Saturday, June 26, 2004
"Fahrenheit 9/11" truly is the classic American political film we all knew it would be. (And by "we," I mean smart people.) Michael Moore has done a fine job of selecting, arranging and presenting the crimes and lies of the Bush Administration. Moore can't take all the credit for this, of course. The Bush Administration - with its greed, its secrecy, its arrogance, and its obvious contempt for America's people - provided plenty of material for Moore's cinematic skills.
The people who blindly support Bush's War have already unleashed a barrage of spurious attacks. (More on that in a moment.) They hate Moore because he asks questions. And he doesn't ask the right questions, like "Which country will we be liberating next?" or "Don't Navy SEALs rock?" Moore asks questions that are hard to answer honestly, like: Why did the Bush Administration drag its heels on the investigation of the causes of the Sept. 11 terror attacks? Why were 24 members of the bin Ladin family allowed to leave the country on Sept. 13, 2001, before they were questioned by U.S. government investigators? Why are American law enforcement agencies wasting any of their time infiltrating community peace organizations like Peace Fresno, or harassing peaceful citizens for spurious reasons, like the guy who said Bush was a bigger asshole than bin Laden? (This is a statement I'm not going to endorse. Nor am I going to deny it, however.)
There are lots more questions than this, folks, and they don't get any easier. The really frustrating part is this: If there is nothing going on and the Bush Administration really has our best interests at heart and the divisions in this country are caused by a big misunderstanding or a terrorist-funded organization that has duped the liberals or whatever, then all the Bush Administration has to do to instill a little confidence in the citizens is ANSWER THE DAMN QUESTIONS!!!!
Bush Administration officials - always resistant to any hint that they have any responsibility to the American people - never answer the questions in a straightforward or honest manner. They shout "national security" and cite the "War on Terror" to justify their silence. They equivocate and they hesitate and they consult and negotiate and, finally, they lie, or come up with a really lame response that wouldn't fool anybody except Britney Spears, or they answer a different question than the one that was asked. And we see plenty of that in "Fahrenheit 9/11."
I'm not going to talk about the film itself. There will be plenty of talk about this movie and its contents in the days ahead. If you want to know what's in the movie, go see the movie! And get your war-loving friends to go, too. Make it a challenge! Get them to rationalize the destructive actions and policies of the Bush Administration. Ask them to come up with some spin of their own, before they've had a chance to get their marching orders from FOX News or Rush Limbaugh. (Be polite! Don't laugh at their irrational, nonsensical ranting!)
I do, however, want to comment on the treatment of Moore and his film by the so-called "liberal media."
First off, Moore could have been a lot meaner. Fortunately (for the Bush Administration), the Agu Ghraib prison scandal happened too recently for inclusion in "Fahrenheit 9/11." Also, the worst excesses of the Halliburton scandal (although largely ignored by most of the mainstream media) took place pretty recently and are not detailed. So Moore's treatment of Cheney's old company comes off as charitable.
The attack on Moore began months ago, years ago, really. But the reviews on "Fahrenheit 9/11" started in on Moore early last week, before anyone in the general population had a chance to see the film. The reviews have been largely positive. (Can't wait to hear all about the liberal conspiracy in Hollywood that arranged these positive reviews and inflated the box office.) But the negative reviews are out there, and they ain't hard to find, and they are very misleading.
Moore's critics have adopted a number of tactics to attack the film, and these tactics are all pretty lame. I will give just a few examples so that informed readers will know what to look for.
Several reviewers have started out with very weak statements to denigrate Moore and to minimize the film's importance. Several criticized Moore because he isn't offering any new information, and an L.A. Times commentator negatively declared that Moore isn't an investigative reporter. Moore has never claimed either of these distinctions. Besides, it is totally irrelevant that Moore didn't dig up most of this information himself. It has NOTHING to do with its accuracy or Moore's brilliant presentation. In a real review, statements like this would not be necessary or expected.
