Robert Brent Toplin is the author of several books about history, politics, and film including Reel History: In Defense of Hollywood; History by Hollywood; Radical Conservatism: The Right's Political Religion; Michael Moore's "Fahrenheit 9/11": How One Film Divided a Nation; and Oliver Stone's USA: Film, History, and Controversy. Toplin served as editor of film reviews for the Journal of American History as well as "Masters of the Movies," a series of articles in the American Historical Association's Perspectives on History. Toplin made numerous appearances as a commentator on history for CBS Television, PBS Television, the History Channel, C-SPAN, the Turner Classic Movies Channel, and National Public Radio. He served as a principal creator of historical dramas that appeared nationally on PBS Television, the Disney Channel, and the Starz Network. He was professor at the University of North Carolina at Wilmington and at Denison University, and adjunct professor at the University of Virginia.
Michael Moore created several provocative documentary films, but his most controversial and widely viewed movie was "Fahrenheit 9/11." The film appeared during the 2004 presidential election. Moore hoped his movie would influence public opinion, making viewers less inclined to re-elect Republican President George W. Bush. When Moore’s film first appeared in theatres, it was broadly popular and generally well-received. Then critics mounted a well-organized campaign in the national media. Opinion about the production then divided sharply along partisan lines. Four years later, a conservative group sought to air and advertise a documentary film that was sharply critical of Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton. Members of the group had been influenced by Moore’s example. A commission ruled, however, that distribution of the group’s “electioneering communication” violated campaign reform legislation. The conservative group took its case to the Supreme Court and won in the controversial Citizens United decision of 2010. Debates that swirled around Fahrenheit 9/11 reveal the power of partisan film to influence public opinion and provoke debates in national politics.