[lit-ideas] Re: Fahrenheit 911

  • From: Stephen Straker <straker@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • To: lit-ideas@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
  • Date: Wed, 30 Jun 2004 07:48:22 -0700

Fahrenheit 9/11 is unfair and outrageous. You got a problem with that?

Andreas passes on several comments ... 

> - It's powerful, yes, but you feel that you're being manipulated. 
> ... Why does Moore hate Bush? For
> the same reason Limbaugh attacks Clinton: it draws a paying audience. Both 
> are entertainers. 

> - The movie is not a documentary. It is a mishmash of facts, innuendos, 
> personal attacks,
> jokes, and everything else, but it's not a documentary. 

> ... Moore will be rather
> wealthy, very powerful, and utterly intolerable. 

> - The Right's complaints about Moore are amusing: they have Ann Coulter, Rush 
> Limbaugh, Pat
> Robertson, and the editorial staff of the Wall Street Journal...

David Edelstein, Slate's film critic, gets it right, I think -- and
speaks to the comments of A's dinner companions.  

First of all, he (and AO Scott in the NYTimes) suggest that
*documentary* is not the right comparison. "Fahrenheit 911" is an
EDITORIAL CARTOON: "a blend of insight, outrage, and sniggering
innuendo, the whole package threaded (and tied in a bow) with cheap
shots, some of them voiced by Moore, some created in the editing room by
intercutting stilted images from old movies. Moore is largely off-screen
(no pun intended), but as narrator he's always there, sneering and

The last two paragraphs of Edelstein's review hit the right notes for
me. Moore is great IF ONLY because he gives the right-wing demagogues
some of their own. But it is not just that ... 

"... Fahrenheit 9/11 must be viewed in the context of the Iraq
occupation and the torrent of misleading claims that got us there.  It
must be viewed in the context of Rush Limbaugh repeating the charge that
Hillary Clinton had Vince Foster murdered in Fort Marcy Park, or
laughing off the exposure of Valerie Plame when, had this been a
Democratic administration, he'd be calling every day for the traitor's
head.  It must be viewed in the context of Ann Coulter calling for the
execution of people who disagree with her.  It must be viewed in the
context of another new documentary, the superb "The Hunting of the
President", that documents - irrefutably - the lengths to which the
right went to destroy Bill Clinton.  Moore might be a demagogue, but
never - not even during Watergate - has a U.S. administration left
itself so open to this kind of savaging.  

"Along with many other polite liberals, I cringed last year when Moore
launched into his charmless, pugilistic acceptance speech at the Academy
Awards.  Oh, how vulgar, I thought - couldn't he at least have been
funny?  A year later, I think I might have been too hard on the fat
prick.  Six months before her death in 1965, the great novelist Dawn
Powell wrestled in her diary with the unseemliness of political speech
during an "artistic" event: "Lewis Mumford gave jolt to the occasion and
I realized I had gotten as chicken as the rest of America because what
he said - we had no more right in Vietnam than Russia had in Cuba - was
true but I did not think he should use his position to declaim this. 
Later I saw the only way to accomplish anything is by 'abusing' your
power."  Exactly.  Fahrenheit 9/11 is not a documentary for the ages, it
is an act of counterpropaganda that has a boorish, bullying force.  It
is, all in all, a legitimate abuse of power."   

"Proper Propaganda," Slate (24 June 2004)
by David Edelstein 

Here is NYTimes's Scott's take on the comments of A's dinner friends: 

"... while Michael Moore's "Fahrenheit 9/11" will be properly debated on
the basis of its factual claims and cinematic techniques, it should
first of all be appreciated as a high-spirited and unruly exercise in
democratic self-expression.  Mixing sober outrage with mischievous humor
and blithely trampling the boundary between documentary and demagoguery,
Mr. Moore takes wholesale aim at the Bush administration, whose tenure
has been distinguished, in his view, by unparalleled and unmitigated
arrogance, mendacity and incompetence.

"... "Fahrenheit 9/11" ... is many things: a partisan rallying cry, an
angry polemic, a muckraking inquisition into the use and abuse of
power.  But one thing it is not is a fair and nuanced picture of the
president and his policies.  What did you expect?  Mr. Moore is often
impolite, rarely subtle and occasionally unwise.  He can be obnoxious,
tendentious and maddeningly self-contradictory.  He can drive even his
most ardent admirers crazy.  He is a credit to the republic.

"... While [the film] ... has been likened to an op-ed column, it might
more accurately be said to resemble an editorial cartoon.  Mr. Moore
uses archival video images, rapid-fire editing and playful musical cues
to create an exaggerated, satirical likeness of his targets.  The
president and his team have obliged him by looking sinister and
ridiculous on camera.

"Paul D. Wolfowitz shares his icky hair-care secrets (a black plastic
comb and a great deal of saliva); John Ashcroft raptly croons a
patriotic ballad of his own composition; Mr. Bush, when he is not
blundering through the thickets of his native tongue, projects an air of
shallow self-confidence.

"... "Fahrenheit 9/11" [is] ... an authentic and indispensable document
of its time.  The film can be seen as an effort to wrest clarity from
shock, anger and dismay, and if parts of it seem rash, overstated or
muddled, well, so has the national mood.  

[To those, like Hitchens, who think Moore is cravenly *exploiting* Lila
Lipscomb's grief, Scott's comment is apt:]

"The most moving sections of "Fahrenheit 9/11" concern Lila Lipscomb, a
cheerful state employee and former welfare recipient who wears a
crucifix pendant and an American flag lapel pin.  When we first meet
her, she is proud of her family's military service - a daughter served
in the Persian Gulf war and a son, Michael Pedersen, was a marine in
Iraq - and grateful for the opportunities it has offered.  Then Michael
is killed in Karbala, and in sharing her grief with Mr. Moore, she also
gives his film an eloquence that its most determined critics will find
hard to dismiss.  Mr. Bush is under no obligation to answer Mr. Moore's
charges, but he will have to answer to Mrs. Lipscomb."

"'Fahrenheit 9/11': Unruly Scorn Leaves Room for Restraint, but Not a
Lot," The New York Times (23 June 2004)
by A.O. Scott

I have read this post and agree with the views expressed innit.

Stephen Straker 

Vancouver, B.C.

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