Just how well known are these facts, anyway? The mainstream media has completely dropped the ball on the most damning information. Has FOX News ever done an in-depth investigation into the ties between the Bush family and the bin Ladens? How many Americans are aware of the abuses of the PATRIOT Act, such as the infiltration of PEACE FRESNO and similar actions? And how many Americans know that 5,000 soldiers have been wounded in Bush's War? And how many of the combat scenes, and the scenes of life in Bush's Iraq, have ever been viewed by a wide audience? (After all, FOX News commentators have bluntly stated that "Civilian casualties are not news.")It is clearly immaterial that Moore didn't unearth this material himself because the mainstream media has refused to give these matters the attention they need. If we truly had a "liberal" media (which I guess means a media that scrutinizes some of the actions of a Republican administration every once in a while), we wouldn't need Michael Moore.
Another tactic is to find a minor point or image from the film and then find a way to spin it and misrepresent Moore's point so that it looks like Moore has no important or relevant points to make. One commentator mentioned the scenes (very brief, and not even necessary for any of Moore's points) where Bush, Powell, Cheney and others are geting their make-up applied before televised appearances. One of them shows Wolfowitz licking his comb before running it through his hair. Pretty gross. The commentator attacks Moore for using these scenes, and calling them cheap shots. He also asks how Wolfowitz' personal habits have any relevance to his ability to help run the country. But Moore never makes any statement to that effect. It is just funny. And it would be funny if Moore showed, for example, Nader doing the same thing.
Another misrepresented scene involves the effect of war on young soldiers. Moore shows quite a few scenes of soldiers and their families. He also shows a lot of graves and coffins. And some gruesome combat footage. And a ward of wounded soldiers. It is true that some of the soldiers are expressing some callous views and making some disturbing statements. (They listen to a Megadeth song during combat.) But this savage and disturbing effect that combat has on young soldiers is exactly Moore's point. There is no way he can make this point without showing this side of combat. He also shows soldiers who have great doubts about the war and soldiers calling for Rumsfeld to resign.
And so on and so on. All these criticisms, even if they were valid, are just nit-picking on the part of desperate supporters of the war. They are trying to put it into people's heads that Moore is an unfair manipulator who takes cheap shots. That's what they want the viewer to think if they see the film. They are also providing talking points for the Bush-drones who will refuse to see the film. The Bush-drones can say, "I'm not going to see that film because he makes the brave soldiers look bad." Or they can say, "Moore just hates Bush and he lies and manipulates his images. Plus, it's nothing new, he just stole it from other people, and anyway, he's just a publicity-seeker who's profiting from the war and won't admit it. Rush Limbaugh said so."
What's really telling is that none of the negative reviews that I saw said anything about some of the biggest revelations in "Fahrenheit 9/11." For example, Moore tells the tale of 24 bin Ladens who were allowed to leave the U.S. on Sept. 13 without being interrogated by U.S. federal investigators. It is damning that these relatives of the man who caused the deaths of 3,000 Americans were allowed to leave without answering any questions about what they knew about the whereabouts and plans of Osama bin Laden. What is the explanation for this, except the appeasement of the Saudi Arabian royal family? None of the critics even tried to justify this serious lapse and how it may have hindered the investigation of the bombings.
There's more, and the critics didn't really try to challenge any of his major points. They called him a liar and attacked his interpretations of minor elements of the film.
They all ignore the larger points of Moore's film. And I have read plenty of anti-Moore diatribes lately, trying to find a single substantial criticism. And I have found nothing worth the ink spilled on it. You would think that if there were any falsehoods in "Fahrenheit 9/11," then one of these nit-pickers would have found it.
Moore shows a well-known film clip where he tries to ask George W. Bush a question, and the president, in his best fake-folksy manner, shouted, "Behave ... and get some real work!"
It might have been funny if Ronald Reagan or Bill Clinton or Richard Nixon had said it. But it is amazing that a spoiled son of privilege - who escaped the draft and avoided prison time after a cocaine arrest and never had to work a day in his life because of his family connections - could say that to ANYONE.
After seeing the film and the huge huge turnout for "Fahrenheit 9/11," I have to say Michael Moore does have "real work." He is very good at it. And he is a much greater American than any president since Truman.
And George W. Bush ... I'd like to say to him, "Don't quit your day job!"
But he probably wouldn't know what that meant.
(Mushtown Media Corp. would like to apologize to Laura Bush and the twins for any pain caused by this commentary on "Fahrenheit 9/11." But it's not our fault that George W. Bush is such a stupid, evil, lying critter. Laura, Barbara, Jenna, maybe you should talk to him about it. Wouldn't it be nice to be proud of just ONE of the men in the family?)