Sunday, July 18, 2004


Two More Cents on Fahrenheit 9/11

Just saw the new Michael Moore film. Predictable stuff really, especially when you've already heard so much about it, but also just from MM's usual modus operandi. Worth seeing if only to be able to challenge his more unconditional followers. Funny enough, the people I went to see it with, after some friendly-spirited argument (in which I admit to have been greatly advantaged by having read various reviews), fell back on the Krugman defence: maybe Moore was a bit disingenuous here and there, but really they didn't care so long as the film did its bit in getting Bush out.
In a way I agree: I too would very much like Bush et al - particularly, I must say, Cheney and Rumsfeld - to be dumped in November, not that anyone ought to be very starry-eyed about Kerry and the Dems. And there are indeed many things in the film which I'd be very glad to see brought to the attention of ordinary Americans who might not otherwise know - what with advanced capitalism's depoliticized public sphere, but that's for another post. Even some of the more lighthearted cheap shots might do something to chip away at the ridiculous reverence in which Presidents are often held.
On the other hand one could of course say the same about an anti-Bush film made by, say, the KKK: "I don't care if they do blame the war on Koons, Kikes and Katholics - just so long as it helps get Bush out." So actually, some political honesty really does matter.
And really, Moore is totally unprincipled, in the sense that he'll say anything that'll help get Bush out, and won't say anything that won't help. Thus one could come away suspecting 9/11  (the attack, I mean) was the result of collusion between the Bush family, the House of Saud, the Bin Laden family and the Carlyle Group such was the time spent vaguely expounding upon the shady familial, interpersonal and financial relationships; but knowing nothing at all about the long US collusion in Israel's strangulation of Palestinian society. You see, the latter would be much more difficult to deal with, since it couldn't just be "explained" by some superficial "money-trail"; plus it would involve actually challenging some holy cows, something Moore is clearly unwilling to do, as we see during the course of his exploitatively drawn out interview with the mother of a dead US soldier, when Moore ingratiatingly extols her for her patriotism and her family's "service"; plus Jewish-Americans tend to be both liberal and pro-Israel - no need to "go there", then.*
There are numberless flaws, but you probably either have already, or soon will, read about them, if you're interested. Only one other thing is worth saying: while Moore does some service (especially to supporters of the war) by demonstrating the human costs of the war, the preceding montage of Happy Shiny pre-war Iraqis, contentedly going about their business in their peaceful land is truly shameful. Indeed Saddam Hussein makes, I believe, a grand total of three appearences: two, dancing in an arm-linked human circle, like a sort of bumblingly eccentric uncle, embarassing and amusing in equal measures; the other shaking Donald Rumsfeld's hand. This is another image I'm happy for people to see, but one would be forgiven for thinking that this was Saddam's greatest crime, not Rumsfeld's.
I didn't need Michael Moore to tell me that George W Bush is not an admirable politician. Fahrenheit 9/11 only confirms that Moore isn't a very admirable film-maker.
*I am grateful to Lenin, of all people, for bringing my attention to the neglect of the Israel-Palestine issue.
UPDATE: If you haven't seen it Juan Cole's take on the film is worth reading.

Only a swift (and possibly misguided) thought... but I actually think Moore is sincere when he claims the US is a "great country", thanks the mother for her service (excessively prolonged as this interview is), and so on. He's in that big old US tradition of radical populism - we're all Americans together, those usurpers in Washington don't understand/listen to the small folk out here, etc etc (Nader does something similar) - that can drift off in a very unpleasant direction (the Michigan Militia et al are a recent example), but in Moore's case is pushing a vaguely progressive line, at least. I strongly suspect it all goes down a lot better in the States.
What you say is no doubt true to a great extent. On the other hand, I get the feeling that in the scenes in question Moore was rather heavy-handedly establishing his patriotic credentials: "Look folks, you can share my views and still be a good patriot".

Maybe this does go down better in America itself. But firstly, I consider patriotism a dubious quality; and secondly, really, if Moore does want to prove himself a patriot I wish he'd do it on his own time, and not belabour the point in his films.
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