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Dear Foundation President Ted Watts,
You have denied that your decision to cancel the Michael Moore film is one of censorship. Yet most of your members want to see the film. Perhaps the board’s decision is not technically censorship, but your board did fold under initial pressure and seems unwilling to reconsider as pressure amounts on the other side. What is in question is the courage of the board, the biases of those on the board, or possibly both.
As for political agendas—every film has at least an implicit political agenda and many you’ve shown have explicit political agendas. Showing a film members want to see is not taking a political posture. Canceling a scheduled showing for political reasons (whether internal or national) is a political decision.
Since you have been made uncomfortable about the film, a good solution would be to show the film and then sponsor a well-designed debate between a critic of the film and someone who is willing to defend it. (A well-designed debate could take less then an hour: one person making a five minute point, then a three minute response by the other, a one-minute reply by the first speaker; repeating this three more times, switching persons; concluding with each person offering a five minute conclusion. The first speaker would offer the first conclusion. The extra ten minutes would be absorbed by a moderator, explaining the ground rules, then enforcing them.) The debate could be a bit briefer and could occur 2/3rds of the way through the film after a brief intermission.
Courage is essential to citizens and boards. Letting people inform themselves and then make their own decisions is also essential.
Professor Emeritus Philosophy
Northeastern University, Boston