Airman's review of Fahrenheit 9/11. Fire at will.

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.

Hasn’t this been debated to death already?

Yep. It has definitely been done to death. But as someone who has been characterized as the leading Moore-hater on the SDMB, I think it’s worthwhile for two reasons. First, I said that I would present my opinions on the matter, and second, I thought there would be a bit of interest in what I was thinking when I saw the movie. If there’s no interest this will drop like a stone, and that’s no skin off my nose.

Good on you for making the effort to go see the thing, Airman.

What did you think about the general “Bush lied about the reasons for going to war” point that Moore was trying to make?

As an aside, I believe that Rice’s full point covered her ass so that it wasn’t quite a direct lie, so Moore probably shouldn’t have cut it like that. However, her full quote is the exact kind of half-lie that really irritates me. See how she segues between the points of Iraq, terrorism, terror-supporting regimes (which Iraq was not, aside from nominal connections to Palestinian suicide bombers’ families) and those relying on Islam to back evil deeds (Iraq was a secular regime and did not rely on Islam, though it certainly had evil deeds). It’s one big, confusing tissue of half-truths which adds up to give the wrong impression - exactly the kind of criticism levelled at some of Moore’s more tenuous connections (Halliburton - Unocal - Karzai - invade Afghanistan etc).

I’m not sure this is a valid analogy. To match your analogy, her quote would have been something like “Oh, indeed there is a tie between Iraq and what happened on 9/11, but on the whole, there is no connection.”

The second part of your analogy diminishes the first, especially since you left out the word “sometimes.” In her case, the second part tries to form a connection through some bizarre domino effect. Rube Goldberg would have been proud. I took his cutting of the quote to show that they are indeed trying to plant that in our minds, and I think he’s accurate. Read her quote again. It’s the most convoluted thing I’ve seen in a long time. I could make a connection between Richard Mellon Scaife and the John Kerry for President campaign, if I were allowed logic leaps of that magnitude.

I’m not going to say that this administration has ever said “Iraq was behind 9/11”, as that hasn’t happened. Are you willing to admit that it’s something they’ve tried to imply, without saying it? Here’s the kind of stuff they do:

Technically, he can pan it off as saying that the 9/11 terrorists are from the middle east, and Iraq is part of the middle east, and if you look at a map just right, and account for possible bizarre mutations of a physical entity, you could even say that Iraq was the geographical “heart” of that region, but all I get out of it is “Attack Iraq as revenge for 9/11”. Do you really get something else out of it?

I have to agree with lambchops. Rice’s unedited quote is exactly the kind of doublespeak we have come to expect from this administration. Cheney has said there was a connection, Bush has said so, and Rice did a little dance in which it SOUNDED like she was giving it a little more background, but in the final analysis her conclusions were the same.

In any case, in editing out a soundbite, Moore is just playing by the rules of the rightwing media. Any criticism of his methods is hypocritical; he learned a lot from Reagan about how to present a lie as the truth, or vice versa. Which, I believe, part of his point: he’s playing by rules established by rightwing media darlings like Rush and O’Reilly and Drudge.

As far as the Carlyle stuff goes, he’s not implying anything. He makes it very clear what opinion he reached from the facts, but he presents the same facts to you to let you reach your own conclusion. If you think like a dittohead and take his opinion as incontrovertible, that’s entirely your problem, as you proved, Doors, by reaching your own conclusions from the facts he presented. See? it works!

For the most part, I liked your comments, but I’m kind of hoping I misunderstood this one:

Don’t you think that’s a little crass, Airman? Some soldiers dare to speak the truth, and you so blithely state you hope they’re happy in prison. Wow, man.

Actually, what I got from the film was that the bigger point was how we make our downtrodden fight our wars for us. Remember how he also stopped Congressmen on the street and asked them if they would let their sons fight in the war? I think he was mainly taking aim at society in general, not so much these particular recruiters.

But Moore never said they were guilty, did he? I thought his point has always been that they should have been questioned. When someone commits a horrible crime, you generally want to talk to the family members to see if they have any information about the criminal; you don’t just let them leave the country without asking them anything. Isn’t that what Moore is saying? I feel like you missed the point.

Well OF COURSE he was showboating. That’s what he does.:smiley: You didn’t think he was actually trying to get a Congressman to enlist his son, did you? What was disingenous about it? I think everyone knew what he was doing and why.

I guess I went into the movie with a different attitude than you. I was expecting political satire, not an impartial documentary. So I got what I expected.

Thanks. That’s a start, I guess.

Nope, you didn’t.

