When liberal filmmaker Michael Moore was invited to speak at Utah Valley State College, it created a firestorm not usually seen in the heart of conservative Mormon country. A media frenzy followed, as did FoxNews? Sean Ha... more »nnity who agreed to speak at UVSC prior to Moore?s engagement. Protests, anger and a bribery attempt by a local businessman to stop Moore?s appearance punctuate this documentary that cuts to the heart of the "red versus blue" rift in the nation. Would conservative activists prevent Michael Moore from speaking? Would Utah?s liberals win their fight for freedom of speech? The answer lies somewhere within "This Divided State."« less
"In 2004, the Student Body Council at Utah Valley State College (UVSC) decided to invite Michael Moore to their campus to speak. It was, after all, an election year, and in view of the recently released film "Fahrenheit 9/11" Moore seemed to be an appropriate and timely choice. Moore's $40,000 speaker's fee would be easily offset by ticket sales. Simple, right? ... Well, think again. Moore's invitation to speak at UVSC sparked an incredibly ugly chain of events chronicled by the perceptive eye of first time filmmaker, Steven Greenstreet.
Greenstreet recorded events as the situation at UVSC became ugly. Student petitions circulated, demonstrations took place, and local Mormon, Kay Anderson, pulled out all the stops to achieve his goal of canceling Moore's engagement. Anderson felt that Moore did not represent the values of his community, and he was right about that. In a state where the population is 75% Mormon, and Republicans outnumber Democrats at the rate of 12:1, Moore's opinions don't exactly mesh with the majority. Few people, however will go quite as far as Anderson--offering a $25,000 cheque to cancel Moore and eventually sinking to suing the Student Body.
Conservative talk show host Sean Hannity is invited to UVSC in an attempt to help 'balance' the situation. Hannity's engagement was supposedly 'free', but since he demanded a private jet, his speaking engagement (which was paid for by the college) cost several thousands more than Moore's--an irony that seems to escape those who protested the money spent on Michael Moore.
"The Divided State" is a microcosm for politics in America--and while it's not quite this ugly in most towns, America is politically--a divided nation. In Orem, Utah with the imminent visit from Moore, the moral divide of politics became extreme. First Amendment rights were severely threatened when self-appointed Dodge City Marshals of Morality tried to block Moore's visit just because they didn't like what he had to say. The documentary captures the emotionally charged atmosphere on campus as sides clash. Those who fight for Moore's presence see it as a battle for First Amendment rights--while those who are opposed to Moore argue that his presence brings "hatred and filth." As emotions are unleashed and tempers flare, courageous professors try to speak while the crowd heckles and boos, and radio host Sean Hannity humiliates a young man who had the courage to admit he was a liberal--well so much for Free Speech. And throughout this entire, shameful mess Student Body President Jim Bassi and Vice President Joe Vogel (both former Mormon missionaries) valiantly attempt to maintain their equilibrium in the volatile situation on campus.
"This Divided State" is highly entertaining and yet also profoundly disturbing. Watching the events in Orem, Utah is a good reminder for everyone that we cannot allow others to make moral judgments about what we can see, hear, or read, and while a war rages in Iraq to supposedly create democracy in that nation, perhaps we should worry a bit more about what's taking place under our noses. The DVD offers extensive extras--interviews and deleted scenes, "The Resignation", Kay Anderson 'uncut', additional coverage of Michael Moore, a music video, and audio commentary--displacedhuman"
Unite in Watching This
!Edwin C. Pauzer | New York City | 08/18/2008
(4 out of 5 stars)
"In 1844, Joseph Smith, the founder of the Church of Jesus Christ and Latter Day Saints (LDS) was murdered by religious bigots. His followers moved to Utah, where 75% of the state's population today subscribes to this belief. They are mostly republican, outnumbering democrats or liberals by twelve to one.
The Divided State brings us to 2004 where two members of the student government at the Utah Valley State College decided to invite Michael Moore to speak on campus before the November presidential election. The fees for Moore's visit would be $40,000 for which advanced ticket sales have already insured a profit. When the invitation was made, the uproar began.
