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Tuesday, July 13, 2004

Holiday Time Again, And More on Moore

Yup, it's the rest of the week off for ol'McReadie. And, let me share this with you - one day weeks are definitely the way to go. It makes working relatively painless. You get to be in the office, catch up on the gossip, and don't have to do all that much work because, heck, you're not gonna be in for the rest of the week! Note to self: find job which routinely allows me to work only one day a week. And involves no resulting cut in pay. And check sky for flying pigs.

Last night, The Buddy and I went to see Fahrenheit 9/11. It's the film they don't want you to see, you know. Isn't it interesting how a statement like that is guaranteed to boost ticket sales? It's like it makes us revert to the age of five, doing exactly the opposite of what authority tells us.

Anyways, the cinema was - naturally - packed. Now, I'm on the fence when it comes to Michael Moore. As previously discussed, I find his status of Permanent Outrage a little, er, untrustworthy. I don't like how he seems to make himself the centre of the story, either. And I can never make it past the first paragraph of anything he's written without the self-righteous style of it pissing me right off. I much prefer Al Franken, to be perfectly honest, who manages to be angry but have a sense of humour at the same time.

This film didn't do much to make me change my opinion of Moore. Overlong, emotionally manipulative, and depressing, Fahrenheit 9/11 actually shot itself in the foot when it came to trying to shape my opinion.

Fact is, I'm as left wing as they come, so perhaps I'm not the target audience for Moore. Perhaps he's trying to preach to the unconverted rather than the converted. But I have to say: the film was such a piece of propaganda that I came out actually feeling less inclined to dislike Bush rather than more.

I suspect that I have become too cynical to be fired up by the sort of thing the film is asking me to become fired up about. I have to confess that I found it very difficult to become angry about the war in Iraq - not because I supported it, but because the source of the outrage struck me as as somewhat naive. The general gist for most people was that we were lied to when it came to the war in Iraq, that it was a distraction from the failure of the Bin-Laden hunt, and that it was all to do with oil. It seemed that people were outraged that they had been misled.

I don't know if it's a measure of my cynicism and/or world weariness that I found it impossible to become angry about the lie. Of course we were lied to. Anyone who thinks that politicians aren't going to manipulate foreign policy situations, or that there is no role for money in the political process, or that there is no political benefit from war is - in my mind - blind to the realities of the world. It seemed so self-evident to me that we had been misled that I couldn't understand why people were outraged about it.

Moore's film made me feel that times one hundred. He made much of financial links between the Bushes and the Saudis, and pointed out how many companies with which the administration had links "benefited" in the aftermath of September 11 and the war in Afghanistan. But all I managed to do was sit there and think: "well, of course they did. We live in a capitalist society. Am I meant to be surprised by this?"

Even those who haven't seen the film will probably know that Moore spends a while contemplating the ten minutes or so in which Bush continued to sit and read with school children after he'd been told of the 9/11 attacks.

But I couldn't help but think that that wasn't an entirely unreasonable thing to do. In a classroom of children, I'm suspecting that the best thing to do would not have been to jump up, say "we're at war", and run out. It's undeniable that it looks bad when you see the clock ticking away. But I'm not too sure what a better response might have been. And, hey, remember how you reacted when you learnt about the terror attacks? Well, imagine if you're President of the United States, and have very limited brain power. I'm guessing your shock level is going to be pretty high.

Moore's voiceover suggests what Bush might have been thinking about. He misses a trick here - I imagine Bush finds it difficult to think about anything - and, anyway, Moore's mindreader technique is just annoying.

And the simplistic portrayal of all Republicans as demons, and all Democrats as angels is just ridiculous. I don't agree with Republican politics, and I don't like George Bush. But I'm not idiotic enough to think that it means that every member of the Republican party is evil. Misguided, perhaps. But not evil. Nor am I naive enough to think that someone who shares my political viewpoint is automatically a good person. After all, I share my political viewpoint, and I wouldn't be wild about having me as a friend.

Moore can't seriously be suggesting that Democrats have no financial connections, that they aren't involved in big business. Check out pressure group donations to their campaigns - I'm guessing they are. I have no doubt that some digging would reveal that there were some unsavoury connections on the left hand side of the political spectrum as well (although the fact that there seem to be no right wingers intelligent enough to form a cohesive argument in this area is revealing.)

The film attempts to portray Bush as a bumbling idiot. I have no doubt he is. But anyone can be portrayed as a bumbling idiot if you select the right material. Moore doesn't show the classic Mangled-Bush-Phrase, the lack of understanding of policy issues. No, instead he prefers to show images of Bush preparing for an address to the nation, mucking around. What's this meant to prove? We all act in different ways dependent on whom we are with. There are certain things that, of course, are unacceptable no matter what our audience (racism, for example) but I don't think goofing around in front of a camera counts. No doubt similar footage of any number of Democrat politicians could be found, and used to make them look stupid too. By resorting to this sort of simplistic material, Moore made me feel that he himself was a bit of an idiot.

One of the real problems I have with Moore is that his material so often seems exploitative. The interview with Charlton Heston in Bowling for Columbine left me feeling nothing other than uncomfortable. In Fahrenheit 9/11, it's even worse. Moore seems to be manipulating individuals - almost putting words in their mouth - and the way in which he used the grief of a woman whose son had been killed in Iraq just felt distasteful. As did showing a public beheading - I can't now even remember the point Moore was trying to make with this, showing that the shock tactic was just that.

Many people are saying that the fact this film will stir debate. It will. And, of course, that's a good thing. But I just can't help but feel that our debate should be founded on a better basis that two and a half hours of such obvious propaganda. Is is too much to ask for an argument which admits that there are grey areas, that not everything is black and white? It seems that it's too much to ask of Moore.

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