Pete Townshend Fires Back At Michael Moore

KOIN – Singer Pete Townshend Fires Back At Michael Moore

Pete Townshend of The Who is firing back at “Fahrenheit 9/11” director Michael Moore.
Moore wanted to use the Who song “Won’t Get Fooled Again” in the controversial film, but Townshend refused. Moore then publicly attacked Townshend for supporting the Iraq war.

On his Web site, Townshend is firing back, saying that he refused because the price was too low, the film is inaccurate and that Moore tried to bully him into giving him the song rights.


Fahrenheit Moore or Less (July 7)

Michael Moore has been making some claims — mentioning me by name – which I believe distort the truth.

He says — among other things — that I refused to allow him to use my song WON’T GET FOOLED AGAIN in his latest film, because I support the war, and that at the last minute I recanted, but he turned me down. I have never hidden the fact that at the beginning of the war in Iraq I was a supporter. But now, like millions of others, I am less sure we did the right thing.

When first approached I knew nothing about the content of his film FAHRENHEIT 911. My publisher informed me they had already refused the use of my song in principle because MIRAMAX the producers offered well below what the song normally commands for use in a movie. They asked me if I wanted to ask for more money, I told them no.

Nevertheless, as a result of my refusal to consider the use, Harvey Weinstein — a good friend of mine, and my manager Bill Curbishley — interceded personally, explained in more detail to Bill what the movie was about, and offered to raise the bid very substantially indeed. This brought the issue directly to me for the first time. Bill emailed me and told me how keen Harvey and Michael Moore were to use my song.

At this point I emailed Bill (and he may have passed the essence of what I said to Harvey Weinstein) that I had not really been convinced by BOWLING FOR COLUMBINE, and had been worried about its accuracy; it felt to me like a bullying film. Out of courtesy to Harvey I suggested that if he and Moore were determined to have me reconsider, I should at least get a chance to see a copy of the new film. I knew that with Cannes on the horizon, time was running short for them, and this might not be possible. I never received a copy of the film to view. At no time did I ask Moore or Miramax to reconsider anything. Once I had an idea what the film was about I was 90% certain my song was not right for them.

I believe that in the same email to my publisher and manager that contained this request to see the film I pointed out that WGFA is not an unconditionally anti-war song, or a song for or against revolution. It actually questions the heart of democracy: we vote heartily for leaders who we subsequently always seem to find wanting. (WGFA is a song sung by a fictional character from my 1971 script called LIFEHOUSE. The character is someone who is frightened by the slick way in which truth can be twisted by clever politicians and revolutionaries alike). I suggested in the email that they might use something by Neil Young, who I knew had written several songs of a more precise political nature, and is as accessible as I am. Moore himself takes credit for this idea, and I have no idea whether my suggestion reached him, but it was the right thing to do.

I have nothing against Michael Moore personally, and I know Roger Daltrey is a friend and fan of his, but I greatly resent being bullied and slurred by him in interviews just because he didn̢۪t get what he wanted from me. It seems to me that this aspect of his nature is not unlike that of the powerful and wilful man at the centre of his new documentary. I wish him all the best with the movie, which I know is popular, and which I still haven̢۪t seen. But he̢۪ll have to work very, very hard to convince me that a man with a camera is going to change the world more effectively than a man with a guitar.

Especially if the man with the guitar is more capable of complex thought and reasoned argument.

FILED UNDER: Democracy, Iraq War, Popular Culture, , , ,
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. McGehee says:

    I have no doubt whatsoever that a lot of Moore’s followers would soon be identiifying with Pete’s song if Moore ever actually got his way politically.

  2. L-Shuffle says:

    In this corner an accused pedophile, in the other Michael Moore. But the song title is perfect in describing how the rationale part of electorate feels about Bush and the Elites.

  3. McGehee says:

    In this corner an accused pedophile, in the other Michael Moore.

    Yeah, Shuff, that’s about Mikey’s league.

  4. Yeah its me! says:

    Townshend was smart to put a statement on his website about his version of things. At least that way its harder for people to distort his intentions in this matter. (Harder not impossible)
    He (Townshend) has a right to his opinion about Moore’s movies. He saw the movie and got the feeling of where Moore is coming from. He felt that Moore was a bit of a bully. Then gets to experience it first hand when Moore personally attacts him in public. Ironically Moore thinks that he and his message are better than Bush. The very song he wanted to use testifies against him. “Meet the new boss…Same as the old boss”