'This Divided State'

As more than one interviewee in This Divided State points out, Mormons—who need receptive audiences for their mission work—should be temperamentally suited to listen to others. But when Michael Moore was invited to give an October 2004 speech at Utah Valley State College, the response was anything but welcoming. Bowing to protests at the lack of balance—in a county where Republicans outnumber Democrats 12 to one—the student government quickly scheduled Sean Hannity to speak one week earlier. Local millionaire Kay Anderson offered $25,000 to buy back all tickets for Moore's event, rejecting his appearance as "disrespectful" to community values. One college administrator notes that the protesters who've complained to him have not seen Fahrenheit 9/11; Anderson's wife eventually rents it for her husband from the censoring video chain CleanFlix. Directed by a Mormon-raised BYU dropout with sympathies for both sides, This Divided State develops into a lively but simpleminded valentine to liberal tolerance. Sad to say, similar ideological battles erupt on blue-state campuses, from controversies over what should be taught in Middle Eastern studies departments to the public immolation of Larry Summers. It would be nice to report that Moore comes across as more erudite than Hannity in his speech, but both men behave like what a Mormon might hesitate to call assholes.

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