Students opposed to the political views of the controversial filmmaker started drawing petitions to have the invitation rescinded. They never claimed that it was about Moore's politics, but how the money was spent. They have the support of Kay Anderson, a local businessman in the Oram, Utah community. Anderson seems to delight being in the spotlight even as students challenge his opposition, and catch him repeatedly contradicting himself. (A trailer to this shows the students lampooning him mercilessly, which draws chuckles from the man who gives every appearance of being a self-righteous bigot and hypocritical throwback to the 1950's). Students counter Anderson's argument by asking why it is so important keeping someone out, which is the same reason the LDS sought refuge by immigrating to Utah.
Conservative students invite ultraconservative Sean Hannity to speak at the school, days ahead of Moore. He agrees to do it free, just so long as they pay his expenses and the cost of flying by private jet. Cost: $50,000.
Watching Hannity was perhaps the most difficult viewing of this story. His patronization of the crowd and condescension was nauseating. He humiliated a liberal in the audience, and on stage while carefully keeping the microphone from him. He summoned other liberals by calling them, as he would call for a house pet. Moore follows several days later, also to a sell-out crowd, extolling the courage of the student body president, Jim Bassi and Vice President Joe Vogel, who find themselves in a lawsuit filed for spite by fellow Mormon, Kay Anderson.
This was surprisingly entertaining and powerful. It was shocking, and disgusting to see Kay Anderson completely contradict his Christian principles and American ideals, saying the community could ignore the first amendment rights of other Americans by keeping them from speaking in his town or local college. Knowing Hannity's routine, I have gained a new level of contempt for this conceited prima donna. Yet, it was refreshing to see college students remain ever mindful of their civic obligation to protect the Constitutional rights of their fellow citizens.
This was a microcosm of division that has permeated across our land, hence the title, "This Divided State." Another lesson to be learned from this is that civil rights can always be taken away or challenged by rationalization by anyone in the majority, liberal or conservative, and that tyranny can appear in the form of self-righteousness, misdirection, and under the cloak of patriotism.
Unite in watching this. "
Free Speech Issues
Gen Res | US | 01/06/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)
"The 5 stars I gave this movie were not based on any sort of great movie effects or high production costs; it was simply based on the real concept of the movie and the look at how real people act in controversial situations. The maker of this documentary dropped out of Brigham Young University to create this documentary. He was simply a University student aspiring to be a documentary film maker - I would say to him - well done.
This movie was shot in 2004 in the lead up to the US Presidential elections. Michael Moore, a documentary filmmaker and author was invited by the student body of a State University in Utah to speak. This created a lot of anger and controversy in the University. Many people believed that Moore was going to somehow corrupt the students in the University. Than, This Divided State gets into the concept of free speech and how we as Americans are lucky that we have it. However, there are many people who believe free speech should be curbed and limits should be placed on it. There are two main people who head the campaign to not bring Moore to their campus - one is a student who hands out petitions and debates passionately another one is some sort of a religious leader who lives nearby the campus. There is a serious discussion over whether Moore should be allowed to speak or not. The students against Moore disagree with his views and use the excuse that the State should not be paying him speaker fees - even though for any type of speaker, fees are common. It is decided to "balance" Moore's views; Sean Hannity will also come to the campus and speak the day before.
Sean Hannity has a show on Fox News called "Hannity and Colmes" he also has a radio program. Hannity comes and speaks about liberals the same way African Americans were spoken about in public 50+ years ago. He makes statements such as
"We would like liberals to live in our neighborhood - if they can afford it"
"He told a lie, typical liberal"
Hannity seemed like a very angry, hateful and one sided person. He also made some references toward Professors who asked valid questions -such as there were no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. The interesting thing is, any tax paying American citizen would want to know this information but for some reason, the auditorium full of people watching Sean Hannity tells the Professors to "shut up". Hannity states "maybe the Professors should go to Berkeley".
Michael Moore comes the following day. There is a huge protest outside. Moore's speech is very touching. The scene where he thanks American soldiers is enough to make anyone teary eyed.
