign policy and the relative merits of “realism” vs. “neo-conservativism.” The heckling that Potter receives from the mob of assembled students is embarrassing (and not because of Potter). Even worse was Hannity’s complete non-sequitur response: “9-11 changed everything!” (Actually, Hannity’s response to the question was such a blatant non-sequitur that I wondered if this wasn’t a bit of creative, unfair editing on the part of the filmmaker).

Then there was Kay Anderson. Watching this guy run his mouth is alone worth the price of the rental (or purchase). He is truly a goldmine of over-the-top aphorisms and outlandish rhetoric. To Anderson, Moore simply doesn’t represent Orem’s values, since “Family City, USA” is a “bastion of conservative values.” Thus, Moore should be kept out of town. I particularly enjoyed Anderson’s silly conflation of “family” with all the particular moral and political views that he happens to hold dear. “This college exists to represent the values of this community!” we are told over and over again, and Anderson means it. But my favorite Anderson lines by far were:

“It’s difficult to stand up for moral values against people who don’t believe in moral values.”
(Bassi’s and Vogel’s decision to invite Moore to campus apparently wasn’t indicative of their differing moral values. It was evidence that they are completely devoid of moral values altogether!).

“Free speech works because most of us have the good sense to know when to keep our mouths shut!” (Admittedly, this would make a great bumper sticker, or a new tongue-in-cheek sub-title for this blog).

All in all, the film was a fascinating roller-coaster ride of political (and religious) conflict in Utah, frequently characterized by overwrought rhetoric about morality, family, free speech, etc. Good times, I must say. And “spoken like a true lefty,” you might say to me in response.

But at this point, I should probably point out a few things about myself: Politically, I am closer in my views to Sean Hannity and many of the conservative students I’m criticizing, than I am to Michael Moore and his fans on the anti-War left. I’ve always found Moore to be an embarrassingly inarticulate bore, and I don’t think much of the substance of his political argument regarding Bush and the Iraq War either. (Check this out, for starters). While everyone else in America either loved or hated “Bowling for Columbine,” I basically found it dull, and I had the same reaction to “Farenheit 9/11″ (though I confess I loved the Britney Spears clip). This doesn’t necessarily mean I love Hannity (a pompous, arrogant windbag if there ever was one), but there’s a reason I subscribe to National Review and the Weekly Standard, rather than Mother Jones and The Nation, if you know what I mean. (I prefer pundits like Bill Kristol, if you must know). Anyway, despite my right-of-center leanings, I’ve always found the smug, self-righteous political posturing of some of my conservative co-religionists nauseating, and particularly so when I was in college. If I learned anything at BYU, it was that many of my fellow students probably needed a much heavier dose of political and ideological diversity than they were getting. There’s nothing like an ideologically and intellectually homogenous environment to cause a student to mistakenly regard his or her propensity for pious declaration as a talent for making persuasive political arguments (particularly when it’s accompanied by the inevitable “amens” such declarations bring from fellow travelers).

So this whole episode, and others like it, leaves me divided. I’m divided because on the one hand, I don’t like Moore, I have political sympathies with Hannity, and I have traditionally been pretty hawkish on the Iraq War. But on the other hand, I’m embrarrassed at the way so many conservative LDS students demonize their political opponents as amoral reprobates, and demonstrate a complete inability to distinguish between religious and political orthodoxies. Ultimately, I wish that we could all engage in polite, intelligent discussions of our political differences, and that we didn’t need to shun our political adversaries as servants of Satan. I long for the day that most conservative LDS members become a little less intolerant of their political opponents, and a little more cognizant of the fact that not every single one of their public policy preferences follows logically and inevitably from a proper reading of Jesus and the prophets.

But if Sam Vreeland or Kay Anderson are any indication of which way the wind is blowing, I probably shouldn’t hold my breath. I highly recommend you check out this film to see what I mean. And now I’ll close with Vreeland’s most memorable and profound political observation, which is arguably the most classic moment of the entire film:

“Religion is definitely a big factor in any community … like the Middle East for instance .. I’m going to compare Utah to the Middle East … but the Islamic religion … everything that they do plays into the Islamic religion … doesn’t matter if it’s economics, or biology, or anything to do with the community … that plays a role in the community is affected by religion and I think that that’s … very much so the truth here in Utah.”

Yikes.

Aaron B

Comments

  1. Actually, Hannity’s response to the question was such a blatant non-sequitur that I wondered if this wasn’t a bit of creative, unfair editing on the part of the filmmaker

    Send Hannity an e-mail and ask.

  2. Thanks Aaron, Mr. Right-of-Center (who knew?) I really want to see this movie but I doubt whether it’ll be in the rental stores here in Baltimore. If anyone has a copy and would like to lend it to me, I promise to send it back!

  3. having witnessed and participated in much of what occurs in This Divided State, I can assure you that it is a pretty good assessment of what actually happened. Brian Greenstreet, who made the film, did a great job of just showing what happened, instead of pushing his perspective on things (though i’m sure it is impossible to remove one’s bias from the editing process)

  4. errr… i meant Steven Greenstreet

  5. My mother-in-law is a librarian in Utah who had these UVSC students come speak at her library. She said their story was very interesting and, in some ways, apalling that such a controversy could erupt over something so little.

  6. Seth Rogers says:

    I always felt that a lot of the Republican party affiliation in Utah is essentially idolatry.

    People don’t bother with the true religion because their too busy screeching about abortion, decadent media, patriotism, etc., etc. Fixation on these issues isn’t a sign of “standing for the Lord.” It’s a sign that you’re more interested in your own pet issues than you are in the true living God.

    But people continue to abase themselves at the political golden calf of the pro-life movement. After all, it’s so much easier to get indignant about “moral issues” than to actually go out and make a meaningful difference. Shaking your head in disgust while listening to Sean Hannity gives the illusion that you are actually a concerned and conscientious citizen, when actually you’re just simply too lazy to go out and help real people with real problems.

    Note: deep-down, I know that lots of “Republicans” in Utah aren’t really like this. Many are true christians in every sense of the word.

    But the politics in Utah are just so cartoonish that it makes it really hard for me to see these comendable people.

  7. To address the Hannity/editing. On the DVD, there are 2 hours of bonus features and I play out the Hannity speech basically unedited. You can see for yourself…

    As for stores in Baltimore…Soundgarden in Fells Point carries it and Best Buy and Borders Bookstore carry it nationwide. Amazon has is as well. To rent: Netflix or GreenCine.

    STEVE

  8. Also, the first 26 minutes of the film are available for FREE on our website: http://www.thisdividedstate.com

  9. There’s something about undergrads. They’re just so sure of themselves. And so energetic. At the campus where I’m a grad student Michael Moore received a reception fit for a king whereas Anne Coulter had to cut her Q&A session short because of the heckling (She did have a great line: “At Harvard they had questions“). But at least they let her come, huh? Actually, rather than treat her with disrespect it might’ve been better not to extend the invitation.

    As far as I’m concerned Moore and Coulter are the same person. They have so much venom and are so unfair that they are each embarassments to their respective sides. Moore may be a little dumber. Or maybe that’s my right-of-center bias speaking.

  10. Actually many, if not most, of Kopel’s 56 or 59 deceits (depending on which one you look at) is debunked. Not that Moore is the most honest and upfront film maker, but Kopel’s list of deceits is embarssingly far reaching and I had to wonder if many of them are even deceits. Seems like anyone with any beginner knowledge of current events and/or politics would not be deceived by Kopel’s biggest complaints (Gore’s supposed acceptance speech. Even if you are deceived about it, is that something big enough to worry about?).

    I think people are fooled by Kopel and his proclaimed non-partisan views. A 2 minute research session reveals that him and his organization are not non-partisan and he had every reason to FISH for deceits.

  11. Steve,

    Thanks for showing up to comment. I’ve been dying to rent your film – not only to see the story play out, but because I thought it was brilliant of you to realize someone needed to grab a camera and start rolling. Nice job!

    Aaron,

    Great review. I’ve asked my local Hollywood video a couple of times and they still haven’t had it. I guess I ought to just buy it to support Steve :)

    Seth,

    I think you’re really onto something with the idolatry. For a perfect example, see perennial embarrassment Chris Buttars in the Utah state senate. You can always count on him to make the conservative flavor of the day the key issue in the legislative agenda (intelligent design this year, anti-gay legislation last year, anti-immigration legislation the previous year) while citing the Church as his reasoning.

  12. Anyway, despite my right-of-center leanings, I’ve always found the smug, self-righteous political posturing of some of my conservative co-religionists nauseating, and particularly so when I was in college.

    I don’t know if I’d put it exactly that way, but the idea therein is pretty much what I’ve thought for a long time, about alot of the conservative “spokespeople” or pundits.

    If I learned anything at BYU, it was that many of my fellow students probably needed a much heavier dose of political and ideological diversity than they were getting. There’s nothing like an ideologically and intellectually homogenous environment to cause a student to mistakenly regard his or her propensity for pious declaration as a talent for making persuasive political arguments (particularly when it’s accompanied by the inevitable “amens” such declarations bring from fellow travelers).

