June 29, 2004
by Nick Morgan
June 29, 2004 03:34 PM
So much has been written about Fahrenheit 9/11 that I thought I'd keep out of the discourse for fear of duplicating commentary. But I decided that approaching the film as a failed piece of political journalism (like most commentators have) just isn't very interesting. Clearly, the film is hopelessly one-sided and often misleading, but who expected anything else?
What's interesting about Fahrenheit 9/11 is what it could have been. Moore had the unique advantage of an audience who had spent the last four years watching this nation--largely through mainstream television media--dramatically change. His use of television news clips calls to mind the experiece of citizens, at the television, eager to understand these extraordinary international developments.
One occassionally senses, in Moore's films, a genuine talent for relating the difficulty of social problems, but this talent is utterly corrupted by his blind political passion. What could have been a complex mosaic of media-filtered news, complemented by footage capturing the individual's experience of the war, was soured by the careless partisan venom of Moore's outrage. Fahrenheit 9/11 could have been a remarkable historical artifact for the ages, relating the sensative political struggles and rhetorical nuances during Bush's first term. But Moore's target was November, 2004, and for this his film lacks all dimension as a cultural reflection.
I like this post and agree. Regrettably, however, a film such as you propose would have unlikely stirred the same degree of controversy - nor would it have made as much money for the Moores and Weinsteins.
The very reason I am dying to see this film, even though I already know I disagree with many of its points, is that it IS an expression of this very interesting man's "blind political passion", filled with the "partisan venom of [his] outrage". If I wanted a watered down, fake, pretending-to-be-neutral-even-though-its-not piece of "journalism", I'd turn on the nightly blather on Fox News or NBC. This film is an argument. It is not journalism in the pure sense.
Two of my close friends who happen to be staunch conservative Republicans stomped out of this movie fuming, and complaining that it was nothing more than idiotic leftist propoganda. My hunger to see this film began as soon as I saw the outrage on their faces.
You conclude this piece stating that "Moore's target was November, 2004 ...." That has always been Bush Jr.'s target. He would have preferred going into Iraq many months before he did, when he was sidetracked by Colin Powell's urging to go through the UN. Then, like his Daddy, he would have had time to build up to November 2004. With this late start, politically speaking, and the many errors that occurred after "Mission Accomplished", November 2004 was getting too close for comfort, so Bush Jr. switched to "Plan B", a preemptive withdrawal (of sorts) by passing sovereignty (of sorts) to the Iraqis, with the hope that further problems in Iraq will be on the Iraqis' watch. Harry Truman might have called this passing the buck.
Fahrenheit 9/11 is just a movie. I do not need to see it to understand the errors that Bush Jr. has committed. Call it "political journalism" if you wish. But keep in mind that if journalists had done their jobs in a professional manner after 9/11/01, Fahrenheit 9/11 would not have been made; there would have been no need to make it. Moore is at least getting the attention of many, including supporters of Bush Jr. in ways that journalists did not. What is the truth about Iraq and how could it be presented in 120 minutes? Moore has done his job. Now it's up to the voters in November. Let's hear the lame excuses that Bush Jr.'s neocons and their supporters have for justifying the invasion of Iraq and its aftermath. Why that may rival Tolstoy's War and Peace in length. (Remember what Jerry Seinfeld said about the original title for that tome: War and Peace, What Good Is It?)
After posting the above comment, I read Matt Taibbi's column in the NYPress, June 29, 2004, addressing journalists critiquing Fahrenheit 9/11 that more substantially addresses the point I was trying to make. The column is available at:
which I incorporate by reference to my earlier comment.
Who is calling this journalism? As Frank Rich noted about a month ago, Moore is a polemicist, not a journalist, and any attempt to brand him as a journalist or his work as journalism is just a straw man. This doesn't require intellectual rigor - why doesn't someone debate Moore on the merits instead of engaging in all of these silly rhetorical sideshows?
Shag, your endorsement of Fahrenheit 9/11 as absolute fact belies great ignorance. And if the media had done their job it wouldn't have been necessary? What should the media have done? Explicitly say they hate Bush? Lie about the 9/11 commission's findings? Refuse to report any good news from Iraq? Oh wait . . .
The greatest thing Fahrenheit could do would be to get people talking and get people thinking. Regardless of any good points Moore might make, your refusal to even consider the other side's arguments or FACTS supporting those arguments shows your refusal to engage in either of those worthwhile exercises.
I'm not a hugely political animal, but even I can smell a blowhard a mile away. I wouldn't have written this if your comment wasn't the latest in a long series of thoughtless rants that no one so far has called you on.
Oh, and Seinfeld's joke was that the original title was "War: What is it Good For?" Remember, an essential element of a joke is humor.
I do not call Moore's movie journalism. After all, as I said, it is just a movie. Nick used the phrase "political journalism", but I did not endorse it as political journalism. A movie is a movie is a movie. Also, read Matt Taibbi's column on the role of journalists during Bush Jr.'s term.
I assume you are a lawyer in training. Specifically where in either of my posts do I endorse Fahrenheit 9/11 "as absolute fact"? In fact, I do raise the question of what is the "truth" about Iraq in my first post. I'm prepared to listen to the "other side" - perhaps you would be a good spokesperson to support the decisions of Bush Jr. in Iraq. I await your argument.
Perhaps you are a small political animal. But perhaps you should grow up. If you have objections to comments I have posted elsewhere, respond specifically rather than use dragnet methods (which you may not as yet learned about in law school). In other words, just stick to the comments here and respond elsewhere if you wish.
I'm pleased you have a good memory with respect to Seinfeld dialog. Perhaps you should focus upon accuracy in other areas, such as RELEVANCE instead of weak ad hominems.
Shoo, you talkin a me? Or to Shag?
to clarify, my comment was actually neither directed towards Shag nor Nick...Nick expressly disavowed approaching the film as political journalism, and if my response was intended to Shag (which it was not) it would have been a non sequitur. mine was sort of an independent rant. apologies for the confusion.
even so, shoo, I think your point is well taken. nearly every major critic to write about F 9/11 critiqued its form and technique, and tended to dismiss Moore's insinuations out of hand. then again, i'm not sure Moore actually made or implied any views that haven't already aired multiple times in op-ed columns during the last four years.
The one point Moore has been making which which I am in full, unconditional agreement is that the media has failed this country. I suspect that Fox News has played a major role in this failure, by intimidating its competitors into thinking that constantly criticizing, scrutinizing and frankly harassing our government is somehow a "bad" thing, punishable by lower ratings.
I hope Matto's not serious about his comment re "reporting good news from Iraq." The duty of journalists is not to make us feel good about ourselves and pat our leaders on the back. Their duty is to scrutinize and criticize. They have clearly failed that duty.