Home > Entertainment > Fahrenheit 9/11: does this movie matter, or is Moore just preaching to the choir?

Fahrenheit 9/11: does this movie matter, or is Moore just preaching to the choir?

By Gloria Diaz

Fort Wayne Reader

2004-10-11


This summer’s blockbuster movie featured two middle-aged men, neither one of whom could be considered movie star handsome. Both are wealthy and powerful, but one more so than the other. One set out to make the other look like a buffoon. Depending on your viewpoint, he either succeeded or slandered. Of course, the movie in question is Fahrenheit 9/11, slammed as propaganda by some. Others hailed it as confirming their suspicion that the war in Iraq is a huge mistake.

But is the movie as big a motivator to change as filmmaker Michael Moore hopes? Will it make a difference in the upcoming presidential election? Or is Moore merely preaching to the choir? A fake grass roots campaign threatened a theater owner in Illinois with death if he showed the movie. Is Fahrenheit 9/11 that damning and dangerous to George Bush and his re-election campaign? After all, it’s only a movie.

Then again, the film shows some aspects of the war and footage that hasn’t been seen on any national networks. It shows marine recruiters targeting poor urban areas to offer money for college and a chance to see the world, while downplaying the fact that those who join up might end up dying before they see any of the positive opportunities play out.

It also shows a mother who came from a strong military background weeping over the loss of her son in a war she can’t quite understand or agree with. In the film, she reads the last letter he ever wrote to her. He questions Bush’s motives for this war.

And in the movie, Bush himself, when asked about Osama bin Laden, dismisses the question. That footage isn’t the bloodiest in the movie by any means, but it’s among the most shocking. How can Bush not be concerned with a terrorist who murdered nearly 3,000 people on his own soil, with commercial airliners? Fahrenheit 9/11 sheds some light on this as well, by examining the very close relationship between Bush and the bin Laden family, and highlights the security that shows up in front of the Saudi Arabian embassy, when Moore pauses to talk on camera across the street from the building. Why all the caution? Because according to the film, Saudi Arabia has a lot of money in the United States. Moore’s position is that the Saudis are getting treated with kid gloves because their financial interest in the United States is considerable, and for them to take their money and go home would be disastrous to the U.S. economy.

Moore released the film to DVD and VHS October 5, and hopes to show it on television the night before the election, although due to agreements with the company that is distributing it on home video, there isn’t much chance this will happen. But if it does, would it make a difference anyway?

“The only way it’s going to have any impact is if people will open up their minds who would otherwise just blankly vote for Bush because their congregation tells them to, or their religion (tells them to) or whatever,” says Cat Voors, a volunteer with the Allen County Democratic party who ran for township assessor several years ago. “If they’ll stop being blind, and open their eyes, and pay attention, and if it could expose those people to it, then yeah, it could. It could potentially make a small difference.”

Voors went on to say people who went to see the movie in theaters are more likely to believe Moore’s viewpoint about the Bush administration.

“Unless it gets to a place where people who need to know this information can see it free, in their living room, I don’t think it’s going to have a whole lot of impact. I’d love to see it out there.”

Others who saw the movie mentioned the fact that Moore seems to have acquired footage the major networks never aired for whatever reason. The now-famous scene where Bush sits, rather dazed, several minutes after being told of the attacks is open to speculation. Did he really not know what to do, or was he, as Moore hints, thinking that maybe he picked the wrong people to do business with? Only one person I spoke with felt Moore was being a bit harsh in criticizing Bush’s non-reaction to the worst terrorist attack on American soil -- so far. What would any of us have done in that situation?

Allen County Republican party chairman Steve Shine thought the movie was a “crockumentary.” He feels the film is full of misrepresentations, including the Gore victory rally shown at the beginning of the film.

“A six-month study prior to the film being released by a consortium of newspapers indicates that Bush would have won the Florida recount under any of the terms of which Gore sought in his lawsuit,” says Shine.

Another misrepresentation is the idea that Bush was on vacation for much of his first eight months in office.

“In his first eight months in office before September 11, George Bush was on vacation, according to the Washington Post, 42% of the time,” says Shine. “As the Washington Post reported, the figure includes weekends and includes times in vacation locations, such as Camp David, where Bush was actually working and had met with Tony Blair. So for him to say that in Fahrenheit 9/11 that Bush was on vacation 42% of the time between January 1st and September 11 is a misrepresentation, because that included weekends and other areas where the president goes to relax but is not necessarily on vacation.”

Moore has been criticized for taking footage out of context. Shine claims the golf course scene in the film is another example of that.

“Bush had just heard about a terrorist attack on Israel, and he called the press together to make a quick statement condemning terrorism against Israel. He was not speaking about attacks on the United States. You remember where he said, ‘we have to do everything we can to fight terrorists; we must put our foot down, now watch me take this swing’? It was edited together so as if he were talking about terrorist attacks in the United States. It was taken out of context. He wasn’t talking about terrorism in the United States at all. It was
edited to make you think that he was thinking cavalierly about terrorist attacks in the United States. Fahrenheit 9/11 is, to me, a twisted, dishonest and deceitful fantasy.”

Shine went on to say he felt Bush did “absolutely the right thing” by sitting in that Florida classroom and not suddenly getting up and leaving.

Rodney Scott disagrees. Scott is a member of the central committee of the Allen County Democratic Party and a political science professor.

”I think the focus for me was, how Bush many times is managed,” says Scott, of the classroom footage scene. “When he was given the information about the 9/11 event, he seemed frozen. He wasn’t sure what direction to respond. And to me, it goes back to that whole area of being managed and controlled. To me, you go to the sound of the guns. You go to Washington, D. C. You go back to a central location, or you go to where the events are taking place. I would not have gone to Nebraska and hid in a bunker.”

Kate Love-Jacobson, the Professional Development and Diversity Manager for the city of Fort Wayne and the former Democratic member of the Allen County Voter Registration Board, thought Fahrenheit 9/11 was “fabulous.”

“I was surprised by a lot of the information in the movie,” she adds. “I had heard some of what was included in the movie, like the Bush’s involvement with the Afghanis, and the level and degree of information was surprising to me. I also felt vindicated, to some degree, as a Democrat about a lot of what we have been saying. The fact that the alliance of the Bushes with the wealthy and obviously, the policies that have been invoked since he’s been in office are all related to that.”

An attempt was made to speak to more Republicans who had seen the movie, but Shine was stumped when asked if he knew of any other party members who had viewed the film. Calls to Republican Party Headquarters didn’t yield any potential viewers. One Republican said he’d seen all of Moore’s movies except for Fahrenheit 9/11, because the subject matter wasn’t very interesting to him. It seems astonishing that someone active in a political party, no matter the affiliation, wouldn’t be interested a film dealing with the worst terrorist attack on U.S. soil. Credit must be given to Shine, who saw the Fahrenheit 9/11 opening night. He felt it was important to see the film.

“I see the film as doing a very good job of what the anti-Bush people want,” says Shine. “I went to opening night. I wouldn’t have missed it. I’m not one of those who would have boycotted it. I believe that you need to see what the opposition is doing, and this is simply an opposition film, if you will.”

For Republicans who dismissed the film as propaganda, did they get their impression through friends who had seen the movie, or from the media, which gets criticized for being too liberal? Or from Fox News, which has been criticized for being too conservative? Media, for all its faults, can’t be entirely dismissed. Like most everything, media needs to be taken with a grain of salt, as well as an open mind. For those voters still undecided, the movie might make an impact. If they take the time to see it.

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