Partisan Piracy: Conservative Filmmakers Accuse Obama Supporters Of Uploading Their Film To Youtube

from the believing-in-the-same-fallacy-unites-the-parties dept

Piracy is usually the scapegoat trotted out by various declining industries and pointed at angrily for supposedly single-handedly destroying them. Generally, it's content creators and various gatekeepers (mostly the latter) doing most of the pointing (and lobbying). In the normal scheme of things, the gatekeepers are all on the same side, united against filesharers. That's the status quo.

For the first time in memory, one entity has accused another in the same field (politics) of using piracy as a weapon. In this strange case, conservative filmmakers are accusing Obama supporters of uploading the full version of their documentary, "2016: Obama's America," to YouTube in order to harm box office sales.
The film, the second-highest-grossing political documentary in U.S. box-office history, has made $32 million domestically since opening in mid July but took in only $938,000 during the recent weekend for a per-screen average of $771, down 27 percent from $1,060 per screen in the previous weekend, according to BoxOfficeMojo. Overall, the movie's box-office dropped 53 percent in the most recent weekend compared with the previous one, its largest decline since opening 10 weeks ago.

While such a drop isn't unusual for a movie during the course of a week -- especially when the theater count dropped from 1,876 to 1,216 -- filmmakers nevertheless say box-office results were artificially depressed for two reasons: a disinformation campaign spreading the false rumor that Fox News Channel would be showing the movie in its entirety Sunday and a pirated version of the film showing up on YouTube this weekend.
The filmmakers contacted the FBI about the possible piracy and the user who uploaded the full film has taken it offline. In addition, mass emailings announced the (fake) news that Fox News would be showing the movie for free last Sunday. Many bloggers and websites ran with the story, but most have issued retractions.

The whole situation is a bit odd. Obama's official website issued a post criticizing the film and one of its creators, Dinesh D'Souza, saying he has a “long history of attempting to add a veneer of intellectual respectability to fringe theories, conspiratorial fear-mongering and flat-out falsehoods.” One wouldn't normally expect the President (or at least, a high-ranking spokesperson) to respond to a clearly political documentary. Perhaps the fact that "2016: Obama's America" is now the second-highest grossing political documentary added a bit of pressure.

However, while it's clear that some sort of misinformation campaign took place, it's a stretch to lay the dropoff in ticket sales on the "dirty tricks" of Obama supporters. It's fairly common for movies to experience large dropoffs in ticket sales from week-to-week. It's also fairly common for movies to get pirated. The other argument against a "concerted effort" to tank box office receipts is the timing. "2016:Obama's America" has been in the theaters 10 weeks and is due for a DVD release in October. As Zac Gille at Alt Film Guide asks: "Why now? Why not two months ago?"
“The reports of the movie appearing on Fox before the election are completely untrue," Dinesh D’Souza declared, "and we strongly suspect that they are the result of dirty tricks by our opponents who spread this rumor in order to confuse the general public and keep them from going to their local theaters."

If so, what an idiotic waste of time on the part of D’Souza’s and 2016 Obama’s America‘s "opponents." After all, the 2016 movie is fast on its way out.

So, why on earth would anyone in his/her right (or left, as the case may be) mind want to keep people "from going to their local theaters" to watch a movie that so few moviegoers care about at this stage? If an organized anti-2016 Obama’s America effort truly exists, then those guys have arrived on the scene a little too late. They should have acted five weeks ago, when the 2016 movie began its initially popular expansion.
Even if it turns out that a few Obama supporters did mount an effort to tank ticket sales, it would be tough to separate any possible impact from the misinformation campaign from the normal sales decline of any theatrical release. If anything, the piracy and misinformation plan backfired as the particularly loud response from the filmmakers can't help but draw more attention to the 10 week old film. Not only that, but uploading the movie to YouTube where it could be watched for free drives more viewers (and potential voters) to the film itself, a side effect the film's (alleged) opponents couldn't possibly have intended. However this turns out, we have a new tactic to add to the piracy pantheon -- piracy as political sabotage.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
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    Jay (profile), Sep 26th, 2012 @ 5:13am

    Just a sidenote

    D' Souza is a partisan hack that enjoys getting attention and spotlight. He has a number of misleading statistics in this movie and cannot be bothered to correct the information that is false in this film.

