Tuesday, January 29, 2008
Fahrenheit 9/11, Michael Moore’s daring documentary on the events that caused the September 11, 2001 hijacking attacks on the United States and the reason for its waging of war against Afghanistan and Iraq comes in the wake of the worldwide cynicism regarding who the real terrorist is. While it is shocking to witness a country touted to be “the best damn planet on earth” reduced into shambles, it is rather not surprising that one of President George Bush’ staunch critics such as Moore should accuse him of bungling his job and of actually benefiting from a national tragedy. Only, Moore’s film went several steps too many to tread the path to shameless propaganda. Yes, this film is more of a propaganda than a straightforward documentary. Presented with a provocative documentary like this just when social anxiety runs way too high, viewers will likely emerge screaming out of the movie house more because of paranoia than assault to incredulous sensibilities. Moore has already established himself as a leading documentary filmmaker in Hollywood. But can we consider this film a documentary? A documentary, as defined by the Webster’s Universal Dictionary and Thesaurus, presents “a factual account of an event or activity.” It is a nonfiction exposition of a specific issue in society, being able to portray both sides of the story and letting its audience decide freely for themselves which side to heap trust on. Fahrenheit 9/11 is undoubtedly meant to discredit President Bush. Calling the film a documentary is like calling a duck the mother of pearl. The truths used in the film are twisted out of context in order to present occurrences in a different light. This is evident with the editing which, while laudable for its cleverness, ripped off circumstances in order to foist in the viewers’ mind that Bush is an incompetent chief, an opportunist and a war freak. If one’s brain is impressionable, a president caught being in touch with his humanity (i.e. Bush’ playing golf) is rather unbecoming for someone whose supreme position entails work, work, work. All job and no play will have sounded like a silly excuse for this, but Moore features a light moment of the President, and then decides that Bush is playing a Nero at a time of Roman distress instead of busying himself with rigorous presidential tasks back in Washington.
With Fahrenheit 9/11, Moore has once again capitalized on insinuations as in his past films--a diversion from the essence of a documentary. Again, if one only takes in what is being fed by Moore without it being turned over in one’s head, then it is easy to say that Bush fished in troubled waters when the US launched warfare against Afghanistan first, then Iraq. How? Moore presented Bush’ single degree of separation from the moneyed Bin Ladens, a member of whom is the prime hijacking suspect Osama. This association is business in nature, and it is not beyond Moore to suggest that Bush and the Bin Ladens maintain an economic mutuality. What’s more, in waging war in Middle East, Bush, whose family corporation includes armament supplies, actually benefits from the Afghan and Iraq Wars because his family-owned company services the US Defense. Proclaiming the President’s unabashed involvement in such a business at the expense of his nation crosses the delineation between objectivity and subjectivity. The film wants to convince the people of its own version of truth, unmasking itself of the propaganda that it is--a propaganda meant to slant the Americans against the real enemy that is their President.
The part wherein Bush is shown so dumbfounded about the freshly-wrought 9/11 attacks that the most he could do was read a preschooler’s book seems contrasted with the starkness of his conviction to lead the fight of the Americans against the country’s terrorists. Of course, Moore implies that Bush is such a haphazard bully as to judge Afghanistan and Iraq as terrorists’ lair without thinking of the imminent threat his decision brings along toward innocent civilians of these relatively defense-inferior countries. Now it can be told that there are no weapons of mass destruction hidden in Iraq and that Osama Bin Laden remains at large, but to show the idiocy of someone elected by one of the most democratic nations in the world seems also an affront to the US. While Bush indeed made a grave blunder by launching war, veiling Bush’s motive of sustaining world peace is just too much. In this, the propaganda has struck a raw vein because the joke is on Moore himself.
In line with all these insinuations, Moore has ignored the other side completely. He did not even try to hide his disgust with President Bush. Scenes are displayed in order to show the flaws of the President. With America being threatened and paranoid of further terrorism attacks, government officials had mistaken several parties for being “terrorists” themselves. They hired an agent to spy on UNESCO, a peace-loving group which aims to propagate harmony in the midst of the situation then. A gym buff was awaken from his sleep in his apartment by policemen since they had received reports that he had been talking about terrorism, Iraq and oil companies. A mother had been suspected of carrying drugs, while it was only a bottle of breastfed milk she prepared for her child. In terms of national security, this successful satire displayed the state of Oregon, having insufficient means of protection. Only one man, not given a handbook on security guidelines, stands by its coast, in the hopes of harboring the state from suspicious terrorists. Oregon’s only police center is also not equipped with adequate resources, with a part time worker and a malfunctioned telephone booth. In view of the state’s counter-terrorism efforts, a deficient army has also been one of the issues presented in the social propaganda. In response to this, members of the US army saunter along middle class shopping centers to draw individuals, mostly students, in joining the military. These occasions depict Bush as a defective leader, not presenting any circumstance in favor of him. It is different from saying that Bush is a proficient President. However, these anti-Bush events are not balanced with pro-Bush ones, deeming Fahrenheit 9/11 as subjective and biased.
Moore has a reputation of manipulating the truth. Thus, viewers have no way to assess whether any tampering had been done with several interviews presented. One of which is with Lisa Lipscomb, filming her when her son was still alive and later after his death. It is as if to portray a shift of emotions --from being loyal to the country to cursing the man seated inside the Oval. It’s truly a moving material but Moore’s reputation deprived this of its power. His character demands the audience to regard everything in his films with skepticism. Nobody knows how much of it is actually real.
The scenes displayed were very clear—clear enough to infiltrate Bush’s flawed character in the observer’s mind. However, Fahrenheit 9/11 signifies a bombardment with bullets flying in all directions. These discrepant shots do not cohere at any point. They jump all over the place, gaining occasional hits but never establishing Moore’s agenda in the first place. The narrative was also delivered in his voice. Merely by the explicit use of words such as “associations with Osama bin Laden” and “Is that a kind of president we would have?” proves that Moore uses this “documentary” as a rhetoric device to dishonor and shame President George Bush. More importantly, how sure are we that the scenes and the voice-overs are in the same context? Moore might have interpreted the scenes according to his schema, ripping them out of their true context. His heart may be in the right place but his execution is totally amiss. Hence, Moore’s efforts may be considered as reprehensible.
Fahrenheit 9/11 is a poignant and emotionally charged film. It is not a documentary, but a man’s provocative attempt to permeate into one’s mind. It is a dangerous film, incapable of attracting viewers on merit and a shameless political manifesto, lacking the power to impact undecided voters. If one’s beliefs are not grounded on solid foundations, then he should not even consider viewing this film. Balance is what we seek to find here, but there had not been any here. We only discover media outtakes and video discards, adroitly maneuvered, that have formed an appalling distortion of the truth.