Yeah, I was being a little flip, but the fact is that if the Army wanted to court-martial those guys for their statements, they could, and they would easily get a conviction. Straight-arming the President is against the law if you’re wearing the uniform. Period. When you don the uniform you are told the rules, and that is one of them. Notice that I never do so? Ever wonder why? I’ll tell you one thing-if Kerry wins come January 20, 2005 I’ll have some stuff to say. Until then I will maintain the discipline that is required of me.

I’d say that that’s a reasonable observation, but the truth is that the people that volunteer have the least to lose and the most to gain. It will always be that way.

Question them about what? Where is your son whom you have had no association with for years because he’s a scumbag? Moore also tries to imply that they hadn’t disowned him because they attended his son’s wedding (I think, it might have been his birthday), to which I say “So what?”. Regardless, they were foreign nationals with no association to the crime, and to detain them for something their disowned relative did wouldn’t have accomplished anything.

Let’s just say that Moore made his point and leave it at that. I’m still sitting the fence about a few things, but I’d rather not go too deep into it right now.

Incidentally, there are two statutes in the UCMJ that apply for “disloyal statements”, one of which is explicit if you’re an officer.

Article 88: Contempt Towards Officials

Any commissioned officer who uses contemptuous words against the President, the Vice President, Congress, the Secretary of Defense, the Secretary of a military department, the Secretary of Transportation, or the Governor or legislature of any State, Territory, Commonwealth, or possession in which he is on duty or present shall be punished as a court-martial may direct.

Article 134: General Article

Though not specifically mentioned in this chapter, all disorders and neglects to the prejudice of good order and discipline in the armed forces, all conduct of a nature to bring discredit upon the armed forces, and crimes and offenses not capital, of which persons subject to this chapter may be guilty, shall be taken cognizance of by a general, special or summary court-martial, according to the nature and degree of the offense, and shall be punished at the discretion of that court. (bolding mine)

“Good order and discipline” is undermined by attacking your chain of command, and the President, as Commander-In-Chief, is at the very top of the chain of command.

Huh? Unless you leave the military when/if Kerry is inaugurated, what difference does it make? He would still be your COC.

Anyway, I congratulate you on seeing the flick, and posting this thread. I knew you were a man of your word and I was anticipating this thread, and I like your review as well.

For myself, I’m anti-Bush, wishy/washy-Kerry, and I truly wish Moore had turned his footage over to a less biased filmmaker, who could have done more with it with more credibility. Still, there it is, and it’s a thought-provoking movie for almost any viewer, despite Moore’s shortcomings.

A person can only genuinely take pride in their own achievements. So, if you’re saying “I’m proud to have completed my training to become a lieutenant”, then I understand that. I also understand “I agree with the values my country represents, and I believe they are worth fighting, and ultimately, dying for”. Wouldn’t be my personal choice, but I understand it.

What I don’t understand is patriotism, for the hell of it. “I’m proud to be an American.” (Insert any nationality there, of course - it’s all the same.

WTF? How can you be proud of something you had absolutely no control over? It’s as dumb as saying “I’m proud to be black/white/Asian/whatever” or “I’m proud to have a 120+ IQ”. They are things outside the realm of your direct control, therefore you cannot take pride in them.

Patriotism is substituted pride for people with self esteem issues.

To quote a late, and great, comedian:

I think your assement is pretty good. I think Moore made some valid points, but a couple of the points he tried to make fell pretty flat, IMO. I was rolling my eyes on the ‘Bush on vacation’ bit and the ‘let’s convince congressman to get their kids to sign up’ schtick. But other parts hit home with me.

Can you not be proud of your appearance? Except for grooming or, if you’re wealthy, cosmetic surgery, you have no control over it. What about your children? While you did indeed raise them, in the end, they are their own person and their behaviour and accomplishments are theirs. But there’s no shortage of proud parents.

I don’t follow your logic here. Although blind patriotism and nationalism is indeed irrational and oftentimes scary, I don’t see how it compares to being proud of the culture you were born into or of your natural-born intellignece.

Doors meant he’d have things to say about Bush.

Airman Doors, thanks for posting this thread. You show again why you’re an asset to this board. This is clear, fair, unmuddled criticism like I’ve rarely seen. You should consider reviewing films for your local media.

Don’t be a stranger.

For the record, Moore has admitted in an interview with Matt Lauer that some of the soldiers didn’t know.

Not saying Bush did something illegal; not saying he didn’t. But “wasn’t nailed for it” and “didn’t do it” are not the same thing. Whether Bush commited the crime of insider trading or not, he didn’t follow the law for reporting the sale.

