Watching Michael Moore

Fahrenheit411

Watching Michael Moore

: As I walked out of the theater on the opening day of Michael Moore’s Fahrenheit 9/11, I thought (read: hoped) that even here, in the East Village of Manhattan, true Moore country, where the flick was already sold out all night, surely even here they wouldn’t fall for all his obvious, visual/rhetorical tricks, his propaganda too unsubtle for the cheapest tin-horn demagog.

Take this scene: Moore shows dead American soldiers in Iraq, many of them, the more blood the better. Then he says we need to replace them and he asks where they’ll come from. He takes us to his favorite man-of-the-people populist playground, Flint, MI, and says that we’ll find soldiers “in the places that had been destroyed by the economy.” He focuses on poor black men as Bush’s next victims — not even acknowledging that virtually every soldier he has just shown — and ridiculed — in the film is white. It’s all so convenient: anti-war-pro-poor-multi-culti-heartland. The rhetoric is as obvious as the gut on the guy.

But as I leave, I hear an older woman behind me, with a voice as loud at New York traffic, saying to someone who’s passing her on the escalator, obviously a stranger: “Don’t you sign up, now! Don’t you join!” I turn around. She’s saying this to a black man, just because he’s black: After all, Michael Moore said those people are all conservative cannon fodder, didn’t he? The man and the woman with him are polite enough to wait until they’re out the door before they laugh and then sadly shake their heads.

Hoo boy.

: One of the many things I’ve learned from blogging confrere Jay Rosen is that you have to stand back and investigate the assumptions that underly a media enterprise.

Moore’s assumption is venality. He assumes that President Bush and his confreres are venal, that their motives are black, that they are out to do no good, only bad, and that the only choices they make in life are between greed and power.

That’s inevitably a bad analysis. It’s the exact same analysis Bill Clinton’s enemies made of him. If they were wrong about Clinton, well then, Michael Moore is wrong about Bush. Life is never that simple, never that obvious, unless you’re a propagandist or one who believes propaganda. I especially can’t buy that analysis when we are a under attack as a nation, when we need to decide who the “us” and “them” are. The war on us as well as the dialogue among my confreres here online has made me question that assumption of venality in American politics.

Oh, you can argue Bush is incompetent; sometimes I do wonder. You can disagree with his policies; I disagree with many. You can question his intelligence; jury’s out still. I didn’t vote for Bush the last time and don’t plan to this time. But I don’t buy Moore’s Bush. To say that he’s the dark force of the universe only leads to simple-minded over-generalizations and bilious caricatures.

Like Fahrenheit 9/11.

: The real problem with the film, the really offensive thing about it, is that in Fahrenheit 9/11, we — Americans from the President on down — are portrayed as the bad guys. If there’s something wrong about bin Laden it’s that his estranged family has ties with — cue the uh-oh music — the Bush family. Saddam? Nothing wrong with him. No mention of torture and terror and tyranny. Moore shows scenes of Baghdad before the invasion (read: liberation) and in his weltanschauung, it’s a place filled with nothing but happy, smiling, giggly, overjoyed Baghdadis. No pain and suffering there. No rape, murder, gassing, imprisoning, silencing of the citizens in these scenes. When he exploits and lingers on the tears of a mother who lost her soldier-son in Iraq, and she wails, “Why did yo have to take him?” Moore does not cut to images of the murderers/terrorists (pardon me, “insurgents”) in Iraq or killed him — or even to God; he cuts to George Bush. When the soldier’s father says the young man died and “for what?”, Moore doesn’t show liberated Iraqis to reply, he cuts instead to an image of Halliburton.

He doesn’t try, not for one second, to have a discussion, to show the other side — and then cut that other side down to size with facts and figures and the slightest effort at argument. No, he just shows the one side. And that, really, is a tragedy. It would be good if we had a discussion. It would be good to have a movie that made us think and reconsider and talk.

But polemics don’t do that. They’re only made of two-by-fours.

: The cheap tricks keep on coming, mostly in what is not said. At the start of the movie, Moore fuzzes the video of Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Ashcroft, Wolfowitz, et al to make it look as if it were recovered World War II film from Hitler’s Berchtesgaden: the bad guys in happier days. The trick is unintentionally appropriate: He’s trying to say that these guys are Nazis but he’s also using the Nazi propaganda motif to say it.

He asks the same questions, streteches out the same memes, we’ve seen on the Web regarding Bush and 9/11: Why did he sit there in that school another almost seven minutes after hearing that the second tower had been hit? The implication was that he could have done something. But how often do we hear anyone ask — certainly Moore does not — what he would have done? What if he had popped up in a panic and ran off? How would that have looked on TV to a nation and a world in such a moment of disorder? Is there some order he could have given in those minutes that the vast federal power structure could not — and, in fact, was not better equipped to handle than Bush? And if you think Bush is such a frigging idiot, isn’t it better that he sat there? The question keeps getting asked. The ellipsis carries the message. But that’s no answer.

He goes after Bush ties to the Saudis again and again but never enumerates the Saudi sins. They’re there. It wouldn’t be hard. It would be helpful. Why not? Just laziness? Or is it easier to end with another ellipsis? Conspiracies are spiced with silence.