    I haven’t been to BYU, but living in Utah, and having lived in New York State from age 5 to 15, I can say that there’s alot to be said for experiencing diversity, and the more well-rounded, fleshed-out views that can often develop when not cradled in a more homogenous, but not completely so, environment such as Utah.

    I kind of balked at what seemed like the closed-mindedness and, well, narrow and “small” views, feelings, opinions, and behaviors based on such, that I saw after moving here. I was taken aback that things could be so different, and that Mormons in particular could be so . . . well, self-fenced in, emotionally, politically, and just all-around world- and comunity-viewedly. I know that’s not a word, but I can’t quite find the right one. Lol!

    So this whole episode, and others like it, leaves me divided. I’m divided because on the one hand, I don’t like Moore, I have political sympathies with Hannity, and I have traditionally been pretty hawkish on the Iraq War. But on the other hand, I’m embrarrassed at the way so many conservative LDS students demonize their political opponents as amoral reprobates, and demonstrate a complete inability to distinguish between religious and political orthodoxies.

    I agree, and more than just LDS students, since I haven’t been to much college. The community in general, around here. And not just LDS, but alot of conservatives. At least, alot of the more vociferous ones. (There, I threw in a large word; my token intelligentsia qualification for participating in this discussion (she said with a grin on her face, cause she knows she can participate, philosopher or no! Degree or not.!))

    Ultimately, I wish that we could all engage in polite, intelligent discussions of our political differences, and that we didn’t need to shun our political adversaries as servants of Satan.

    AGREED! I have so longed for this, because alot more would be accomplished. And, that kind of demonizing is just plain embarrassing. Not that the other side doesn’t do it, but I’m tired of the “Eye for an Eye” approach to politics, as well. ARGH!

    I must say, I occasionally (say, once every other month) listen to Hannity on the radio, when we are traveling somewhere, as I can sort of filter through the brashness and frequent ridiculousness, and occasionally find things and ideas of note. Still, I cringe in embarrassment for him (well, kinda for us conservatives), when he just gets so . . . well, you know.

    I’m not ALL conservative, I have all sorts of types of feelings and beliefs; I just wish, that people would, as you seem to be saying in this post, THINK for a minute and not just get caught up in the herd, or get caught up in the Church says this so I MUST believe this other thing, politically. I’m not saying that those who do that, aren’t thinking, but I am saying that it often FEELS like a group/herd mentality . . .

    (cringing cause I’m afraid that sounds rude or harsh, but it’s just MHO, and something I’ve wondered about, sometimes. Not that that’s necessarily the way things actually are . . . . )

  13. Moore may be a little dumber. Or maybe that’s my right-of-center bias speaking.
    Coulter is DEFINITELY hotter.

  14. Sultan of Squirrels says:

    I just watched the first 20 seconds online… I WANT TOO SEE IT! too bad my internet connection is being laggy today. =( I’m going to borders tomorrow.

  15. JAC (#10), I haven’t heard of Kopel and I can’t comment about the argument about the accuracy of Fahrenheit 9/11. I don’t know if Moore is honest. My basis for calling Moore unfair and venomous is seeing him various times on interview shows and listening to the first chapter of his book Stupid White Men. He’s never come across to me as much of a thinker. Just a blowhard. And I don’t have much patience for people that spend most of their energy vilifying people that they disagree with (I’m also looking at you Sean Hannity, Howard Dean, Rush Limbaugh, Ann Coulter, etc.).

    Ann (#13), agreed. Then again, Dame Edna is hotter than Moore. I will say that Coulter has very nice hair.

  16. I am not arguing with anything else other than Kopel and his ridiculous list of deceits. However, it is a good thing Moore has never claimed to be an intellectual. Any argument against him for his lack of thinking or what have you is frankly a cheap shot. He has never claimed to be anything more than a high school graduate who makes films (and an eagle scout and a NRA member).

  17. “Any argument against him for his lack of thinking or what have you is frankly a cheap shot.”

    JAC, my friend, why the need to preemptively disparage criticism that may be very legitimate and thoughtful? It sounds like you have become the very thing you despise.

    I won’t see This Divided State.
    (Political opinion incoming! Take a deep breath and count to ten if you need to!)
    I loathe Michael Moore very deeply; I work among a lot of Iraqis here in Baghdad who risk their lives every day for the freedoms he would deny them, and I work side by side with soldiers who liberated the torture chambers in several of of Saddam’s palace compounds here. I would give anything to arrange a discussion between Michael Moore and the people I interact with every day.

    That said, I also cannot watch a movie that reminds me so clearly why I let out a big sigh of relief when I left Utah. I loved the years I spent there, but in Utah, politics and religion have become intertwined in a way that is so unhealthy. It broke my heart so many times to see the nastiness that fellow members of the Church demonstrated in their political activism.

    Those movie quotes said it all, Aaron; I cringed at the memories.

    If I ever move back to Utah, I think I’ll settle in Park City or something, and just talk to as few people as possible (JK!).

  18. Aaron wrote “An inordinately large number of Mormons have an inordinately difficult time recognizing the difference between their passionately-felt political views and the religious doctrines of their Church.”

    Yesterday we studied D&C 134 in Gospel Doctine class. It was reassuring to read “We do not believe it just to amingle• religious influence with civil government, whereby one religious society is fostered and another proscribed in its spiritual privileges, and the individual rights of its members, as citizens, denied. D&C 134:9″

    Regardless of which side of the aisle your political leanings find themselves, as LDS members we would do well to STUDY THE DOCTRINE.

  19. Fratello Giovanni says:

    Dan and Aaron’s comments remind me of my last roommate at BYU, in Fall 1996. He was fairly conservative (to say the least) but was from Southern California.

    A couple of days after the election that November, I mentioned that David Young was barely reatined as a judge. I told my roommate how a couple of years earlier Young had sided with a husband in a divorce case that the wife couldn’t take the children out of Utah because she wasn’t active in the Church. (Thankfully Young was overturned.) My roommate thought he was “psycho”.

    What I don’t understand is why the Church never calls people like Young or Buttars on the carpet. To me, their claiming their views as doctrine would fall under the definition of apostasy.

  20. JAC (#19): I am not arguing with anything else other than Kopel and his ridiculous list of deceits.

    Sorry. I read your comment #10 as a response to my comment #9.

    Any argument against him for his lack of thinking or what have you is frankly a cheap shot.

    I don’t think so. The man writes books on politics, stumps for politicians, makes political films, appears on television as a political commentator. It’s legitimate to criticize him for not thinking deeply or careully. It would be a cheap shot to criticize him for being uneducated or ignorant. Besides, this is just my perception of him. My perception may be skewed or I may not be smart enough to recognize the intelligence in his arguments.

  21. “My perception may be skewed or I may not be smart enough to recognize the intelligence in his arguments.”

    BINGO! For a man with no college education in Political Science, I believe Moore does the best he could. Although, I would lean towards you being too biased to see anything other than elementary and shallow thinking on the part of Moore.

    “The man writes books on politics, stumps for politicians, makes political films, appears on television as a political commentator.”

    If his thinking is so shallow, how is he able to do all of what you mentioned? I have a hard time believing you have read all of his books, seen all of his films, watched his two TV series, read every article, read every letter sent to his mailing list, or seen every appearance he has made as a supposed “political commentator.”

    Hey, at least he doesn’t advocate for modern day internment camps for Muslims! Now that shows shallow thinking. But maybe I am too biased!

  22. Steve McIntyre says:

    I think that part of the controversy was fuelled by a perception entertained by many college students: the idea that they know everything.

    I, myself, am currently finishing up my studies at BYU. It’s entertaining (yet mildly upsetting) to observe the vehemence with which even the most minor issues are condemned. As an example, BYU’s student paper (The Daily Universe) recently printed a photo of a student using a frozen, packaged turkey to knock over bowling pins, as part of a “Turkey Bowling” activity prior to the BYU-Utah football game. The photo inspired hateful letters to the editor condemning such disrespect toward animals and wastefulness.

    If bowling frozen turkeys can instigate such heated debates, then imagine what politics do to this campus.

    Besides the fact that so many college students believe that they are indisputable experts on any topic of discussion, they also have a particular affinity for voicing criticism (substantiated or not). Let’s add into the equation the common Provo/Orem perception that certain political stances are inseparable from our deeply-held religious beliefs, both as individuals and a community. Not only do students believe they know anything, but they believe God sides with whatever stance they’re defending.

    I like to see free thought and expression on a college campus. I think it’s healthy for the nurturing of an academic environment. Admittedly, us college students tend to be a bit trigger-happy when it comes to criticism, but I think you’ll find that this trait is rather common on most campuses. But nowhere are the dynamics quite the same as in Provo and Orem.

    While I hope that we can continue to engage in healthy debates on these campuses, I also hope that we can learn from the Moore experience. I would also hope that the rest of the community will help support the idea of an open forum for expression on these campuses. I don’t think that certain political notions should be censored at UVSC or BYU. And I sincerely hope that we can encourage the distinguishment between political and relgious views.

