Adam Rice

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Fahrenheit 9/11

Though we planned on seeing Supersize Me, Gwen and I arrived at the theater a few minutes late, so we decided to catch Fahrenheit 9/11 instead. Not exactly the feel-good movie of the summer, we both walked out silently and barely said a word on the way home. There was very little in the movie that was news (though the bits about James Bath were interesting), but the impression they make when taken together is one of horror.

Anything Michael Moore does is automatically controversial, if for no other reason than he’s the one doing it. That said, I suppose there’s plenty to take issue with in the movie, but still, it’s very strong.

There are facts and there are stories. Moore uses facts as building-blocks for stories, and he’s clear about where he’s troweling in the mortar of speculation to make them hang together. Critics can and should fact-check Moore’s ass, and Moore knows that: he’s pretty meticulous about backing up his facts. And critics can take issue with the edifice he’s constructed. But the building-blocks fall into place pretty snugly in this movie without a lot of mortar to hold them there. That says a lot.

5 Comments

  1. Moore wasn’t quite so careful about facts in Bowling for Columbine, but he knew he’d be a more prominent target this time.

    However, I don’t think his stories fit together quite so well. The oil pipeline theory doesn’t really hold together. All the stuff about the bin Laden family leaving is not much more than innuendo. And surely showing Wolfowitz sucking on his comb etc served no useful purpose, except to further enrage Bush supporters.

    The three scenes from the film that I thought were invaluable were:

    1) Lila Lipscombe’s pretty complete turn-around on Bush and Iraq. This isn’t an argument for anything, but it should make some families of soldiers in Iraq ask themselves what their position would be if their son or brother came home in a body bag.

    2) The powerful closing scenes in which Moore points out that the poor bear an inordinate amount of the burden of service in the armed forces. “It’s an extraordinary sacrifice they make for us”, and we have a duty to take it seriously. IOW, no wars of choice.

    3) The seven minutes in that Florida school, during which Bush continued reading My Pet Goat while our nation was under attack. This cannot be explained away, and blows a pretty huge hole in the “decisive leader” persona Bush’s handlers have developed for him. The impression is that he is a suit who can’t or won’t make decisions on his own, but has to be told to do things. Devastating.

    Despite all the flaws, these three scenes stood out for me.

  2. Fahrenheit 9/11 is roundly criticized by Richard Cohen of the Washington Post, who I generally find to be reasonable and insightful:

    “The case against Bush is too hard and too serious to turn into some sort of joke, as Moore has done. The danger of that is twofold: It can send fence-sitters moving, either out of revulsion or sympathy, the other way, and it leads to an easy and facile dismissal of arguments critical of Bush.”

    “The case against Bush need not and should not rest on guilt by association or half-baked conspiracy theories, which collapse at the first double take but reinforce the fervor of those already convinced.”

    http://tinyurl.com/2e4rx

  3. “he’s pretty meticulous about backing up his facts”

    I disagree. He’s pretty meticulous about *avoiding* facts and building innuendo. He does the nation a disservice. There are plenty of reasons to vote Bush out without resorting to conspiracy theories and half-truths. His movies are an insult to thinking persons everywhere.

  4. Can you give me some examples of points where Moore is guilty of avoiding facts?

    I agree he is putting together facts to build a case where there isn’t a cast-iron bond from one end to the other. A lot the evidence for his case is, shall we say, circumstantial. But put enough of it together, and it is hard to avoid concluding that something is up.

  5. Adam, that is precisely the point. I agree with a lot of Moore’s principles and views, and I feel his voice should be heard – even though I am not an American.

    But I disagree with his methods. Shock and awe seems to be the mode of Moore’s rhetoric. He just waves so many different expressions of the same position in your face for two hours, that your brain has no choice but to develop the idea that perhaps Bush may not be is not the greatest guy to be president. Which is stating the obvious, but that’s moot. As ever, quantity does not equal quality.

    The most sad aspect of this seems to be that Moore’s film, however contrived and tenuous the presented ‘evidence’ may be, might be the only way to make this important point with the American public. It’s fighting fire with fire, and if the ends do indeed justify the means, then we surely must thank him.

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