We know that Moore opposed even the war in Afghanistan but here he doesn’t say that. Here he says we didn’t bring enough force to Afghanistan and thereby gave bin Laden “a two-month headstart.” Moore doesn’t say that Bush, with his family ties to bin Laden’s family, wanted that to happen. But the ellipsis whispers it.

He ridicules the terror threats and alerts, showing goofy stories about poison pens and model airplanes and goofier guys from the canned-bean crowd showing off their terror shelters. He gets a congressman, Rep. Jim McDermott, to downright say that the alerts are all engineered to keep us on edge. The implication is — the sllipsis says — that we’re not in danger. I watch this scant blocks from where almost 3,000 Americans were killed that day. Oh, yes, Moore, we are in danger.

But Moore wants to pooh-pooh the danger and make it into a conspiracy: “Was this really about our safety or…” [pregnant ellipsis] “…something else?” He adds (and I can’t read one word of my scribbled transcription): “The terrorism threat wasn’t waht this was all about. They just wanted us to be fearful enough to get behind their plan.”

Of course, it was all about Iraq…. Wasn’t it?…

: If you don’t believe that, well, says Moore, you’re an idiot. You’re Britney Spears, shown in all her ditziness saying, “Honestly, I think we should just trust our President.” There’s your spokesman for the other side: Britney.

Or you’re a bloodthirsty American goon, which is how Moore portrays soldiers who rush into battle hopped up on rock ‘n’ roll. He spares us the obvious napalm, morning, smell thing.

In Moore’s view, you’re either with him or against him. Hmmm, who else looks at the world that way?

Yup, Moore is just he mirror image of what he despises. He is the O’Reilly… the Bush of the left.

: After leaving the theater and walking by the black man now shaking his head at what Moore had wrought and the people with bring-down-Bush clipboards, I made my way back to New Jersey through the PATH train at the World Trade Center where, most of you know, I was on 9/11. And now I was shaking my head. Michael Moore did not present bin Laden and the terrorists and religious fanatics (from other lands) as the enemy who did this. No, to him, our enemy is within. To him, our enemy is us. And that’s worse than stupid and sad and it’s most certainly not entertaining. It’s disgusting.

: Later, I read Christopher Hitchens’ wonderful fisking of the film.

And then I read A.O. Scott’s mealy-mouthed review in The Times. He points out that the movie is full of crap in many ways: “…blithely trampling the boundary between documentary and demagoguery…” Hey, blurb that!

[Fahrenheit 9/11] is many things: a partisan rallying cry, an angry polemic, a muckraking inquisition into the use and abuse of power. But one thing it is not is a fair and nuanced picture of the president and his policies. What did you expect? Mr. Moore is often impolite, rarely subtle and occasionally unwise. He can be obnoxious, tendentious and maddeningly self-contradictory. He can drive even his most ardent admirers crazy.

But then Scott lets Moore off the hook — and himself off the hook with that audience that applauded the flick in the East Village, which is Times Country, too — with this: “He is a credit to the republic.”

I guess he’d say the same thing of Rush Limbaugh, then.

Scott keeps going. On the one hand:

After you leave the theater, some questions are likely to linger about Mr. Moore’s views on the war in Afghanistan, about whether he thinks the homeland security program has been too intrusive or not intrusive enough, and about how he thinks the government should have responded to the murderous jihadists who attacked the United States on Sept. 11.

Right. But on the other hand:

At the same time, though, it may be that the confusions trailing Mr. Moore’s narrative are what make “Fahrenheit 9/11″ an authentic and indispensable document of its time. The film can be seen as an effort to wrest clarity from shock, anger and dismay, and if parts of it seem rash, overstated or muddled, well, so has the national mood.

Crap. It is not creditworthy only to attack and call that discussion and democracy; to insult our intelligence with half, quarter, and untruths; to stifle debate with polemic rather than provoke debate with facts; to mock the people he exploits on film; to gloss over his own outrageous opinions for the sake of convenience; to turn his guns on his own people, letting those who attacked us off as free as birds.

No, this is no more good democracy than it is good filmmaking.

: EPILOGUE: The movie was Topic A in Howard Stern’s opening this morning and the discussion there demonstrates exactly what is wrong with Fahrenheit 9/11: Moore provided no facts for an honest discussion. He provided only fuel for the fire, bullets for bombast.

Granted, this ain’t exactly the Algonquin Round Table; it doesn’t pretend to be. Stern switched sides so completely that he tries not to acknowledge his former support for the war and for Bush as command-in-chief against the terrorists. Stern wasn’t fooled about WMD as he tries to argue now; he was — like me — a Tom Friedman war supporter who believed that we had to do this somewhere, we had to bring democracy to somewhere in the Middle East and Iraq was a good place to do it because Saddam was a tyrant and his continued rule was, in good measure, our fault. It’s possible to be against Bush in this election and still be for the war and at the same time think that we’ve messed up the aftermath; it’s still possible to support Bush as the sitting president while wanting to unseat him. As Bill Clinton said on Today today when asked whether the release of his book would distract voters: “The American people can walk and chew gum at the same time.” Nonetheless, I grant that Stern is hardly trying for a nuanced argument. And the only person to argue against him is his TV director, a graduate of Glassboro State, which ain’t exactly Yale.

Still, the argument that raged for 20 loud minutes on Stern this morning will be replayed by water coolers all across America. And you could say that is good for Democracy. You could say that if the people arguing were armed by the film that causes the arguments with facts and intelligent views of the issues. But, instead, they’re armed only with one side, half-facts, and bile. That doesn’t make for good dialogue or democracy.

