Hot stuff: Moore's screed should be seen
Sending a Republican to review Fahrenheit 9/11 would be like having an atheist review The Passion of the Christ. Don't worry. The Hook did neither in my case.
The polarizing effect of these films on actual and potential viewers proves that one person's documentary or docudrama is another's fantasy.
The title comes from Ray Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451, named for the temperature at which paper burns, in the hope that 911 will be the temperature for burning Bush.
Although I would advocate anything short of assassination to get Dubya out of the White House, I'm not taking a straight party line on Fahrenheit 9/11. Overlong and not entirely focused, it's the most financially successful documentary ever made, but not the best, or even Michael Moore's best. (That would be Bowling for Columbine.)
That doesn't mean I don't encourage everyone to see the latest offering, only that I feel the need to be completely honest in recommending an exposé of a liar.
Moore, an entertainer with a strong point of view, begins with Election Night of the year 2000: "Was it all a dream?" It comes down to Florida, and network after network predicts Al Gore will take the state. Then Fox News, where George W. Bush's first cousin is in charge that night, decides the race will go to Dubya. Like reverse dominoes, the other networks get up again and fall the other way.
The last domino to fall is the U.S. Supreme Court. Several representatives protest the certification of the election but can't get a single senator to back them, so they're ruled out of order.
After a stormy inauguration, Bush takes office, then takes a vacation. His first eight months include a lot of vacation time (42 percent, according to the Washington Post) and ignoring an August 6 warning about the upcoming al-Quaida attack.
The screen is dark during the World Trade Center assault with only sound effects, followed by images of the shock, fear, and chaos that followed. Meanwhile, the President, informed of the attack, is reading My Pet Goat to Florida schoolchildren.
Two days later, while Americans– including George H. W. Bush and Ricky Martin– are grounded, the White House arranges for 24 members of the Bin Laden family and more than 100 other Saudis to fly out of the U.S.
There follows an account of the financial ties between Saudi Arabia and the Bush family and their friends, investments totaling $1.4 billion over a 30-year period. Moore concludes that the world's largest oil-producing nation invested in American oil companies only for the sake of access, and their investment paid off after 9/11.
Although 15 of the 19 9/11 terrorists were Saudis, that country was never in danger of a retaliatory attack. In fact, their ambassador dined at the White House on September 13. We invaded Afghanistan, even though some Taliban officials were also in business with the Bushes. That war is briefly summarized as an old Western movie.
The President had been looking for an Iraqi connection all along, and when he couldn't find one, he made one up– several actually, chiefly imaginary weapons of mass destruction and equally fanciful ties between al-Quaida and Saddam Hussein. These excuses– later modified to liberating the Iraqi people from Saddam's human rights abuses– were used to justify our invasion of the country where we're still mired today.
Lest you accuse Moore of being one-sided, he allows a gum-chewing Britney Spears to declare her support for the President and his actions. No offense to Ms. Spears, whose "talents" are covered up in this clip, but it's about this time the film starts to ramble.
Moore starts in on military recruitment efforts, a topic he'll return to at the end when he chides congresspeople because only one of the 535 of them has an enlisted son serving in Iraq. Concentrating on his hometown of Flint, Michigan, he introduces the film's de facto "star," Lila Lipscomb, a patriotic woman whose daughter served in the first Gulf War and whose son is serving in the current one.
Describing herself as a "conservative Democrat," Lila says she used to hate protesters until she realized they were opposing the concept of war, not the troops who were fighting it. She is radicalized by her son's death, a high price to pay for enlightenment. Moore exploits her grief as offensively as any evening newscast, but it makes a point and could ultimately save other mothers from suffering the same fate.
The money connection is emphasized with an out-of-context clip of Bush addressing his peeps, "the haves and the have-mores," and a very much in-context sequence at a "Rebuilding Iraq" conference, where corporations bidding for a piece of the pie are told how much they stand to make from the war and its aftermath. One of the biggest beneficiaries, of course, has been Halliburton, the company where Dick Cheney served as CEO before becoming vice president.
As one corporate type puts it, war is "good for business, bad for the people."
It's not hard to make George W. Bush look like an idiot, as in scenes where he's being made up or mugging just before going on the air, when he trips over his tongue while speaking, or is just caught looking stupid in a freeze-frame. A movie this serious needs that comic relief.
What's important is that Moore makes Bush look like a dangerous idiot, one who puts the interests of a privileged few above those of the majority or of the country as a whole. This is why Moore believes he shouldn't be re-elected, no matter what tricks he pulls in late October.
I can't say I accept Michael Moore's word as gospel, any more than I do Mel Gibson's in The Passion of the Christ. I would like to see Bush attempt a point-by-point rebuttal to Fahrenheit 9/11, but I'm sure his people are focusing instead on finding– or assembling in Photoshop– a picture of Michael Moore acting as best man at Saddam Hussein's wedding!