26 June 2004

Farenheit 9/11

I recommend that everyone see this excellent film!

The film has engendered a great deal of controversy (as any great political documentary should!) David Denby provides a fairly good critique of the movie, although his article could perhaps be a better critique of the limitations of all televised media. For example, Denby points out that Moore, unlike writers discussing the same subject, does not provide "footnotes," but the fact is that Moore does provide much more objective and fact-based reporting than U.S. news stations do--stations that are supposedly in the "news" business. (Actually, most movies do not come with "footnotes" and if anyone wants some footnotes, they can read some of Moore's books--Dude, Where's My Country, in particular.) The Guerrila News Network, likewise, complains that "in an era where authentic journalism and critical analysis have been sacrificed for ambulance chasing and hyperbole, Michael Moore has basically fallen into the same trap." These complaints that Farenheit 9/11 somehow fails to be objective really miss the mark, I believe. In the movie, the tears of the people being bombed are real. The corpses are real. As Natasha commented in Pacific Views, there were a number of scenes in the movie that were particularly touching. Perhaps these scenes were even more shocking since the US media has failed to show us the suffering that the war caused for the Iraqi people.

One weakness I found in the film (and in liberal attacks on Bush in general) were the ad hominem attacks against the president. Such attacks are nowadays common in the literary realm as well. For example, I've read that Justin Frank, a clinical professor of psychiatry at George Washington University, is making the argument that the president's inclination to see the world in black-and-white, good-versus-evil terms, and his tendency to repeat favorite words and phrases under pressure, are not simply politics as usual, but classic symptoms of untreated alcoholism. These critiques reflect an exceedingly naive view of politics, i.e., that political decision-making is a straightfoward affair taking place on the blank slate of the politician's personality. Such ad hominem attack prevent the American people from viewing U.S. politics from a sound analytical framework (i.e., that of class interests).

As for the issue (brought up in the movie) about Bush's numerous vacations, I'm more likely to take Bush at his word about how busy he was during his long vacations. Just as Bush hinted at, I'm sure that he was meeting all sorts of very important (=rich) people and making all sorts of secret deals away from the prying eyes of the press. Bush isn't stupid; he's smart. Trouble is, he ain't one of us, and he's clearly willing to use us as cannon fodder if it's going to make him or his pals an extra buck or increase their power. Moore makes a nice conclusion in the movie, and one I'm sure that people on both sides of the political spectrum can agree with: War is grim business (in the current case, literally "business") and should only be fought when absolutely necessary.

Other interesting reviews I've come across include that of Russtaglibro (Esperanto), Truespeak, The Long Dark Tea-time of the Soul, the reviews of Obsidian Wings and Lew Rockwell (conservatives), the reviews on Rotten Tomatoes and the Guerrila News Network. The GNN concludes that: "Just like Bowling was not a film about guns, but about fear, this film is in many ways not about George Bush, but about the media." I would disagree with this characterization of the film, but the GNN is right at least in the sense that the film really makes one wonder what in the hell the U.S. media have been doing. Why haven't they been digging up these damning facts about the Bush administrations collusion with big business and media giants? One gets the feeling that Watergate was child's play compared to what's going on now.

P.S. (August) Who's against Michael Moore? has more comments and links about the Moore phenomenon.

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