Over the last week, the online version of the JFP has been alive with efforts to bring Michael Moore's controversial film "Fahrenheit 9/11" to the Jackson area, as well as other independent and edgy films that often skip the Capitol City. The hoopla started with a news posting on June 19 about the radical right targeting theaters across the U.S., trying to dissuade them from showing the film, which takes a harsh look at President Bush's foreign policy since Sept. 11, 2001. After a blogger posted the news that the film was only opening in Tupelo in the state of Mississippi, even as it was opening in less-than-urban locales such as Shreveport, La., and Montgomery, Ala., readers mounted an online campaign to encourage calls to the theaters to demand the film.
On Thursday, June 24, at 3:58 p.m., blogger and Web designer Knol Aust posted an online petition, which he cleverly dubbed "Fahrenheit 601: The Zip Code at Which Expression Burns," asking people in and around Jackson interested in seeing the film to post their name and e-mail address (for this purpose only); his stated goal was 300 e-mail addresses. The petition had 50 participants in 45 minutes. After a 16 WAPT news report on the campaign Friday night, Aust moved the petition to its own domain, http://www.fahrenheit601.com, adding forums and more information about how people can help get better independent films to Jackson, in addition to Moore's film.
By Monday morning, and after a news report by WLBT, the petition had garnered more than 400 e-mail addresses—from state legislators, civil rights activists, students, musicians, housewives, retired military officers and at least one avowed white nationalist—and the JFP thread on the subject had climbed to 160 comments with many focused on the bigger picture of how to improve the cultural and film climate in the city.
At 3:24 p.m. Monday, reader Joseph Robertson, a 38-year-old Ridgeland social worker, called the JFP to tell us that the corporate office for Tinseltown had confirmed that the film would open at its theater in Pearl on Friday, July 2. Robertson had learned of the effort through the JFP site, signed the petition and then started calling the corporate numbers Aust had listed. "When the people speak out as a unit, things can get done," he said. "If there's truth or disinformation in the movie, let the movie-goer decide instead of the people with political motivations."
As we go to press, Aust's petition contains 494 names, and an online 16 WAPT survey is showing that 55 percent of respondents want to see the film in Jackson, 42 percent do not want to see it, and 3 percent plan to drive elsewhere to see it.