Sunday, July 04, 2004

I went to see Fahrenheit 9/11 today, which seemed to me strangely apropos. I've always enjoyed Michael Moore's movies, and I agree with him more than I disagree with him. (He's more of a populist than I am, which is probably the biggest difference.) I also think he's very smart about putting together films in ways that entertain and argue at the same time.

It's hard to know what to make of the argument of a film like this, because to some extent Moore is all over the place. He argues about the Bush family and the Bin Laden family, he argues about Iraq, he argues about Afghanistan, he argues about the unfairness of the poor carrying most of the burden of fighting wars on the ground.

What this film is really about more than a specific argument, though, is creating a tone that juxtaposes legitimate grief and righeous anger. And at that, the film works wonders. As Jeff and I both expressed afterwards, it makes you want to cry, it makes you laugh, it makes you angry, it makes you want to cry some more, etc.

Does the movie takes some cheap shots? Absolutely. Does it extend some arguments beyond his evidence? Probably. Does he play fast and loose with facts? I don't think so. Given all that, he's certainly no worse than your average Fox News show, and probably a lot better.

One thing that really galls me is the attempt to marginalize Moore on our political spectrum as if he's way off in kookytown or something. The right has (to their credit, in tactical terms anyway) successfully captured the terms of debate in this country, and has managed to drag what counts as mainstream rightward. I get that. But Moore does not strike me as any further to the left of center than the current administration is to the right. Yet somehow, our current political culture manages to cut off any voice much more than slightly to the left, while tolerating just about anything the right-wing can put out there.

I'd also like to say that I don't really buy into some of the accusations people are claiming Moore makes, most specifically that Bush was somehow complicit in bringing about 9/11. I think what he's really saying is that the Bushes helped create a situation that led to 9/11, and that they have benefitted from it. That's not the same as saying they wanted it to happen, brought it about, or were glad it happened. Unfortunately, this is muddled enough (I think because Moore tried to tackle too many things) that I can understand why people would make the more conspiracist assumption of Moore. But I don't think it's actually what he's trying to say.

Ultimately, the images that I'll take away are not specifically the stuff about Bush or the administration, but the images of military families, soldiers on the ground, Iraqis, and above all the sights and sounds of 9/11 that open the film--not the actual footage of the attacks, but audio followed by gut-wrenching reaction shots. The film instantly took me back into that moment, which is not a moment where I like much to go, but which I think is probably important to revisit from time to time.

My bottom line on this movie is that it reminded me of all the reasons my I have a strong antipathy for this Administration, and it at least briefly re-energized the strength of that dislike. I don't know how others would react--there are some truly powerful images that I would like to believe could make people stop and think, but I also know that when you get away from the experience you'll probably remember why you already think whatever you happen to think. All I can tell you is that I enjoyed it, it really moved me, and if it motivates more Democratic and/or anti-Bush supporters, then it's a positive force.

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