August 02, 2004 | Graham

More on Moore

I’m still getting around to putting my thoughts on paper about Fahrenheit 9/11, although they’re well and truly mustered. In the meantime I’ve decided to collect any electronic reviews of Fahrenheit 9/11 that I am sent and publish them here, with the author’s permission of course. I’m not a lazy columnist, but it is luxurious to have someone else more or less providing your copy.
This review is from Sukrit Sabhlok.

Dear Mr Michael Moore…

In the 20th century many would say it was Orson Welles, with Citizen Kane, his famous critique of American capitalism and in particular media magnate William Randolph Hearst, who ignited a flame of controversy in the Western world. Nowadays it’s you, Michael Moore, employing a significantly different tactic – that of the documentary – who’s revelling in your self-appointed role as critical film maker catering to the masses.
For sure, you try your best to be just an average, run-of-the-mill guy. In your films it’s your sarcastic laid back attitude, frequent donning of baseball caps and layman simplicity that shout to the viewer: ‘Hey, I’m just an average Joe.’ And if anyone still doesn’t believe you’re a working class American (deep down inside that is) they can look to the fact that you never managed to pass university and obtain a bachelors degree, and that you dropped out to pursue professional activism, which you then mixed with journalism.
Most of us remember your Academy Award acceptance speech, but not everyone can see that there’s a certain driving force behind your ramblings. Yet I know you’re a guy who knows exactly what he’s setting out do to with his anti-Bush “diatribe”, and to a perhaps greater extent, exactly how to do it. As expected, your latest work – Fahrenheit 9/11 – is gritty when it should be smooth sailing, insensitive when the utmost sensitivity should be displayed and plain stupid when what’s required is tact and judgement.
I’d like to share a couple of general suggestions as a member of the viewing public to a political documentary maker. First, don’t assume brainwashing techniques always work – the public knows when they aren’t hearing the other side of the argument. It’s important to retain some semblance of fair and balanced reporting if you wish to keep your credibility. Second, snide sarcasm during inappropriate moments is not an appealing thing. Third, try not to use other people’s film footage in a distorted fashion.
In one of the scenes where you showed buildings blowing up, why did you do it just to give the effect of indiscriminate bombing of civilians by the US? Why didn’t you tell the public that these were really Ministry of Defence buildings in an area where no member of the public was allowed (under punishment of death)? In spite of numerous attempts to discredit you (one of your persistent critics, Dave Kopel from the Independent Institute, has compiled a list of more than 50 “deceits” in Fahrenheit 9/11) let’s pretend for a moment there isn’t a single distortion in your film, and that there’s also not a single factual inaccuracy.
Now we’re left with the question of how you could’ve portrayed your case against the Bush Administration in a better way, meaning a way in which the neo-conservative hawks wouldn’t be able to slam down so easily as propaganda. For starters you shouldn’t have twisted the footage of Australian documentary maker George Gittoes to suit your agenda. About seventeen selections in Fahrenheit are taken from an Australian war documentary, Soundtrack to War and were used against the objection of Gittoes.
“I was concerned of course for my soldiers because their interviews were taken out of context,” Mr Gittoes told the Nine Network. I thought your heart was genuinely in the right place with Bowling for Columbine Even after Fahrenheit 9/11 (the decision to watch it was a test of my own personal objectivity) I still agreed with you to an extent – the WMD argument was indeed flimsy. But why didn’t you explore the humanitarian benefits accruing to Iraqis?
Moreover, why did you express support for the wrong side on your website? “The Iraqis who have risen up against the occupation are not ‘insurgents’ or ‘terrorists’ or ‘The Enemy.’ They are the REVOLUTION, the Minutemen, and their numbers will grow – and they will win.” It puzzles me that you would see murderers in such a warm glow. When early Americans revolted against efforts by the British monarchy to stifle their liberties, this was genuine revolution spurred on by a desire for peace and freedom. Militant guerillas that kill innocent children don’t fall into such a noble category, a category that includes such men as Thomas Jefferson.
It’s unfortunate that you missed out on using significant historical parallels wherever possible. In your film, you could’ve drawn a parallel between events in intelligence gathering during the Cold War and now. A pertinent mention of the George Kennan telegram, where a low-ranking official in an American embassy in Moscow sent a telegram warning of Soviet aggression that was quickly heralded as proof of Soviet intent to destroy capitalism by the president Harry Truman, would’ve been perfect. Such an example would serve to cast doubt upon the process via which intelligence is formulated into foreign policy.
Perhaps you thought serious analysis would bore your audience. If so, this was your missed opportunity. Whatever the outcome of the American election, you should realise that no-one can make inferences or allegations without solid evidence (implying newspaper clippings aren’t always enough to prove the validity of your case), and expect real change. I admire that you’re tackling the big issues in a way that’s interesting to the average voter, and I praise you for this. I hope your next film will be worth the effort, both for the viewer and for you.

Posted by Graham at 5:37 pm | Comments Off on More on Moore |
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