    Take the information in the movie with ten tons of salt.

    That said, I fully believe that D' Souza would be the same type of person to upload this and blame it on political opponents. It's what the conservatives in this country have been doing for the past three years when Obama inherited a bad debt from the Bush administration.

    I just sincerely hope this mode of using peavy as a scapegoat ends here when no one outside of conservative circles cares.

     

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  2.  
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    Scott, Sep 26th, 2012 @ 6:35am

    Re: Just a sidenote

    Exactly

     

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  3.  
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    jupiterkansas (profile), Sep 26th, 2012 @ 6:36am

    I'm sorry. Did they make the movie to bash Obama? Or did they make the movie to make money? I would think at this point, after reaping windfall profits, the goal would be to get as many people to see the film as possible.

    Or perhaps they manufactured the whole piracy thing to grab headlines, so sites like TechDirt would help promote the film?

    Welcome to 21st Century marketing.

     

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  4.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 26th, 2012 @ 6:43am

    Re:

    It's marketing, and you get to act like an entitled asshole.

    Win-Win

     

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  5.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 26th, 2012 @ 6:47am

    Re: Re:

    "You" being the documentary authors, of course (just to make that clear).

     

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  6.  
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    James Plotkin (profile), Sep 26th, 2012 @ 6:48am

    Sad

    You know, I'm Canadian, so far be it from me to say this...but...

    This is an important election. There is no shortage of substantive issues to be debating. Why is this story getting any traction? President Obama has disenchanted a lot of Americans and Mitt Romney just outright ostracized 47% of them! I mean, why the hell are we talking about piracy of a political doc regardless of how good or bad it is (or how much or little money it's made). The White House shouldn't be giving this the time of day and if it's true that they made a statement slamming the film or it's creator, they really shouldn't have.

    If there's something everyone can agree on, it' that the lobbying force of the content industry is not dependent on whether a republican or democrat holds office.

    This is coming from someone who is passionate about intellectual property law...there are more important things to be discussing than copyright infringement right now...

     

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  7.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 26th, 2012 @ 6:53am

    I wouldn't be surprised if the filmmakers did this themselves out of some sort of twisted publicity scheme. This has certainly gotten the film into the news. I'm sure they'll get plenty of DVD sales because of the recent headlines.

     

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  8.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 26th, 2012 @ 6:53am

    This is coming from someone who is passionate about intellectual property law...there are more important things to be discussing than copyright infringement right now...

    Agreed. Like the scandalous lockout of NFL officials.

     

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  9.  
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    Jim L, Sep 26th, 2012 @ 6:57am

    Could be funny

    Wouldn't it be funny if D' Souza is charged with uploading his own film.

     

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  10.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 26th, 2012 @ 7:00am

    let's be honest here. if anything doesn't perform as well or give the desired effect, outcome or income it was expected to give, piracy gets the blame. why would political documentaries be any different?

     

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  11.  
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    ASTROBOI, Sep 26th, 2012 @ 7:01am

    Anybody that expects their movie to still be doing big business after ten weeks is going to be disappointed. Even Batman and Spiderman stuff falls off pretty sharply after a few weeks. Second tier titles have usually exhausted their potential at even the budget theaters after ten weeks and are being preped for dvd or cable release.

     

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  12.  
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    abc gum, Sep 26th, 2012 @ 7:09am

    Dinesh D’Souza -> "and we strongly suspect that they are the result of dirty tricks by our opponents"

    Heh .... This coming from someone who has a “long history of attempting to add a veneer of intellectual respectability to fringe theories, conspiratorial fear-mongering and flat-out falsehoods.”

    This is rather humorous. I wonder how many went do to see this movie for it's comedic value vs how many went to experience the paranoid delusions of right wing nutterz.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 26th, 2012 @ 7:18am

    This was probably by the filmmakers themselves. why? well, there's no incentive for the Obama campaign to make anyting anti-Obama more widely availible. Even if it caused an impact on box office reciepts, it would still be people who might change their minds on voting for obama.

