Film Review – Fahrenheit 9/11

Taking Sides

(Originally published in Inform Magazine, July 2004)

I’ve worked out a strange difference between Britain and the United States. In that enlightened country, right wing nutcases tend to use the word ‘Liberal’ as a term of abuse. Over here we tend to do the same, it’s just that it’s the mad-eyed left wingers who tend to freely (ab)use it.
Over in the United States, they’re getting into a right fume about Fahrenheit 9/11, Michael Moore’s new documentary about George W. Bush’s reactions to the September 11th attacks. On the one hand it’s blatant left-wing propoganda of the vilest sort, propogated by a liberal media (as if that’s somehow a bad thing to have); on the other it’s the best film ever made and a lone voice in the wilderness decrying the state of the world. One thing it isn’t, however, is a documentary.
What it is is a sharply scripted diatribe against the Bush administration that often takes your breath away with it’s incisive humour. And there lies the problem. Moore attempts to point out that, after them planes hit them towers, the US gained a lot of understandable worldwide sympathy, something that was immediately lost when Bush and his administration used the subsequent ‘war on terror’ to invade Iraq. But because the film is so one-sided, it doesn’t cover every relevent event with the right amount of focus.  Get that Michael? If you want to sustain sympathy, it’s best to not undermine your credibility by distorting facts and offering biased interpretations.
To be fair to him, Moore tries his best to be the documentarian and present most of the facts in the film in as dry and uncommented on a manner as possible. The opening salvo proving links between Bush and the bin Laden family are stunning. But then we veer away from this to present some very moving, but ultimately empty, images of how the Iraq war is currently effecting the world, with inevitable detours to Moore’s hometown of Flint, Michigan.
Moore seemingly can’t help get himself in trouble. His undoubted masterpiece so far, Bowling for Columbine, suffered after some of the people interviewed in the film subsequently complained that their answers to questions were heavily edited and gave a skewed version of what they wanted to say. Recently, Moore even tried to dip his toe into politics by putting his considerable bulk behind General Wesley Clarke for Democratic candidate, but his heavy-handed approach and the complaints resulting from a claim he made about one of Clarke’s rivals resulted in Clarke’s campaign becoming swiftly stillborn. Some wags in America made the comment that if Moore really wanted to bring down Bush he would do best campaiging for him.
That’s the problem with taking any kind of action in a divided world. If you want to ensure the support of the vast majority of Muslims in the world against an extremist minority, it’s probably best not to invade an Islamic country for blatantly false reasons. And if you want to ensure the support of the vast majority of Americans against a leader who uses such tactics, then you would want to avoid the charge of manipulation.
So what are we to make of Moore comforting the mother of a dead US soldier? Is it making a political point that we were previously unaware of or is it, as it has been called, blatant manipulation?
Fahrenheit 9/11 should have the feel of a documentary looking back on events from 60 years ago, as with the recent wave of D-Day documentaries. It should be presenting the unalloyed certainty of the facts involved with the Bush administration. Even when it strives for this it still feels wrong. It feels like one of those prats who seems to think that he’s the only one who likes a record. Sorry to puncture your bubble mate, but lots of people like Gang of Four, and the way you’re going on about it will only make them re-evaluate their opinion.
Even the timing of Moore’s documentary feels off, with him trying desperately to get it out before the election, rather than waiting until after Bush’s tenure as a true documentarian should. If he thinks he will persuade people not to vote for Bush, it’s more than likely that it will just harden Bush’s supporters even more against the supposed ‘propoganda’ of Hollywood. Hmm, Maybe Moore does secretly support Bush after all.


About klausjoynson
I'm a writer, editor, musician, DJ and cartoonist. Contact me at: klausjoynson(at) or follow me on Twitter: @KlausJoynson

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