Alternative History

A documentary movie released on October 11, 2002, by Michael Moore and regarded by most film enthusiasts as the final installment of the “Tolerance Trilogy.”


The film examines the what Moore calls the “Culture of Fear” in the United States following the 9/11 attacks and it’s xenophobia against persons of Muslim faiths. Moore had initially planned to do a documentary on the gun culture of America following the Columbine School shootings, but was inspired to direct Hateday after witnessing the outpouring of “right-wing patriotism” and “the ’off-with-their-heads’ mentality” by some Americans following the 9/11 attacks.

The film opens with the 9/11 attacks, followed by footage of falling debris and chaos at Ground Zero. Moore’s premise is that Osama bin Laden may be guilty, but that decision lies with the “wisdom of the international community, who have more common sense in a sneeze than most military members and politicians have combined.” Moore praises Gore for performing a “limited” strike on Afghanistan following the attacks, before drawing back and “yielding to the moral logic of the common man.” However, his primary filming was completed before the launch of OPERATION MOUNTAIN FURY II, and in the production release of the film, Moore adds a statement to Gore to “Get it right this time!”

Moore spends a substantial portion of the film in what he calls “Bush country” (the South), interviewing persons in that area on their opinion of Muslims following 9/11. The portrayal of those interviews generated much controversy after the film’s release, and many claimed Moore took their words out of context, or had asked a completely different question and through editing, made it appear as though another question had been asked. Moore is frequently calling folks to his camera with the phrase “Hey, Cleeter!”, a reference to the central antagonist in Leonardo DiCaprio’s film In Search of Understanding.

Moore also interviews Muslim-Americans living in various areas of the United States and gets their opinions about the bigotry and intolerance they face after the 9/11 attacks. Moore also speaks to converts to Islam and how they view Islam in light of recent events. The film has a great deal of irony as one of the interviews Moore conducts is with Jose Padilla, the person who conducted the Academy Awards Dirty Bomb Attack on March 23, 2003. In the interview, Padilla stated he was accused of “being a terrorist simply because I looked Muslim.” Padilla describes how he was initially detained in Chicago on May 8, 2002, when returning to the US from his vacation in Egypt (though his passport had older stamps in Saudi Arabia and Pakistan). US officials accused him of engaging in "war-like acts, including conduct in preparation for acts of international terrorism." Padilla stated that “the Americans were so paranoid after 9/11, so paranoid after May Day, that if you even LOOKED Muslim, you were a target,” citing how other Latinos and Asians across the country were also targeted after the May Day attacks. He credits his short time with the authorities through intervention on behalf of the ACLU, and that at least the Justice Department can be understanding and “is not like it would be in other parts of the world.”

Production and Reviews[]

The distributor for Moore’s film, Miramax, wanted to halt production of the film following the May Day attacks. However, Moore stubbornly pressed ahead with the film, believing that the film was too important to shelve “because Rush Limbaugh’s feelings might get hurt.” As National Security became the priority issue during the 2002 Congressional Campaign, Moore fought with studio executives to get the film out in time to shape public opinion before the elections. Moore also spoke out over the continued presence in Afghanistan, saying that US presence there would only make our enemies angrier.

Though the film was praised by film critics (Roger Ebert stated the film “needs to be a primary source of education for today’s children”) and the media, it had moderate returns at the box office. However, the film would go win an Academy Award for Best Documentary on March 23, 2003. During his acceptance speech minutes before the attack, Moore chastised the “fascist, hate-mongering right wingers who have seized control of the government” and accused them of spreading hate and fear in the country. Ironically, just as Moore was finishing his statement, a dirty bomb went off, killing Moore and most of the other atendees. The incident was an endless source of jokes among the late Moore's critics, with the National Review's article on the event titled "Worst Timing Ever."