Censorship Commissar Kaupin
Conspired To Block Film Screening;
Handcuffed Library Announces New Schedule
raised at meeting
By Marcus Hatfield
Published: Friday, January 28, 2011 1:06 PM EST
ENFIELD — Mayor Scott R. Kaupin asked why the Enfield Public Library was “getting in the middle of the debate” over the controversial film “Sicko” a day before a resident publicly asked the Town Council to cancel the library’s screening of the film, e-mails obtained by the Journal Inquirer show.
The e-mails, which were sent between Jan. 17 and Jan. 20, were obtained from Town Manager Matthew W. Coppler through a freedom-of-information request. They show the sequence of events that led to the library’s cancellation of its planned Jan. 21 screening of “Sicko,” filmmaker Michael Moore’s 2007 Academy Award-nominated documentary about the American health care system.
At its Jan. 18 meeting, the council asked Coppler to look into canceling the screening after several residents — all members of the Republican Town Committee — complained about the screening at the meeting. Kaupin threatened at the meeting to cut the library’s funding if it showed the film.
The screening was part of a non-fiction film series that Library Director Henry Dutcher said focused on topics such as health care, education, and the environment.
The first e-mail was sent by Kaupin to Dutcher and Coppler on Jan. 17, the day before the council meeting. In it Kaupin asks why the ibrary decided to show “Sicko.” Kaupin wrote that a resident contacted him to say “he is very upset that his tax dollars is being spent to support such a film and is looking for answers.
“Why spend taxpayer dollars on such an initiative when other less controversial films could be shown?” Kaupin wrote. “What is the cost? Although I believe in freedom of speech, why do we even bother doing things like this?”
In an e-mail to Coppler on the morning of Jan. 18, the same day as the council meeting, Dutcher noted that the library had previously shown two other Moore films “Bowling for Columbine” and “Fahrenheit 9/11.”
Coppler wrote to the full council shortly after noon on Jan. 19, the day after the council meeting, to announce that the screening had been canceled.
“Unfortunately, this news was not well received and a call to the State Library Commission was made that called some free speech group that called the ACLU. I don’t have a lot of details but that is what I was told,” Coppler wrote. “But the movie will not be shown as scheduled.”
Later that afternoon, Coppler sent Dutcher an e-mail asking several questions about the film series. First, he asked why Dutcher had objected during a previous conversation to showing two movies back-to-back.
In his response, Dutcher said that asking patrons to sit through even one film “can be a real test of fortitude.”
“There is no way you can sit in our library seating for two in a row,” Dutcher said. “It has nothing to do with topic or counterpoint or anything else. It is pure and simply that.”
Dutcher also told Coppler in his response that the library had been showing films for many years and noted some previous programs the library hosted.
“Last winter, in conjunction with other town departments, we showed a series of films on bullying, including the film ‘Milk’ with a homosexual theme and no counterpoint,” Dutcher wrote. “We have had a speaker debunking global warming without counterpoint. Author Malachy McCourt was here bashing President George Bush.”
Dutcher also said that he was “hurt” by the implication that he was showing a bias, saying he has lectured other librarians about the importance of not taking sides.
“How can your patrons believe in your objectivity when you so obviously show your bias?” Dutcher wrote. “Of all the issues here, including the possibility of losing my job, that is the one that hurts the most. I have spent 40 years in libraries priding myself on serving all sides. Showing any film with no immediate counterpoint in no way changes that.”
When Dutcher e-mailed Coppler just after 4 p.m. on the afternoon of Jan. 20 to ask how he should handle “the numerous media requests I am receiving,” Coppler wrote back about a half hour later.
“Don’t speak to them,” he wrote.
In another e-mail, from the afternoon of Jan. 21, Dutcher said Republican Town Chairwoman Mary Ann Turner had requested answers to a series of questions. Dutcher said Thursday that because he didn’t speak to Turner personally, he didn’t remember what she asked.
When asked Thursday what she had asked, Turner said “nothing important.” She said she posed questions simply because she is a resident.
Dutcher said this week that he and Coppler have been working on a revamped film series that will provide balanced counterpoints to the films originally picked for screening. He said the details of that plan will be announced early next week.
slates ‘balanced’film series
By Harlan Levy
Published: Saturday, January 29, 2011 12:06 AM EST
ENFIELD — In a revamped film series aimed at quelling the uproar over the library’s canceled showing of the controversial film “Sicko,” Library Director Henry Dutcher on Friday announced a “balanced” movie schedule for the next four months.
The brouhaha hit a crescendo after the Town Council’s Jan. 18 meeting, when the council asked Town Manager Matthew Coppler to look into canceling the Jan. 21 screening of “Sicko” — filmmaker Michael Moore’s 2007 Academy Award-nominated documentary castigating the American health care system.
The day after the meeting Coppler announced that the screening was canceled.
The controversy received national publicity after the Journal Inquirer reported on it.
The showing of “Sicko” was part of a non-fiction film series that focused on topics such as healthcare, education, and the environment.
Dutcher and Coppler developed the new Friday film series this week.
The new series reinstates “Sicko” but adds a film with an opposing viewpoint. Other similar pairings of films with different viewpoints will follow.
This is the new lineup, with all films starting at 1 p.m.:
• Feb. 11. “Sicko.” Michael Moore critiques the American health care system, focusing on the health maintenance organizations, drug companies, and members of Congress who profit from the status quo.
• Feb. 18. “Sick and Sicker: Obamacare Canadian Style.” In interviews with doctors, patients, and journalists, filmmaker Logan Darrow Clements shows what happens when “the government becomes your doctor.”
• March 4. “Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed.” Ben Stein examines the issue of academic freedom and decides there is none in the debate over intelligent design as an alternative to Darwinism.
• March 18. “Waiting for Superman.” Director Davis Guggenheim provides a revealing look at America’s ailing educational system.
• April 1. “An Inconvenient Truth.” Former Vice President Al Gore argues that global warming dangers have reached crisis level and reveals efforts of interest groups trying to discredit the existence of global warming.
• April 15. “Great Global Warming Swindle.” Director Martin Durkin argues that information supporting the global warming thesis is probably untrue, including the idea that humans cause it.
• May 6. “Religulous.” Skeptical comedian Bill Maher interviews representatives of Christianity, Judaism, Islam, and Mormonism.
• May 20. “IMPACT: The Passion of the Christ.” The library flier bills it as a "critically acclaimed Christian documentary that uncovers all the stories that made "The Passion of the Christ" intothe most explosive movie of our time."