Friday, June 04, 2004

Someone Wicked This Way Comes

Hah. Fragile geek Cory Doctorow's mind can't cope with one of his heroes calling another one of his heroes "a horrible human being." Will he reconsider his priorities, and come to the conclusion that just maybe Ray Bradbury is more worthy of admiration and support than Michael Moore? I doubt it. Bradbury may be a visionary genius and lifelong sci-fi wunderkind, but he's not an anti-American propagandist, and that's what really counts, right?


Blogger Cory said...

This has nothing to do with Moore's politics or Bradbury's contributions to the genre -- this is about Bradbury asserting that anyone who titles a work with a title that plays on any of his titles is stealing from him -- despite that fact that this reflects neither the norms of the genre (where writers play with each others' titles all the time) nor copyright (which affords no protection for titles).

It's ironic that you decided to infer political motivations on my part here. The only one showing a political bias here is you: Bradbury is arguing that expressivity should require permission if it plays on the utterances of others, something that flies in the face of free expression fundamentals, but because he's aimed his criticism at someone whose politics you disagree with, you've chosen to ignore the social harm that would obtain if Bradbury's principles were adhered to and opted instead to cheer on his ad hominems.

I thought that people who supported personal liberty were supposed to support freedom of expression for everyone, not just people they agree with.

6/04/2004 07:05:00 AM  
Blogger Mark said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

6/04/2004 01:25:00 PM  
Blogger Michael McDonald said...

The stringent interpretation of copyright law alone isn't the point. Whether or not what Michael Moore did is legally tolerable, it remains reprehensible. Unlike "Nightfall," 451 remains unique and specifically meaningful title. Moore chose to capitalize on it specifically meaning to tie his film to the power of the message in Bradbury's book.

The very expression fundamentals you've cited, Cory, give Bradbury as much a right to be outraged as Michael Moore has to be an asshole. Mr. Denton simply has a rather different view than you about which of the two is more entitled in that regard.

6/04/2004 05:02:00 PM  
Blogger Paul Denton said...

When does anything related to Michael Moore not have to do with his politics? He's entitled to say whatever he wants. Ray Bradbury is entitled to call Moore an asshole for both his dishonourable appropriation of Fahrenheit 451's title and themes for his own purposes, as well as for the generally reprehensible and dishonest nature of his films. I tend to agree. I couldn't care less about the copyright issues; the law isn't what's important. Character is. If he wasn't precisely the kind of asshole Bradbury stipulates. He could have, say, asked permission to use the title, whether or not the law says he has to - just out of professional courtesy, as one writer to another. This isn't the case of one semi-obscure genre writer noodling with another's words; this is a polemic that will certainly be a hit in Europe, NYC and LA, if nowhere else.

Moreover, I didn't say anything about censoring Moore. Let him spout the craziest kind of conspiracy theories he wants; as long as he stops before the line of actually giving aid and comfort to the enemy, I don't care. I'm still entitled to think he's a fool, a liar, a propagandist, and most importantly, dishonourable.

6/04/2004 05:42:00 PM  
Blogger Cory said...

Spin spin spin. Weasel weasel weasel.

Bradbury thinks that it's theft to appropriate his titles. That's errant, anti-expression nonsense, and doubly ironic that the controversy revolves around Fahrenheit 451, a novel about free speech. Bradbury had no compunction about appropriating "Something Wicked This Way Comes" from Shakespeare. Titles rip off and play off other titles all the time.

Bradbury's position is indefensible, but because he's chosen to attack someone whose political views you dislike, you've come up with this elaborate "moral code" to justify it.

What pure, transparent, self-serving hipcracy.

6/05/2004 05:00:00 AM  
Blogger Paul Denton said...

Please. Surely you can see the difference between Bradbury and Shakespeare - living and works comprising minor cultural memes vs. dead and works comprisins.g a large body of major cultural meme, if nothing else.

Again, you seem to be missing the point - it's not about copyright law. It's not about freedom of expression. Moore is free to use the title, and I doubt there's anything Bradbury could possibly do to stop him. But it is indicative of two things:

First, Moore's lack of respect. He didn't even drop Bradbury a letter to the effect of "Hey, you're my hero, I loved Fahrenheit 451, and I plan to riff on the title for my next film." Just because it's not necessarily required by law doesn't mean it hurts to be polite about such things. I remember reading at some point that Weird Al Yankovic actually goes to the trouble of getting permission for every one of his song parodies, not because it's actually required for all performance circumstances, but just to keep on friendly terms with the rest of the recording industry.

Second, Michael Moore does have a bit of a problem with misrepresenting people - see the interviewees in Bowling For Columbine who later complained he edited what they said to make their words completely out of context. (For that matter, see the editing of two Charlton Heston NRA speeches to appear as one, etc etc etc.) Bradbury seems to be concerned that viewers may interpret the title to mean that he's condoning or agreeing with the politics of the film, and while I agree that from a legal standpoint he's got nothing, having anyone accidentally ascribe such beliefs to me is something I'd be enraged about too.

6/05/2004 06:43:00 AM  
Blogger Cory said...

Right, so Shakespeare's fair game. How about Walt Whitman (I Sing the Body Electric)? How about the directors of "The Women?"

Moore's politics are completely irrelevant to this -- even Bradbury says so: Bradbury claims to object to *anyone* using the word "Fahrenheit" in a title. He thinks it's "theft."

You keep on bringing up Moore's politics as though the fact that you disagree with him has some bearing on whether it's fair, decent or right for Bradbury to call him a thief for using the word "Fahrenheit" followed by a numeral in his title.

A more intellectually honest (and less blindly doctrinaire) thing for you to say would be "a pox on both their houses" -- on Moore for holding views you find odious and on Bradbury for his ridiculous anti-expression ideas.

But instead, your personal politics demand that you invent a complex and totally unfounded code of "politeness" and "honour" for the use of references in titles -- despite that fact that no one who actually titles creative works (including Bradbury!) has ever adhered to anything like this code. Despite the fact that there has never been a time when it was considered "impolite" to remix other authors'titles.

6/05/2004 06:57:00 AM  
Blogger Paul Denton said...

I maintain that it's not a free speech issue in the slightest; what I find more significant about the whole thing is Moore's pattern of behaviour in appropriating and misrepresenting memes for what is, objectively, propaganda. It's not the practice of reworking another's title in itself that bothers me - it's what he's using it for.

Yes, I consider him a repellent jackass independent of any titling issues; yes, Bradbury is admittedly being a stubborn and out-of-touch old fogey. If you like, interpret that as 'a pox on both their houses.' But I consider calling Moore on his spectrum of exaggerations, half-truths, misrepresentations and outright lies - no matter how small - to be far more important a battle to fight than berating Bradbury for having slightly odd views on intellectual property.

6/05/2004 04:25:00 PM  
Blogger Cory said...

"It's not the practice of reworking another's title in itself that bothers me - it's what he's using it for."

Right -- you support free expression provided that you agree with what's being said.

6/06/2004 03:36:00 AM  

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