Palast Movie Replays Election 2000
October 24, 2002
David Cogswell

The Nation Institute, the NAACP and the People for the American Way sponsored a screening of Greg Palast's documentary movie "Unprecedented: The 2000 Election" in New York Tuesday evening. Palast was there and took some questions afterward. It was a very mixed experience.

The film is a good summary of the election fraud of 2000. It does a remarkable job of summarizing the whole ugly mess in about an hour. Oh God, it's a miserable experience seeing it, seeing those swindlers, the smarmy Bush boys and that hideous Katharine Harris - close up and personal, and... sweaty.

Though it was only an hour long, the hardest thing was to remain seated. As the rage surged through my blood, the reflexes in my knees kept firing, wanting to straighten and shoot me up out of my chair like a missile.

Seeing it all go by again in compressed form brought all that poison back, or perhaps stirred up the poison that's been sitting there for two years. Therein lies the value of going through the deep nausea of recalling it: it enables you to exorcise it. There is something that happens when you see it in a room full of people. There is a sharing that is quite subtle, and at the same time quite powerful. It's an outer expression of something people have held in because there has been no public forum in which to air it, or discuss it. That is to say, the major media which control the public discourse, do not admit it into their reality. These issues are not real in that world. ("Get over it.")

The film gives you a closer view than you got at the time also because it gives you the benefit of its research. Looking at a room full of rowdy rioters trying to physically stop the vote count, it stops the frame and identifies the congressional staffers in the employ of Republican legislators, and other Republican operatives.

As therapeutic exorcism, it is quite thorough. It's real primal scream material. It facilitates the experience of seeing the whole sordid thing play out again, in a way more vividly than the first time because it has a focused narrative, which is exactly what the corporate media will not give you. Clarity is also gained by being farther away from the events, and from the state of shock that was induced at the time in Americans who believed in the democratic principle as perhaps the single most indispensable component of the American Dream.

As always, the corporate media present it in a disjointed way that it is not supposed to make any sense. It is designed to discourage your making any obvious connections. To merely state the facts is an insinuation of foul play, because it was. Therefore it is an offensive piece to the corporate media. It doesn't fit into that reality. Into that mythology. This piece calls a thief a thief, and they call it a president.

It is the function of the corporate media to avoid making sense out of it. That would be threatening to the agenda. Shedding light on rotting things tends to spoil the party for the worms.

So Palast is having a hard time getting the program aired. Although Exxon-sponsored PBS cannot go near it for obvious reasons, I heard that some local affiliates have ventured to schedule it, and some Republican donors have pulled their funding in protest. "Money doesn't talk it swears," Bob Dylan wrote. But it goes a long way, and the Bush league knows it well.

Going into the narrative again here really would be nauseating so soon after seeing it, but in the end the movie has curative powers because in calling forth the demons, it gives you a way to get rid of them, to push them off you. Seeing it with other people who are concerned that this message get out in spite of right wing political pressure, was a tremendously empowered feeling. Just being able to share that feeling with a group of people who feel that it is important to restore - or perhaps we should just say to establish democracy - is a tremendously valuable experience.

The film does an excellent job of documenting the series of incidents that led to the suppression of the most essential act of a democratic republic, voting and vote counting. The film accomplishes that primarily through skillful editing of news tapes, plus original interviews with a number of people who were involved and reporters who were on the scene or followed and researched the events closely.

Probably the most disturbing thing of the evening was a narrative Palast delivered live. He mentioned the lawsuit filed by People for the American Way (one of the sponsors of the event) against Jeb Bush, Katharine Harris and fellow travelers over the purging of the voter rolls. The rat pack had gone for a settlement right away, because the plaintiff had the goods on them solid. They even volunteered that Palast had underestimated the number of voters they had taken off the rolls because their names had something in common with a felon somewhere in history in the U.S. "It wasn't 57,000 it was 94,000." And 91,000 of the "felons" were innocent, Palast said.

And as part of the settlement, Katharine Harris promises to restore those 91,000 legitimate voters their legal right to vote ... next January. Jeb Bush right now is locked up in a tight race running neck and neck against his opponent McBride. Election day is in Novemeber. Two years after the original fraud, the dirty deed has not been undone.

"They took it and they're going to keep it took," Palast said.

To sum up briefly, "Unprecedented" is a fantastic movie, a tremendous achievement and service to humanity. It is a definitive, video document of that awful sequence of events. They should - obviously - for the sake of history, for the sake of democracy - never be forgotten.

For info on the movie see