     

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  14.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 26th, 2012 @ 7:21am

    Thank you Tim for getting sucked in on this one. This film maker is just looking for attention and press, and you just gave it to 100,000 or so people.

    Your Republican pay packet will be on it's way shortly, I am sure ;)

     

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  15.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 26th, 2012 @ 7:26am

    After living in Broward County Florida, a county you could not elect a Republican to dog catcher in, during the 2000 election it is my belief that Democratic officials will do anything to obtain political office.

    Did Dewey defeat Truman? Did Truman win due to Chicago ballot box stuffing?

     

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  16.  
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    Chuck Norris' Enemy (deceased) (profile), Sep 26th, 2012 @ 7:30am

    Re: Just a sidenote

    D'Souza and Michael Moore, two sides to the same ugly coin.

     

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  17.  
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    BentFranklin (profile), Sep 26th, 2012 @ 7:42am

    Re: Just a sidenote

    What's "peavy"?

     

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  18.  
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    MrWilson, Sep 26th, 2012 @ 7:44am

    Response to: Anonymous Coward on Sep 26th, 2012 @ 7:26am

    What a coincidence... I've lived in a county too, many in fact! I guess I'm just as qualified as you to make broadsweeping remarks about a large group of people I clearly have a bias against.

     

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  19.  
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    Jeremy, Sep 26th, 2012 @ 7:47am

    Re: Sad

    This is an important election all right, just like all other elections before it. But like all the elections before it, the political body that is most incompetent will all be re-elected at an 80-90% rate. That body is the U.S. Congress. Everyone else in the U.S. and world seems to fixate on the U.S. president thinking that Obama or Romney will magically make some difference. The patriot act is a result of an incompetent congress, no budget for 5 years is the result of an incompetent congress, government printing money that it spends on BS is the result of an incompetent congress, flawed laws that get passed without being read are the result of an incompetent congress. This single body has repeatedly failed in even it's most basic and constitutionally mandated tasks time and time again, causing far more grief than the President has, or could. In fact, the incompetence of congress is directly responsible for the growth of presidential power, a most dangerous road to take.

     

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  20.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 26th, 2012 @ 7:54am

    Re: Sad

    He's right! How dare Techdirt discuss new issues related to digital piracy when OMFGZ there are Important Issues that aren't already being discussed to death EVERYWHERE else!

     

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  21.  
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    Michael, Sep 26th, 2012 @ 7:55am

    Republican vs Democrat = The illusion of 'choice'. No matter which is president, the end result is bigger government, increased surveillance, more draconia laws, wars, increased national debt, rising expenses (utilities, gas, tuition, etc.). The top 2% owns as much money as the bottom 60% and that divide keeps growing.

    As someone else mentioned, this newspiece serves as nothing more than a useless distraction. Seriously, in what way does it change your day if this or that film rakes in less money? Does anyone really care?

     

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  22.  
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    Nick Dynice (profile), Sep 26th, 2012 @ 7:56am

    Re:

    I agree. Is it profit or propaganda? They can't have it both ways. I guess if you think of Fox News as farcical entertainment then you could think of the film the same way. Either way, all just an opportunity for the filmmakers to get more attention to the film.

     

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  23.  
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    Tim Griffiths (profile), Sep 26th, 2012 @ 8:03am

    Re: Sad

    Hi, welcome to TechDirt.

     

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  24.  
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    aethercowboy (profile), Sep 26th, 2012 @ 8:08am

    there goes pirate mike's sidekick, cabin boy tim, completely missing the point of politics.

    it's not about informed votards. it's about making money.

    duh.

    where have you been for the past 200+ years?

    /pseudotroll

     

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  25.  
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    Jake, Sep 26th, 2012 @ 8:26am

    Could it be that the intent was to bring free publicity to a movie that, in normal theater life, would be nearing the end of its?

    "The Streisand Effect" is often cited here. I'm thinking the movie producers tried to harness it to breathe some extra life (or at least some free marketing) into a movie going to DVD soon.

     

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  26.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 26th, 2012 @ 8:29am

    Re: Could be funny

    would it be equally funny if he didn't?

