You might find this shocking. But I like Michael Moore. Fuck it man, I love Michael Moore. Not that I ever met the dude but I love his pictures and his TV shows. I think he is a great satirist who finds goofy ways to illustrate his points and make them sink in better (like the time on The Awful Truth when he hired an actual pimp to turn out the bitches and hoes of congress, or the time he handed out fluorescent orange wallets to black New Yorkers so they wouldn’t get shot by cops like Amadou Diallo did).
I have heard this story on the internet and what not about how Michael Moore is a dangerous dude, his movies are big scary manipulative propaganda lies. And he has these legions of loyal zombie followers who don’t understand humor, irony or the art of motion picture editing. They watch his movies and they think they are a direct uplink from objective scientific reality into their brain. They don’t know how to process the information for themselves. They take it all as literally as these numbskull republicans do, and they don’t ever read or hear about the topic again. They are permanently brainwashed to unquestioningly believe Michael Moore’s crazy, bizarre, venomous hate filled extreme left wing conspiracy theories. Like the one about how everyone deserves affordable health care, or that one from Bowling For Columbine about – get the tin foil hats ready man – I mean, this is almost too crazy to even say out loud – we should try to figure out why our society is so violent.
The only problem with this theory about people being so susceptible to the danger of Michael Moore is that I am having trouble tracking down any of these fuckers. The weird thing is I live in Seattle, one of the most liberal cities in the country and proud of it. I hardly even know any republicans. And I find myself CONSTANTLY trying to defend Michael Moore. From people who agree with him completely, but don’t like his movies. They have soaked up this media created reputation and they are afraid to embrace him. Even on Air America, the one existing outlet that could legitimately be called “the liberal media,” I heard a positive review of the movie that was full of hedges about Michael Moore, how you always have reservations about a Michael Moore film, basically portraying him as some crazy extreme nutball like the right wing chapter of the liberal media does. And that’s all over the place. Everybody doing “fact checks” where they have partisan republicans examine the movie with nobody representing the movie. (And they still don’t come up with anything, but try to spin it like there was some reason to be very suspicious of the movie.)
I mean at least be fucking honest. Stop pretending like you are the underdog who has to argue against the juggernaut of Michael Moore and the leftist bullies. Yes he has the money of Harvey Weinstein, but he’s still going up against the entire “news” media, a republican president, a republican congress, a general lack of interest in documentaries, a number of right wing PR groups, and a whole bunch of bitchy sometime liberals that have to prove their street cred by showing that they are above Michael Moore and his baseball hat.
And I know what’s coming up next too. The Christopher Hitchens piece on slate.com. The one that every right wing asshole in the world carries around in his pocket as proof that there is a one-time liberal who hated Fahrenheit 9-11. Like it’s a big fucking surprise. (Skip this paragraph if you don’t care about that article.) I was curious what there was to even argue with this movie, so I read the article. I think the guy is being as unfair as he accuses the movie of being. He plays dumb, pretending to not understand the arguments Moore is making, so that he can then argue against a different point that Moore is not making. For example, he pretends that he thinks Moore contradicts himself by saying that Bush ignored warnings about terrorism, then issued too many. When in fact Moore is just saying what most anybody else would, that they should stop issuing fake terror warnings for political reasons. Obviously it is okay to both heed actual terrorist warnings and to not issue fake ones. That is not a contradiction. Then Hitchens talks about the segments about poor security at airports and the lack of police guarding the Oregon coastline, saying that Moore is contradicting himself, asking for more harsh security conditions. But Hitchens is a smart guy so I’m going to assume he is bright enough to understand the actual point of the segments: If you go past the speeches and the headlines, and look at the actual world of reality, you realize that the “war on terror” is a phoney political stunt being cynically exploited in many ways, not an actual serious attempt to stop terrorism. I mean this isn’t the fucking Cremaster series, it’s pretty straightforward, and I expect that an intelligent dude who writes books and editorials all the time knows how to watch a fucking movie, pay attention, etc. At one point Hitchens shamelessly over-literalizes Moore’s narration that Iraq was not a threat to us, and scolds him as if he genuinely believes that Moore thought Saddam was a great guy and “not a problem.” And he goes on (and on and on and fucking on) to compare Moore’s documentary to the more serious-toned documentary based on his book The Trials of Henry Kissinger. As if to say that there is only one legitimate approach to a political documentary: his. Everything else is “lies” and even “crap.” If a guy as knowledgeable and experienced as Hitchens can write an article that long and insufferable and bitter and not come up with any convincing arguments against the movie then I would have to guess that it is a pretty solid piece of work.