  23. Sultan of Squirrels says:

    I’ll be able to go to college next year and unlike every single one of my LDS friends I’ll be staying in good ol’ Washington. Not leaving for BYU Idaho or Provo. I’ve always been raised with the thinking that having everything in common is a problem. (you can thank my dad for this). and to an extent thats true. its not bad to have somethings in common, but when every single little thing is done by the everyone everywhere around you, you can become really sheltered. which is what sounds like happened in this situation. am I wrong or right in this assumption?

  24. Sultan of Squirrels – “And the Lord called his people ZION, because they were of one heart and one mind, and dwelt in righteousness; and there was no poor among them.” Moses 7:18

    I’ve always loved that scripture but I don’t think it means we have to think alike on everything – just matters of the spirit. I believe that the Lord made us different in so many ways in order for us to learn tolerance and to have a richer life experience. Heaven help those who never consider someone else’s opinion or point of view. An hemongenous society may be be comfortable to live in but certainly doesn’t add to the abundance of our life experience.

  25. JAC (#21): l’d lean towards you being too biased to see anything other than elementary and shallow thinking on the part of Moore.

    In my defense, I should point out that I’m also too biased to see anything other than elementary and shallow thinking by Hannity and Limbaugh and anything other than venom and unfairness by Coulter. I guess I’m comfortable being biased toward tolerance, fairness, and careful thinking.

  26. I always love how people defend their criticisms and naivety by showing how unbiased they are because, well, they don’t like the other people either!

    If you truly wanted to be fair, you would read and watch everything Moore has ever produced and then give it an honest and intellectual assessment and then level your criticisms. I, on the other hand, try to avoid criticising anyone, especially those on the right, because I don’t know enough about them, and enough being I generally don’t watch their shows, listen to them on the radio or read their books.

    Why would I call Hannity or Coulter shallow thinkers when I have never analyzed all, or most, of what they have said? To be fair, I don’t expect anyone to read or watch everything someone has produced or been on, but I do expect them to have a comprehensive understanding and view of who they are criticizing.

    Really, how many people on here have looked at Moore’s arguments, even his strongest (anti-Iraq war, pro-union, anti-GM, etc)?

    Is it really honest, careful, and fair to criticize someone you don’t know, have never talked to, or someone with whom you only have a media hyped depiction of? Believe me, most of the criticism on Ann is because of how she portrays herself and how she is portrayed through the media. Remember, we only get the narrow picture that reinforces popular and/or well-known beliefs about these people.

  27. Last Lemming says:

    Yesterday we studied D&C 134 in Gospel Doctine class. It was reassuring to read “We do not believe it just to amingle• religious influence with civil government, whereby one religious society is fostered and another proscribed in its spiritual privileges, and the individual rights of its members, as citizens, denied. D&C 134:9″

    Strange. Our class didn’t make it that far.

  28. I like Michael Moore. Watching Fahrenheit 9/11 at the Jerusalem Film Festival last year was an event to be remembered.

  29. Interestingly, Aaron is not the only BCC permablogger that might be considered right of center…

  30. JAC, if every time you’re exposed to someone’s ideas or arguments they fit the same mold it’s perfectly reasonable to pass some sort of judgment. You have to have some basis by which you decide who is worthy of your time, attention, and money (naturally, that’s what most public figures are vying for). You don’t reserve judgment until you’ve spent the time, attention, and money necessary to become fully informed of their every idea and argument. Hearing half of a Britney Spears song and seeing thirty seconds of her on Oprah is all the exposure most people need in order to be convinced that she doesn’t have enough talent or intelligence to interest them. Of course, when you make a judgment like this you’re not judging the whole person, you’re judging the public persona. As you suggest, it would require deep familiarity with these public figures before you can even attempt to judge their character; and even then it’s probably not adviseable.

    All that said, I’m perfectly comfortable placing Ann Coulter, Sean Hannity, Rush Limbaugh, Howard Dean, Michael Moore and others in the same “do not appeal to me” category because of the venom, unfairness, and lack of careful, serious thought that I have seen as I have been exposed to them. Who does appeal to me? Here’s one from each side: Right: Bill Kristol; Left: Martin Peretz (though he’s somewhat hawkish for a lefty).

  31. Can we allow ourselves to make a distinction between a person and their rhetoric? I am sure Hannity is a fine, upstanding human being; I just think that his rhetoric is over the top (ditto Michael Moore).

  32. Yes, John. That’s a succinct way to put it. Of course, there will always be disagreement. Many people love their Hannities and Moores and love the way they present themselves and their arguments.

  33. JAC, I have watched all of Moore’s movies, seen most of his TV series episodes, and read numerous interviews. I wouldn’t disagree with any of the criticisms raised here, and I am polymorphously perverse (to borrow Foucault) politically speaking.

  34. Sultan of Squirrels says:

    lamonte I appreciate the scripture in comment 24. and if I came across as trying to say having the same spiritual outlook is bad I didn’t mean too. but I think you have the same outlook as me.

    I just saw the movie. got it at borders. I think it represents what is currently wrong with America and the World. maybe I’m wrong, but I don’t think I am. I feel like alma.
    Oh that I were a big screen t.v. with the sound of 5.1 dolby surround, that I might show unto all the world this wonderfully sad message.
    unfortunately I’m not, but God did have the sense to invent E-Mail, and telephones. so I’m spreading the word that way.

  35. Ian M. Cook says:

    I’m embrarrassed at the way so many conservative LDS students demonize their political opponents as amoral reprobates, and demonstrate a complete inability to distinguish between religious and political orthodoxies.

    I have never been to BYU, but I have seen this attitude where I live (Eastern Oregon). Our Sunday school teacher (not naming any names mind you) actually took a pot shot at Harry Ried, in class. I was astounded. I am sure that she knows nothing about the man.

    Coulter is DEFINITELY hotter.

    I think I’m going to throw up…

    I have been wanting to watch the film for a while. Perhaps when I get my tax returns I will pick it up. The look on that guys face when he is spewing his hatred is priceless. I wonder what he thinks of the film. lol.

    I would love to see more political tolerance among LDS memebers.

  36. R.W. Rasband says:

    For a review of “This Divided State” posted on AML-List (and written by me) see:

    http://mailman.xmission.com/lurker/message/20051015.182338.3cfcab89.en.html

  37. R.W. Rasband says:

    Sorry, that was the address of a response to the original review. Here’s the right address for my review:

    http://mailman.xmission.com/lurker/message/20051014.015556.37d48bbb.en.html

  38. And yet there are others who have seen just as much as you (many times more. See Moore has written some books, which I am not sure if you left that out on purpose, or not), T-ylor, and would disagree. I seem to remember a quote from a Poli Sci professor at BYU who said he thought Michael Moore was a “modern day Paul Revere.” Was Paul Revere considered an “inarticulate bore”? I mean really, do you expect much more than what Moore gives considering his lack of a college education?

    The fact that Moore is even compared to people who have college degrees and many times advanced degrees is an accomplishment in and of itself!

    Anyone who goes to Moore seeking an understanding of political theory and/or wanting to get an advanced (or even beginner) knowledge of international relations needs to have their heads checked. Most of Moore’s fans are people who don’t rely on him solely for their information. Moore just doesn’t produce enough for people to live off of.

    Moore speaks to his base and sometimes he attracts a few independents, but rarely is he the final word on anything political.

    But, to each his own.

  39. >>JAC: Anyone who goes to Moore seeking an understanding of political theory and/or wanting to get an advanced (or even beginner) knowledge of international relations needs to have their heads checked.

    Agreed. My only point was to show that I met your standard and was thus qualified to criticize him. I don’t really see the point of the standard anyway. Is there really some deep nuance in his work that can only be gotten at by a thorough study of his entire corpus?
    I grant you that he is successful without a college degree. So what?

  40. I’ve been reading the comments and seen a lot of “Moore is bad”, “No, Moore is good”, “Hannity is bad”, “No Hannity is bad”, etc. And I think those opinions are fine.

    I have a question for the panel: In your opinion, what is the current state of tolerance within the LDS church? And by tolerance I mean of minorities within the church (liberals, gays, etc).

    I ask because I think that was the core factor of “THIS DIVIDED STATE”, tolerance.

    STEVE

  41. Bob Caswell says:

    “Interestingly, Aaron is not the only BCC permablogger that might be considered right of center…”

    Yes, this is very true. :-)

  42. Sultan of Squirrels says:

    Steve thanks for this movie. I am telling everyone I know or kinda know to watch this movie. I think it’s important. as for tolerance with minorities in the church. I think (in my limited world view) it is pretty much a whole lot or very little with people. It seems to me the gay “issue” does not have a lot of people tolerant of accepting them. though we are all probably still too uninformed to make a good decision about that (but lets not get started on a debate about that right now, plenty of other places) and as for liberals being accepted most of my friends (who are amazing people) have been raised to be respectful of all beliefs. so youthwise I would say it’s fairly good. of course I only live in one little place. and I know we have a long way to go, but so does every religion and even those who aren’t religious (which is what I think you wanted to say with this movie, that we all need to get a reality check) I think this Documentary can help people realize just what is wrong with a lot of society, in and outside of the church.