: BY THE WAY: The commercials for the film are still saying it’s not rated. It has been rated R because of the copious gore and the appeal of that rating lost, even with Mario Cuomo arguing the case. So the commercial isn’t quite, well, telling the truth.

: LINKS: Fred Wilson reacts to this post and asks whether I react similarly to Rush Limbaugh; in his comments, I list many posts where I do. He also says it’s time for the left to play hardball. Hardball yes, Dodgeball, no. Hardball with real facts and reasoned arguments and intelligence. Mimicking the worst of the right is not what the left should do — the Rush of the left in Randi Rhodes on Air America or Bizarro Rush in Michael Moore on film. We’re smarter than that, aren’t we?

Fred says I’m angry. Yes. I’m angry this movie isn’t better made.

And here are MooreLies, the Jobless Lawyer, Nick Troester, Sisu, more later.

Says Jason Kottke:

The film, while entertaining — very funny in parts and at times powerfully moving — was ultimately disappointing for me….

Fahrenheit 9/11 is so much about Michael Moore’s opinion that it’s difficult to go through that process of finding the truth. The frustrating thing is that Moore has a point, but he’s unable to get himself out of the way enough to tell us the story so we can make up our own minds about it….

Samizdata says:

One last thought: Fahrenheit 9/11 is many things, but for pity’s sake let’s not call it a documentary.

- Ty Burr, Boston Globe

Here are Reason’s Nick Gillespie’s links.

Jimspeak: “I think [Moore] and Madonna should get lost on some island somewhere, never to be heard from again …”

Beth‘s post here. Smack My Booty’s is here. Doc’s here. Doubleplusgood here. Greg Piper here. Jared here.

Tony Pierce says Michael Moore is in a dog fight and he’s the dog Tony’s backing.

: MORE MOORE LINKS: Andrew Sullivan says:

I will say this: I will generally go see anything. I even sat through “The Passion of the Christ.” But I cannot bring myself to go to this piece of vile, hateful propaganda.

I sent him email urging him to see it anyway, just because I’d love to see what he writes.

Here’s Pejman. Here’s Mathieu (can anyone translate?). Jay Reding. Chaos Overload. Sea-Glass here. Kevin Mori. Drake says.

Richard Bennett says my seeing the movie deserves your sympathy.

And here’s Glenn Reynolds.

  • Mike

    Jeff,
    a very nice breakdown and opinion of the movie. I can’t stand how Michael Moore has become some sort of hero to the left. He is a propaganda-mongering half-wit. He is all that he dislikes, a bloated, filthy-rich capitalist praying on the weaker minds of society. I will not go see the film because I couldn’t bear to think that my money would be lining his pockets.
    on another note, I would hope that when you discuss the Daily Stern today, you will take Howard to task for his ridiculous advocation of this film and Michael Moore. To listen to Stern talk you would think Moore is the only person to get it right and to be against him is to be stupid and ignorant. Some of things Stern said this morning are the reasons why he has jumped the shark and become nothing more than a liberal hack. Sorry to post about 2 separate items, just wanted to get a word in before the stern item comes out.

  • http://sisu.typepad.com Sissy Willis

    Thank you, Jeff, for falling on the sword for all of us. I would never in a million years have the fortitute do actually sit through Moore’s anti-bush screed:
    http://sisu.typepad.com/sisu/2004/06/the_rhetoric_is.html

  • http://www.matthewstinson.com/blog/ Matthew Stinson

    I won’t be able to see the movie for awhile, but what I gather from your post is that Moore’s film is virtually a feature-length MoveOn ad. (One of the ones that was pulled, that is.)
    I thoroughly enjoyed Hitchens putting Moore through the verbal blender, but Armond White’s review of Farenheit 9/11 is worth consideration. In some ways it may be more damning than Hitchens’ because you know where Hitch is coming from.
    As to comparing Moore to O’Reilly and Limbaugh, well, while he certainly resembles their mix of faux populism and megalomania, there’s one thing Mike has that Bill and Rush will never have — the endorsement of the entertainment establishment, not to mention de facto sponsorship by a political party. No one has given O’Reilly an Emmy yet (God help us if that ever happens), and no one is now planning to make selling Limbaugh’s “product” a feature attraction at the RNC Convention (though I realize that Rush played a role in past conventions).
    That’s what makes Moore’s film so infuriating, really. Everyone has the right to stomp up and wax conspiratorial on their own dime in their own fora, it’s when people sign on to supporting that vision of the world, whether because they agree with it (liberals in Hollywood for whom Moore speaks) or whether because they see it as instrumental in achieving a goal (Democrats who endorse the film to win the next election), that they become at least partially responsible for what the work says and does.
    In Moore’s case, it sounds like the primary motif of Farenheit 9/11 is to piss on the dead: to piss on the dead who died on that day, to piss on the dead killed by the Taliban, to piss on the dead who died to free Afghanistan, to piss on the dead killed by Saddam, to piss on the dead who died liberating Iraq. Why didn’t he just make a ten second film where he walks in front of the camera, points, and says, “Ha-ha, suckers!”?
    It would’ve achieved the same result.

