Leaked Emails Call for Censorship of Michael Moore’s New Film (Exclusive)
“It must come down off your pages immediately.”
Michael Moore’s controversial new film, “Planet of the Humans” has been removed from YouTube. In a now deleted tweet, the copyright claimant responsible for the takedown, Toby Smith, called the movie a “baseless, shite doc built on bull-shit”. Smith later admitted he filed the copyright claim because he doesn’t agree with the film’s message. The ongoing dispute is just the latest of many efforts to take the film down since its release last month.
Newly acquired emails show that the same night Moore released the film, journalist filmmaker Josh Fox (“Gasland”) led an effort to censor it.
On April 22 at 12:41 am, Fox — now a show host at TYT, the largest online news network — told his colleagues, “It must come down off your pages immediately.” He repeated, “IMMEDIATELY.”
In a second email at 1:05 am, Fox urged another group full of public relations professionals and organizers to help suppress the film. “A number of reputable websites are hosting this abomination and I need your support in getting them to take it down”.
At 1:49 pm Josh tweeted 350.org founder, Bill McKibben. “We are on it”.
“Planet of the Humans” exposes the flaws of renewable energy and takes a critical look at environmental organizations like 350.org and Sierra Club. For example, the film shows that Sierra Club actively hid the fact that they received $3 million from the world’s leading timber investment advisor — advising not to preserve forests, but to cut them down. Likewise, 350.org’s recommended “Green Century Funds” were invested in things like oil and gas infrastructure companies, Coca-Cola (the largest creator of plastic pollution), and big banks including Black Rock (the largest financier of deforestation on earth).
Fox acknowledges “there are problems with Sierra Club” but not with his friend McKibben, whose 350.org says they are “not sure” whether the film should be censored or not.
Some criticized the film even before viewing it. In the youtube video “The Problem with Planet of the Humans”, Joshua Kahn Russell, said the filmmakers’ message that “you can’t have infinite growth on a finite planet” is “cliche” before later admitting he hadn’t even watched the full film. Russell is a former 350.org staffer, a friend of Bill McKibben’s, and one of the recipients of Fox’s email calling for the film’s suppression.
Fox pointed his email groups to Films For Action, an online video library that posted “Planet of the Humans” on its site. FFA director Tim Hjersted says Fox convinced him the film was “full of harmful misinformation”, and that Fox argued, “You wouldn’t host a film by Steve Bannon would you? Or Andrew Breitbart?”. FFA caved to Fox’s pressure and took the film down.
(Hjersted later decided to put “Planet of the Humans” back on Films for Action and now supports the film against efforts to censor it.)
After the film was taken off Films for Action, Fox announced on Twitter that “the distributor of Michael Moore’s #PlanetoftheHumans is taking the film down due to misinformation in the film.”
However, Films for Action is not the film’s distributor. “It was incredibly misleading” says Hjersted, who immediately contacted Fox to tell him, “Josh, we’re not the distributor.” Fox told Hjersted that he would correct the false statement but issued no correction for twelve days as the misinformation spread across news sites, including USA Today. Fox eventually tweeted a false “correction” that continues to identify FFA as a “distributor of the film”. Hjersted says, “Technically or legally that’s untrue as we have no contract or association with the filmmakers”.
Films for Action also remains falsely associated with “Planet of the Humans” in Fox’s online petition, accusing the film of being “untrue”, “unfair”, and “unscientific”. Hjersted says he was disappointed with the petition.
I was expecting [Fox] to cite specific examples with documentation to go point-by-point over what exactly was misinformation but he didn’t.
In fact, the only scientific study offered in Fox’s petition to back up his claims has been scientifically debunked for several years. A 2017 peer reviewed study led by researchers from U.C. Berkeley, Carnegie Mellon University, and Stanford University determined that the 2012 study Fox references “used invalid modeling tools, contained modeling errors, and made implausible and inadequately supported assumptions”. Thus, the findings “are not supported by adequate and realistic analysis”.
Fox’s “letter of outrage” is signed by 29 individuals including Naomi Klein, the Chair in Media, Culture, and Feminist Studies at Rutgers University; and Assistant Professor of Political Science, Leah Stokes, who wrote in Vox, “My only hope is that this film will be buried”.
PEN America issued a statement condemning the calls for censorship.
Calls to pull a film because of disagreement with its content are calls for censorship, plain and simple. Those who take issue with the film have every right to make their concerns and arguments heard, but first and foremost, the public also has the essential right to view Moore’s film and make their own judgements.
In a press release Michael Moore asks,“What are they afraid of?”
What are they afraid of? Are their arguments so weak they cannot withstand contrary opinions? Are they so desperate over what the public may do when they learn about the abject failures of our environmental movement that they need to resort to slandering our movie, including making up a lie as they announced their success in getting a “distributor” to “pull” our film from release — when in fact no such thing ever happened?
How quickly the values of an open society — freedom of speech, freedom of the press, and the freedom to be wrong (or right), vanish when some people’s sacred cows — or should I say, sacred solar panels — are challenged.
Fox says he didn’t call for censorship but “retraction” and berates Moore for being critical of “saintly figures” like Bill Mckibben “who is a saint”.
Accusations of Anti-Semitism and Eco-Fascism
“Planet of the Humans” discusses the issue of ever increasing population growth. However, there is absolutely no mention or suggestion of population control in the film. Instead, the film’s solution is to reduce consumption, not population. Nevertheless, Fox accuses the movie’s “old white guy” filmmakers of pushing “eco-fascism”.
I asked Fox why the ‘old white’ filmmakers of ‘Planet of the Humans’ are eco-fascists for merely talking about population growth but not his friend, Bill McKibben, who acknowledges the exact same issue in his book “Maybe One: A Case for Smaller Families”. I got no response.
This is not the first time Fox has launched such a serious accusation against people he disagrees with. In January, when Public Theatre ended its run of Fox’s one-man show after he made “a series of verbal abuses to the staff”, Fox accused the theatre of anti-semitism.
I was accused of being too emotional, complaining too loudly, and then, without notice they cancelled the remaining run of the show…I did not expect to find that kind of violence and suppression at The Public Theater, yet several anti-semitic tropes were used by The Public Theater’s staff against me personally…
The New York Times later asked Fox what he meant by “anti-semitic tropes”.
When asked to explain, [Fox] said he had been told that he was too passionate, too loud and too emotional. “To me that is distinctly cultural,” he said. “That’s a classic anti-Semitic trope.”
“They were clearly suppressing the content of the show,” Fox told the Times. On Facebook, he described the show cancelation as an “outright ban”.
For a theater that promotes itself as a place for social justice, to see the outright ban and shut down of this show, reveals a deep underlying institutional hypocrisy. The Public Theater is clearly manifesting the authoritarian politics of our time.
I wonder if Fox is capable of seeing the hypocrisy in his own efforts to shut down “Planet of the Humans”. Regardless, for now, the film remains removed from YouTube.
Correction (6/1/20): An earlier version of this article wrote that “Ketan Joshi, who calls the film ‘racist’ for discussing concerns about population growth” had signed Josh Fox’s “letter of outrage”. That is incorrect, Joshi did not sign Fox’s letter.
Hi, I’m Matt Orfalea. Thanks for reading! You can follow me here on Medium, Youtube, Twitter, and Facebook. If you enjoyed my work, please help me create more content by supporting me on Patreon.