Multi-Millionaire Michael Moore vs Ken Aronson and Anti-SLAPP
By Damon Marturion
New Business News Staff Writer
February 2nd, 2012, In a world that revolves around money and power, very few people have the financial and legal savvy of Multi-millionaire filmmaker Michael Moore. After viewing one of his films you may begin to question your own sanity; he has a way of spinning a tale that challenges one's beliefs and values. Representing himself as a member of the lowly working class defending the lowest common denominator against the upper crust scourge of America, one cannot help but identify with him. His portrayal tends to garner a kinship with the masses in his David vs. Goliath style, and for this he has been recognized and remunerated.
Fans may be surprised to find out that Michael Moore's public persona and Multi-millionaire filmmaker Michael Moore are two very different personalities.
Poor Michael Moore Defender of the Downtrodden is the public persona that he portrays on film, as the author of books and in the media. This is the Michael Moore that was raised in Flint, Michigan, the son of a hard-working General Motors blue-collar-worker father, whose neighborhood and family suffered when GM decided to expand outside the United States of America. This Michael Moore proclaims to be working-class, would, "never buy a share of stock," and defends his peers from the privileged elitist, "1%," or financially-endowed who use their power to keep the lower classes poor, ignorant and subservient. This character was the basis of Moore's first film, and the one that he freely publicizes.
The Multi-millionaire filmmaker Michael Moore was raised in Davison, Michigan an affluent community where he and his siblings attended private school. This Moore's father had a comfortable job with GM who enjoyed golfing at the posh Country Club (almost daily) and retired at age 53. This Michael Moore has never held a blue-collar job, was raised privileged, and has a significant sense of entitlement. Lives in a million-dollar apartment in Manhattan and has another home on the lake in Michigan in an exclusively white gated community. This Moore has created his own tax shelter foundation to avoid paying taxes and owns thousands of stocks including pharmaceuticals, Boeing, and Halliburton. He is a sociopath who uses his financial and legal prowess to oppress and bully anyone who gets in his way, relentlessly spins lies, and discredits unsuspecting and well-meaning participants without remorse under the veil of, "free speech."
In the construction of his films, he exercises full creative license in the cutting room to gain the empathetic results desired from his viewing audience. While effective, it would be reasonable to assume that participants that were filmed for one purpose might not be pleased with the result of how they are portrayed in the actual film. Not surprisingly, many of these participants have protested and some have even sought legal representation concerning Moore's creative editing faux pas.
Little do they know that Moore is no stranger to the legal system; he financed his first film, Roger and Me, with settlement funds he received from his lawsuit against former employer, Mother Jones, where he worked as editor in 1986. The frequent visitor to the Court House, multi-millionaire filmmaker Michael Moore dominates this venue and boasts that he has, "never lost a lawsuit."
What about the rights of individuals that Moore uses in his projects?
Stories abound of veterans, seniors, blue-collar workers, office aids, members of military and law enforcement ; regular everyday hard-working individuals - the kind of people that Michael Moore's public personality purports to defend - appearing in his works without their knowledge. Worse, yet, others are lured into participating in a particular project, even giving Moore permission to use their likeness and image, only to find that the filmmaker has re-edited their content. Now, they are put on display in front of an admission-paying public, appearing ridiculous, portrayed as buffoons, or in some cases represented as supporting something they would otherwise be violently opposed to.
Few victims have taken the effort to seek justice through the legal system that Moore knows his way around so well. And the statistics astonish onlookers, who watch in disbelief, as time after time, Moore is able to win, yet again, to further sustain and vilify his omniscious legal prowess.
One recent case is that of a fan of Michael Moore who had been recently injured by an uninsured assailant, leaving the man a victim of the poor medical practices in the United States. Excited to see Michael Moore's exposé on the medical practices that failed the man in Moore's film, he purchased his ticket to see the film - and maybe learn something - that could help him in his time of need. Learn something; he did. At first, he didn't know what to think, when he saw himself appearing in Michael Moore's film, Sicko. While others left following the conclusion of the film, Ken Aronson stayed in the theater painstakingly watching the credits roll by to see if his name would appear in the credits of the film… Although his name was not there, the name of a friend was.
Footage of his vacation was submitted to Michael Moore for inclusion in the film by a friend, Eric Turnbow, who appeared in the film and was a guest of the Moore's at the film's premiere. The footage contained both Turnbow and Aronson, even though Turnbow's presence dominated the clips used, Aronson's voice is clearly hear off-camera and one of the clips includes an excerpt of Aronson and Turnbow singing Aronson's song, "Oh, England."