  • http://leatherpenguin.com/MT TC-LeatherPenguin

    My wife (inveterate hippie that she is) insisted we go to this movie last night. Before the opening trailers had scrolled I pulled out my Palm and laid it on my leg.
    “What’s that about?” she says
    “Notes,” I says. “I wanna blog this.”
    “Now you’re going all righty on me?”
    “We’ve been through this,” I says
    “Put it away.”
    And that was pretty much it, for me. Anger at Moore’s arrogance was the only thing that fought off the sleep.
    Hitchens nailed his butt to the floor. This flick is a load of malarkey masquerading as a moment to make a movement.
    No wonder Hezbollah loved this stuff. The only thing he didn’t do was say “Kill Jews, too!” in screen high type.

  • Homer Robinson

    Jeff, you got stones. There is no way I would go, or could go, if I had been what you went though. To watch Moore pissing on the dead, and not walk out. Well, your a better man than I.

  • sickles

    Having a discussion with my far left wing cousin the other day, he asked me if I had seen any of Michael Moore’s stuff and I replied I hadn’t because he doesn’t appear truthful to me to which my cousin instantly replied “Well, then, how come there are no libels suits against him???” as if this means automatically that Michael Moore is 100% accurate and truthful. Her also buys the Nazi stuff without hesitation.
    What disturbed me the most is not that he agreed with Mr. Moore’s views but that he simply would not look at them with the same critical eye as he would his hated President. When it comes to views he prefers he has ceased thinking which is scary for a thinking individual.

  • Mumblix Grumph

    Jeff, thanks for taking one for the team. This post will probably generate more comments than any in recent time.
    I guess I’m just not smart enough to appreciate the brilliance of the real-life Elsworth Toohey.
    I think what infuriates me more than the movie itself is how Hollywood and 94.7% of the media are clapping so hard they will all get carpal tunnel syndrome.
    The white-hot hatred of the president is getting out of hand and it’s more than a little scary, I shudder to think just how bad it will get as other Leftie’s ride Moore’s coattails and try to cash in.

  • doug

    Hey Jeff
    Thanks for the review. I must say though, that the reason for Iraq and not another country is simple. Saddam was/is a hero in the eyes of the wacko Micheal Moore moslem. In 1990 during Ramadon, just before GWI, I asked the men who came out to my sheep farm to kill lambs for Allah, who do you want to win the war? Only two of the 38 wanted to see Saddam lose. 1990. The humiliation of Arab defeat is too much for them. Saddam is a lion of Islam. The last 14 years increased his support. Amoung the 72 virgin crowd Saddam is The King. That’s why Iraq.

  • Brian Perry

    Thanks, Jeff, for the excellent coverage. I really don’t think I’ll be able to sit through Moore’s movie, nor stomach padding the man’s pockets any further. I am afraid that this movie could be the loss of the last hope for the left- now that Moore has set the bar for beliefs on Iraq and Bush, it will become socially unacceptable to have any others than his.
    In a nation at war, our enemy is counting on the fact that we will fight amongst ourselves and be weakened. I am saddened and disgusted by Moore’s self-serving and even dangerous film. He is selling out his fans and his country for the sake of his own ego. I am afraid of how many will follow him into the abyss…
    One last note, I don’t believe there is much basis for intelligent discussion about the current situation any more. If you argue for Bush in front of liberals, you are painted as an idiot warmonger, just like Bush. I can’t handle being treated that way again. Congratulations to the left, I have learned when and around which people to shut up about what I think.
    Those who are supposedly the most open-minded are controlling thought and squelching discussion. This is Moore’s film in a nutshell, at least as you describe it. The lack of discussion, serious discussion, is dangerous. Meanwhile, the clock ticks….

  • mm

    In a nation at war, our enemy is counting on the fact that we will fight amongst ourselves and be weakened….
    Are you suggesting that dissenting opinions should be silenced in the name of national security? That’s much more dangerous than the FCC silencing ‘fuck’ on the airwaves….
    Those who are supposedly the most open-minded are controlling thought and squelching discussion.
    No, this is just one film. Yes, it’s a polemic, but there’s no reason someone on the right couldn’t make a similar film. And yes, it would be released by Hollywood. The fact that Moore made such a film does not “controll thought” or “squelch discussion” – the people who run CNN, FOX manage do that just fine without Moore’s help.

  • Vince

    Jeff, your previous hostility towards Moore permeates your review.
    Hitchens is a hack. Ebert gave a great review, even the Fox guy bigged it up.
    This film is going to make history, and I can’t wait to see it.

  • Roy

    Moore plays up the seven minutes of Bush sitting in the classroom during 9/11. Does he mention what he wrote immediately after it? If I remember correctly, he was not angry about the 4 planes killing thousands of innocent lives, he was more indignant that non-Bush voters died. Almost no mention of anything else. That is where this man is coming from.

  • miguel

    “He focuses on poor black men as Bush’s next victims — not even acknowledging that virtually every soldier he has just shown — and ridiculed — in the film is white.”
    - some could misunderstand that as racist!

  • Brian Perry

    mm-
    When did I say Moore shouldn’t be allowed to speak? Of course I don’t object to the fact that Moore this film, distributed it, etc. You can make any old thing you want, but that’s not the whole the point. Freedom needs responsibility, and I call his film irresponsible.
    I’m not saying that this film is controlling thought, or squelching discussion. What I mean is that it is contributing directly to an intellectual environment where honest or intelligent or balanced discussion is almost impossible. Again, irresponsible.
    The fact that I can’t have important discussions with many people I know pains me.

