Notes on the Atrocities
Like a 100-watt radio station, broadcasting to the dozens...

Friday, July 02, 2004  

I finally saw Fahrenheit 9/11. More commentary about the film you don't need--but of course, it's exactly what you get. How can I resist?

As film, it's not particularly satisfying. He's telling two stories here, and neither one very well. The first is that Bush is a plutocrat, a front for the international oilmen and their interests. Moore spends far too long spinning the convoluted tale lifted from House of Bush, House of Saud, and then he drops it. The second half is an indictment of the Iraq invasion, but one that ineffectively makes the argument that the motivation was oil. His strongest argument is that the poor fight wars for the wealthy, but he doesn't link the oil business and the war. As a private beef, I think he selected from potential weapons against Bush just the knives and .22s--he left the really big guns (the neocon influence, the lies, Bush's entire domestic agenda) on the table.

But it doesn't matter. Michael Moore is not trying to win awards (though he has), he's trying to win ink and eyeballs. Given the state of American media, his argument is shocking: George W. Bush is an evil fraud who wages war to enrich the elite at the expense of the poor who do the dying. If you get half-assed filmmaking from Moore, it's because he's half PT Barnum. But it's the PT Barnum that puts bodies in seats. Moore, with a little help from the carny barkers in Cannes, announced on every medium that he was telling the story of The Most Corrupt President Ever! It doesn't matter if his methods are imprecise; like Barnum, he's got a real McCoy sideshow, and all he has to do is rustle a crowd. The spectacle will do the rest.

For all their outrage at his "lies," the right hasn't even tried to touch the thesis. Bush is a fraud, his war did enrich the elite and did spill the blood of the poor. A century ago, as wealth pooled and power tended toward plutocracy, Emma Goldman scared the elite by telling Americans that if they were starving, they should take the bread of the rich. Never mind that it was outrageous and inflammatory. It was potent because it wasn't spin--it captured the essence of the truth. Moore's film is cut from that rhetorical cloth. It's a call to arms. It may be manipulative and outrageous, but by the time the credits roll, you forgive Moore for his excesses--you know his point is right on.

posted by Jeff | 7:43 AM |
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