The most ridiculous attack on the movie though has to be from Ray Bradbury. I don’t know how a guy who was once such a genius could now turn out to be a complete moron. If you haven’t heard, he is saying that Michael Moore “stole” his title, and has hinted of a possible (completely groundless and embarassing) lawsuit. It is amazing to me that the guy who wrote Fahrenheit 451 could be so dumb to not even understand that the title is a REFERENCE to his title, acknowledging its important place in our culture. If you don’t know that 451 is about a government burning books to destroy dangerous ideas, then how would you know what “Fahrenheit 9-11” even means? Fine Bradbury, go sue Michael Moore. And Sam Peckinpah can come back from the dead to sue him for saying that his book “Stupid White Men” could have been called “Bring Me the Head of Antonin Scalia.” Meanwhile, George Romero can sue that guy who made SHAUN OF THE DEAD. Sergio Leone can sue Robert Rodriguez for ONCE UPON A TIME IN MEXICO. Scorsese and Welles can have a joint lawsuit against Troma for LAST TEMPTATION OF TOXIE and CITIZEN TOXIE. Bram Stoker can go after the makers of BLACULA, BUNNICULA and GAYRACULA. And everyone will stop making references to everyone else, art will stop building off of other art, society will stop growing, Ray Bradbury will be happy, and the world will be a better place. Good job Bradbury, thanks for fixing art. Good one.
Anyway, I guess I should talk about the damn movie. The first section of the movie (after a great opening) is mostly a list of facts about the long history of the Bush family’s relations with the Saudi royal family and the bin Laden family, and the idea that maybe, just maybe, we should worry about this. That maybe it is suspicious that our leaders are making so much money with these people and at the same time, are being so god damn easy on them. This is the least involving part of the movie and the part that all the attacks focus on, because it’s the part that they can nitpick at. It’s mostly stuff you’ve heard before if you follow these things, and it’s all well documented. In fact all the facts in the movie were carefully fact-checked by an all star team. But of course they’ll find something to try to pick at (Hitchens’ solution is to say that it’s all a “lie” because the 9-11 Commission’s final report didn’t state an objection to the bin Laden family members being flown out of the country without being interviewed.)
When the movie really gets rolling is when it gets more into the Iraq War, and further away from the Michael Moore style. There are a couple amusing scenes with his trademark guerilla theater style (trying to recruit the children of members of Congress for the war gets one priceless facial expression) but they are short and sweet. The real good stuff is when he stays out of the way and lets a mother talk about her dead son, or goes to a veteran’s hospital to talk to soldiers who got their arms and legs blown off, or especially when his second unit is “embedded” with some soldiers in Iraq. You see these kids talking about what CDs they listen to while they kill. You even see them putting bags on civilians’ heads, pushing them around, calling them “Ali Bab” and laughing at them. Busting into houses in the middle of the night, scaring the crap out of innocent old ladies. Saying why they “hate this country.”
What scared me most about this stuff was that I’ve never seen it on the news. How many fucking hundreds of hours of news have I seen since this war started, and I have never seen one shot of a soldier missing a limb. Or criticizing the war. I’ve seen a few grieving parents, but rarely criticizing the war, and if so in a half-sentence sound bite, played once and never repeated or mentioned again. And the way the soldiers are treating these random civilians? I’d read about the shit but not in american papers. And I’ve never seen it even discussed on TV. And when the Abu Ghraib photos came out, everybody acted shocked. And yet somehow it was Michael Moore’s camera crew, happened to be the only ones they did this in front of? Sorry media, you’re fucking liars. You guys saw this shit going on all the time. And you were too caught up in your embeddededness to report on it honestly.
That’s the thing – if the american news media had been doing their job, there would be no Fahrenheit 9-11. There’d be nothing new to report. So you fucks in the media, stop complaining about this movie. It’s your fault it even exists.
There is some funny shit in this movie. Clever uses of music, a few pop culture references (using clips from Dragnet to show how the notorious Saudi flights out of the country don’t match up with the american idea of law enforcement). There are also alot of good arguments made in the movie, but it doesn’t even matter. What you will remember will be the horror of the war, the tragedy of the relatives who have lost their loved ones. How the fuck do you argue with that? How is he misleading you?
I want to see these anti-Michael Moore crusaders tell me how those scenes were lies. Yeah, actually, that lady wasn’t THAT sad that her son was killed in a war that he had concluded was a lie. They left out that part. And those soldiers in the hospital that lost their faith in George Bush along with their limbs? What about all the parts they still had? Like their ears and noses. They still have some parts. And I mean he should show both sides of the story. He should show how there was that one guy without legs who runs real fast in the olympics. That would be more fair and balanced.