     

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  27.  
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    AB, Sep 26th, 2012 @ 8:33am

    "Why now? Why not two months ago?"

    To bring renewed attention to the movie just before its DVD release, thus increasing upcoming physical sales.

     

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  28.  
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    Dark Helmet (profile), Sep 26th, 2012 @ 8:56am

    Re: Re: Just a sidenote

    "What's "peavy"?"

    A pitcher for the White Sox. We blame that fucker for EVERYTHING....

     

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  29.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 26th, 2012 @ 8:59am

    Re:

    Did you see it? Because if you did not, how do you know it has comedic value? Do you know any right wing nutterz personally? Do you even know what it means to be right or left wing? Have you read the 2 books that the movie is based on? Do you have any understanding of what it is D'Souza is complaining about? If you don't, then are your comments based on blind faith in a President that you accept won't lie to you or about his past? OR do you have some knowledge that Barack Obama is who he says he is that the rest of us don't know. Please share your research, because D'Souza is claiming nothing more than the FACT that the guy was not properly vetted before being presented as a candidate. That is true. He was not. As recently as last week a report surfaced that challenges many of the claims made by Obama in his book. This report was written by liberals I believe. It is clear that the vetting of this guy is slowly starting to take place 4 years too late and many are at the very least starting to question his past, his motives, his goals. Of course those on the right saw through him from day one - but they're all just crazy I suppose. Left wing people are more loving and caring and always hope for the best and allow someone to make their mistakes and start over (even at the expense of 10's of millions of people who lose their jobs, home etc...) because they are nice and more informed and smarter than everyone else. The point here is simple - your comments like many are most likely coming from a preformed liberal mindset that anyone who opposes the left (ie Obama, Democrats, CNN etc.) must be a nut job from the right. You make these comments without ever having seen the movie, or reading the book, or turning on the that show (Rush, Hannity, Savage, Beck) and actually listening with the open minds you claim to have. You make these judgements without ever having found an actual person that has an opposing viewpoint to your own that you can sit down and talk with to determine NOT how your opinion is wrong, but rather where the two of you can find the common ground. It is there and within that bullheaded lack of wanting to hear, really hear what the other side has to say and more importantly WHY they are saying it that those in the government on BOTH SIDES (Dems and Rep, Left and Right) are consistently playing us - you and I - against each other in a 2 card monty shell game, while they rape and pillage the wealth, power and security of this nation. While we sit here and bicker about stupid shit, argue about Obama vs Romney, Left vs Right, etc. While we snicker at each other about being right wing nuts or liberal ass clowns or tea party nazis or libtards - the great and powerful OZ that is the government of this nation is busy behind the curtain stealing your tax money and replacing it with IOU's that your children will have to repay while they all float away on that proverbial escape balloon. So go ahead and keep thinking that D'Souza is the problem - make your little off hand remarks about those that went to the movie. Just don't come begging any of us right wing nuts for shit once the destruction of this nation is completed regardless of who's in power. I'm reminded of a slogan on the album cover of one of Public Enemy's early albums. "The government's responsible..." However, we have allowed them to shift our focus onto the wrong thing. We have to stop fighting each other and start doing what Thomas Jefferson said:
    "Whenever any form of government becomes destructive of these ends - life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness it is the right[I would add the duty] of the people to alter or abolish it, and to institute new government..."

     

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  30.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 26th, 2012 @ 9:04am

    Re:

    EXACTLY!!!!!!!

     

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  31.  
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    abc gum, Sep 26th, 2012 @ 9:13am

    Re:

    "The illusion of 'choice'"

    This is a common expression of hopelessness where one is encouraged to not vote because it makes no difference - but apparently it does make a difference to those who promote such drivel otherwise they would not be doing so. Even if one agrees with such sentiment, not voting implies that you are ok with everything the way it is.


    "The top 2% owns as much money as the bottom 60% and that divide keeps growing."

    Based upon this issue alone, one could review statements from each candidate and have something to vote about.

    Last but not least, let us not forget that congress is just as much to blame, if not more so, than the wht house.

    Do not let others tell you that your vote makes no difference.

