Fahrenheit 9/11 Turns
Up the Heat
I went to Fahrenheit 9/11with a bunch of people who knew each other from work--and there was some real excitement in the air. People had been looking forward to this, talking about it, wondering what they would see, and more: hoping that this film would really help change the direction of things. And when we got to the theater, that feeling was in the long lines waiting to get in. It was a real event.
As I sat down, the guy next to me said, "glad to meet you, glad to see all of us, here, together, on this thing."
"This thing" is exposing the government--and the Bush crew that runs it. Exposing the war in Iraq, the Patriot Act, the stealing of the 2000 election, the worship of the rich, the corruption in high places, and the lies-- above all the LIES, that have now been used to conquer countries, send young men and women to kill and die, and cynically keep millions of people in a manipulated "state of alert."
Fahrenheit 9/11 is hilarious, and savage, and (despite the howls of rightwing attack dogs) overwhelmingly factual. People are sick--to death!--of being muzzled, stifled and gagged. And in this onscreen rush of images and sound, there is a feeling that the cork has been popped. It's like an opening shot to this heated, politicized, dangerous and oh-so-crucial summer.
If you saw Bowling for Columbine you know Michael Moore's scattergun film-making technique--the video snips, the ambush interviews with powerful people, the heart-to-heart with working people in Flint, the sudden comic animation, and the raw satirical juxtaposition of words and images--it is all here. And it is refreshing to see.
Here you get Bush, Rumsfeld, Powell and Cheney swearing (over and over) that there are Weapons of Mass Destruction in Iraq--and that they know just where they are. And then you get the ugly war and occupation.
You get soldiers describing how ugly rock anthems are piped through their tank's CD player, hyping them to "let the muthafukka burn." And then you get the young confused faces of soldiers saying later that they just can't understand why they are still in Iraq, and why the people hate them so bitterly. And then it cuts to GIs at Christmas, kicking in doors, terrifying families in the dark, dragging off the young men, and then gathering around an officer dressed as Santa Claus.
In one unforgettable sequence, Moore introduces us to Lila Lipscomb--a woman who worked her way from poverty into a stable middle class job, who urged her son to join the army, and patriotically raised the flag over her home every morning. And then we see her, with her family, describing how her 26-year-old son died in Iraq, and she reads his last letter that says: "What's wrong with Bush? He got us out here for nothing whatsoever. I'm so furious right now, Mama." And she talks about how she once thought anti-war protesters were insulting her and her soldier-son, and all those who "sacrificed for their country"--and then you see her intense agony and anger as she describes her realization that her son, and so many others, have died in an ugly war that has no lofty purpose.
It is a painful, revealing journey. And it is all the more powerful because, in America today, such stories of war- time loss are rarely being told. In fact, even photographing the arrival of soldiers' caskets is officially forbidden.
Michael Moore has his own peculiar slant on things--I think he misses the whole strategic reason the U.S. conquered Iraq. He views the "corporate" role very narrowly as profit-making and corruption (and really doesn't "get" how controlling the Persian Gulf strategically gives empire builders a grip on the whole world.) He hints like the Bush family may be traitors to the U.S.--because of the closeness and lucrativeness of their intimate ties to Saudi princes--when in reality these Bushes are the emperors, and the Saudi princes (in reality and ultimately) are subordinate and dependent on the empire.
But, at the same time, I had a deep sense of where I think this conversation has to go--how we all have to grapple much more deeply with the scope of these crimes and deceits --to uncover the true nature of these rulers, their motives, their goals, and to get at the reality of how deep the rot goes, and how serious this moment really is.
Bush is, of course, the frontman for these operations--but there is a larger agenda (a global campaign and master plan of war and repression) that has been steamrollering all through Official U.S. Politics (including Democratic Party politics) and stampeding over much of the world. It has the kind of ruthlessness and momentum that only an imperialist superpower can build up.
People came to this movie excited because they haven't been able to see their deepest gut sentiments and political feelings expressed on the official political canvas of this society. It is considered extreme, unpatriotic, even lunatic to hate the "war-time president" this much. It is considered "outside the scope of permittable debate."
Moore supports Kerry in these elections (and he supported General Wesley Clark in the primaries)--but the elephant sitting in a lot of living rooms is this: While millions of people want to oppose the Iraq War and all the domestic Ashcroftian madness, that is not what John Kerry and his campaign represents. The promise of the Democratic ticket (like the Bush White House) is to pursue "the mission" in Iraq to victory.
To stop this aggressive global offensive, we will all have to be part of a great upheaval--something that challenges, defies and derails the designs of a determined empire.
Fahrenheit 9/11 was getting at something very deep when it showed then-Vice President Al Gore personally gaveling down Black congresspeople who were protesting the disenfranchisement of Black voters in Florida. You got a glimmer there of how the Democratic Party betrays the hopes of people over and over, and how it serves the system not the people (even if it means rallying behind the illegitimate presidency of Bush or rubberstamping the fascist Patriot Act without even reading it).
There is a raging offensive underway to discredit and suppress this movie Fahrenheit 9/11. A rightwing attack group, "Citizens United," has demanded that the federal government forbid TV commercials advertising Moore's movie! Another rightwing front group, "Move America Forward," is trying to pressure movie-house chains to stop screening the movie, claiming that Moore is traitorously "profiting in his attacks on America and our military." Some all-too-familiar rightwing zillionaires have financed anti-Moore "documentaries" and organized a "film festival" in Texas where their anti-Moore infomercials would get publicity. And it is not just the rightwing forces who are out to discredit the movie--the very mainstream media and news have been saying (a thousand ways) that Moore is biased and untrustworthy, and that this movie is probably only interesting to committed "Bush-haters."
In short, Moore is accused of being a liar, a propagandist, a traitor and character assassin. And these accusations are made by the rightwing thugs of official politics who (day after day) fill the airwaves and Fox News with their sleezy lies and reactionary ranting.
There is political conflict breaking out at close quarters in the USA--and powerful, high-placed forces truly think they should be able to shout down or legally suppress voices that speak out against them.
Michael Moore has found his own creative way to say "NO!" to this Bush agenda, to its juggernaut of war and repression. He has said it with his satirical, impish and provocateurish riffs--from his own, social democratic point of view.