August 17, 2004 | Graham

Readers review Moore – Part II.

The following post is from Stewart Mills.

To understand F 9/11 you need to understand satire
The other night I saw Fahrenheit 9/11. It gave me a clear image of the self-interest that is determining the course of US and global events. It made my blood boil. How could Bush, Rumsfeld and Cheyney get away with this? How could Blair and John continue to support these men? I made a decision to get people to write to John Howard and ask him to watch the film and explain how he could continue to support Bush’ administration despite the excesses and inconsistencies pointed out in the film.
However, I had some difficulties with friends of mine who viewed Michael’s work differently to me. They had a problem with Mike’s presentation of the ‘facts’, and they felt that if he didn’t show everything, then what else was he leaving out. I wrote the following in support of Michael Moore.
(1) Why I like Michael Moore?
I like MM because he stands up for the underdog. I like Michael because he makes me laugh when I want to cry. He is someone who can approach a really serious topic with humour. It takes a very clever person to use satire to get across a point.
(2) What helps me to understand Michael Moore’s work?
Like many people before watching F 9/11 I was aware of Michael’s infamous piece Bowling for Columbine . The opening scene involves Michael walking into a bank and being offered a gun if he opens a bank account. Sounds crazy, but this is reality for some (and I emphasise some) people in the United States. Does it matter if this was the only bank in the United States that had such a policy? No, the point was that such an event occurred and Michael highlighted the absurdity of this in the wider context of death by firearms in the United States.
Michael could have presented Fahrenheit 9/11 as a serious documentary. But this is not Michaels’ gift. Michael has an exceptional ability to use satire to get a point across. Michael is a satirical political documentary maker.
One common criticism I have heard from people negative towards Fahrenhet 9/11 is that Michael was biased, was dishonest and did not cite all the facts, for example the blairing omission of Australia, the UK and Spain in the coalition of the willing.
But people, please, don’t get annoyed, remember what you are watching…it’s satire. Helloooh…! Don’t you get it? The need for Rumsfeld was to show that this was a just war, hence American troops could not be seen to go in alone. What an outrage it was then for the United States to seek out ‘military’ assistance from Pulau and Micronesia to invade Iraq. If you want honesty and fairness, then please, don’t use bribery or intimidation to get nations like these to be numbers for Rumsfelds anti-coalition.
If you want a ‘serious’ documentary on extremely serious topic, you will leave the film feeling even more depressed. If you leave a satirical documentary (and you have got the point) you will leave angered but positively empowered, that amidst the despair, someone was able to find humour amongst it all, and that same someone was not going to sit back and let that injustice continue.
(3) What is satire?
Satire is a form of expression that holds up human follies, vices and hypocrisies to ridicule, or reprobation. Satire is an expressive tool which seeks to make those unconscious of a situation conscious. Satire uses ridicule, mockery, sarcasm, irony in spoken or written words to expose these follies, vices.
Ancient Roman literature is full of satire. The 1700s is called the age of satire, Voltaire was called the master of satire. Other satiricists included Horace, Dryden and Pope. Gulliver’s Travels, by Swift is a prominent work of political and social satire.
(4) Why is satire so often missed?
Satire is often missed because of people’s mind-sets. It is much easier to look at the past and romanticise/demonise the past than to look at the present and point the finger. Looking at the present is difficult, it confronts personal ego and behaviour and insecurities.
The problem with satirical work is the point is often missed because the viewer/listener are so confined in our own worldview they cannot see what the satiricist is doing. Instead they denigrate and demonise the satiricist, e.g. character assassination, instead of trying to understand the point of the satiricist they fail divert reponsibility and shoot the messenger.
Great satiricists of the past that were ridiculed by mainstream public included, the Voltaire, David Copperfield, Jonathan Swift, Bernard Shaw. Consider also the ridicule given to the ancient Hebrew Prophets e.g. as told in the story of Job.
(5) Why I think Michael Moore is balanced?
It’s not that F911 was balanced, it clearly presented a certain view of the ‘facts’. However, Michael Moore is about balance. He is a balancer. He aims to restore the balance created by the misinformation produced by state and mainstream media.
In order to understand the ‘MM is biased’ criticism it is helpful to ask the question, what does Michael hope to achieve from making the film? If you believe that Michael Moore seeks a more just world, and you understand political satire, then you will understand Michael Moore.If you believe that Michael Moore is about making money and trying to make a serious political documentary (this does not mean that satire is not about serious issues, because by definition it is) then you will not like Michael Moore.
I believe that Moore sees the present US government as being dominated by the interests of big business, which put profits before human well-being. Michael seeks to bring balance to giving a voice to the poor.
At a micro-level Michael Moore presented a biased view of the situation. That is Michael viewed the situation through an under-dog’s eyes. But this is satire and he did it well. Michael showed the disparity between the haves and have-nots in US society. He has done a brave and compassionate action, for which I am grateful.

Posted by Graham at 9:19 pm | Comments Off on Readers review Moore – Part II. |

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