Sunday, August 15, 2004
EBERT AND SURLY: FAHRENHEIT 9/11
At the request of Ms. Gordo (Hey, always try to give 'em what they want), I wanted to do an (arguably dated) review of Michael Moore's latest diatribe against President George W. Bush, Fahrenheit 9/11.
When this film came out, I was actually nervous about the damage it would do to the conservative cause not only in the States (most obviously in the upcoming U.S. election) but in Canada and other countries. As I mentioned when I birthed this space, I have become increasingly concerned that conservatives as a whole are getting a bad rap. People seem to think we are all on the take of one defence contractor or another (I have still to receive my July cheque from CAE Inc, ya bums!), or at least a corporate lackey. So it was with that in mind I had some concern that the 94% of the Canadian population who don't eat, breathe and sleep politics would unfairly take Moore's commentary as gospel.
As per usual, my concerns were unfounded.
If you have seen any of his other films (Roger & Me, Bowling For Columbine), you know exactly what to expect from Mr. Moore--no holds barred social commentary on current events. Often, his arguments are, frankly, pretty convincing. Why? One, because his commentary was apolitical--he didn't like Republicans or Democrats. Two, he always took the corporate elite down a peg, and put the spotlight on "regular joes" (presumably like him). Fahrenheit 9/11 does neither. And for that, I think its less effective.
It is clear that Moore has a viceral hatred of Dubya. And it shows through in technicolour. Gone are the days when he just went after all politicians. In this film, he doesn't even touch Kerry or any other Democrat. He spends all his time going after Bush, Cheney and other Republican notables. Which makes it look like one big ad for the Democratic campaign. I think moviegoers (and voters) know bias when they see it. They might agree, they might disagree, but I believe they tend to recategorize something when they instinctively know it has a slant--and usually that makes it less legitimate in their eyes.
Secondly, Moore aims mostly on talking about how stupid Bush apparently is. He takes a decidely elitist tone, seeming to suggest that anyone who voted or intends to vote for George W. is as "stupid" as he is. I guess Moore spend too much time spending the millions he made on Columbine to notice that many of the voters that make up Bush's base are the same people he used to defend--blue collar working folk. He might wear the ratty ballcap and look like he just rolled out of bed, but Moore is definitely losing his common touch.
As far as his commentary on the war in Iraq, I found it interesting that he choose to focus on the apparent unpopularity of it amongst the people that are fighting it--troops in the U.S. military. I realize that many new recruits to the military do so to escape their own sad environment (poverty, unemployment, etc), but take 10 minutes to talk to a veteran--war is hell!! What do you think you are training to do? Its not like being in the Canadian military, where you spend most of your service time filling sandbags to stop floods in Manitoba. What do you think the M-16 is for? Being poor doesn't make you stupid. In war, someone always dies. Now, people can debate whether the war was worth fighting, but ultimately they (the soliders and the American public) must have known what they were in for when they declared WAR on Iraq. I guess the only popular war is a bloodless one (well, for our side anyway).
For a commentary on the "facts" presented in 9/11, I would like to direct you to an article published by Christopher Hitchens in Slate. This provides a useful primer to anyone who suspects Moore might be a taaaaaaaad biased in his "research". You can print it out and give it out at the next WTO protest.
Bottom line--I actually did find it funny and an amusing piece of political commentary (hence the one finger up). But a documentary? Hardly (hence the one finger down). People will walk out of Fahrenheit with the same views as when they left. This film isn't powerful enough to really change people's minds--especially when Moore is so over-the-top.
Crisis adverted. Thanks, Mike!
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