     

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  32.  
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    Gwiz (profile), Sep 26th, 2012 @ 9:19am

    Re: Re: Re: Just a sidenote

    A pitcher for the White Sox. We blame that fucker for EVERYTHING....

    After his last couple of outings against the Tigers, we're kind of liking him here in Detroit. Just sayin'

     

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  33.  
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    abc gum, Sep 26th, 2012 @ 9:25am

    Re: Re:

    Whoa - Dude, calm down before you blow a casket.

    Let me ask one question, you're a birther huh.

    btw, nice wall-o-text

     

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  34.  
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    Baldaur Regis (profile), Sep 26th, 2012 @ 10:34am

    back the truck up...

    While such a drop isn't unusual for a movie during the course of a week -- especially when the theater count dropped from 1,876 to 1,216....
    So this political documentary filmmaker is claiming a current theater count of 1,216 after ten weeks....according to box office data, that's more theaters than most studio releases. Does his definition of 'theater' include basements and high school gyms?

     

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  35.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 26th, 2012 @ 10:45am

    The background of the youtube uploader will speak more to the topic than any thoughts on motive.

     

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  36.  
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    ltlw0lf (profile), Sep 26th, 2012 @ 10:56am

    Re: Re: Re: Just a sidenote

    A pitcher for the White Sox. We blame that fucker for EVERYTHING....

    Hey, you got him from us (Padres). No take-backs...you got what you paid for.

     

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  37.  
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    Jay (profile), Sep 26th, 2012 @ 11:51am

    Re: Re: Just a sidenote

    Peavy - piracy

    Damn phone...

     

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  38.  
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    gorehound (profile), Sep 26th, 2012 @ 12:23pm

    Re: Just a sidenote

    +1
    Like I really care about watching more lying trash.
    I will go read one of my books for better entertainment.

     

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  39.  
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    Jeffrey Nonken (profile), Sep 26th, 2012 @ 12:45pm

    Let me see if I've got this straight:

    Obama et. al. dislike this movie so much that they've made it easier and cheaper for more people to see it (and given them a wider choice of options to see it), by giving it away free.

     

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  40.  
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    Capitalist Lion Tamer (profile), Sep 26th, 2012 @ 2:26pm

    Re:

    cabin boy tim

    I've been called worse, including "fancy lad." (BTW, I would like to buy a monkey.)

     

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  41.  
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    Facebones (profile), Sep 26th, 2012 @ 3:17pm

    Why the drop off in ticket sales? Probably because every single person willing to pay $10 to see a movie telling them that Obama is a commie muslim Kenyan has done so. The rest watch that for free on Fox News.

     

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  42.  
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    Pwdrskir (profile), Sep 26th, 2012 @ 3:58pm

    Re: Just a sidenote

    The main reason this film was able to make a single $ is that the MSM Did NOT do their jobs in vetting Obama.

    Media's main purpose, which they have abandoned, is to apply healthy skepticism TO ALL to bring out the truth, just like scientists that use the scientific method.

     

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  43.  
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    abc gum, Sep 26th, 2012 @ 7:45pm

    Re: Re: Just a sidenote

    I think you meant "journalism" rather than "media".

     

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  44.  
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    abc gum, Sep 27th, 2012 @ 4:57am

    Re: Re: Just a sidenote

    "bring out the truth, just like scientists that use the scientific method."

    Scientific method?
    lol

     

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  45.  
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    ahow628 (profile), Sep 27th, 2012 @ 5:52am

    So what will it be?

    Do you want to make lots of money or do you want to get your message out to as many people as possible? Based on the complaint, it looks like money is the driver here. Shocking, I'm sure.

     

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  46.  
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    Michael, Sep 27th, 2012 @ 6:08am

    Re: Re:

    Voting one way or the other (Dem or Rep) isn't going to make much of a difference as neither side works to fix our economy, prevent outsourcing, clean up the national debt, make the government work for the people, etc. It's all a charade. The electoral college determines who's president, not the people, and it's always between the two party lines. Even if there are other candidates, no matter if they have good policies and ideas, they wouldn't stand a chance.

    If our government is willing to ignore us when it comes to matters regarding legislative policies, laws, security, et al., and is so heavily financed by corporations that they practically own the politicians, what makes you think that they're suddenly going to allow us to decide who sits in the high office? You're dreaming.

