Volume 74, Number 12 | July 21 - 27, 2004


‘Fahrenheit’ asks the right questions

Since opening a few weeks ago, “Fahrenheit 9/11” has shattered box office records for documentary films and set off a barrage of criticism. Most of the attacks have focused not on the substance of the film, but on the filmmaker, Michael Moore. That’s because there is not much if anything in the movie that is inaccurate. “Fahrenheit” is obvious in its anti-Bush, anti-Iraq-war sentiment. It does have a clear point of view. In other words, it’s just like almost any other documentary.

Moore portrays the attack on the World Trade Center in a moving way, avoiding the painful and all-too familiar images of the Twin Towers on fire, instead letting us hear the sounds and see the faces looking at collapse. The rest of the movie is about how the Bush administration reacted to the attack on Lower Manhattan — everything from the abuses of the Patriot Act, to the war in Iraq, to gaps in protecting us from terror. It’s probably why Moore was spotted recently in the Battery Park City cinemas talking to people who watched the movie across from the W.T.C.

The movie lays out facts and asks questions. Some of the facts may be irrelevant, such as that a Bush relative projected his cousin the winner on Fox News. All of the other networks did that too and it was of course the Supreme Court that stopped the Florida recount, granting Bush the White House. Moore, through his questions, suggests that our war with Afghanistan possibly could have been about getting a pipeline built — a hard-to-swallow notion, yes, but Moore doesn’t assert the war was only about the pipeline.

Most of Moore’s questions are right on target. Why were the bin Ladens allowed to leave the U.S. without being questioned? Why are we sacrificing thousands of lives and spending in excess of $100 billion in Iraq when that country was not involved in 9/11, according to almost everyone who has examined the intelligence? Why is only one trooper guarding the coast of Oregon and why hasn’t he received any anti-terrorist training? Why do the armed forces see poor and minority neighborhoods as the best places to recruit?

By showing so much footage American networks could have shown but didn’t, the film points out the national media’s shortcomings. Why are we not seeing more about the thousands of wounded soldiers rehabilitating and learning to live with their disabilities, mourning families in America, Iraq and Afghanistan?

Does Moore talk about Sadaam being one of the world’s most brutal dictators? No, but is it necessary, since the point has been made many times by the rest of the media and Bush?

We disagree strongly with our own esteemed movie critic, former Mayor Ed Koch, and others who bring up Leni Riefenstahl when criticizing Moore. Assuming there are any similarities in the two filmmakers’ approach to documentaries, it nevertheless lowers the debate to unfathomable levels to compare a sharp movie criticizing a president’s policies to Nazi propaganda films that helped empower a regime to murder millions of Jews. Even if critics of “Fahrenheit 9/11” were right about the distortion accusations, Moore is trying to bring down Bush democratically.

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