  43. Patricia Lahtinen says:

    “Politically, I am closer in my views to Sean Hannity and many of the conservative students I’m criticizing, than I am to Michael Moore and his fans on the anti-War left.”

    Oh, Aaron, no! And I thought you were so cute at Sunstone… (Where is Nicole Hollander’s Love Cop?)

    Anyway, thanks for the heads up. I’ll look for the DVD at Seattle Public Library ASAP.

    AND I’ll check in with the young woman in our ward who was a student at UVSC last year. She started to talk about Michael Moore’s visit in R.S. earlier this year. I remember thinking, “Whoah! They invited Michael Moore? I’m impressed!” But, then, when my young friend started speaking, and I (intolerantly) sensed that her views were anti-Moore, I rather tuned her out…

    Steven, about your question, “In your opinion, what is the current state of tolerance within the LDS church? And by tolerance I mean of minorities within the church (liberals, gays, etc).”

    Here, in western Washington, I think there are pockets of tolerance, but I don’t sense enough tolerance yet. I suppose in our ward we are something like (U.S. politically) 40% Progressive/60%, uh, what’s the word? Right-of-center? In our little bedroom community, I don’t know any active gay members, but in our ward in Seattle, I knew several. And what about accomodating gluten-intolerant sacrament-partakers? Legend has it that our previous bishop authorized the blessing of corn tortillas for the whole ward… That same wonderful ward also had (recently) a woman in the R.S. presidency who was in a monogamous partnership with another woman…

    -trish

  44. What is the current state of tolerance within the LDS church?

    The answer depends, of course, on where you live. In my experience we’re less tolerant where we’re more homogenous. Which is, I think, an unfortunate aspect of human nature. I think tolerance can only be learned by experience; the less you are exposed to people that are different the less chance you have to learn tolerance. You can be taught and understand tolerance on an intellectual level without being exposed to people that are different, but it can’t become a part of your character until you have experience looking past what is different about people to see their essential goodness.

    In Utah there is very little diversity (duh). In many parts of the state, if you’re middle class or rich you can reach adulthood without having any significant, intimate interaction with non-white, non-prosperous, non-straight arrow church members (or non-church members). Everywhere else in the world you are in constant contact with people that are different in a lot of ways so you’re forced to learn to see that other people’s value and goodness doesn’t depend on their being orthodox anything.

  45. Trish – A friend of mine is gluten-intolerant and we blessed a small piece of rice cake with the rest of the bread. The deacons were in tune with who to pass it to and so it worked out. Here in Northern Virginia I am often singled out as the commie/pinko/liberal in my ward but over on the “Reston” side of Fairfax County I understand things are different. I know many of my closest friends just shake their heads when trying to understand why I identify myself as a Democrat. It was especially rough on them when I was their Bishop ;-). But in general, our political differences are usually the source of some good hearted kidding (at least I think they’re kidding?).

    Sultan of Squirrels – Sorry for the late response to last nights comment. I wasn’t suggesting that you thought there was anything wrong with having the same spiritual outlook. I only quoted that scripture to show that I agree with you and that there are conflicts between the guidance we sometimes get in the scriptures and what life offers us. And I totally agree with you that it has become a serious problem in today’s political arena the way partisan differences have turned so nasty and mean spirited. I love those who have passion for what they believe but I also think there is a great need for more tolerance and understanding. Just because I disagree with someone politically doesn’t mean they are the devil incarnate…well maybe some people.;-)

  46. Seth Rogers says:

    Tom,

    I don’t buy that whole business about integration increasing tolerance.

    In my experience, the strongest racial predjudices come from firsthand knowledge. Some of those who hate “Mexicans” the most are those who encounter them daily. Exposure to differing views hasn’t helped Yugoslavia, Palestine, Northern Ireland, etc. Busing hasn’t helped our racial dynamic in America.

    The whole idea that we would be more understanding “if we just had more diversity in the community” is nothing more than a liberal pipe dream.

    I’m pretty liberal myself. But even I can recognize an abject failure when I see one.

    The truth is that people in Utah are no more bigoted than Californians and no more bigoted than New Yorkers. They are also just as tolerant as folks elsewhere. They just choose different things to be bigoted about and different things to be tolerant about.

    Those who are most vehemently against Utah culture (myself included), are typically those who have experienced it. Obviously, exposure to the culture didn’t make us any more sympathetic to “Utah Mormondom.” Why do we think that Utah Mormons would be any more sympathetic to the cultures outside Utah “were they only to experience them?”

    Familiarity can breed understanding. But it’s just as likely to breed contempt.

    If you want to discuss the problems with Utah culture, fine. I’m one of the first in line to take pot shots at Utah stupidity.

    But let’s just can this “non-Utah Mormons are better” rubbish shall we? I just don’t think it’s born out by the facts.

  47. That same wonderful ward also had (recently) a woman in the R.S. presidency who was in a monogamous partnership with another woman…

    Please elaborate

  48. Seth – You make a valid point. Diversity doesn’t necessarily breed tolerance, nor does it necessarily breed contempt. I live in suburban Washington DC and work in the District. I’m certain that my children have grown up with a healthier attitude about those of a different race than I did in my little hometown in rural southeastern Idaho. But they have seen both the good and the bad in terms of behavior from minorities. My parents taught me to be unbiased towards all people yet my mother expressed her beliefs that inter-racial marriage was wrong. And I’m not just talking about black/white marriages but caucasian/Asian and every other combination. By many standards my mother is exteremely liberal and I learned my politics from her and my father, a couple of hard line New Dealers, but in that case my mother had a backwards attitude, in my opinion.

    I think that diversity can be helpful if we allow ourselves to be educated. While living in my small town we were only exposed to those minorities featured on the evening news and certainly the evening news does not typically show evidence of anything flattering. But having lived for the past two decades among people of other faiths and ethnic origin I can tell you that my understanding of them has increased and my life has been richer because of it.

  49. The students at Utah Valley are no different in attitude than the incredibly liberal students that I went to school with at Illinois. There affiliations are just different. Its the affiliation of the students that is really bothering the BCC crowd and the film maker. You can find boorish liberal behavior on almost any campus in America since its the dominant ethos on campus.

    What is different is that you can actually find a majority or so of conservative students on a campus in Utah.

    Oh my gosh lets make a movie about those goofy conservatives. Look they are being boorish.

  50. “Its the affiliation of the students that is really bothering the BCC crowd and the film maker.”

    Though there may be some truth to this, it isn’t so in my case, and I suspect in some others as well. I concede that more liberal campuses are just as bad (or worse) than BYU or UVSC. But because I am Mormon and so have a personal stake in the LDS community, it is more embarrassing and maddening to see it coming from my own than from others. The assumed religious correctness of conservative politics is also particularly offensive, as it makes Mormonism into a caricature. Finally, as someone who actually wants certain conservative political ideas to prevail in the marketplace of ideas, I don’t think those ideas are being done any favors when many of their proponents try to eliminate the ideas of the opposition on religious grounds.

    Aaron B

  51. Aaron,

    If you want to talk about being worried about free speech I bring you back to Illinois.

    I was unable to express my political opinions in class due to the honor code and fears for my grades at Illinois. I literally saw a female German student censored by the school for speaking out in class on a political issue. She made the mistake of thinking that the first amendment always applies to conservatives on college campuses

    This is the real censorship issue on campus today

    That is real censorship. Not a fight over a paid speaker who holds views out of the “mainstream” of the local community. Moore can go on with Jay Leno and discuss his views if he wants. Moore speaks on campuses across the country and is welcomed with open arms. Moores protesters have just as much right to oppose him as he does to speak.

  52. Just wanted to point out that Kay Anderson is in my ward. He’s actually a very nice man and quite generous. I remember being surprised the first time I heard his name mentioned in regard to Moore’s visit.

    You are not the first to vilify him in a review, though – Eric Snider (of “Snide Remarks”) lambasted him too. I think John C.’s comment (#31) is really on the mark here. I still don’t think Kay Anderson is a bad guy, regardless of how he came across in this film. I’m just glad a filmmaker isn’t following me around, catching me in moments that portray me as an idiot. (And believe me, there would be plenty of opportunities for that!)

    I don’t really care much about political people, but maybe I should see this movie anyway. =)

  53. Aaron Brown says:

    FaithHopeLove,

    I’m sure Kay Anderson is a very nice man, as you say. Most people are, in fact, where you’re interacting with them outside of an overtly political context where they’re breathing fire. Also, I should point out that Anderson, whatever else his faults, seemed to allow his political opponents to talk, and he went on record bemoaning the students’ heckling of Dennis Potter, et al. at the Hannity event as inappropriate. So no, he’s not the Devil Incarnate.

    Nevertheless, let me assure you that if Steve Greenstreet followed me around with a camera 24-hours a day, 365-days a year, he would never catch any footage of me broadly describing those who disagree with my politics as “without morals,” nor would he find me confusing my family, politics, religious faith and community values as brazenly as Anderson does. What makes Anderson interesting and maddening to people (I think) is that he seems like an over-the-top archetype of a certain type of LDS member that drives people nuts. Surely there are other qualities in some LDS people that are worth bemoaning, just as there are qualities to be found on the political left that are unsavory. But they aren’t the subjects of my post/review.

