The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition, defines documentary as: 1. Consisting of, concerning, or based on documents. 2. Presenting facts objectively without editorializing or inserting fictional matter, as in a book or film. Academic bias. com is the website to which viewers are directed for more information about the film.
On this site, it is stated, "In this cutting expos'e, documentary filmmakers Maloney, Browning and Greenberg shine a light on political correctness, academic bias, student censorship -- even administrative cover-ups of death threats... ." This positioning of the movie presents that it is, in fact, a documentary. My belief is that, based on definition 2 above, the movie is not a documentary, but instead a good example of the 'the facts speak for themselves' actually means 'the facts, as I have carefully arranged them, support my position.' Evan Maloney, the filmmaker, is clearly working in the style of Michael Moore. The film utilizes satire throughout - evidence the old "Popularity" instructional film where overdubbing is used. Interviews are presented offering only on side of the issue. Surprise attempts at interviewers for comic relief are sprung on unsuspecting university officials.
Subtle visual effects, such as student Charles Mitchell sitting with an American flag blanket behind him are used. Ultimately, what happened in the editing process of 'Brainwashing 101' is a complete unknown. Farhenhype 911 demonstrated how Michael Moore had edited President Bush's address to the "haves, and have mores", when in fact, the setting was a charity benefit at which Al Gore was also present. Given the style of the movie, I believe editing was used for key advantage.
The movie purports to address political correctness, academic bias and student censorship. I believe that the movie does do this, and utilizing real examples works to create legitimacy for the move. In an admittedly unscientific search of the Internet about this movie, I found a fair number of positive reactions to the film. So some people do find the movie convincing, as people do with Michael Moore movies.
To academic bias, a long section of the film is devoted the teaching of economics and which theories of economics should be taught. As presented in the movie, by virtue of being taught, different theories represent a bias in and of itself. Student Charles Mitchell makes the unusual statement that Marxist study is a "value judgment." To me, this is not a new breakthrough in thought: it could be argued that all education, throughout history, has been biased based on what has been taught. I personally had a comparative economics class in college in which capitalism, Soviet socialism, socialism in Yugoslavia at the time, and libertarianism were all presented. I didn't feel then nor do I do now that a "value judgment" was being placed on me based on the class content. I would like to address primarily the section on Steven Hinkle and Cal Poly, because I think it particularly made me question the validity of the film as a documentary.
Early on in the film, I observed that the poster put up by Steven Hinkle did not identify the College Republicans as the sponsor of the presentation. It also did not accurately present that "It's OK to Leave the Plantation", the title on the poster, was actually the subtitle to Mason Weaver's novel, and that he, as the author, would be the speaker. This immediately started me questioning the validity of the movie. Throughout the presentation of this episode, this poster credibility problem is never addressed by Maloney, Steven Hinkle, or the university advisor to the College Republicans. In my opinion, this was the root of the problem, and had it been addressed properly by both Steven Hinkle and the university administration, the situation would have never escalated as it did. Finally, that the university would not agree to interviews with Maloney and offered him only a written statement is not at all surprising.
Given that there was a financial settlement involved in the situation, obviously the university is going to take a stated position on the subject and not expound on it publicly. This may have even been part of the settlement, but it is not known from the content of the movie. I don't doubt that there were legitimate issues behind the examples presented for Steven Hinkle, speech codes at Bucknell, and Sukhmani K alsa. However, I felt that the movie had a clear conservative agenda, was transparent and not at all a believable documentary.