Dir: Michael Moore
No, I haven’t just watched Fahrenheit 9-11. I caught it opening weekend, and I’ve been making return visits since. Most recently, I took my dad to see it (he’s sort of a reformed centrist. When we lived in England he got the Telegraph and the Daily Mail. I’m not too sure if he realised they were Tory papers.)
It was a 1 p.m. showing on a Thursday, and the theater has about 20 people. Instead of the whooping laff-fest of opening weekend, laced with jeers and screams (the appearance of Britney Spears after the horrific Iraq footage prompted a Yamataka Eye-style evisceration from the front row), there was studied silence which later broke into laughter around the time of the “fear of terrorism” segment. And the film still earned applause at the end (which is rare when there’s few in the audience). In the lobby afterwards, one elderly lady was in tears and being comforted by her daughter. Blimey.
It’s still a powerful movie. Whether or not its main function–to toss Bush out of office–succeeds, we won’t know until November. But it also serves in other ways:
* Doing the job of what journalism used to do: making connections, pointing out hypocrisy, showing the President unedited.
* Pushing the meme of Bush’s “seven-minutes-in-a-classroom.” To many of us on the left we knew of this for a long time. But a majority of Americans didn’t, and Bush lied when he told his version of things (he was active, decisive). Watching a bit o’ CSPAN last night, I watched a voter roundtable of calmly talking Americans, all with different views, but all pretty centrist. And the “7 minutes” meme is among them, mentioned and not disputed.
* Reminding us, as documentaries have to do every now and then, that war is hell. But I would say that it’s the American public who have done the best job of telling themselves that war is not about your friend’s guts exploding everywhere but video-game point and click fun stuff. Sure, the Armed Forces ads look like promos for adventure camp (the one with jet skis is a hoot), but how stupid are you to think that’s what the army is? Isn’t this part of our culture-wide arrested adolescence, of how we’ve taken on the teenager’s faith in our own immortality?
* If not creating a new style of documentary, he’s cemented his style as a new genre. It’s not confessional, like Ross McElwee, but it is polemical, up to date (due to digital technology in editing), and appropriates the mass media to explode its methods. Oh yeh, and documentaries can be funny, too.
So far, the only fair criticism I’ve read of the facts (as opposed to Moore’s patriotism, etc. etc.) presented in the film is over at Juan Cole’s blog, in which he smooths out the rather convoluted Saudi-Bush connection. I’m glad Moore gets all this in the movie, but due to pacing, he has to compact enough info for another film into a short segment. It’s not that he plays fast and loose with the truth, but what are actually separate episodes of BushJunta awfulness (the coddling of the Taliban regime, the Karzai-Unocal pipeline connection, the Bush-Saudi conneciton, the Carlysle Group), appear in the film as a linear tale (at least when I watched it this time). And there isn’t time to sit and wonder if that actually makes sense.
Moreover, if it is true that the Saudis have so much invested in this country, then it makes no sense for wealthy Saudi entrepreneurs and governing figures to wish the US harm. Can you imagine the bath Saudi investments took here after 9/11? The Saudi royals and the Bin Ladens lounging about in places like Orlando, who were airlifted out lest they be massacred after the attacks, didn’t know anything about the apocalyptic plots hatched in dusty Qandahar, and if they had they would have blown the whistle on them with the US so as to avoid losing everything they had.
The Saudi bashing in the Moore film makes no sense. It is true that some of the hijackers were Saudis, but that is only because Bin Laden hand-picked some Saudi muscle at the last minute to help the brains of the operation, who were Egyptians, Lebanese, Yemenis, etc. Bin Laden did that deliberately, in hopes of souring US/Saudi relations so that he could the better overthrow the Saudi government.
The implication one often hears from Democrats that the US should have invaded Saudi Arabia and Pakistan after the Afghan war rather than Iraq is just another kind of warmongering and illogical. There is no evidence that either the Saudi or the Pakistani government was complicit in 9/11.
But, of course, it’s usually only “us liberals” who get our panties in a bunch over the intricacies of facts and figures. The BushJunta and their propaganda ministers over at Fox just plain out lie. (However, for a long-ass breakdown of the facts from the right, you could do worse than check out Dave Kopel’s site. See how “fair and balanced” I am? Wow. (Gun rights activist Kopel goes overboard–as is typical–and enters “Moore is a terrorist symp” territory near the end. Yeh, yeh, yeh. Okay, we get it.))
Moore has posted his own footnotes to the film over at his own site.
Finally, it is a very patriotic film, even nationalistic in its exclusion from the film anything to do with the worldwide protests or (apart from two mentions) the Blair government’s role in cooking the Iraq books. But as I said to Jessica, it’s only in America would such a film get made and released during the administration it was criticizing. When I asked her if such a film would be made in her country (revealing the nefarious dealings of Chen Shui-bein and released before his next election) she said “the filmmaker would probably be killed.” When you see the slugfests they have in Taiwan’s parliament, I have no doubt she’s right.
So cheers to Michael Moore, and here’s to sticking it to Bush.
Also, is anybody going to ever take to task the Democrat members of the Senate for not signing the Black Caucus’s complaint letter, as seen in the beginning of the film (one of the few events in the film that I didn’t know about)? How do they justify it? And how do they sleep knowing that a little bit of bravery could have saved this country from four years of savagery?