That movie

Saw Faranheit 9/11 last night, and mostly enjoyed it. Moore has largely suspended his most provocative ticks, i.e., he spins the creepy circumstantial evidence of the Bush family's relationship to the Saudis, the behind-the-scenes oil interests in Iraq and Afghanistan, etc., but stops short of any explicit conspiracy theories. Many on the right will hold this up as an example of Moore's failings (see Hitchens, Christopher, here), and in many ways it is.

Moore has not made a clear-eyed, unassailable indictment of the Bush administration. But his movie does bring to light, in some startling and marvelous ways, the contradictions of the last three years. And as much as you disagree with the specifics (his crude evasion of the humanitarian argument for the war, pitting Iraqi children flying kites and a voiceover about how this country had never threatened one American civilian life vs. the shock and awe bombing, is facile and naive), the broader themes he brings to life are chilling and right on, and this is no small achievement. There are plenty of left wing nutballs out there ready to spread outrageous theories and make shit up about Republicans. But you know what? Harvey Weinstein doesn't invest in their movies. That's the uncomfortable truth about Michael Moore: his genius doesn't lie in his control of the facts, but rather in his control of the absurd.

The sequence in "Farenheit" detailing H.W. Bush's relations with the Saudis (replete with rock song montage of G1 gladhanding various turban'd men) doesn't floor you because you have a revelation that the Bush-Saud cabal has taken over the world--it floors you because an American president, the man with more power than any over the future of the world, is pimping his connections, and your democratic prerogative, in exchange for his and others' enrichment. There's no secret there. And that's why Moore's movies are ultimately very simple. They are about injustice and dishonesty, and the lies we tell to convince ourselves it doesn't exist.

No one saw "Roger and Me" because they thought Moore had a solution for the inconsistencies of global capitalism and post-industrial cities. They saw it (and were moved by it) because it mirrored our secret doubts and guilts that our corporate culture's exhortation to be strong in the face of economic transition wasn't worth a whit compared to personal human suffering, and was in fact, unnervingly self-interested.

In essence, Farenheit 9/11 is offering a hypothetical. What if the people leading our country, the people in control of our safety and responsible for the lives of our neighbors and children in the military, was motivated by an unholy mix of inertia, greed, and cowardice? What would you tell yourslf to pretend this wasn't true? And what if you're telling yourself that right now? P.S. You are.

It's a dicey proposition, I know. Such is satire. And no doubt there are many people who will not use the film "responsibly". But watch the movie, and find yourself overwhelmed--not with Moore's airtight case, but with the nagging contradictions, the blindness we've allowed ourselves, and then ask whether that's any way to run a country.


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