    Aaron B

  54. Kay Anderson Is A Freedom Fighter:

    “Free speech works because most of us have the good sense to know when to keep our mouths shut!”

    “It’s hard to stand up for moral values against people who don’t believe in moral values.” (Referring to student Joe Vogel who invited Michael Moore to UVSC)

    “I think we’ve accomplished a good deal of what we intended to accomplish.” (Referring to the resignation of Joe Vogel. Joe eventually lost his job, scholarship, and best friend.)

    “We don’t want UVSC to be a real school.”

    “We’re the guerillas, the contra fighters…the freedom fighters.” Referring to he and his wife.

    I hope this didn’t offend anyone. It all came from the horse’s mouth.

    Sheep’s clothing is always on sale.

    STEVEN

  55. Seth: But let’s just can this “non-Utah Mormons are better” rubbish shall we? I just don’t think it’s born out by the facts.

    OK. Let’s. I am a Utah Mormon (living out of state in a place that I like much less than Utah) and almost everyone in my family still lives in Utah. It’s my respect for my family and fellow Utahns and the knowledge that most of them are better Christians than I am that makes me look for something other than moral deficiency to which to attribute the wrong-headed attitudes toward people of different faiths, lifestyles, and political persuasions. I blame isolation and homogeneity because it’s been my experience that the more I interact closely with people of different faiths, lifestyles, ethnicities, etc., the better able I am to look past differences and see the good and the less likely I am to judge.

    I agree with you that integration isn’t the cure for what ails our society. Making a community more diverse isn’t going to cure people of bigotry. But on a personal level, I believe having close interactions and forming close relationships with different kinds of people is a catalyst for developing tolerance and understanding.

  56. Sultan of Squirrels says:

    well. maybe I’m missing the point, but I didn’t take this as a “Mormon problem only in Utah” kind of movie. it could happen anywhere in any state with any religion. I took it as a call to americans everywhere no matter what their views to shape up. intolerance can happen from liberals and conservatives after all.

    I’m sure Kay Anderson is a very nice man, as you say. Most people are, in fact, where you’re interacting with them outside of an overtly political context where they’re breathing fire

    I second that motion. you’ve earned a HARUMPH!!! (and I don’t just hand those out…… actually, I do)

  57. I take it as fitting the typical moviemakers template.

    Conservatives evil Especially those evil church goers. Man those people are crazy. Look at how I edited them to make them look bad….

    Liberals good. Champions of free speech etc.

  58. If the shoe fits, Brother Bell!

    (Note that I don’t necessarily think it does, but I did find the conservative reaction to Moore’s UVSC visit a bit embarrassing to conservatives everywhere.)

  59. For those who may suggest that I edited this film to make the conservative looks bad:

    “THREE STARS. Allows both sides to have their say.” NEW YORK POST

    “The first successfully balenced political documentary.” THE LEXINGTON HERALD

    Also, you might want to remember that the 2 main Moore Supporters (the students that invited him to come) are both Bush supporting conservatives. And returned missionaries.

    So, it’s not the conservatives that look bad in THIS DIVIDED STATE….it’s the extremists that look bad. If I did anything to make anyone look stupid, it was hitting the record button.

    STEVE

  60. Patricia Lahtinen says:

    bbell (#47), I wish I could elaborate (especially since the whole topic of temple recommend holding active members in leadership positions within the church, who are also in a committed gay relationship, fascinates me), but it is not my story. It is second-hand, and occurred just after we left that ward. Indeed, it has almost no connection to Aaron B’s original post (although it does reply to Greenstreet’s question). Apologies all around.

    -trish

  61. The problem is that the position of “we don’t want Michael Moore to speak to our community” is a ridiculous position. He’s there to SPEAK! A couple hours. The reason the conservatives look so dumb is because they are the only ones defending that position. Michael Moore is a complete jackass (and he showed it in his speech), but trying to keep him from speaking to those who want to listen is absurd.

  62. Rusty:

    I agree that the conservative voices in this instant were embarrassing, but I think you misstate the issue. The issue was that UVSC used $40,000 of student/public money to entice Moore to come speak, which, despite the assertion that this money would be recouped from ticket sales, may have indeed been a poor decision and/or outside the authority to do. But what was done was done, and when it was apparent he was coming to town, people should have piped down the rhetoric a notch.

  63. Steve McIntyre says:

    In response to the question of tolerance in the Church:

    Overall, I think there’s room for improvement. Of course, tolerance varies from person to person, from place to place, and from issue to issue.

    On the whole, I think a lot of members have a bit of discomfort when dealing with liberal Latter-day Saints. They tend to connect their political views to religious convictions, so when facing Church members with different political orientations, they take it as an denial of the faith.

    I think there’s a lot of room for improvement when it comes to gays. In a BYU classroom, I’ve been told that those who claim to innately deal with same-sex attraction “just refuse to admit that they’ve chosen to be that way.”

    I think we need to come to grips with the idea that people may indeed be born with these tendencies. Does that mean they should be indulged? Does that mean we should promote homosexual behavior? No, not necessarily. But I think we could stand to be much more compassionate. We could stand to reach out more.

    For instance, while participating in Church, many of us casually refer to our friends who drink/smoke/have premarital sex/engage in some other activity not condoned by the Church. Yet you rarely hear a member refer to a homosexual friend. The fact is, I don’t think many of us have gay friends. I don’t think many of us even feel comfortable interacting with homosexuals. I think we could improve in this area. While we don’t necessarily need to embrace homosexual activity,
    we shouldn’t isolate this members of society. Think of how many probably walk among us in the Church. They’re dealing with a difficult issue, trying to live the gospel while struggling with these feelings that are very much a part of who they are. And a common reaction they may face in the Church is that they just need to exercise more willpower and faith and choose the right.

    If I dealt with same-sex attraction, I don’t know if I’d be able to stay true to the Church.

  64. Anne Zobell says:

    I think we need to realize that living in Utah, going to BYU, being active in the Church does not necessairly mean we are not interacting with gays. BYU is full of gays. They’re in the School of Music. They’re in the dance program. They’re all over the place even if they are not open about it, which they probably aren’t.

    Picture this, I’m sitting in my music theory class and my friend sitting next to me tells me he’s gay. Was I shocked and appalled? Did I shun him and tell him he’s going to burn in hell? Did I go tell the Honor Code Office about it? Absolutely not. He’s an amazing person that experiences same-sex attraction. He needs friendship and needs to be nourished in the Gospel the same way any other Church member does.

    The most important matter to remember when you’re interacting with someone who is gay is that they are still Children of God. God loves them and we need to do likewise.

  65. Mephibosheth says:

    I’m not convinced Kay Anderson’s views on the subject are entirely wrong. Sure, I need to be tolerant of the minority’s views. But does that mean I need to donate to their cause with my tax-dollars? Does that mean I need to invite them into my living room to have their say? A lot of the pro-Moore students in the film seem to think that the right to free speech is the same as the right to be heard.

    Anderson takes a lot of flack for his free speech comment, but I don’t think he’s entirely wrong, either. If you’re going to say something because you really feel a certain way, great. But a lot of political extremists say things not because they truly believe in what they are saying, but because it will get them more attention.

    Greenstreet said that film shows how civil discourse failed in this situation. Perhaps the irony of mentioning “civil discourse” and Michael Moore in the same breath is lost on the film-maker. I gaurantee that if UVSC had invited someone that was both liberal AND intelligent, the backlash would have been minimal or non-existant.

  66. Mephibosheth,

    Here’s a sentence using “civil discourse” and “Michael Moore” together:

    “When Michael Moore came to Utah in 2004, civil discourse about his right to come failed in many aspects.”

    I’m not sensing any irony in that sentence.

    STEVE

  67. Mephibosheth captured my feeling exactly by saying, “I guarantee that if UVSC had invited someone that was both liberal AND intelligent, the backlash would have been minimal or non-existant.”

    I was among those very bothered that Moore was being paid to come speak. I don’t have any problem with inviting him to speak, but why pay him? Moore does’t just have no credibility. He has negative credibility. He has just been factually wrong so many times that it seemed silly to spend money to hear him interpret the world. How can you have a useful interpretation when you start with deception?

    I actually considered protesting at Moore’s speech before it became such a big deal in the news. I wanted to hand out copies of an article that illustrated blatant deception in his movie “Bowling for Columbine”. I read the first four or five chapters of his book “Stupid White Men” before I put it down in disgust. I crave genuine encounters with opposing viewpoints. I seek them out. Moore wasn’t providing it. He simply had no credibility.

    If UVSC had invited Thomas Friedman, I would have tried to buy a ticket.

  68. Bradley Ross – With all due respect if you are identifying Thomas Friedman as a liberal then I have a hard time believing that you “crave genuine encounters with opposing viewpoints.” If you ask any legitimate liberal in the field of journalism they will tell you that Thomas Friedman takes a middle ground position at best and usually leans more to the right than the left.

