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time magazine on fahrenheit

Posted to Poetry and Politics

some cut and pastes from time magazine's article on moore this week. (he made the cover, quite an honor in itself) it's hard to select segments... however, can't link you to the page... you must be a subscriber. so i'll cheat a little here. if you want more, you'll have to invest in the magazine, i guess.

my inserts in italics

opening comments:

"Was it all just a dream?" Michael Moore poses that question at the start of Fahrenheit 9/11, his docu-tragicomedy about the Bush Administration's actions before and after Sept. 11, 2001. Moore's tone isn't wistful; it's angry. He's steamed about the Florida vote wrangle of 2000, the Supreme Court decision to declare George W. Bush President of the United States, the policies of Bush's advisers and especially what he sees as the deflection of a quick, vigorous search-and-destroy mission against Osama bin Laden into an open-ended war on terrorism—"You can't declare war on a noun," Moore said last week—that spawned a dubious and costly invasion of Iraq.

Now, after a week in which his film became the highest grossing documentary of all time— and more than that, a nationwide rally point for Bush opponents, a red flag for Bush supporters, a cinematic teach-in for the undecided and a potential factor in the '04 presidential race—Moore may well be asking, "Is this all a dream?"


In Moore the left wing has now found its own Falstaff of the political revels, a figure who can punch as hard and fast—and as recklessly?—as anybody the right has to offer. And Fahrenheit 9/11 may be the watershed event that demonstrates whether the empire of poli-tainment can have decisive influence on a presidential campaign. If it does, we may come to look back on its hugely successful first week the way we now think of the televised presidential debate between John Kennedy and Richard Nixon, as a moment when we grasped for the first time the potential of a mass medium—in this case, movies—to affect American politics in new ways. If that's the case, expect the next generation of campaign strategists to precede every major election not only with the traditional TV ad buys but also with a scheme for the rollout of some thermonuclear book, movie, CD or even video game, all designed to tilt the political balance just in time.

who's going:

Though it has aroused viewers in sharply different directions—in one Internet moviegoer poll, 64% gave it an A rating, 30% an F—the film has also found audiences across the range of America, in big towns and small, blue states and red. It attracted mostly men its first Friday night, mostly women on Saturday. Exit surveys show that as the week wore on, it even became a date picture.

"I'm not just preaching to the choir. And it's not just the choir giving the ovation. I've got letters from a bunch of Marines who went to see it at a theater near Twentynine Palms, Calif. A church group in Tulsa went to see it and was incredibly moved. There was a Republican woman in Florida unable to get out of her seat, crying."

You would have expected Moore's movie to play well in the liberal big cities, and it is doing so. But the film is also touching the heart of the heartland. In Bartlett, Tenn., a Memphis suburb, the rooms at Stage Road Cinema showing Fahrenheit 9/11 have been packed with viewers who clap, boo, laugh and cry nearly on cue. Even the dissenters are impressed. When the lights came up after a showing last week, one gent rose from his seat and said grudgingly, "It's bull____, but I gotta admit it was done well."

intent of film:

Fahrenheit 9/11 wants to reach a drowsy electorate—most of whom don't bother to vote—to rouse them with a jazzy reveille of facts and innuendos and get them involved. "There's millions of you on the sidelines," Moore notes, "and I'm like the coach saying, 'Come on, bench, get in the game!'" And play for which side? That's easy to guess. Moore's mantra is that he made the film to prevent Bush's re-election—or, as many Democrats would say, election, given that they believe the first time he was appointed by the Supreme Court.


Can a movie do what a million get-out-the-vote initiatives have failed to do? Will an evening's smashing entertainment turn couch potatoes into political activists? Could Michael Moore's dream be George Bush's nightmare?

and finally, discrepancies in the film

Fahrenheit 9/11 Come Again?

Some of the most memorable moments in the film are also the most contested. A sampler:

Posted Sunday, July 4, 2004

The Fleeing Saudis

Accusation: Moore suggests that 142 Saudis, including 24 members of the bin Laden family, were allowed to leave the U.S. following 9/11 without adequate questioning by the FBI and at a time when civil aviation was grounded.

Clarification: One plane was permitted to leave before U.S. airspace was reopened on Sept. 13, but most Saudis flew out after that date. According to the 9/11 commission, the FBI interviewed 30 Saudis before they left, though it's not clear how closely they were questioned.

Bush's Money Ties

Accusation: Moore says Saudi interests invested $1.4 billion in firms connected to the Bush family and friends and speculates that this may have caused the President to divert attention from the involvement of Saudis in 9/11.

Clarification: Nearly $1.18 billion of that money was awarded to BDM, a U.S. defense contractor, for training the Saudi military. At the time, BDM was owned by the Carlyle Group, on whose advisory board George H.W. Bush served. But the elder Bush didn't join that board until five months after Carlyle sold BDM.

The Afghan Pipeline

Accusation: Moore charges that Bush's desire to promote a pipeline through Afghanistan influenced him initially to favor the country's Taliban rulers.

Clarification: The pipeline was conceived during the Clinton years. Taliban leaders visited Houston in 1997 when Bush was Texas Governor but are not known to have met with him.