Not at all, why would you?

Truly not understanding what you mean by this. Are you criticizing Bush for not exerting political pressure to get Ken Lay off the hook because what Ken Lay allegedly did was comparable to what Bush allegedly did? You think that’s an appropriate use of presidential power? Really, I’m stumped.

What disgusted me about the recruiters was not that they were aggressive; it was that they were liars. Like they took that one guy’s contact information so they could “cross him off the list” and then put him on the list for further recruitment efforts. I don’t remember all the specific statements they made to all the potential recruits but I remember feeling at the time like they were not being truthful.

How do you think they made the determination as to who would be most apt to adjust to military life on the basis of spotting them in a parking lot?

I must have missed the debunking. Moore stated that while all other traffic was grounded, Saudi citizens related to Osama Bin-Laden were allowed to leave the country with little or no questioning. What is untruthful about Moore’s claim?

Moore never claimed that any of them were directly involved with the attacks. What he said was that they were allowed to leave without being interviewed to any meaningful degree and that allowing family members of a known terrorist who perpetrated the largest attack on US soil ever to leave without being questioned is a bad idea. American citizens of Arab descent who didn’t happen to be wealthy with oil money were detained after the attacks and they weren’t even related to Bin Laden.

Yes, that was the worst part of the movie. I don’t think talking to members of Congress about recruiting their children was a bad idea but couching it in terms of “sign up your child to fight” was bad.

You call it a lie by inference; others call it presenting the information and allowing the viewer to draw a conclusion.

I understand what you’re saying with the Rice quote, but I hope you don’t deny that the Bush administration has done what you would call lying by inference almost since Day 1 of the “War on Terror.” It’s no accident that so many Americans think Iraq was connected to 9/11. It’s a misperception that Bush and company have encouraged through words carefully chosen to promote it while still preserving enough deniability so that they can say “we never said it.” And then there are the flat out lies, like Cheney’s continued assistance that Atta went to a meeting that never took place.

Glad to hear it. Maybe for Moore’s next movie you’ll pay your own way?

Turns out that Moore was wrong about that, although he couldn’t have known since Richard Clarke didn’t say until later that indeed they had all been interviewed, many of them in person by field agents. Of course, Moore should have said nothing at all about that since he had no way of verifying it.

“Rightwing media”? I caught 60 Minutes doing this as early as 1973 and gave up watching that show by the late 1970s on the grounds that they persistently use that technique. Certainly, Fox and the Washington Times use this technique a lot, but so do most other news outfits, right and left, when it will punch up a story or help their “perspective.”


That said, I see nothing wrong with Moore’s clipping of Rice’s statement. He quoted the necessary part. Her extended statement simply draws an illegitimate inference between a perversion of Islam and the secular state of Iraq and tries to include Iraq in a “network of terrorism” in which it had no real part. Had he continued the quote, he might have either confused people about the lie she was telling (by inference and all) or nailed down his point in more words for those who realized her lies–in which case shorter is better.


I think you’re right that Moore was not producing a pure documentary. I think that there are probably many instances in which you can point to underhanded editing. I don’t think the Condi Rice quote is one of them.

Gotta disagree with you here. First of all, there are multiple nuances in the definition of pride. From dictionary.com: Pleasure or satisfaction taken in an achievement, possession, or association (bolding mine). So yes, you can take pride in an achievement, but you can also take pride in being associated with an entity or group of people.

But I don’t think an appeal to the dictionary counters your underlying argument, so let me further the discussion with an example. My mother grew up in the medium-sized city of Holland, Michigan. She, as well as all of my uncles, aunts, and cousins, are full-blooded (although fifth- and sixth-generation) Dutch.

Actually, a lot of people living in Holland, Michigan are Dutch (as you might expect). In fact, they’re proud to be Dutch. Holland has a tulip festival every year. There’s a wooden shoe factory in the city. There’s a group of klompen dancers – one of my cousins participated in high school. Multiple Dutch restaurants. Et cetera.

And see, these people have a pride of association. They’re proud of being Dutch-American. And that’s a good thing. Without pride, that little bit of Dutch culture and heritage wouldn’t exist, because no one would care. Sure, these people had no control over being gifted (or cursed [ha!]) with Dutch heritage. But they have a sense of belonging to a greater group, and a sense of closeness and identity with the people and the culture of that group. That’s pride.

Here’s a link to the snopes page on this topic. They suggest this statement is incorrect. The Bin-Ladens did not leave the country while the ban was in place, they were shuttled to a single area so that they could leave when flights resumed. The FBI had the opportunity to question them, and fully approved letting them go.