    I actually agree with many of the comments that Michael Moore is unimpressive and boorish but not anymore so than his counterparts on the right – Sean Hannity, Bill O’Reilly, Rush Limbaugh, etc. I think it is very legitimate to state that the issue at UVSC was the spending of $40,000 to have Moore speak. But can you honestly say that Kay Anderson would have been making as much noise if the students had chosen to pay Sean Hannity to speak?

  69. If they had invited Thomas Friedman, maybe you and about 100 other people would have gone. Both Moore and Hannity had 8,000 people. NOBODY could have electrified the college the way Moore did.

    UVSC had the highest student voter registration on record EVER during the Moore controversy. That’s a golden fact that proves that Moore wasn’t invited for his merit. He was invited as an excuse to dissolve student apathy.

  70. Re #22 — One of the semesters I was at BYU, they ran one of their special Monday “Issues” issues, and this one dealt with political diversity on campus. The accompanying picture/cartoon showed a student sitting with his knees to the chin, his arms around his legs, chin down with his eyes pointing forward. He was saying, “Mom, Dad, I need to come out of the closet. I’m … I’m … I’m … a Democrat.”

    Funny times.

    My experience is that Utah, at least SL County, *is* more politically diverse among the Church members. My mother-in-law was elected twice to non-partisan statewide positions despite being a confirmed and known Democrat. My father-in-law is an outspoken conservative Democrat in SLC, once ran for Congress as a Democrat (didn’t make it out of the primary) but it never affected his membership or leadership potential in the Church. :) He even was appointed to an important position by a GOP governor.

    I now live in TGSOT and the ward here is probably 25% active republican, 15% active democrat, and 60% tweener. In 2000, it voted (based on my unscientific survey) 65% Bush, much less than the state average. In 2004, it voted probably 70% Bush, but that was inflated due to the anti-Kerry vote.

    Personally, I left Utah after graduation, despite the generations of ties to there (although I grew up in the East), because of the lack of economic viability. I discovered TGSOT largely by accident and have no plans to leave. The Church just feels more *active* here. People largely don’t fight about politics. Our bishop is a centrist and harps constantly about local politics and local issues and yawns publicly about things like Iraq, Bush, etc. (in a ward council, he mused about whether he should call someone with centrist leanings to be an unofficial adviser to the ward on local politics and offer insight, perspective, and advice on what positions members should take on local issues).

  71. Sultan of Squirrels says:

    in a ward council, he mused about whether he should call someone with centrist leanings to be an unofficial adviser to the ward on local politics and offer insight, perspective, and advice on what positions members should take on local issues.

    when you say “what positions members should take on local issues” doesn’t that sound creepy to you? maybe I’m reading it wrong but it sounds like he’s trying to impose centrist views. you don’t have to be in the “center” to be fair. If you’ve read and listened to both sides. do what you think is CORRECT and you are being fair. maybe I misread you though.

  72. I just saw This Divided State (all hail Netflix!). I agree that it’s interesting to see how this controversy played out. Talking as a snob, I think the film has serious flaws (I would give it 2 stars out of 5), but I’ll spare you all my analysis.

    For the record, I’m an Oremite born and raised. I love my home. Oddly enough, this film made me homesick. (Omigosh, I was so excited to see the projection booth of Movies 8 again. I haven’t been up there in, like, eight years. I don’t like the new shelves). I believe that “the other Kay Anderson” from the DVD extras is much more representative of Oremites than is the notorious Kay Anderson. (This is not a criticism of the film–it wasn’t about Orem, it was about what happened in Orem). Of course, it’s the loud mouths that draw attention.

    Again for the record, I would’ve signed the petition to cancel the Moore speech. Not because I don’t think he represents the values of the community and whatnot–I also would’ve signed a petition to cancel the Hannity speech–but because I don’t think anybody should be paid forty grand to make a speech. For the same reason, I personally (though not vocally) opposed bringing a Nobel Prize-winning scientist to my department to speak, and his honorarium was (ironically) much lower than those blowhards.

    I’m somewhat surprised that nobody on this thread has taken Greenstreet to task for his jab at the Church in the epilogue. Below three pictures of missionaries in action is this caption: Thousands of Mormon missionaries leave each month to spread their message of tolerance and love to the world . . . Given the context, I can’t help but believe that this was intented as irony. Greenstreet might as well have put the words tolerance and love in quotations: Thousands of Mormon missionaries leave each month to spread their message of “tolerance” and “love” to the world [wink, wink] . . .

  73. Tom – I’m probably speaking out of turn because I haven’t seen the movie but why would you assume that Greenstreet is mocking the church with his caption under the picture of the missionaries? Rather than questioning the sincerity of the missionaries’ (and the Chruch’s) message, perhaps he is questioning the integrity of those who claim loyalty to that message but whose actions would indicate otherwise.

  74. Yeah, Lamonte, sounds like Tom’s got other issues. I have no idea why he would find that part of the film insincere. In fact (here’s some trivia) if you go back and look at that clip, there are 3 pictures of missionaries. Joe Vogel and Jim Bassi are on the center and right. And I (Steven Greenstreet) am on the left. It’s a picture of me on my mission in Venezuela in 1999. If I was taking a “potshot” at missionaries, then why the heck would I put a picture of myself in there?

  75. It may be that I’m perceiving intended irony where it wasn’t intended. But I don’t think so. Given the context in which it appears, it’s hard to see it as a sincere compliment. Some reasons: 1) The majority of the film is devoted to shining a spotlight on intolerant Mormons. Tolerant, level-headed Mormons do make appearances, but the dominant figure is Kay Anderson. 2) The image immediately preceding the missionary image (or maybe two images back) in the epilogue is a picture of the UVSC campus with a caption to the effect of: Because of the visit of Michael Moore UVSC lost $200,000 in donations. 3) I can think of no reason to include the missionary caption other than to make a jab. The film does not try to persuade the audience that Kay Anderson and the people that witheld donations because of Michael Moore’s visit are acting contrary to Church principles. A sincere complimentary message about the Church would be very much out of place in that context, but an ironic one fits. 4) Knowing Greenstreet’s personal relationship with the church (from his blog), I would expect an ironic jab before a sincere compliment.

  76. Or, it could just be a poor filmmaking decision. If it wasn’t intended to be ironic, it was poorly placed. (No, I’m not an expert. And no, I don’t think I could make a better film. And yes, I can be a snob.)

  77. Steven, I’m afraid that my comment #75 sounds like a response to your comment #74. It’s not. I wrote #75 before I saw #74. I don’t want it to sound like I’m calling you a liar. If you say it wasn’t intended to be ironic, that’s good enough for me.

    My comment #76 was a response to your #74. I should also add that it’s possible that I do have “other issues” that I’m not aware of.

  78. R.W. Rasband says:

    Anyone who thinks that Michael Moore’s experience with Utah county was somehow uniquely awful should check out this story about Ann Coulter’s recent speech at UConn:

  79. Aaron Brown says:

    Tom — One of the problems of your analysis (among several) is that you seem to be using “ironic” as a synonym for “critical.” Yes, the placement of the missionary photos was intended as irony. It doesn’t follow that it was intended as a “jab” or as “mocking.” Lamonte says it best: “Perhaps he is questioning the integrity of those who claim loyalty to that message but whose actions would indicate otherwise.” Why is this so difficult to understand? It looks to me that you’re trapped in a conceptual prison, where any ironic commentary or visual must somehow be seen as a slam.

    You’re seeing things that just aren’t there.

    Aaron B

  80. Sultan of Squirrels says:

    I think it’s sad that even if it was a “jab” at the church. (which I don’t think it was). it’s sad that it’s at least partially true. in the fact that intolerance exists among us. of course I’m not saying every mormon is intolerant. the majority are level headed and tolerant. in my experience at least.

  81. Aaron,
    It’s not at all difficult to understand. I can see three ways to interpret the caption within the context of the film: #1 The way that you and Lamonte do: given that the message the missionaries spread is one of tolerance and love, it’s ironic that these Mormons who profess alliegance to the message are so intolerant and unloving; #2 The way that I did as I was watching it: given that these Mormons are so intolerant and unloving, it’s ironic that they claim that the message they are spreading is one of tolerance and love; or #3 Greenstreet is trying to do nothing more than inform the audience that Mormon missionaries are spreading a message of tolerance and love.

    #1 would be critical of hypocrites; #2 would be critical of the Church’s message, or at least would cast suspicion on the message; #3 would be a factoid, or maybe even an endorsment of the message. Given that the dominant figure in the film is Kay Anderson, and that immediately before the missionary caption was a caption about people (presumably Mormons) witholding donations because of the Michael Moore visit, Mormon intolerance was dominant in my mind when I read the caption. That’s what led my brain to interpretation #2. I understand how others could interpret it as in #1, but for me this would have required greater focus on the “message of tolerance and love” itself. I can’t imagine anyone interpreting it as in #3.

    Is this not reasonable? I’m curious to know what other problems you find in my analysis. (I really am. Not in an “I challenge you” way, but in an “inform me” way.)