  • http://www.smackmybooty.com Jake

    Roy, what the hell are you talking about??
    Jeff, great review, I enjoyed reading it.
    I’m surprised at how little attention the MM/Hezbollah story has gotten (from the blogosphere, anyway… not surprised at all that national media hasn’t gotten it)

  • http://www.gapingvoid.com hugh macleod

    Moore’s a righteously indignant, intellectual lightweight of a certain political pursuasion who purveys a product that allows other righteously indignant, intellectual lightweights of the same political pursuasion to temporarily feel good about their passive-aggressive, pissant little lives. Befre they have to go back to the temping pool Monday morning.
    And there’s plenty of folk like this on the Right as well. This story to me is about character and cohones (or lack thereof), not political leanings.

  • http://www.theglitteringeye.com Dave Schuler

    Jeff:
    I’m curious about one thing in your post. What’s the point in dissing Glassboro State? You write:
    And the only person to argue against him is his TV director, a graduate of Glassboro State, which ain’t exactly Yale.
    Glassboro State (now called at least by some Rowan University) is a perfectly respectable school. And perhaps it’s not a bad thing that it’s not Yale.
    BTW I’m not an alum or connected in any way with the school

  • mm

    Brian Perry said, “I’m not saying that this film is controlling thought, or squelching discussion.”
    Well, in your coment above you state exactly that “Those who are supposedly the most open-minded are controlling thought and squelching discussion. This is Moore’s film in a nutshell…”
    Anyway, I agree that lack of discussion is a threat to critical discourse, but we just need to take Moore’s film for what it is: a polemic. He provides one side of a story – so let’s take the apportunity to start a discussion becuase of his film, not simply deride his film for its lack of balance.

  • Lauren

    as I have stated repeatedly, there is a very good Frontline, actually several, which address most of the issues that Michael Moore attempts to take on. I don’t see why everyone is getting so upset by his flick. everyone knows that his documentaries are really op-ed pieces. if you aren’t familiar a) with Michael Moore’s style and b) his need to constantly stir up trouble then c) you shouldn’t see his movies. I’m probably going to skip this flick, mostly because I’m freaked out enough on a daily basis living here in DC, and I’m sure this movie will only freak me out (and probably piss me off) even more.

  • Roy

    Here is what Michael Moore wrote on his website immediately after 9/11. He immediately deleted it afterwards (you won’t find it in his archives), but here’s the excerpt from opinionjournal.com:
    Many families have been devastated tonight. This just is not right. They did not deserve to die. If someone did this to get back at Bush, then they did so by killing thousands of people who DID NOT VOTE for him! Boston, New York, DC, and the planes’ destination of California–these were places that voted AGAINST Bush!
    Why kill them? Why kill anyone?

  • shark

    Jeff, you’re just as mealy-mouthed as the guy you lambast.
    You say “the jury is still out” on Bush’s intelligence, but YOU voted for Gore, a choice that was revealed to be horrible, you should be very hesitant to question anyone elses intelligence.
    You note to Mr. Moore that “we’re still in danger” but you plan to vote for Kerry, who has repeatedly made it clear he’s less about fighting terror than he is about making sure France and Kofi Annon like us again.

  • shark

    On the other hand, you DID give a good overview of the movie, and for that I thank you, say well done!
    Now get ready, Moore will probably sue you with his quick-response legal teams :)

  • shark

    No, this is just one film. Yes, it’s a polemic, but there’s no reason someone on the right couldn’t make a similar film. And yes, it would be released by Hollywood.
    Yeah, how much “Hollywood” support did Mel Gibson get again?
    Ever hear of the movie “Michael Moore Hates America”? It’s been a struggle for them…..
    Get real. Hollywood blacklists conservatives…

  • Matt

    Your review was as predictable as a Michael Moore movie.
    Moore is the left wing Rush Limbaugh.
    Check.
    Moore doesn’t present both sides.
    Check
    We only see the bad stuff for which we are responsible and none of the bad stuff for which Saddam is responsible.
    Check.
    Since you cited Hitchens’ review would it be fair to ask if the standards you expected from Moore were met by Hitch’s Trials of Henry Kissenger documentary?
    By the way, the commercials for F911 on several cable networks last night showed it was rated “R” – so your nitpick “isn’t quite, well, telling the truth.”

  • shark

    Now you want a REAL violation of free spech? Per Drudge: The FEC is going to ban ads for F9/11 because under McCain-Feingold, it would constitute political advertising.
    Since Mikey Moore’s stated intent was to impact the election, they’re going to treat this polemic as a 2 hour long DNC commercial.
    Now that is something you should be outraged about.

  • http://www.whataretheysaying.org/blog/index.html mary

    Ebert gave a great review, even the Fox guy bigged it up.
    Tom Tomorrow quoted that Fox review too. It’s nice to know that the left has developed such trust in the opinions of Fox News.

  • http://tvh.rjwest.com HH

    Ebert, bless ‘im, is Moore’s bitch and waits for other people to investigate his claims before he realizes he’s been had. It’s too bad he doesn’t do it himself, especially pre-review. “The Fox guy,” Roger Friedman is a Democrat. You call Hitch a “hack” without addressing one point he made.

