Thursday, February 28, 2013

Never Surrender - March 2013

On the surface, FrackNation is a straightforward documentary about fracking, a natural gas drilling technique that has the potential to unleash torrents of energy wealth, but has been heavily criticized by environmentalists. The film debunks environmentalists’ claims that fracking contaminates groundwater, releases carcinogenic chemicals, and causes earthquakes.
No such film would be complete without addressing the environmentalists’ spectacular demonstrations of methane-laced tap water bursting into flames. FrackNation argues that it’s a natural phenomenon that was observed long before fracking: as far back as 1783, George Washington set fire to the Millstone River. In the words of co-director Ann McElhinney, there’s a reason there are towns in the U.S. called Burning Springs.

At a deeper level, however, FrackNation demonstrates what conservative and libertarian authors and filmmakers are up against every day. FrackNation tells the story of two documentaries: FrackNation itself, and the anti-fracking GasLand.

The latter film was directed by Josh Fox, one of the beautiful people. He frequently appears at Hollywood parties dressed in black, with trendy glasses and carefully cultivated chin stubble. He has been showered with awards and even received an Oscar nomination. The critics love him: Dave Shifflet of Bloomberg News called him “the Paul Revere of fracking.”

Contrast Fox with FrackNation filmmaker Phelim McAleer. Traveling around Pennsylvania shale country in a baggy blue pullover, the soft-spoken McAleer is a regular guy who fits right in with the flannel-clad denizens. Neither Hollywood nor the gas industry funded him: he and the other directors raised what they needed from thousands of small donations on the crowdfunding site Kickstarter; the 2,000+ donors all have producer credits at the end of the film. During the course of the movie, McAleer is shoved, threatened with lawsuits and confiscation of equipment, thrown out of several buildings, and even interrogated by the police. The finished product has played in only a handful of theaters and has been largely ignored by the critics (although, to its credit, The New York Times printed a fair review).

Most conservative and libertarian artists don’t face quite the challenges McAleer did. But they all struggle to get their projects made, and then struggle even harder to get the results in front of the public. Unlike liberals, they don’t have ABC, CBS, NBC, PBS, NPR, The Washington Post, and the Academy promoting their work. What they do have is you. Please give them your support.

The work of Phelim McAleer, along with many conservative and libertarian authors, is featured in the March edition of my free e-mail newsletter, Never Surrender. To subscribe, please e-mail

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