    As for the ironic=critical thing, I can see how you could read my comments as inextricably linking the two. I know they’re not synonymous, but in this case I can’t see an ironic reading of the caption that’s not critical in some way.

  82. Whether Steve G. wishes to deny it or not, I agree with Tom that one easy interpretation of the caption with the missionaries is that “here the Church is, sending missionaries to teach love and tolerance, and yet, see, many of these thousands of RMs are hypocrites, failing to practice what they preach(ed).” What Steve G. should have been focusing on were the “hundreds” (and for all I know–thousands) who go on missions from Happy Valley and yet find it hard to overcome some of the intolerance that exists there. The Church and its millions living outside of that milieu are really quite diverse–ethnically, politically and otherwise.

  83. Oh, of course. I think there’s irony in the placement and juxtaposition of the missionary caption. And I think that’s a positive thing that so many of you are catching on to it. I didn’t create the irony myself. The irony, I guess, stems from one fact being juxtaposed against another.

    As one Republican UVSC in the film put it:

    “This being a prodominantly Mormon community that sends their 19-21 year old men off to missionaries around the world, and they ask for tolerance and acceptance, or at least someone to listen to them, I find it very ironic that there’s so much backlash against someone else with a different point of view. I actually did serve a mission for the LDS faith and I appreciated all those people that were willing to at least hear me out.”

  84. Sultan of Squirrels says:

    Steven. I was looking through your blog, and I have a quick question. Why would you say mormons love torture? I’m mormon, I don’t love torture. so, ummm. help me out here.

  85. Sultan,

    Here’s a response I posted a while back to someone on my BLOG:

    First, the link and picture came from a BLOG of satire.

    Additionally, I don’t believe that any faith group that didn’t sign the anti-torture letter tacitly supports torture. And I don’t believe someone, in your example of Darfur, would necessarily support genocide. I just think they’re apathetic about it. Sure, they’ll put a “yellow magnetic ribbon” on the “SUV of their conscience”, but at the end of the day, it’s apathy. I just think they don’t even want to think about it.

    Why didn’t the church sign that letter? You claim that it might be because the church is a highly scrutinized organization and thus needs to be careful with what it endorses. But, it seems to me that the church is ungoing quite a bit a scruntiny for NOT signing it. Also, a church that claims that it is the ONLY true and living church of Christ on Earth, shouldn’t feel the need to tip-toe around issues such as basic human rights.

    It doesn’t matter what the legislation says. Americans don’t care and won’t even bother reading it. Americans get their news in 30 second taglines and spicy one-liners. That’s how Presidents are elected. Dumbed down, simple-minded, and black and white. Name calling and labels. So when the average American reads the news report that says “Dozens of churches signed a piece of legislation against torture EXCEPT THE MORMON CHURCH”, you don’t think that’s BAD PRESS? If the church truly cares about it’s public image and how that same public scrutinizes, then they missed the boat with this one. Am I wrong?

  86. Sultan of Squirrels says:

    I guess not. though I definetely don’t know enough about it. however, you said “You claim that it might be because the church is a highly scrutinized organization and thus needs to be careful with what it endorses.”…. No. I really didn’t. and if you’re giving me all the facts than you’re right. the church should have signed it. what would have happened if they did sign it though? would it have changed anything? (not saying that that could be an excuse. Just wondering)

  87. Sultan of Squirrels says:

    sorry. I see. that was the response. so ignore the part about me not saying what I thought you said I said. however. still interested to know the last part of the question

  88. I think that if they had signed it, it wouldn’t have made national headlines the way it did because they didn’t. The headline “Religious Organizations Sign Anti-Torture Letter”, isn’t as nationally spicy as “Mormons Don’t Sign Anti-Torture Letter”. I’m just saying, on the surface, it seemed like a worthy cause and not signing it seemed like a bad PR move.

  89. Sultan of Squirrels says:

    fair enough.

  90. I apologize if someone previously left this observation in the comments above but I found this last line of the New York Times review of “This Divided State” to be interesting considering all of the comments made above.

    “This Divided State” may ring with death threats and heave with animosity, but its final message is a hopeful one: in one of the most conservative states in the country, there are at least as many open minds as closed ones. New York Times 8/19/2005

  91. I agree that it was heartening to see that many fellow Utah Mormons were sensible.

    For the record, I don’t think the film comes off as being critical of the Church. The jab that I see in the epilogue is minor and subtle. Whether it was intended to cast suspicion on the institution, to shine light on the hypocrisy of some members, or both, it was cleverly done. And it doesn’t distract from what I see as the film’s takeaway message: intolerance sucks.

    Steven (#83): I think there’s irony in the placement and juxtaposition of the missionary caption . . . I didn’t create the irony myself.

    I grant you that the irony in the situation wasn’t manufactured. It was evident without any editorial input on your part. But the epilogue was all you. The choice of background music (“This Land is Your Land”), the choice of facts that you juxtapose, and the choice of words in the captions are carefully tailored to highlight the irony (this isn’t a criticism, just an observation). For example, it’s true that the message of the missionaries relates to tolerance and love. But their message isn’t primarily one of tolerance, as is suggested by the caption. Also, I’m curious to know how directly the loss of $200,000 in donations has been linked to the Moore visit. Is the cause/effect relationship between the visit and the lost donations cut-and-dried?

    I hope I’m not coming off as being contrarian or as questioning your integrity, Steven. I don’t see it as a breach of ethics to tailor the presentation of facts to make a point in a film. It’s just that I like talking about movies and I have burning questions. I don’t usually get to ask them to the filmmaker himself.

    By the way, I have to say your use of the Godspeed You Black Emperor music was perfect.

  92. lamonte,

    Just wondering if you think the NY Times and Blue campuses in general have an open mind when dealing with Conservatives. I would argue and Ann Coulters recent Exp in Conn. would argue that they are very intolerant of opposing viewpoints.

    I think that libs talk a good game about being open minded and tolerant but practice something very different. They want tolerance of their views and causes.

  93. Seth Rogers says:

    Tolerance is a highly overrated virtue.

    These days, it seems that “tolerance” is merely code for simply ignoring everyone around you with differing viewpoints.

    The plea for tolerance is really a plea for everyone to shut up and quit rocking the boat.

  94. bbell – I don’t disagree with your assessment that liberals can be just as intolerant, and sometimes moreso, of conservative ideas as conservatives are of liberal ideas. Many eyars ago (1972 to be exact) I was a college freshman at at Idaho State University. A fellow named Willie Ludlow was running as a democrat against Orval Hansen, a moderate conservative incumbant, for Congress from the 2nd distirct of Idaho. They were scheduled to debate on campus and so I went to see them expecting to support Mr. Ludlow, a liberal non-denominational minister from the ISU campus. I was raised by two moderate-to-liberal New Dealers and that is what they would have expected. At the debate I was stunned to see the childish behavior of the Ludlow supporters and embarrassed to think that I would be on the same team as them. I ended up voting for Orval Hansen in that election and I have voted for a few Republicans since then, most recently for my own Congressman Tom Davis from the 11th District of Virginia.

    After my freshman year I transferred to the Univeristy of Idaho and while there I found there to be an even keeled political atmosphere. Dirk Kempthorne, the current Republican Governor of Idaho was student body president during my years at Idaho but there were liberal voices there as well. Perhaps moreso in the years prior to my attending at the height of the Vietnam War.

    As for the NYTimes – I feel that they and the Washington Post try to have balance in their editorial writing. NYTimes may have Herbert and Krugman on the left but they also have David Brooks and John Tierney as a balance. Kristof and Friedman are middle of the road and Maureen Dowd should not be taken serious by anyone. NYTimes previously had William Safire as another conservative voice. ThePost has George Will, Charles Krauthammer and Bob Novak to balance the likes of E.J. Dionne and Richard Cohen. Both editorial boards (the ones that write without a signature) are more liberal but both have taken conservative stances on some issues (note the Post is still backing the President on the Iraq War.)

    I see no such balance in the Washington Times editorial page. There may be “blue campuses” and “red campuses” but mostly I see college campuses as the last vestige of reasonable, political discourse. Unfortunately some campuses have chosen to take a partisan stance but most still foster balanced discourse.

    As a moderate liberal, I believe that is why the majority of college professors identify themselves as liberal – because they seek honest political discourse in lieu of shouting and name calling that seems to occupy the television pundit programs – but that’s just my personal feelings.

  95. shieldvulf says:

    Happened across your blog, and I’m so glad I did. As one of the better informed and reasonable citizens on the left end of most discussions, I find it positively moving to discover this crowd of civil and reasonable conservative citizens. I had known such as y’all once upon a time, but, over the past 25 years or so, you’ve been overshouted by the corporate neocons and their shrill, fundamentalist patsies to the point that “conservative” can appear to mean only “adamantine and ineducable.” But you and I can talk.

