I saw it

From Michael Time Magazine article on Michael Moore “Fahrenheit 9/11 may be the watershed event that demonstrates whether […]

From Michael Time Magazine article on Michael Moore

“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.”

I cannot argue. Philippe and I went to see Fahrenheit 9/11 last night. No matter what side you are on, left or right, or what you believe or don’t believe, you have to see the film. It’s deeply flawed and magnificently crafted. You can watch it as a meta-exercise for awhile, thinking this is a remarkable piece of counter-propaganda, but as Moore leaves his conspiracy theories behind and moves into the realm of simple events surrounding the war the film takes a new life. Everyone is talking about the first half– how true is it about the Saudis, the FBI, etc. But the second half is where the moment of great filmmaking occurs.

Moore first follows the path of death and its price on Iraq, with American soldiers portrayed as rock&roll killers listening to metal while mowing down children. We see Iraqui women crying, screaming, cursing and begging god and americans alike to explain why their families are taken away. But just when you think he’s making one kind of film, he flips it. He reveals the soldiers are the poorest Americans, with no future, willing to serve their country whether or not they agree with how it’s run. The same soldiers who pipe rock into their helmets are also the ones who ache over the bodies they roll by in the tanks, who die and lose their souls to the killing. Who refuse to go back “to kill other poor people.”

In this second half, politics fall away briefly against the spectacle of war: Iraqi children and American soldiers alike missing limbs. Iraqi and Americans alike asking why. War makes victems of both sides. It’s impossible to paint one side or the other evil. Moore’s sense of rhythm is impeccable: each time my eyes filled with tears, he would return to the business-as-usual capitol hill or a bit of humor. It was as if he wanted you to keep your eyes clear enough to see it all. No matter how biased the film is politically, it is startling evenhanded when looking at the battlefield.

So I say it again: right or left, you have to see the movie. I disagree with some of it; some of the heavy handed political rhetoric is off-putting. But the quilt of the last year sewn out of patchwork facts we all know, revealed via the eyes of those who pay the price (as well as those who don’t, as shown through the famous accosting senators to enlist their children scene) make you shudder and wake up and question.

It’s not the new information that gets you: it’s the information we’ve seen every day for the last year compressed into two hours that makes you pause– wait, what happened to Osama? Why did we go after Iraq again? Why are we talking about liberating a dictator as if that is why we went in– I almost forget we’re in a war on terror.

Our short memories and lack of planes crashing anywhere recently make it easy to forget why we went from peaceful-surplus to warful deficit.

Fahrenheit 9/11 a testament to the power of film, it’s a testament to Moore’s growing eloquence of a filmmaker, but more than all that it’s a affecting reminder that we have short memories and we as a people need to try harder to keep the big picture in our mind. I’m grateful that Moore helped.

Note: I rarely write about anything political so this is a reminder to keep comments civil, or I will delete them.
Disagree, but be nice.


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  1. 1
    Joshua Porter

    I look at it this way: We’ve been the recipients of the Bush’s propaganda for the last 2 1/2 years (delivered faithfully via White House briefings and orders about what the press can and cannot show), and now Moore is giving us an alternative side of it.

    The woman who lost her son in Iraq and says near the end of the film “everybody thinks they know everything. I thought I knew everything” is to me the truest moment of the film. So many times I’ve asked myself this past year “what if my friend Lee dies over there? Will it change any of my friends’ opinions or his family’s support of this whole thing?” The spectacle of war, as Moore shows, can only change you.

    Thanks for the great post, Christina.

  2. 2

    It reminds me of Gino Strada in Italy. The guy has been in Afghanistan for nearly 20 years, to provide medical help.

    He curently attacks american policies day and night. You know, that’s also fashionable.

    The strange fact is: when he was in Afghanistan under the soviets, who killed civilians not by a smart missles gone awry but intentionally, he never whispered one word. When he was under the talibans, and they buried homosexuals alive and cut the throats of women because they went to the hairdresser (no, sadly not a joke) he was nowhere to be seen.
    The unelegant hack of a suspect is that the guy kept silent because he know that under an american rule he can criticize whereas under a soviet or taliban rule at the first “but” he whispers he can find himself buried alive.

    Yet since the americans waged a war in Afghanistan, he is on tv every day attacking the Usa, even succeeding in making the International Red Cross blast him

    I think that we’re no elite, and that american soldiers are grown up persons who need not the support of the intelligentzjia (whatever its spell on the atlantic pond) to stand as valuable human beings fully qualified to draw existential conclusions on their own behalf without waiting for us exploiting them so to ascribe them the conclusions that best fit _our_ own intellectual design or political purposes.
    When I want to know about a marine, I prefer asking marines rather than waiting for mr. Moore to interview the bunch he has preselected.