     

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  47.  
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    abc gum, Sep 27th, 2012 @ 6:34am

    Re: Re: Re:

    "isn't going to make much of a difference"

    Every little bit counts and direction matters a lot.

    Defeatist attitudes like this not only allow the present crapfest to devolve further but it encourages same at an increasing pace and severity.

    I'll say it again, do not let anyone tell you your vote does not matter. It would be nice to see voter turnout above 80%. It barely breaks 50% every four years and yet I hear people claim this is a representative form of government - represent what - a bunch of slackerz?

     

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  48.  
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    aethercowboy (profile), Sep 27th, 2012 @ 6:41am

    Re: Re:

    Yeah. I guess I'm still new at this Troll business. I was trying to stick with the nautical motif of pirates.

     

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  49.  
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    Pwdrskir (profile), Sep 27th, 2012 @ 3:23pm

    Re: Re: Re: Just a sidenote

    Interesting nitpicking, just like my grandmother.

    From Websters: Media - a singular or plural in construction : MASS MEDIA
    b plural : members of the mass media

     

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  50.  
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    Pwdrskir (profile), Sep 27th, 2012 @ 3:35pm

    Re: Re: Re: Just a sidenote

    Again Interesting, not believing in basing the media's journalistic reporting in fact.

     

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  51.  
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    abc gum, Sep 27th, 2012 @ 5:51pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Just a sidenote

    Yeah, you're right - I totally expect reality tv to vet political candidates, they are after all part of the mass media.

     

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  52.  
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    abc gum, Sep 27th, 2012 @ 6:12pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Just a sidenote

    There are many differences between:

    1) good journalism; based upon verifiable eye witnesses, credible second hand sources, public and private documents, historical accounts which agree between multiple sources.

    AND

    2) good science; based upon well constructed theory, supported by repeatable experimentation, and subjected to scrutiny by peers and experts in the field.

    If journalism were handled in a manner similar to science, you would not get "Happening Now", you would get "Happened Years Ago".

    In addition, you seem to have conflated science and fact. The majority of science deals with hypothesis, theory, experimentation and peer review. Many times, so called "facts" are scoffed at with ridicule when they do not stand up to scrutiny.

    So, pardon me for being picky - but it does make a difference.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 29th, 2012 @ 1:13pm

    Re:

    Twisted? Self-competition with free versions is Techdirt standard recommendation.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 29th, 2012 @ 1:47pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re:

    I am glad to see many on Techdirt who debunk the myth that Democrat = Republican. People on the far left tend to say it makes no difference. They are embittered by the betrayals and tepidity of the Democrats. But they draw the wrong conclusion. Their disillusion becomes indistinguishable from cynicism and passivity.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  55.  
    identicon
    Anonda Trollisha, Sep 30th, 2012 @ 5:44am

    Re: Re:

    congrats on a beautiful performance. You had me for a second. Well researched, well done. But a little bit too perfect to be believable. Good if you are going on to write a treatment for HBO that includes such a character. I bet they'd buy it.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  56.  
    identicon
    Anonda Trollisha, Sep 30th, 2012 @ 5:46am

    Re: Re: Re:

    I'm referring to the birther performance of course.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  57.  
    identicon
    abc gum, Sep 30th, 2012 @ 9:31am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

    "People on the far left tend to say it makes no difference"

    But not on the right? I find this claim to be highly suspect, are there any studies to back it up?


    "They are embittered by the betrayals and tepidity of the Democrats"

    I'm quite certain there is similar disillusionment on the right. I think studies have shown low voter turnout tends to consist of more left than right leaning people of voting age, however I doubt it is all driven by unrealized expectations. Disenfranchisement is a tactic used by both parties but it seems to adversely affect the left more than the right.

    “If you have to stop people voting to win elections, your ideas suck.”
    - Penn State Sen. Daylin Leach

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  58.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Oct 1st, 2012 @ 5:56am

    Re: Re: Sad

    Close but no cigar.
    The problems you lay at the feet of congress are in fact due to an incompetent electorate.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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