Screen Reviews

Fahrenheit 9/11

directed by Michael Moore

starring George Bush, and a bunch of lying warmongers.

Lion’s Gate Films


Daniel Ellsberg, in his book Secrets, paints a compelling picture of a person who recognizes an injustice, and comes to realize that he is in a unique position to make a difference. In Ellsberg’s case, as a Rand Corporation analyst and advisor to the Defense Department, he had first hand knowledge of the duplicity of our government, spanning multiple administrations, about the war in Vietnam. By releasing the McNamara Report, known as the Pentagon Papers, he exposed the decades of lies that led us into, and kept us for years in an unwinnable war. He came to believe that no matter the personal cost he had to attempt to alert the world to the facts that he knew. To not do so would be, ultimately, to aide and abet evil.

It is apparent that filmmaker Michael Moore feels much the same drive. Like many Americans, he saw that his government had lied to him, but unlike most of us, Moore had the ability and means to do something about it. The result, the blistering indictment of the Bush administration Fahrenheit 9/11, is a compelling, intelligent and extremely emotional look at the utter contempt our government holds for the truth, its own citizens, and the world. The trademark “Moore-isms” are held to a minimum. The only moment you laugh out of humor rather than chuckle in irony is when Moore rides around Congress in an ice cream truck reading the Patriot Act. Undoubtedly sensitive to the criticisms of Bowling for Columbine’s numerous shadings and distortions, Moore has made sure that this film is as accurate as he can make it. Does that mean that the film is even-handed and objective? No. Not at all. And frankly, after 4 years of White House lies and Fox News warmongering, having someone present an opposing viewpoint is little more than an attempt at equal time. By seemingly limiting the film to only those items that are unimpeachably true, Moore has had to exercise an amount of restraint that both his fans and foes will find surprising.

There is nothing in this film that can be called “liberal propaganda” or “conspiracy stuff”. When Moore quotes the Washington Post’s statement that prior to 9/11 Bush spent 42% of his time on vacation, it doesn’t distort Bush’s record, it merely states it. When it shows how the White House altered Bush’s service record by blacking out the name James Bath, who served with Bush in the Air National Guard and went on to be a bagman for bin Laden family, it simply presents this fact and asks the viewer to ponder the reasons behind it. At best, Bush is depicted as an incompetent, inarticulate boob. And while this might be easy to swallow, the notion that he and his administration (and family) are in the pocket of Saudi Arabia, have waged war purely for financial reasons, and are indifferent to the pain and suffering that their actions have caused is harder to watch and accept, but no less believable.

Moore’s talents as a filmmaker are most evident in his juxtapositions. Rumsfeld is shown crowing about the “humanitarian” bombing skills of our military, followed by clips of anguished mothers weeping over slain family members, whose homes were leveled without evidence of a military target. Bush the cowboy’s “Bring it on” is followed by a graphic explanation of what “bringing it on” means to an occupied country – butchered and burned American bodies drug thru the streets. The “reasons” for the war – at least the ones trumpeted by the White House and its lapdogs in the press, anyway – are countered by statements from Powell and Rice stating, in early 2001, that Iraq had no weapons of mass destruction, no systems in place to develop any, and in fact, not even what could be called a military. It is compelling and forceful.

I watched this movie twice on its opening weekend. The second time, it was with my 17-year-old son. Watching the movie with someone who is the most important person in my life, as well as potential cannon fodder should a draft be enacted, filled me with fear and rage. I’m far too well read on the topics discussed in the film for anything in it to strike me as new, but seeing it depicted as Moore does so skillfully, only hardens my resolve to work for Bush’s ouster, and more importantly, to assure that the government will never get their lying hands on my son. Never.

Both times the theaters were packed, and as I write this, the movie was the top-grossing film of the weekend. As encouraging as this is, I doubt that more than a small portion of the crowd wasn’t already on Moore’s side walking into the theatre. The people who need to see this film – the ones with Bush/Cheney signs on their cars, or with 17-year-old kids in the house – most likely never will. The movie seems to be a lightning rod for controversy, a lot of which Moore brought upon himself with his slipshod methods on Columbine, but above that, the right wing seems hell-bent to denounce the film without first viewing it, organizing a supposed “grassroots” movement to threaten theatre chains from showing the film. And another group, Citizens United, are trying to shut down advertisements for the film by stating that they run afoul of campaign election law, by using images of Bush.

These are the acts of people afraid to face facts, enter into debate, or to admit that there can exist a contrasting viewpoint to their own. They have branded Moore, and by virtue of association, anyone who agrees with him, as un-American. In this, they are partially correct. The people who cheer this film do hate the lying, imperialistic obscenity that presents itself as America. They hate Bush’s smirk as he kills innocent children. They hate the brazen disregard for the truth that seems a hallmark of this administration. They hate those in our society that seem willing • nay, eager – to ignore facts and tie Iraq to 9/11 in an attempt to give some legitimacy to the war. But these same people do love their country. And hopefully, in November, they will do what is in their power and oust the current regime. In some part Fahrenheit 9/11 may well play a hand in that – Moore is planning on releasing the film on DVD in October, just in time for a refresher before the election.

This is a compelling, vital film that deserves as wide an audience as possible. To those on the right who refuse to see it, you are only showing yourself to be narrow-minded fools. And as Moore artfully, humorously, and at times painfully shows, so is the man you voted for.

Farenheit 9/11:

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