  • http://www.bovious.com/blogs/main Brian Jones

    I’ve already seen the moral calculus that rides along with this movie. A friend in Chicago states that she doesn’t care if there’s another attack as long as she’s not “personally affected.” This is a seemingly intelligent, middle-class, hippie-era boomer lady with a husband and a condo in one of the nicer neighborhoods.
    God help us all if these people’s attitudes hold sway in November.

  • http://hubris.typepad.com Hubris

    Jeff, well-written post. Thanks.

  • http://dimmykarras.blogspot.com Dimmy Karras

    I think we need to censor that Howard Stern right away!

  • shark

    What is this comparison between Moore and Limbaugh?
    Go ahead, please give me proof-filled examples of LImbaugh engaging in the same tactics Moores does?

  • http://www.lolajl.net/blog/ Lola

    Brian, I sure hope your friend doesn’t have a loved relative in a city that, hypothetically, got attacked. I’d hate to be in her position, eating her words.

  • Helen

    I notice that you’re relentlessly slashing at Moore’s film saying that its “crap.” But I agree with others comments that say your critique is no different from Moore’s film in the sense that you present just as much bias. Moore wants to brainwash Americans just as badly as any politician would. You almost seem surprised in your review. Like you didn’t expect it. Oh give me a break. I’m not saying I agree with Moore on every aspect, but I also don’t agree with our administration on every aspect. There are no absolutes here. No one is fully right and no one is fully wrong. I don

  • Paul A’Barge

    “I didn’t vote for Bush the last time and don’t plan to this time”…
    Look. If you vote for anyone but Bush this time around, you’re throwing your vote to the Islamofascists who want to kill us all.
    I don’t care how you want it explained to you, but every way you look at it, it comes out the same. Vote for anyone but Bush, you vote for Bin Laden.
    Given that, since you’ve worked assiduously to depict yourself as a good, patriotic American, please give yourself a moment to rethink your position.
    If Bush loses, every subsequently killed or maimed American’s catastrophe is a mark on your soul.

  • Kim

    What an interesting review! I lived through 9/11 on the Westside. After reading the reviews I have no desire to see the film. To tell the truth I still don’t want to watch any footage from 9/11 nevermind something with political overtures. I still get a pang in my chest and a lurch in my stomach when confronted with unexpected reminders. I don’t even know if I could watch a more quaesitum documentary, the memorials just about broke my heart.

  • Kim (a different one)

    If you vote for anyone but Bush this time around, you’re throwing your vote to the Islamofascists who want to kill us all. … Vote for anyone but Bush, you vote for Bin Laden.
    This is such an insightful & intelligent comment – I don’t even know where to start….

  • kleccy

    Paul A’Barge:
    So if Bush is reelected and in 4 years Bin Laden still isn’t caught, who’s soul should be marked with anyone killed or maimed in the mean time? No one, not Bush, not you, can guarantee that Bin Laden or any other terror leader will be caught in the next 4 years or the next 40. (well by 40, presumably Bin Laden will be dead, but you know what I mean). With Bin Laden I think it has just as much to do with hard work and a little bit of luck as to when he is caught, and very little to do with who exactly is sitting in the White House. Or maybe you’d just rather repeal the 2 term limit for president, and just keep Bush there until the job is done, since he’s the only one who can do it and his methods are inherently the best.
    A vote for anyone but Bush is a vote for Bin Laden?? wow. Sure, because I hear that Bin Laden has excellent health care and economic policies. Do you honestly think the American people would allow whomever get’s elected to just drop the whole war on terror? Seriously?

  • kleccy

    Jeff, great review by the way.
    I’m more than a little tired of Moore’s hypocrisy.

  • Ryan

    “Glassboro State (now called at least by some Rowan University) is a perfectly respectable school. And perhaps it’s not a bad thing that it’s not Yale.”
    But the likelyhood is that the director went when it was still Glassboro State(which was one of the harder state school’s to get into) before Rowan’s money turned it into a really good school.

  • Ryan

    Good point Lauren.
    Frontline has given many of the topics Moore raises serious treatment.

  • Charlie (Colorado)

    I’m more than a little torn. The review of Moore’s mockumentary-without-humor is fine, and as others have said, thanks for dealing with it so we don’t have to.
    I’m torn because the issue of who to vote for comes up.
    I think you and I agree that the fight against islamic fascism is topic A. I’d sure love to see, if you really don’t mean to vote for Bush, how you think voting for Kerry (or Nader, God help us) will be a better choice in dealing with topic A.
    Both my brother and I missed being even closer to the WTC than you were by luck. (I was away, my brother had an appointment at Cantor-Fitz the next day.) I don’t like the direction the Dems have taken because it really looks to me like they’re trying to get me killed.

  • Michael J. Hills

    How can Moore be taken seriously? To me he’s the class clown of the Left, an entertainer, with a comedy act. Sure, some of questions he raises are serious, but that could be said of anyone. Anyone. He reminds me of Karen Finley, smearing himself and others by implication with fake shit and then asking the audience to take those actions and himself/herself seriously.
    Come on, take it for what it is – a movie Pavlov would be proud of.
    Michael J. Hills

  • Ted

    Interesting review. I think you overestimate the ammount of “water cooler” discussion this will get however. I know the blogging world is a political hothouse, but even if this does great for a docu, hardly anyone, broadly speaking, will have seen it. Outside the blue regions most people won’t even be aware of it much less have seen it.