    I have not seen Moore’s movie, though I have been reached by a few of his interviews. I think it is a bad idea to judge a movie that one has not seen.

    So I will rather judge Moore, which I have seen, and I’ll declare that he would entice even more persons to see his valuable movies, if in every single interview of his he would spend the same amount of time he devotes to attack G Bush and america for their “crimes” to attack also Hussein for his own: because the fact in the west we have a press that makes things more transparent after all, and in Iraq we have only the screams who remember those times when Hussein drilled himself the heads of his political opponents with a Black&Decker, is in my humble opinion the perfect recipe to draw the wrong and partyial conclusion, and not the right and impartial one.

    And this as a minimal condition, which mr. Moore does NOT meet.


  3. 3

    Here in Europe, Michael Morre is kinda of hero. He is surely less criticized than in US. Whatever he is right or not – everbody know he is kinda simplist in its explaination -, his style is really great and it try to avoid we believe stupidely all medias.

    I liked a setence about Moore support of the Democrat candidate : “we re afraid of Moore, we think he is more anti bush than pro kerry” 😉

    Will go watching the movie very soon too…

    2 advices : watch Bowling for Columbine and about the same subject, look Elephant from Gus Van Sant

  4. 4

    well, speaking for Italy, which is Europe methink, Moore has never been a big topic AT LEAST here, go figure if even a hero (assuming Morre the hero is Moore the filmmaker, which I am sure he is – otherwise my apologies).

    So I suppose that we’d better limit our focus on our own countries rather than speaking for Europe as a whole, which is already enough divided a community, whose populations are not even sure to ratify the common frameset of a “federal” constitution and couldn’t even find a common foreign policy on iraq (though it can rule against a fence in another country, which could be agreed upon, yet without _even_mentioning_ terrorism, which can no longer be agreed upon) and never found a viable economic and budgetary policy in its whole 50 years long (since CEE) history: all solutions have always been compromises (The Maastricht treaty sets limit for capital domestic debts, but says nothing about unemployment rates, as if the money matters more than the manpower).

    It would be a worthless community the community which can’t agree on sweeping popular referendums-led consensus about its own constitution, and yet would be glad to grant that consensus to Moore and would be prompter to rally and indentify itself around a character rather than around a common law.
    I’d revert priorities, and devote my time to make of Moore a hero after I have taken care of more urgent issues.

    I prefer entertaining a better opinion of Europe, and see it approve with popular vote a constitution rather than an (american, by the way) movie.

    After all, once we get an attack in Italy, all Moore will say is to explain to us how we’d feel about it. Like he does on behalf of the marines, who have the real fight – while he raises the real money (inclined to think at most he’d be likely to swap dollars for euros, but also about that I don’t feel so sure) out of his movies.

    After all, the land where the most savage wars in the last 3000 years have been waged is, still today, precisely Europe: not even in China or Cambodia they have been able to make in 3000 years as many wars and casualties as we europeans did.

    Between the Reuters and the Cnn and Moore, I still am naive enough to prefer the former as a reliable source of information: at least they don’t preselect the news, they just report them.

    Moore, as anybody else, ie entitled to make his point. After all, Europe and North America are still the only places where you can do that reasonably safe.
    It would just add much more to his profile as a “hero” if he would not forget too often, while he criticizes Bush, to criticize Milosevic and Saddam Hussein too. Because on that account he fails completely, and seems to argue that since we didn’t wage war wioth Hussein earlier, we lost our right to criticize him and wage war later.
    I remember to everybody that the “West” was allied even with the Red Army: this did not import that we lost our right to oppose Stalin and his lovely winter resosrts for dissidents at a second time.

    “A community that is impotent is in need of heroes” Erich Fromm ( aleftist by the way, under a political point of view) once wrote.

    If we don’t only need heroes but also prefer the most partial ones (Mr. Moore can be “accused” of being such without raising too much outrage, I think he’d even acknowledge that – perhaps), we’re not only a community in need of idols, but in need of trivial ones.

    Because between making a hero out of Lincoln or out of Mr Moore, still imports some difference. Needles to say, to the advantage of those who elected Moore.
    After all I agree, here in Italy we rallied around Mussolini, in Germany they rallied and voted for Hitler, in Yugoslavia they rallied around Milosevic. Perhaps, given our common standards, choosing this time mr. Moore should be considered a remarkable progress.
    Shouldn’t it?

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