(and my neighbor) Pete Livingston filed suit in Federal court on
December 5 to uphold his right to distribute a controversial documentary
film entitled “Over 9 Billion Dead Served.” The story was carried in the
December 12, 2002, San Francisco Examiner (Alexander Cockburn, Show of
Force, page 9A) as well as in Cockburn’s “Counterpunch.” The story
HOLLYWOOD'S NINE BILLION DEAD (AND JUST ONE BABY)
Thursday, Dec. 5, my friend Dr. Pete Livingston filed suit in Federal
Court in Oakland, Calif., seeking declaratory relief to uphold his right
to distribute the documentary "Over 9 Billion Dead Served." The
feature-length film, a passionate anti-war commentary, is almost
entirely comprised of clips from the 25 biggest box-office movies. Pete
contends that his film is protected by the fair use doctrine. The fair
use doctrine is designed to protect the use of copyrighted material
without permission for the purposes of criticism and education.
Livingston's company, Not the Enemy Media, is currently being blocked by
legal threats from Fox Entertainment Group, Columbia and Universal
Studios. Film companies have denied Livingston permission to use even a
single frame of their material. Universal went so far as to demand that
Pete tear apart his documentary and remove the portions of their
The lawyers representing Livingston are a feisty and competent bunch:
Bill Simpich, Tesfaye Tsadik and Jim Wheaton. Bill Simpich says, "This
film gives the filmmakers' lenses a 180-degree spin and exposes them as
creators of the mindset that leads Americans to war. There is no better
evidence of this than the footage itself. Nothing less will do."
This all began," Livingston explains, "as an empirical examination of
feature films, but it soon became clear that the examples and issues
presented in these films could not be believably addressed using words
in a book or in articles. The imagery of these films are often amazing
and horrifying in ways that requires the transformative use of the
original (copyrighted) material to convey. Literally, you've got to see
it to believe it. We believe that under the First Amendment and the
rules of the fair use doctrine that this analysis is permitted and that
the events like the shooting at Columbine, the September 11 attacks and
the subsequent war in Afghanistan demand it."
The documentary indicates that in these movies, Hollywood filmmakers
have illustrated the mass murder of over nine billion people. In the
same movies, only one baby was born (and survived).
Livingston claims these movies have drawn on various stereotypes,
including blacks, Arabs and Nazis, to make killing not only tolerable
but often amusing. "Many of the studios that made these films take
exception to my use of the images. They want to cash in on death, dying
and remorseless murder, but they don't want to take any responsibility
for what they've done. My position is that the cost of exploiting the
corporate welfare afforded by copyright ought to be self-exposure to
unlimited criticism using the copyrighted material. If the studios don't
like covering that token non-cost, maybe they shouldn't indulge in the
use of stereotypes to capitalize on the fanciful slaughter of billions
of innocent people in the first place.
The day after Livingston filed his suit, Phil Berrigan died in the
evening of Dec. 6, at Jonah House, the community in Baltimore he
co-founded in 1973, surrounded by family and friends. For 40 years he
campaigned against war and violence, most of all against nuclear
Challenge America's weapons of mass destruction and its nuclear palaces,
and the state locks you up. Phil Berrigan spent about 11 years in prison
in the cause of peace and disarmament.
Berrigan wrote a final statement in the days before his death, reciting
it to those surrounding his bed till he choked on the liquid in his
lungs. "I die with the conviction, held since 1968 and Catonsville, that
nuclear weapons are the scourge of the earth; to mine for them,
manufacture them, deploy them, use them, is a curse against God, the
human family and the earth itself."
Blessed are the peacemakers, Jesus told the crowd in the Sermon on the
Mount, and lo, Ronald Reagan named the MX nuclear missile the
The Berrigans and their brave comrades shed their blood on a nuclear
warhead being manufactured at the GE plant in King of Prussia, Pa.,
recalling the blood that Jesus shed for sinful humanity, and lo, they
named a ballistic missile "platform" U.S.S. City of Corpus Christi,
Texas, the city of the body of Christ, and they probably knew not what
they did, aside from honoring the home port of some Texan pork dispenser
on Capitol Hill.
The word from Jonah House is that those who mourn for Berrigan and wish
to honor his memory may make donations in Berrigan's name to Citizens
for Peace in Space, Global Network Against Nuclear Weapons, Nukewatch,
Voices in the Wilderness, the Nuclear Resister or any Catholic Worker
Philip Berrigan was born in 1923 in the Minnesota Iron Range, near
Bemidji, Mn., maybe a hundred miles west of the birthplace of Bob Dylan,
the man who wrote "The Masters of War." He was the first priest to ride
in a Civil Rights movement Freedom Ride.
In 1967, he poured blood on draft files in Baltimore with three others,
known as the "Baltimore Four." A year later, he burned draft files in
Catonsville, Md., with eight others, including his brother, Friar Daniel
Berrigan. That action was known as the "Catonsville Nine." He was
convicted of destruction of U.S. property, destruction of Selective
Service records and interference with the Selective Service Act of 1967
In Sept. 9, 1980, he poured blood and hammered with seven others on Mark
12A warheads at a GE nuclear missile plant in King of Prussia, Pa. He
was charged with conspiracy, burglary and criminal mischief; convicted
and imprisoned. The action became known as the "Plowshares Eight," and
it began the international Plowshares movement. He participated in five
more Plowshares actions, resulting in seven years of imprisonment.
Call Berrigan America's most dedicated weapons inspector, its most
ardent would-be dismantler of weapons of mass destruction.
Alexander Cockburn is coeditor with Jeffrey St. Clair of the muckraking
newsletter CounterPunch. To find out more about Alexander Cockburn and
read features by other columnists and cartoonists, visit the Creators
Syndicate Web page at
Contacts: Pete Livingston, Ph.D.