There is no question about Aronson's copyright ownership of the vacation video. After sharing his fortuitous appearance in the film with friends, he was encouraged to contact Michael Moore about his participation in the film. Email requests were ignored, or in the very least not responded to. Originally the Moore-fan thought that if he were to make contact with Michael Moore, he might ask for a thousand dollars for the rights to use his footage, his name in the credits of the DVD, and a movie poster signed by Moore.
As time went by, Turnbow continued to ride the local celebrity-train for his being recognized for being in the film, as Aronson heard nothing but silence from the Moore-camp.
Then on one sun-shining day in December (those are hard to come by in the Pacific Northwest) Ken Aronson met Bryan Doran an Attorney who worked for Pfau Cochran Vertetis Kosnoff in Seattle. Aronson told his story and of his growing frustration from the deafening silence from Moore, and his concerns about the continued use of his film and song without his permission.
According to Aronson, Doran told him that the silence could very well be in his best interest, because the unlawful use of his film and song would be worth millions of dollars! Aronson's enthusiasm decelerated, when he realized, then conveyed to Doran, that due to his declining health conditions, he would be unable to acquire legal counsel. Doran assured Aronson that this would be no problem, as this case was worth millions, so the firm would take a percentage of the cash settlement for their representation and ironically, Aronson would have the money to subsidize his ongoing medical expenses from proceeds from the film, Sicko.
Twenty-one months later, the office of Pfau Cochran Vertetis Kosnoff served Moore's attorneys with a letter with intent to file in 30 days if no contact or offer of negotiated settlement was made. Again, silence from the Moore camp (they would later learn that the silent treatment is standard operating procedure for Moore and his legal team).
Three months after the letter was sent, Bruce Johnson of Davis Wright Tremaine in Seattle, drafted revisions to Washington State's Anti-SLAPP law.
Seven months later (ten months after the initial letter was sent; not 30 days) the case was filed in U.S. District Court in Tacoma, Washington and Judge Karen L. Strombom was added.
Multi-millionaire Michael Moore is represented by Bruce Johnson of Davis Wright Tremaine in Seattle, in the suit, while the World watches and waits for what is to happen next, because whatever happens will be a game changer for lawyers and/or filmmakers.
Johnson stalls formal response to the case for two-and-a-half months, files his Answer on June 9th, the new Anti-SLAPP revisions go into effect on June 10th, and Johnson's order to strike pursuant to the Anti-SLAPP statute (that now is modeled after California's Hollywood-friendly Anti-SLAPP law) was filed on June 11th requesting that Judge Karen L. Strombom throw-out all of Ken Aronson's complaints based on the new Anti-SLAPP law.
Judge Karen L. Strombom complies, granting Moore a $10,000.00 statutory award (now a part of the Anti-SLAPP law), court costs of $697.00 and attorney's fees of $31,430.00; a total award of $42,127.00 against Ken Aronson, while the issue of copyright violation survived.
According to Aronson, Bryan Doran of Pfau Cochran Vertetis Kosnoff in Seattle, encouraged him to sign a paper that would release further actions against multi-millionaire Michael Moore, in exchange for Moore's releasing Aronson's personal legal exposure of the $10,000.00 penalty most importantly, as well as the award for court costs and attorney fees. A depressed, weary, medicated and in-pain Aronson signed the paper because he didn't have $10,000.00 and didn't want to go to jail.
Following the "settlement" Ken Aronson claims that Michael Moore further defamed Aronson by releasing statements regarding the suit and settlement. In one such interview Moore states that Aronson sent in the tape, then after the film was released, tried to sue Moore for a piece of the action, while bragging about prevailing over Aronson by standing on his First Amendment right to free speech.
Aronson says that he achieved national notoriety for being Washington State's first use of the new Anti-SLAPP law, and continues to be the punch-line in jokes around town due to his being the local guy that went up against Michael Moore who made Aronson the laughing-stock of Grays Harbor County, while he tries to eek out a living and pay his medical bills by operating his humble one-man-company out of his home.
Ken Aronson is appalled that Michael Moore would add insult to injury, pour salt in the wound and gloat over stomping out the little guy, like a bug. Aronson says, "I thought that's what he stands against… It turns out that he has become what he publicly proclaims to hate… Or maybe that's who he really is - and has always been - while laughing at his fans all the way to the bank.
"I can't believe that he would spend over $30,000.00 in attorney's fees to annihilate me," says Aronson, "instead of thanking me for my part in his film and slip me a few bucks for my personal belongings; that would have been so easy to do in the beginning."
The result? Multi-millionaire Michael Moore is now, bigger and stronger than ever, remaining impervious to any attempt to seek accountability for his actions/practices and I believe that he doesn't lose any sleep at night over the losses being suffered by his victims.
There certainly seems to have been some clandestine activities on the behalf of Michael Moore, and this may deserve further investigation.
Copyright © 2012 Damon Marturion, all rights reserved.
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