- The Washington Times - Saturday, May 8, 2004

Disapprove, if you like, of the Disney company’s decision to forbid a subsidiary to distribute the latest concoction of left-wing zealot Michael Moore. But don’t call it censorship, which is what the government does when it tells private parties they cannot say something publicly.

No company — whether a film studio, newspaper corporation or whatever — can or should publish or distribute everything that comes its way. Decisions are needed about what to include or exclude, and there are all kinds of reasons to nix something. In the case of Mr. Moore’s latest documentary, “Fahrenheit 9/11,” the Disney company was concerned that it not be seen taking sides in this year’s presidential election.

The documentary, it is reported, delivers a thorough bashing of President Bush. Disney Chief Executive Officer Michael Eisner says his company feels it must remain strictly nonpartisan. That is understandable. The company could not pretend evenhandedness — it also would not put out an anti-Kerry film this year — and it depends on support from customers of all political persuasions.

Nor is there any serious doubt the film will find a distributor, as there would be if the government squelched the movie in abridgement of the First Amendment.

Another rationale was available to Mr. Eisner, had he chosen to use it. Given Mr. Moore’s history of such things as factual error, impossible leaps of logic and chronological rearrangement in his documentaries, you might worry you showed a lack of responsible standards by distributing his film. A discerning, meticulous, deep and thoughtful journalist with a finely honed sense of proportion he is not.

Mr. Moore, in fact, is given to fevered political imaginings, as he showed when he alleged Mr. Eisner was thwarting the distribution because he was afraid Gov. Jeb Bush of Florida would otherwise thwart some tax breaks for the company.

If you like that sort of mind-reading speculation, you might consider a Disney spokesman’s more persuasive notion that Mr. Moore, who has known about Disney’s stance on the movie for a year, is stirring up a fuss now as a publicity stunt.

Either way, both ways or neither way, the movie is not being censored. You want to see it? You will have a chance.

Jay Ambrose is director of editorial policy for Scripps Howard Newspapers.

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