  • http://state29.blogspot.com 29

    I think Christopher Hitchens should consider starting a radio show where he fondles stripper’s breasts all day and talks about having anal sex with his girlfriend to millions of listeners.
    It would make about as much sense as Howard Stern commenting on F911, much less any other political matters.

  • RebeccaH

    I’ve read reviews of Moore’s movie on blogs all over the internet, and not one was really positive about it, even those most disinterested parties. To me, that says the movie is bad as a polemic and worse as a movie.
    I wonder if the Cannes people are wondering how much they’ve damaged their credibility (not that they had a lot with the movie-going public anyway).

  • Todd

    All I can say is that the propagandist, spinmiester Bush administration is getting a dose of its own medicine.
    What goes around, comes around. For every actions, there’s an equal opposite reaction. That’s the way of the world.

  • Alice

    Jeff, Your review was really great. Moore is intellectually lazy and talks only in extremes, which is stupid and dangerous, whether from a Democrat or Republican. White’s review is also fantastically argued. Moore is the Jerry Springer of documentary film makers.

  • ralph phelan

    “asks whether I react similarly to Rush Limbaugh”
    Has Limbaugh ever been caught out in as many flat-out bald-faced lies?
    Has he ever edited somebody’s speeches to make it sound like they said something they never did?
    No, that’s territory of Michael Moore (and Maureen Dowd.) The only example of such looseness with facts that I know of on the right is Ann Coulter.
    Limbaugh may be a drugged-out hypocritical name-calling blustering blowhard, but so far as I know he’s not a chronic liar, which makes him a far better man than Moore.

  • benrand

    Stern is a bonafide two faced douche.
    I don’t know if he’s being paid to flip like this or what, but he’s an unfunny douche who has become Don Imus.
    Howard Hmus.

  • Dogmouth

    Wow, great analysis. Moore ridicules dead soldiers, eh? How does he do that exactly? You neglect to give an example.
    He’s also fat and some old woman at the theatre was ignorant. Ouch!
    The film also fails to inform the audience clearly that bin Laden is evil. Hm, Moore perhaps assumes we already know this?
    And I suppose the audience doesn’t already know Saddam is evil? Nope this film will surely overpower everything else ever written about Iraq and erase America’s memory of Saddam’s evilness.
    And haha! What would Michael Moore have done if he was sitting in that Florida classroom! What did he expect, Bush to run screaming? Ummmm, Bush was not anywhere near the danger, but unlike Moore or other ordinary citizens, he was the U.S. president and commander in chief. Perhaps he could have gotten up and grilled his aides on what was happening? Naw

  • hwapper

    “What is this comparison between Moore and Limbaugh?
    Go ahead, please give me proof-filled examples of LImbaugh engaging in the same tactics Moores does?”
    Rush, to his credit, will usually read things in context. However, I would say Moore elicits the same response from conservatives as Rush does to liberals. Perhaps that’s what he’s comparing?
    Just mho

  • ralph phelan

    “Rush, to his credit, will usually read things in context. However, I would say Moore elicits the same response from conservatives as Rush does to liberals. ”
    [ begin cheap shot mode ]
    The Right hates Moore because of his lies, while
    the Left hates Limbaugh because of his truths.
    [ end cheap shot mode ]

  • Michael Zimmer

    Limbaugh may be a drugged-out hypocritical name-calling blustering blowhard, but so far as I know he’s not a chronic liar, which makes him a far better man than Moore.
    This makes Limbaugh different than Moore, but certainly being a “drugged-out hypocritical name-calling blustering blowhard” can’t be viewed as better than much. Both are polemical, partisan pundits.

  • Sydney Carton

    Let the left embrace Michael moore. The guy is a sociopath who was angry that conservative republicans didn’t die on September 11th, and that “people who didn’t vote for Bush” did.
    His evil permeates everything that he touches. Let the left embrace him. Normal americans can then watch Democrats squirm as they try to answer for him and his pathological delusions.

  • Franky

    http://www.Andrewsullivan.com
    JEFF JARVIS ON MOORE: He does a grand job of evisceration (and he’s not voting for Bush). I will say this: I will generally go see anything. I even sat through “The Passion of the Christ.” But I cannot bring myself to go to this piece of vile, hateful propaganda. I walked out of “Roger and Me” years ago, before Michael Moore was Michael Moore. I know who he is. I refuse to sit in a theater and subject myself to lies and hate.
    - 2:57:19 PM
    This sounds like a lot of the pro-war people here. Notice how he won’t see it, but knows its vile hateful propaganda. Sort of sums a lot of this debate for me.

  • http://nomatt0.blogspot.com matt

    you missed the point. again, its obvious that michael moore edits the video and audio, thats how movies are made, thats how newspapers and television news is made, thats how media has always created its stories. the thing is, its obvious when moore does it. its done tongue in cheek to make you think, to make these arguments take place. i havent seen this movie, but ive seen the rest of his, so im trying not to reference anything too specific.
    everybody knows saddams atrocities, why point that out, nobody is arguing that he wasnt a bad man — nobody. the point is that he killed hundreds of thousands of people, and we already punished him for that. how? we went to war with iraq in 1991, how else? we maintained 10 years of brutal sanctions against iraq that resulted, directly, in the deaths of around 1,500,000 children.

