Monday, April 30, 2007

"Where did you get that statistic?" "Your mother!"

I recently watched the movie entitled, “America: Freedom to Fascism” ( by Aaron Russo. (You can watch it here.) It is a documentary wherein the director sets out on a quest to find the law that says that people have to pay income taxes. He discovers that there is no such law as well as many other dark and disturbing things.

Or so he would have you think.

This “documentary” really is a work of propaganda in the style of Michael Moore which does little more than highlight cherry-picked “facts” while literally ignoring the context and explanations around them. It mischaracterizes the information that it finds and stops its search once it has found “experts” that agree with it.

I have a few general thoughts about the movie:

First, Aaron Russo is the far right’s answer to Michael Moore. They both make obvious propaganda, they both demonstrate a flagrant disregard for the truth, and they’re both overweight jerks. The only difference I can see is that Michael Moore’s movies have better production quality and have made a lot more money. Ironic.

Second, his editor must have taken tips from the Daily Show. He conducts a number of interviews with people on both sides of the issue (although predominantly from the anti-tax side). However, rather than including full sentences and leaving quotes in context, he shows snippets of sentences, partial phrases, and even cuts off the scene when it sounds like context and explanation are going to be given. This is what you see every day on the Daily Show, only they know they’re doing it.

Third, he does not listen. Throughout his movie, he asks a number of people to, “Show me the law that says that [I have to pay taxes; I can’t walk into the IRS building; pompous filmmakers should be publicly flogged].” However, even when he is shown the law, or given an explanation, or told the answer, he either doesn’t listen or flat out rejects it. The best example of this is when the former IRS Commissioner is trying to explain what “voluntary compliance” means and the director cuts him off, and then takes one line from his whole explanation and plays it over and over.

As to the substance of the movie, let me succinctly say: He’s wrong. Flat wrong. He says that the purpose of his movie is to find the law that says that we have to pay taxes. For some reason, he asks a bunch of morons rather than real experts. I say this because I set out with the same quest and it took me 30 seconds. I quote from Title 26 of the United States Code, section 1:

Tax imposed.
(a) Married individuals filing joint returns and surviving spouses. There is hereby imposed on the taxable income of--
(1) every married individual (as defined in section 7703) who makes a single return jointly with his spouse under section 6013, and
(2) every surviving spouse (as defined in section 2(a)),
a tax determined in accordance with the following table...:

He makes a number of other arguments, all of which are nicely refuted here, here and here.

At the end of the day, it is a poorly-made work of banal propaganda not really worth your time. If you want to hear some real arguments against the tax system, go somewhere else. (I’d post a link to some, but I haven’t heard any.)

You’re welcome.

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