I hope Moore isn’t moving away from the kind of satire he did on his TV shows, but it’s also good to see him having such success with this more straightforward style. This is the first movie that really seems to have captured the vomit-in-your-mouth feel of the Bush II era.
I don’t know whether it’s hilarious or infuriating when people say that the movie is unfair because it doesn’t show both sides of the argument. Why doesn’t he show the OTHER side of the argument, the one about how Saddam Hussein and democracy and freedom and p.s. terror? Why doesn’t he show THAT one, huh? AMERICA!
I’ll tell you why, you fucking retards. Because we’ve had that side of the story rammed down our throats, up our asses and into our underwear drawers for later by every Bush speech, every sunday morning talk show, every fucking cable news network, every Judith Miller story, every embarassing bumpersticker, every tasteless country music hack… for two fucking years. Maybe it’s okay to assume that people who see this movie might have eyes and ears, and might be familiar with that argument. Maybe. It’s possible. In fact, maybe their need to hear more of THIS side of the story might have a little tiny bit to do with the movie’s huge record breaking opening weekend. Just something worth considering there for you pal. thanks.
And by the way, since when did you fucking conservatives decide that you need to explore all sides of an issue? I thought the whole idea was that conservatives know there’s a right side and a wrong side, and liberals waste their time trying to consider every possible viewpoint. Now all the sudden conservatives are shocked and outraged that Michael Moore isn’t exploring every color on the rainbow, every raindrop from the sky, every facet of the diamond of America? Give me a fucking break. You’re embarassing yourselves.
By the way, you will notice a catch phrase being used alot lately by the right wing: if you are a reasonable american concerned about what these criminals are doing to our country, then you are part of “the blame America first crowd.” This phrase even made it into a Disney press release for some “pro-American” documentary being advertised as an antidote to “Michael Moore’s blame America first documentary Fahrenheit 9-11.” I’m sorry, I like that fucking mouse with the red pants as much as anybody. I love the pirate ride and the splash mountain and everything. But I wouldn’t take that kind of bullshit even if it came from animatronic Abe Lincoln himself. This is a movie defending American ideals from those who are happy to wipe their asses with them. And I’m sorry, if you consider that to be “anti-American”, then you are a fucking retard. I know, I know, I promised to stop using that word. But I conferred with various retarded people and they all agreed yes, please Vern, call these people retards, because that’s what they are.
But I guess you’re right, I WOULD have to first blame America for invading Iraq. Second I would blame Britain, and third I guess I would blame Marilyn Manson? Gangster rap? Violent video games? I don’t know. But yes, America would have to get the first blame for what America did. That is true.
But let me tell you a reason why I am proud of America. I believe that Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Ashcroft, Rice, Powell, and company are liars, profiteers, war criminals. Some of them are religious nuts, others are possibly insane, all of them are scumbag assholes who have cynically exploited americans’ natural instincts to believe in their country, and they have used it to commit atrocities around the world and earn money doing it. They have destroyed our reputation around the world, made us (and many other countries) less safe, and have done damage to our laws, our constitution, our media, our judicial system, our elections and our political discourse that could take years or even decades to fix. They are real good at starting wars and real, real, REAL bad at fighting them. Imagine that. It’s like a serial killer who ISN’T EVEN GOOD AT MURDERING PEOPLE. Complete depravity and ineptitude rolled up into one.
AND YET, here’s where I get to the proud part: even this criminal regime will not overpower the american system. They are trying, they are succeeding in some respects, but they cannot completely overtake it. They have to sneak around and try to find loopholes. Even under the most tyrannical and corrupt american regime in anybody’s memory, we still have a country where a movie like FAHRENHEIT 9-11 can be made and released. It is that freedom, still built into our system despite everything, and the spirit of people like Michael Moore, that will throw these assholes off their seats of power and… well… probably into multibillion dollar weapons contracting corporations. But hopefully into a big pile of shit.
VERN has been reviewing movies since 1999 and is the author of the books SEAGALOGY: A STUDY OF THE ASS-KICKING FILMS OF STEVEN SEAGAL, YIPPEE KI-YAY MOVIEGOER!: WRITINGS ON BRUCE WILLIS, BADASS CINEMA AND OTHER IMPORTANT TOPICS and NIKETOWN: A NOVEL. His horror-action novel WORM ON A HOOK will arrive later this year.