  • paul a’barge

    “Do you honestly think the American people would allow whomever get’s elected to just drop the whole war on terror? Seriously”
    Maybe not the “American” people, but this is certainly true of Democrats. That’s harsh, but I have not a doubt that to be a Democrat today is to be an authentic American traitor in the War against Islamofascism. Anyone who votes for a Democrat this next election cycle, or for anyone other than GWB is making a traitorous decision.
    Again, that’s harsh, I realize, but it’s the unfortunate truth. This country was made vulnerable by Democrats, and it will only be made more vulnerable by those who vote Democrat again.
    Look, this is war. It may not look that crucial from behind a keyboard in a nice loft-apartment, banging away at a blog. But, the only chance we have to win this war is with Bush.
    Don’t vote for Bin Laden. Don’t vote Democrat (or Nader, or for anyone other than Bush). For once, do something selfless for your country and do what it takes to drive our country to victory.

  • Mike

    we maintained 10 years of brutal sanctions against iraq that resulted, directly, in the deaths of around 1,500,000 children.
    This has to be one of the most ridiculous statements made today! Matt, have you been reading about the Oil for Food scandal at the UN? How Saddam was bribing UN members and countries? Don’t even try and blame us for the deaths of Iraqi children during the 10 years of sanctions. That blame again lies with Saddam.
    its done tongue in cheek to make you think, to make these arguments take place.
    Tongue and cheek? Are you kidding me? It’s done deliberately to mislead and incite hatred against those ideals Moore doesn’t like. No sensible arguments or debates come out from his movies, it is all propaganda. And you’re falling for it.

  • Dogmouth

    Hey Paul why aren’t you out there killing those traitors? Don’t you love your country?

  • Bob

    The Right hates Moore because of his lies, while the Left hates Limbaugh because of his truths.
    Limbaugh doesn’t lie? Since when? He turn over a new leaf or something? Crikey.
    If Bush loses, every subsequently killed or maimed American’s catastrophe is a mark on your soul.
    Rubbish. Complete and utter rubbish. And you’re criticizing Moore for propaganda?

  • http://www.thevictorioussnipehunter.blogspot.com John

    Terrific post, Jeff, and good comments, too. I support the war, and will probably check out the Moore pic myself. Namely because I just have to see for myself how much of the movie’s questions already have answers before the release date. Banking on 85% on up.

  • Mike

    How sad. I’ve been reading this blog for a while now, but alas, today, with this ridiculous post, I stop. Yeah, Michael Moore is a wingnut. No sh**. But the Bush administration is frightening, and I’m glad someone is pushing Moore’s argument. What a shame.

  • hwapper

    [ begin cheap shot mode ]
    The Right hates Moore because of his lies, while
    the Left hates Limbaugh because of his truths.
    [ end cheap shot mode ]

    Well, judging by the responses so far, I would say that most of the Moore supporters think Moore is telling the truth…. don’t get me wrong, I think these people are nuts but that’s besides the point. I think the comparison to Rush, wasn’t a comparison to their approach, rather the response generated.
    Limbaugh doesn’t lie? Since when? He turn over a new leaf or something? Crikey.
    If he misrepresents something he tends to correct it, I’ve heard him correct stories before. But Moore does not… he is completely unapologetic and completely delusional.

  • Sydney Carton

    hwapper,
    Don’t forget – Moore’s problem with September 11th is that people who didn’t vote for Bush were killed. If people who DID vote for Bush died, presumably, Moore wouldn’t have a problem with it.
    The man is a clear paranoid sociopath. And it’s not a stretch to say that Farenheight 9/11 isn’t the last of his rants. It will get worse. If Bush wins the election, Moore will truly lose any last grasp of sanity he has.

  • Michael Zimmer

    I would say that most of the Moore supporters think Moore is telling the truth
    My guess is that Moore supporters think there is truth in what Moore is saying (not necessarily that he is “telling the truth”).
    Moore does not [correct stories]… he is completely unapologetic and completely delusional.
    This level of generalization and simplification is amusing. It’s present in many arguments above – on both sides of the debate. This is exactly what Jeff criticizes Moore for; “simple-minded over-generalizations and bilious caricatures.” Aren’t these blogs supposed to foster critical, rational and intelligent debate?

  • Christopher

    Kudos to you Mr. Jarvis.
    Not just saying that because you give a clear account of Moore, but because you show what so much of what the left is lacking. Just as I, as a conservative republican, can be faithful to my ideology while dissenting the right, you show true idividualism and independant thinking as you fairly criticize those who need to be criticized.

  • Mike

    You mean rational debate about the ideas of a man who stated that if there were more black people on the hijacked planes instead of lazy, scared white yuppies that 9/11 wouldn’t have happened because the black people would have fought back?
    There can be no intelligent debate about a movie that it is so partisan, so misleading, so ridiculous, and so filled with lies. Anyone who defends this can not think logically.

  • http://tvh.rjwest.com HH

    Poor Tony swallowed the Moore Kool-Aid long ago…

  • flaime

    Ty Burr hit the nail on the head. Fat and Hot 9/11 isn’t a documentary. It is propaganda. Worse yet, it is not very convincing propaganda, because it only preaches to the converted. Reifenstahl was more subtle.

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