The student body of the University, who invited Moore, gets numerous threats, even lawsuits. The leader against bringing Moore to the campus also receives hate mail. The worst part about this documentary is the ending. To make you get a feel for the ending ,think of the movie, Lord of War. In the movie Lord of War, Nicholas Cage says there is the quote "Evil Triumphs When Good People Do Nothing. That quote is not true, the truth is that Evil Always Triumphs". "
Freedom of Speech Isn't Free-- A Study in Extremism
Lukas Jackson | Los Angeles, California United States | 12/13/2005
(4 out of 5 stars)
"This documentary is far more interesting than I had expected, and I hope that it becomes more widely known. It concerns the controversy when Utah Valley State College in Orem, Utah ("the most conservative county in the most conservative state," according to a local right-wing activist) invited Michael Moore to speak shortly before the 2004 election. All hell then breaks loose, as local right-wingers commence to: (1) attempt to bribe the college with tens of thousands of dollars to disinvite Moore, (2) initiate personal lawsuits against the student leaders, and (3) make personal threats against these leaders. Sean Hannity then puts in an appearance, offering to waive his speaker's fee, even though he insists on travel fees with his private jet that approximate Moore's fee.
In the process, we see the clash of students on campus, a fascinating and terrifying glimpse of the malevolent heart of red-state ideology. While parroting talk of "freedom," these people have no qualms about making threats and ruining people personally for attempting to exercise these rights. I think that most informed conservatives-- or at least those known to and accountable to the public-- would accord respect to our First Amendment rights. However, this film gives us a glimpse of the base on which conservative power rests, and the view is not pretty.
The footage of Hannity's appearance is instructive. Hannity apparently fancies himself some sort of strong-jawed ubermensch, strutting across the stage and demanding ideological conformity from his audience. One young liberal is called out and ridiculed, all in the name of good fun. UVSC professors put in appearances, raising valid points about the Iraq war, but are universally booed, shouted down, and even mooned by the volk in Hannity's audience. Hannity's only response to their concerns: "9/11 changed everything." As if, by repeating this uninformative mantra enough, they can will it into truth and achieve carte blanche power for the GOP. One begins to understand how the Nazis came to power.
Moore's speech is interesting insofar as how it compares to Hannity's. The passion of the persecuted Utah liberals really comes across, and the atmosphere is far more free and alive than the Hannity rally (even though two Naders supporters are shunted outside by security guards when they try to outshout Mike).
This film makes one see how absolutely essential our First Amendment freedoms are, but also raises a frightening specter: if the red sea grows, and the people no longer believe in the power of these rights, then they may become mere words on paper and cease to exist. Indeed, a UVSC student representative is forced to resign, and the school loses hundreds of thousands of dollars in donations as a result of the Moore appearance. Freedom of speech is not, in fact, free. "
A Slice of life, Utah style
Donald Negri | Sacramento, Ca United States | 05/13/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This is a fascinating little bit of sociology. Not a "perfect" film, but worth 5 Stars for the subject matter and nature of the participants. It's not unlike what you see in snippets on the nightly news, except that taken as a whole you get a pretty complete tapestry. While one senses to "what side" the filmmakers might lean, there is certainly plenty of time in the film given to all sides. In fact, the "anti-Moore" side probably dominates. And yes, it's overall effect is to cause one to wonder just what are these people basically afraid of? The Hannity-Moore speeches (assuming that's what they were) might dominate the last half, but the real people of the film, mainly students, are peppered throughout.Especially "creepy" is the deep pockets local resident who will go to any ends to stop Moore's appearance. But he has the merit of coming right out and saying he considers Moore to be "anti-american". Unlike the anti-Moore student petition drive, based on a phoney "misuse of campus funds" argument.
But perhaps the most perceptive remarks in the whole film come from the student, a conservative, who makes the point, briefly and eloquently, of the "irony" (hypocrisy) that the Mormon church sends out every year thousands of young people on missions to numerous foreign cultures. And all that these young people ask is that the residents be "tolerant" enough to listen to their message. Yet, it is in Orem, in the heart of Utah, that such tolerance is being refused to another American. (he says it better than I have here).
One often hears Bush is the "boy in the bubble" in Washington. This film demonstrates that there are a lot of people in Utah who want the state to be "in the bubble". But, as Moore himself says, Utah is a part of the nation. For better or for worse.
In short, this is a film well worth purchasing, viewing and passing around. It does get to the very core of what we need to fear as this country drifts into extreme polarization and the subsequent intolerance of other viewpoints. Perhaps not as extreme as in Utah, but when one hears Sean Hannity proclaiming himself an ideological Son of Utah, one wonders. The kind of film I'd love to see shown in high school classrooms everywhere. But I'm sure it wouldn't be allowed. Try your home instead."