    For now, I only want to correct one of the commonest errors people commit when discussing Michael Moore’s films. Apart from Canadian Bacon, his fictional effort, Moore’s films are always the story of Moore inquiring into his subject. He shows us what he finds and tells us what he thinks. But, unlike his nemeses (Andrew Coulter for one, VP Cheney for another), he never declares absolute truth or case closed. His method is that most democratic of activities, personal inquiry. And yes, he begins and ends with a point of view, as do you and I and everyone else, and god bless him for it. Nothing could be more honest than putting your viewpoint right out where people can see what it is. By the same token, what is more dishonest than the peculiar assertion of “objectivity,” which, in my experience, only means that that the viewpoint behind the expression is deliberately obscured?

    Y’all have a Holly Jolly Solstice, y’hear?

  96. IIRC Sean Hannity, although he waived his fee, required a private jet and other concessions, which cost more than the 40k paid to Moore. Also I think the Moore event was a net profit to UVSC (minus any donations misssed)

    Correct me if I am wrong.

  97. Sultan of Squirrels says:

    I think moore ended up costing them like 25,000 dollars after tickets and all. and hannity was like 8,700 something. but his jet was 50,000 dollars more or less. that’s as much as I could gather from the quick cuts to the “fiscal reports” or whatever you want to call them. I might be wrong though

  98. I am going to comment on the statement in one of the postings:

    “Just wondering if you think the NY Times and Blue campuses in general have an open mind when dealing with Conservatives. I would argue and Ann Coulters recent Exp in Conn. would argue that they are very intolerant of opposing viewpoints.”

    I think that the argument overlooks a few simple truths. In my experience, progressive people love to discuss and debate issues. However, it takes two willing parties to discuss issues about which they disagree. Both parties have to be prepared to extend the principle of charity (i.e. just because somebody has a different opinion on an issue does not necessarily make them an idiot).
    In the case of Ann Coulter, I think I can make a fairly safe inference that an author one of whose books is titled “How to Talk To Liberals (If You Must)” does not have any significant level of respect for tolerance of opposing viewpoints, nor any significant level of natural courtesy. That being the case, I believe that a lot of progressive people have decided to fight fire with fire when dealing with these types of public figures. If Ann Coulter wants to go on national TV, and mouth off and slander “liberals”, impugning their integrity, intelligence and patriotism, that is her right. However, if that means that a number of progressive people decide to give her a hard time when she steps out of that protected environment into a public speaking engagement, then I don’t have a problem with that.
    Coulter’s stock in trade is the persistent uttering of sneering, disrespectful, deceitful ad hominems. She can hardly complain if she gets some of them thrown back at her from time to time.

  99. Sultan of Squirrels says:

    so I checked it. Moore did end up costing 25,000 but it’s interesting to note that he recieved 1,500 in donations while hannity recieved 15,000 so if they had both been given the same amount of donation money it would have costed almost the exact same amount to bring them in (each around 9 or 10 thousand)
    how to talk to liberals (if you must)… wow. never heard of that. how dumb.

  100. Hi Lamonte,

    I graduated from a big ten school in the 1990’s.

    I did not find any conservatives on campus amongst the faculty with the exception of a couple of non-tenured business professors. They could have been there but they sure kept quiet.

    I think my experience is pretty typical. Conservative campuses are really rare. That is what makes the Utah Valley story so noteworthy to me. Is that you actually had a conservative campus in the first place. I am trying to think of some Red Campuses here in TX and can only come up with Texas A&M. Where I grew up in the midwest there are no red campuses amongst the state schools. They are as blue as can get.

    As for the NY Times conservatives for the most part do not take it seriously. They consider it a house paper for the DNC. The same way liberals see FoxNews or the Wash Times.

    As for professors. Most of my professors in the 1990’s were liberals who grew up in the vietnam era and had a distaste for the military, organized religion, and conservatives in general. They seemed isolated from conservatives as a general rule. I used to enjoy talking to them about politics in private because they would often tell me that they had rarely ever spoken to conservative student. They were liberals because of idealogy. They lived in liberal areas, had liberal co-workers, and if they went to church they had fellow liberal parishioners.

  101. What about Baylor? TCU? Tech? Abilene Christian?

    To name a few…

  102. Hmmmm.. Give ya Baylor but its Baptist what do you expect?
    Not TCU though thats here in Fort Worth and they are not a Red campus. Comeon they beat BYU how could they be a red campus :)

    Abilene Christian even counts?

    Almost added Tech but my co-workes and friends that went there say the town is red but the school is not.

  103. Well- there are several individuals here at my law firm who attended Abilene Christian at some point as undergraduate students.

  104. I read a few of the comments that stated tax money was used to bring in Hannity and Moore. This was a common misconception during all the crazziness and it looks like it is still be said. The money used to pay for Hannity and Moore’s visits were paid for by student fees, not tax dollars, student fees.
    To make things clear UVSC allocates $50,000 each year to bring speakers on campus. Typically student government (who is in charge of allocating the speeking fee money) gives $7000 to each of the seven schools on campus. Typically the schools work with their student senators to bring a speaker or two each semester. Working for the campus newspaper for the past few years I have attended many guest speaker engagements and it can be pretty sad. It is not uncommon for a speaker to be in front of a large room filled with empty chairs. When people do show up they usually are there because a professor is making it mandatory or handing out extra credit.

    So when Joe Vogel and Jim Bassi came up with the idea of “putting all their eggs in one basket” by booking a big name speaker they were looking for someone that would fill the Events Center. They thought about people like Sean Hannity and John McCain. Hannity was out of their price range ($80,000) and McCain was going to be too busy due to the upcoming election. When they found out that Moore was looking to fill some dates in his college tour they contacted his agent and the rest was history.

    One more Kay Anderson story that most people don’t know is that this isn’t the first time he has gone off the deep end. A few years ago Anderson was quite upset that UVSC had hosted an outdoor Nelly concert. When he found out that a member of his own ward was responsible for the concert he stood up in his Elder’s Quroum meeting and asked for a vote to excommunicate this person. Not exactly stadard LDS protocol, but amazingly 4 other elders agreed with him. The EQP was so upset he got up and left in disgust. As for the poor guy who booked the Nelly concert…he still works for UVSC and has moved from Anderson’s ward.

  105. The way I see it, institutions (including private schools) that rely heavily on tax money for their operations should treat every dollar they spend as if it were tax money. If UVSC didn’t have tax money they wouldn’t be able to allocate so much money from student tuition and fees to pay speakers. So the particular route that the money takes is irrelevent.

    I am a bit curmudgeonly, but I think it’s wrong that department where I study (a science department at a private university) spends many thousands of dollars per year on alcohol for students and recruits, nice dinners and hotel rooms for visitors, an annual retreat for grad students and professors, honoraria and travel expenses for prominent speakers, etc. The same argument–that the money comes from private sources–can be made to justify these expenditures, but the fact that the vast majority of my department’s research budget comes from taxes and that most of the professors in my department wouldn’t have a job if it wasn’t for that tax money makes the source of the wasted (in my opinion) money irrelevant.

    If that Kay Anderson story is true (which I don’t strongly doubt), that’s messed up.

  106. My point is that it wasn’t tax money…this money usually gets wasted anyways, trust me. UVSC got a lot of bang for its buck. The numbers that the college relations department did this past year show that more people in the state know that UVSC exists than ever before….what they are known for can be debated for sure.

  107. . . . this money usually gets wasted anyways, trust me.

    Without a doubt.

    It’s funny, I never imagined that there were Utahns that weren’t aware of the existence of UVSC. Seems like half of my high school class went there. Nothing like a good controversy to get noticed, though. Maybe next year they should invite Hillary Clinton. Or Jacques Chirac.

  108. Seth Rogers says:

    Well, look on the bright side.

    They could have used the money to pay for prostitutes for the new football team recruits …

    Comparatively, Michael Moore looks positively innocuous.

  109. Speaking of Utah Valley State College and Football there is an absolutely ridiculous proposal out there to bring football to UVSC! This year’s student government, led by Jared Sumsion, is ignoring the 3 million dollar bugdet decrease currently facing UVSC and moving forward on their plans to get a football team. I like Jared, and consider him a friend, but this is insanity. Athletics already nabs quite a bit of money from student fees…now he wants to raise student fees another 40-50 dollars a semester just to pay for a football team that will have no conference, no stadium, and judging by currrent athletics attendance no support. It makes the money spent on Moore look like a drop in the bucket.
    Sorry…I know this kind of thing isn’t the purpose of this site….but waste like this always pisses me off.

  110. Aaron Brown says:

    Make a movie about it, Vegor, and I’ll review it.

    Aaron B

  111. I don’t have time to read all of the above comments and so I apologize if I repeat something. But just to clarify, the only content in Hannity’s response to my question was that 911 changed everything. That part of the movie accurately portrayed what happened except for two elements that were left out (Steven couldn’t include everything): First, the guys behind me weren’t just mocking me but they were also physically threatening me. I was seriously concerned for my safety when I left the building. I thought that it was possible that one of them would physically confront me. I walked out with several friends in order to avoid this. Second, about a half dozen self-described conservatives came to me after the event and apologized for the unbecoming behavior of the crowd. It is important to note that most conservatives in Utah County are not like Kay Andersen.

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