If Fahrenheit 9/11 lit a match under the Bush administration, this homemade documentary about the manipulation of the media by America's ruling elites solemnly stokes the resulting flames of angry discontent. Filmmaker Robert Kane Pappas's long-winded yet terrifyingly bleak Orwell Rolls In His Grave argues that the mainstream American media are no longer the voice of American freedom. Instead, they're part of a repressive political power structure that has uncanny parallels with the dystopian world of George Orwell's novel 1984.
Lacking the punchy immediacy of Moore's pummelling diatribe, this makes up for its rambling structure with a cast of eminently articulate talking heads including congressmen, TV producers, Media Studies professors and an obligatory appearance by Mr Moore himself. The picture they paint is a bleak one: deregulation has allowed a handful of powerful, non-accountable corporations to dominate the mainstream news with predictably damaging effects on the machinery of democracy (all too literally as a story about the Diebold electronic voting software used in the US election suggests).
"LONG-WINDED BUT TERRIFYINGLY BLEAK"
Looking at the way various news stories are covered, from the Iran hostage crisis in the 1980s to the fallout from the Enron scandal, the Bush family's boardroom interests and the "stolen" presidential election of 2000, Pappas claims that the media no longer protect the people by exposing those in power, but act as an Orwellian Ministry of Truth - hoodwinking the electorate into swallowing the (Republican) party line.
Exploding the myth of the American media's liberal bias, the film asks tough questions: why, in March 2003, did 51% of Americans believe that Saddam Hussein was personally responsible for 9/11? Why did CBS hurriedly drop a BBC-led story about electoral irregularities in Florida after the subject of the allegations - Governor Jeb Bush - denied it was true?
"What we have here is not the sunlight of democracy, but the dark ominous shadows of totalitarianism, despotism, fascism," mutters one pessimistic pundit. It's a chillingly convincing argument, but don't expect anyone to hold the front page for it.