Friday, June 25

First thoughts after viewing Fahrenheit 9/11

The complexity of Moore's film comes, in part, from the fact that it works on so many levels. Moore opens up his entire tool box and pulls out humor, investigative reporting, historical narrative, irony, emotional appeal, shocking realism, throbbing or seductive musical tracks, and more.
Some reviewers reject this multi-genre approach. As Jeff Simon for the Buffalo News wrote of Moore, "Tom Brokaw, he ain't." To this, I say: Thank God Moore ain't Brokaw, because the need NOT TO BE BROKAW or BROKAW-LIKE is one of the major points of the movie. (Besides, who could ever sit through two hours of BROKAW, and who would actually pay for it?) Simon also calls Moore a "slob" and a "bully." These kinds of responses express well the sort of contempt in which the stiffly conventional talking heads of corporate media hold Moore, who simply out-maneuvers them in a multitude of ways and ends up at a point far closer to the truth than they can ever hope to reach. They must despise him for revealing them in their cold, impotent light.

My overriding emotion after seeing Fahrenheit 9/11 was one of relief. Finally, I thought, someone shares the anger and disbelief that has accompanied me every day of Bush's presidency. And so, I am not simply mad, am I? Whew! I felt tremendously grateful to Moore for channeling this anger into a well-constructed document that many others can see and, yes, enjoy.

On a local note, the Amherst Theater in Buffalo, NY had a record movie turnout, with every seat (of 3,000) being sold out for the day's eight showings. The theater was packed and the audience reacted perceptively to the film's many dimensions. I cried and laughed with everyone else. And, for sure, I got angry with them, too. I doubt that this excitement can be explained only in terms of certain media-propelled controversies. People are starving for a non-corporate-media view of the events of the past three-and-a-half years.

After viewing the film, I returned home to see the pathetic figure, David Brooks, on the Jim Lehrer News Hour, trying his best to save Bush's reputation by asserting that people like Bush because they think he is more "religious" than Kerry. What is so absurd about this last-ditch attempt to preserve Bush's credibility is that it presumes that anyone can so easily measure such a thing as religiosity. Personally, I have no idea how to assess the different relations Kerry and Bush may entertain with their God, and I would never be so presumptuous as to take their public statements regarding such a relationship as proof of one thing or another. In any case, watching Brooks, and reading the vicious film review presented by Jim Simon of the Buffalo News, I felt angry to be confronted with the mediocre status-quo once again. Don't these buffoons realize what is at stake?

It would be hard to claim that this movie is pro-Democrat, or pro-Kerry. (And thus it is pointless for Nader to complain that Moore invited to the Washington, DC premiere of Fahrenheit 9/11 the Democratic political establishment to the exclusion of Nader and his progressive friends.) The Democrats in this movie are shown to be unforgivably complicit and/or spineless in the face of the corporate right's drive to steal the 2000 election and pass off a war for oil as an issue of "national security." Of the Democrats, Gore strikes the most sinister figure, as he pounds his gavel to silence the voices of African-Americans who contest in Congress their obvious disenfranchisement in the 2000 election (and Gore even mocks one of them outright). The larger reason for this film not being "Democrat" is simply that Kerry promises to pursue full-throttle the policies that were put in place to fatten the Bush family and their corporate, oil-thirsty friends. (Kerry supporters, don't give up on your candidate, but keep in mind that, if he wins, a DRASTIC SHIFT in policy would be required to prevent the Democrats from paving the way to the bank for the Bush-Carlyle types who have been riding roughshod over the reputation of the U.S. for their private gain.)

Moore's film is not just a multi-genre film. It is more than a film. It is much bigger and more important than a mere film. It's a call to action. It is a protest against the politics of greed and against the "war on terror" which is, as Moore argues, a "war on the poor" abroad and at home. If its penetrating inquiry into the Bush-Bin Laden relations is as dead-on as it seems, it should rally Americans not only to vote Bush out of office in November, but to chase him and his Administration out of Washington as soon as possible. And this, in the interest of national security and the real war on terrorism; not to mention, in the interest of democracy.

This morning, I heard a bit of an interview with Bush that was conducted in Ireland yesterday [ed. note: turns out that it was conduced in the White House just before Bush's departure for Ireland]. An Irish reporter asked Bush if he didn't find significance in the fact that so many Irish (15,000 of whom demonstrated on his visit to Ireland) are angry about the torture scandal and about his diverting the war on terror away from Al-Qaeda to Iraq. His response, which I paraphrase here, seemed to confirm the premises of Moore's film. Bush responded by ignoring the comment about Al-Qaeda, as if the diversion of the war away from the actual terrorists responsible for 9/11 were a given and not worth discussing, speaking some platitudes about good Irish-American relations, as if the threat to such relations were not exactly the point of the interviewer's question, and putting all the blame for the torture scandal on the backs of a few soldiers, which tactic only confirms Moore's (and many others') view that the Administration doesn't give a damn about those whom it enlists to do its dirty work (and whose sacrifices it and its supporters use cynically as a shield against criticism of Bush Administration policies).