It’s been a long time coming, but at last I think I’m ready to put this out. Well, ready or not, here it comes.
Fahrenheit 9/11: An Artful Pull At Your Heartstrings, A Provocative Film, But Ultimately Worth Only What You Take Out Of It.
Well, it’s been a long time in coming, but here’s my review of Fahrenheit 9/11. It was an interesting experience for me, to say the least, and as I entered the theater I fully expected to drive a stake right through the heart of Michael Moore. I still plan on saying a few things about his particular brand of “documentary”.
First, the overview. Moore made an effort to make stuff stick to Bush (and failed in most respects, in my humble opinion), and in doing so you just can’t quite shake off the impression that Bush is dirty. It’s not necessarily that Bush is a criminal mastermind or anything like that, but it’s more like a scumminess that just won’t wash away. I think that the reason why I feel that way is because nobody could ever make a movie like this about me, and I tend t compare other people’s ethics to my own. In this case Bush comes out wanting. Take the Harken thing, for instance. Did he make some money on inside information? Moore sure makes us want to think so, but Bush was never nailed for doing that. If we accept that it were true, then wouldn’t you say that the federal prosecution of Martha Stewart for insider trading on the one hand and the three year flyer given to Ken Lay on the other seem a bit hypocritical? As the President of the United States he wields considerable power, and just a little downward pressure from him could have altered the circumstances in at least the Lay case, it would seem. However, if it’s not true then once again you come off with the feeling that Bush is not quite clean, not quite dirty.
Next, the troops. It shames me to see that some of the troops decided to play “Spot the Willy” with some of the Iraqi prisoners. Those people were charged with maintaining discipline with themselves and with their prisoners, and they failed miserably, to which I can say that while they’re only human, they should have shown much more humanity. Even more humiliating, if you ask me, were the comments Moore elicited from them about the war. There appears to be a total breakdown in discipline with some of them, because as instruments of policy you are not allowed by law to make disloyal comments like the ones that Moore got on tape. Not only did they make them, but to a guy who intended to use them in a film guaranteed to be seen by millions simply because of who made it? Dumb. Then again, they may not have cared, so good on them. I hope they are happy and comfortable in Leavenworth.
Then we have the mother of the killed soldier. It was appalling the way she was treated by that other lady, the one that called her a liar. Her son died doing his job, and is worthy of respect. She is worthy of respect because she is doing what she thinks is right. Good on her, and God bless her family and her fallen son. I was right on the edge of tearing up when I saw that.
Next, the recruiters. First of all, recruiters are trained to be aggressive, they have a job to do, and they know where to go to get people to sign up. Think about it. If you have the means, are you going to join an organization that could potentially put you at risk? Probably not. In fact, likely not. History has borne out that the “lower class” has generally carried the burden of fighting wars. I am a “lower class” citizen, and I am not ashamed to admit it. For my part, when I joined up I wanted the benefits, just like anyone else, but I was instilled with a sense of pride in myself and my country as time went on. Is that such a bad thing, to give people some pride, some ability to go on that they were maybe lacking before? I think not. People who can get on already generally have no interest in that sort of thing. I can say, in all honesty, that had I had money I probably wouldn’t have joined. Anyway, this just takes away from the bigger point, and that’s that the recruiters didn’t really do anything wrong. They went for the people both more likely to sign up and more likely to adjust/learn/benefit from what the military has to offer. That said, they were a bit callous on camera.
Now we delve into the Carlyle Group/Bush connection. Tenuous at best, if you ask me. Is there evidence of Bush 41 using his clout as former President when he goes abroad, meaning that he speaks for the United States? Nope. Did the Bin Ladens divest themselves from the Carlyle Group? Yes. Is Bush 41 chummy with some Saudi bigwigs? Sure he is. I’m chummy with a bunch of former inmates, does that make me a criminal? Of course not, and that hits upon one of the two techniques that Moore uses in his filmmaking, which I will go into later. I saw a tangled web, one that made me pay attention, but in the end I saw a lot of smoke and mirrors, but nothing that made me jump up and down and say that Bush was in cahoots with the Bin Ladens and/or allowed 9/11 to happen, which Moore clearly wanted me to buy into. In all, it certainly wasn’t clean, but it wasn’t dirty either. As for the comments about the Bin Ladens being allowed to leave on the 13th, that has been debunked enough here that it’s hardly worth mentioning, except to say that the people Moore interviewed had some reasonable points, but as far as I was concerned they didn’t quite stand up to scrutiny. Innocent until proven guilty is the idea, is it not? Did Moore, with all of his research, come up with any proof that the Bin Laden family (excluding Osama, of course…duh!) was involved in the attacks on 9/11? Nope. So they went home. Fine with me.
Last, but not least, was the farce where Moore tries to get Congressmen to sign their sons up for the military so they can go to Iraq. I say farce because you all know as well as I do that your parents can’t make you sign up. That was simply showboating, and while he had a point to make he was just obnoxious enough to make me roll my eyes and mutter about what a disingenuous butthead he was being.
OK, so that’s pretty much the nuts and bolts of the movie, the meat of it. If I forgot something you can call it to my attention later. For mow we enter the part you were all waiting for, the specific criticisms of Moore. I’ll bet you can hardly wait. Well, wait no longer, and prepare to be surprised a bit.
I will concede that Michael Moore checked his facts, and I will concede that the vast majority of them were correct, the ones that have already been questioned and debated at length notwithstanding. That said, Moore still lies in the movie. There are two types, lies by inference and lies by omission. The whole Carlyle Group thing was a lie by inference. He connected the dots, sure, but they didn’t go to where he wanted them to go, in my opinion. If it were solid and uncontestable I’d admit it, but what he came up with was the old “Mother’s-Uncle’s-Cousin’s-Grandfather’s Great Aunt knew my Grandmother’s nephew” canard. As Dark Helmet said in Spaceballs, that makes the relationship “Absolutely nothing”. But again, Moore wants you to think that there is something. And there is. A raised eyebrow and a question about the ethics of guilt by association.
As for the lies by omission, Moore omits context from some of his soundbytes. If I say “Chumbly is a peckerhead sometimes but on the whole he’s cool”, and all you see is “Chumbly is a peckerhead”, what are you going to think? Of course, you’re going to think that I think he’s always a peckerhead, not that he’s a cool guy with some jerkish moments. And Moore does that with some creative editing, like at the end with Condi Rice (and yes, I got this from the Kopel thing, but quotes are quotes):
I find no fault with that accusation.
So, all in all, it was worth seeing. It didn’t necessarily change my views, but it tempered them a little bit and taught me a bit more, so it was worth it. I still think Moore is a hack, I still think he’s dishonest, and I’m still not voting for Bush, but at the same time I’m not drooling at the opportunity to drive a stake through Moore’s heart, either. If anything I’m probably apathetic to him now instead of just outright hostile, and that’s a good thing, wouldn’t you agree?
So, have at it. The floor is yours.