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The Filthy Critic on Fahrenheit

Posted to Poetry and Politics

Fahrenheit 9/11

When reviewing a movie like Fahrenheit 9/11, that is so highly political, it's almost impossible not to let some of your own affiliations and opinions seep into your comments like so much blood into the urine. Really, it's pretty fucking hard to write about a movie like this without saying "Right on!" or "Now, wait a minute..." I mean, maybe some really good writer could do it, but that ain't me. I can barely write out a shopping list without revealing my deepest intentions, weaknesses, likes and fears. For example, from yesterday's trip to Target: "Lube, rope, mosquito repellent, more nightlights NOW!!!!!, Swiss Cake Rolls (8 boxes? 10?), bicycle pump, flammable hair spray, still more nightlights!, that tangy cat food." I'm just not the guy to look at a political movie without some prejudice.

So here it is: I think George Bush is a fucking asshole. I also think Michael Moore is a fucking asshole. Bush is the probably the bigger one, but he didn't make a movie. He just screwed the country. Moore is a lousy researcher, but a loud one.

Fahrenheit 9/11 attempts to paint Bush as a criminal whose every move in the Afghanistan and Iraq wars were prompted by greed and insidious business ties with Saudis, specifically the bin Laden family. In its first half, Moore shows that Bushes has worked with the bin Ladens for many years, and that they have invested over a billion dollars in Bush businesses. His argument is that this has not only blurred Bush's judgment but is actually the driving force behind all the Bush decisions. It's the sort of blanket, unfocused attack that Moore makes, and which he relies on his audience to not further investigate because they want to believe the worst about their enemies.

The movie begins with a review of the 2000 Florida election recall. After Moore feels he's made his point (and he makes a great one about how cowardly our racist senators are) that Bush's presidency is illegitimate, he moves on to illustrate all the ways the Bushes are deeply connected to the bin Laden family. What he never proves is how the bin Laden family is in cahoots with black sheep Osama. His only shred of evidence is that bin Laden went to one wedding where other family members were, but Moore plays this like it's all the evidence anyone ever needs. To me, this ain't much. I go to weddings with relatives I can't stand, too. We ain't in cahoots about nothing. Hell, we can't even agree on who gets to stuff the leftover shrimp down his pants. The only truly damning evidence here is in Bush's decision to let the bin Laden's fly out of the US right after 9/11. But this isn't news; it's a repeat of dozens of newspaper articles.

What Moore fails to point out in all of this is that we've had a dirty relationship with the Saudis for a hell of a lot longer than the Bushes have been in politics. We've turned a blind eye to the evil of the Saudis since before Nixon.

In its second half, Fahrenheit 9/11 contains almost purely anecdotal information about the war in Iraq. Mothers, soldiers and regular citizens recount what they've seen and experienced. The point is that war is hell; and that's a pretty fucking cheap maneuver by Moore. I think all of us who've blown the heads off their GI Joe dolls with M-80s know it. Anecdotal information plays on emotion and isn't the basis of a sound argument about a battle that's a shitload bigger than a few stories.

I mean, you could have found grieving mothers who would have said they opposed WWI, WWII and probably even the Revolution. Grief in itself doesn't make a war wrong. Showing dead bodies doesn't get to the root of why this war is even more hell than any other. This is a fucked up war we shouldn't be in, I agree, but regurgitating graphic footage of injured soldiers and children doesn't prove that. Moore preys on our squeamishness.

Moore tries to blame the creepiness of Army recruiters and lousy housing in Flint, MI, on Bush. He lost me. As far as I know, Army recruiters have been creepy at least since I was in high school. Lousy housing existed in Flint in Roger and Me and Bush wasn't president then.

The problem with Moore's approach isn't what he presents, or even what he believes. Although, I think his approach of just piling on whatever he thinks smokes like a gun is lazy and disservices any focused attack. My real problem with the approach is what he leaves out. It's obvious even to me--a guy who gets his political news from "Peanuts" reprints (and only the color ones on Sunday)--that he ignores all facts and evidence that might counter the argument he's determined to make. The result is propaganda for people who already agree with him, but won't change the minds of anyone whose mind you'd want to change. The people who disagree will continue to disagree, because Moore does nothing to counter their arguments. The movie would be a shitload more effective if it were focused on disproving conservative myths instead of creating a whole slew of liberal ones via implication.

That's what I'd like to see. A movie that doesn't pander to the NPR totebag crowds shuttling edamame home to their mud-compact homes in V-4 Saabs. One that has an answer every time the SUV-driving, fried-children-eating, baby-seal-beating Republicans say "But what about..." In stead we get a movie meant to make liberals feel good about themselves.

Now if I hear one more jackass say "Everyone should see this movie," I'm gonna kick him (or her) in the nuts. What they mean is, "Everyone should see this because I'm right and you should be forced to agree with me. Oh yeah, and I'm an asshole." Sure, everyone should see this, and everyone should read Bill O'Reilly's books too. You're a pompous ass if you think everyone should see it just because its what you believe. Only people who want to should see it. And they should see it as part of a much larger curriculum. You should know enough to make up your own mind, not let Michael Moore do it for you.

Two Fingers for Fahrenheit 9/11. I hate Bush, but I have better reasons than this. (--> Original)