Review of Fahrenheit 9/11
Copyright © by Dan Schneider, 7/10/04
Fahrenheit 9/11, by Michael Moore, is yet another example of a potentially talented artist taking the easy way out. There is no doubt that MM has few peers in agitprop, but he has become a magnificent filmmaker, as well. He understands how to truly manipulate an audience without resorting to the cheese of a Steven Spielberg. Evidence of this comes from the fact that the most bravura moment of his latest filmic screed against President George W. Bush comes not from the humanzee grins of our leader- especially in the 7 minutes of paralysis after being told of the attacks, nor the oafish military recruiters he follows about poor urban malls, nor even the distorted ethics of exploiting a grieving mother whose son has died in Iraq or trying to paint the Saddam-era Iraq as a place where carefree children flew kites & all was well- despite over a million bodies in mass graves over the 3 decades of his American-backed rule, but by NOT showing us a replay of the horrific fall of the Twin Towers on 9/11. He understands that the viewers memory of the event will be far more powerful than seeing it, again, for the umpteenth time.
Then, from this moment of cinematic bliss, he does what he always does- fucks things up by gilding the lily. The 1st image seen when the visuals resume? The oft-repeated scene of a black woman’s histrionics as she witnesses the horror. Why does he do this? Because MM simply does not trust himself nor his arguments to convince a viewer. He oozes condescension by nature. This is also true of this film, whose biggest flaws & virtues are NOT what have been touted by either end of the political spectrum. There are no startling revelations nor smoking guns about the motives for the Iraq War- any informed person has known of the Saudi political & financial influence, the Carlyle Group’s tentacles, Halliburton war profiteering, Enron connection, etc., for months, at the least. But, MM thinks all of us are idiots, not just the majority. There is not a single lie told by the film- I doubt even the most Conservative viewer can factually dispute any charge (unlike the lie-laced Bowling For Columbine)- BUT the film only tells ½ the story. Such as the fact that Osama bin Laden was a hedonistic playboy till he ‘got religion’ & added hypocrite to his list of sins. Yes, Bush is a thief, a liar, & an idiot, but Osama is evil, a rabid killer, & preys upon the youngest & poorest segments of the Moslem world to recruit killers who’ve nothing to lose- why NOT go to Allah when you have to eat your own shit daily? His use of the grieving, but incredibly dense, mother from Flint, Michigan- Lila Lipscomb- whose son died bordered on the pornographic- almost as bad as his unfair portrait of Charlton Heston in Bowling For Columbine, or his use of 2 Neandertalic Columbine survivors in a scam to embarrass K-Mart. She elicited not nearly the sympathy she could have had she not shown herself to be a hypocrite too- a flag-waving moron who loathed Vietnam protestors & thought them cowardly, until her own son’s death made her ‘see the light’.
Another problem MM has, as have all Liberals, is that it’s hypocritical to complain of the tactics of the Right Wing Media Elitists, & then turn around & try to beat them at their own game- it does nothing to elevate the argument for the few sane folk like me who are swayable. An example of this tactic is that MM always decries Right Wing scare tactics in the media- only to employ those tactics himself in a segment about undermanned Oregon State Troopers whose duty to protect the coast from possible terrorist attacks is a local joke. He also misfires in his attack on the Afghan War- a war that was justifiable & honorable- but instead of admitting that MM joins the ranks of the pusillanimous Left in denying the fact, then ridiculing how ineptly handled that war was. The point is, no matter how correct the latter claim is, to not admit the former is to willfully distort & lie by omission. Also, MM always seems to opt for the easy, soundbitable answer, rather than focusing on root causes- a thing always advocated by the film’s legal counsel- former New York State Governor Mario Cuomo. Not once does MM even hint that the problems in the Middle East have anything to do with misogynistic Arab cultures, Israeli aggression, nor decades of American corporate de facto colonialism & exploitation. Nor does he admit that a war of intervention can prevent atrocities- as in Kuwait. Of course, we only care about ‘human rights’ when the victims are light-skinned or we can make a profit on our caring, but those facts are irrelevant to the person whose life is saved. Not once does he recognize the fact that polls shortly after 9/11 almost all showed that most Americans thought Saddam was behind 9/11 because few had even heard of bin Laden, or that the belief that he had WMD was justified because Bush & co. (read- Defense Secretary Rumsfeld) knew the Reagan Administration had sold them to Saddam. Especially telling about this not being pointed out is that MM, otherwise, gladly tells us that Saddam was our boy in the Middle East in the 1980s because he was anti-Iran- except when that fact might give credence to an opposing view of the situation.
On the + side, the film is at its best when it takes on its own- exposing the utter fallacy of the ‘liberal media’ during the lead up to & during the war. Rather, Brokaw, Jennings, & co. are shown as the sycophantic corporate daisy-chainers they really are- not once calling the Bush Administration on its, now proven, bevy of lies about the war. Of course, given the recent death & apotheosis of über-moronic ex-President Ronald Reagan by the media, it’s a shame many need MM to state the obvious. Another highpoint is the connection between the fact that it is Bush’s American poor & uneducated fighting the Arab world’s poor & uneducated- a fact of wars since their start.
Still, couldn’t MM use his filmic talents to produce a true documentary, rather than refried agitprop? 1 that makes you really think about consequences? Comparing this film to last year’s Oscar-winning documentary, the brilliant The Fog Of War, amply demonstrates the difference, even though it’s a ‘talking head’ film. That encouraged thinking, & its points will be relevant for as long as humans wage war (with themselves or any other species out there)- F 9/11 is just an emotionally cheap gimmick film whose relevance will have expired the day after this year’s Presidential election. To call this a political documentary would have Edward R. Murrow spinning in his grave. Worse still, I was probably the only person in the theater who was ‘swayable’ by possible filmic wares, & the film was an odorless fart- technically brilliant in its rip from his ass, but where was any real stink?
Instead of being a detailed journalistic ‘true documentary’ Fahrenheit 9/11 is a disorganized mess of a film, however occasionally brilliant, that has only 1 unifying theme- a hatred for George W. Bush. As admirable as this may be in real life, it does not suffice in reel life. I suspect, though, that reel life is where MM prefers to reside, for their he can solipsistically sneer at the American public he repeatedly (& not wrongly, mind you) derides as being stupid, yet Sisyphanly attempts to sway, even though few of those who should see the film will, & those who do already agree with its tenets. A similar phenomenon occurred earlier this year when it was the Conservatives’ turn to rail against what & who they hate with The Passion Of The Christ. Sadly, despite all the wisdom MM wishes to impart to the American people he fails to heed 1 of the oldest nostrums in the book: choose your enemies well, because that’s who you’ll most likely resemble. & from where I sit, that ain’t pretty!
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