By Eric Margolis
MICHAEL MOORE'S blockbuster hit, Fahrenheit 9/11, may not be an epochal political film like Battleship Potempkin or The Battle of Algiers, but it certainly ranks as the most exciting and searing American political movie since the superb, eerily prophetic Wag the Dog.
In fact, Wag the Dog and Fahrenheit 9/11 make perfect bookends, encompassing the fraud, dishonesty and Orwellian manipulation of George W. Bush's failed presidency. With dazzling speed, elan, and razor-sharp editing, Moore keeps turning over Washington rocks, exposing a squirming, slithering underside of deceit and illicit dealings that will outrage thoughtful, educated viewers.
However, core southern and midwestern supporters of George W., who study world affairs through Chuck Norris movies, Rush Limbaugh's eructations and the Old Testament, are unlikely to rush to see Fahrenheit 9/11, which their pastors will warn them is the latest manifestation of "liberal" evil to menace America.
No one will ever accuse the angry Moore of subtlety or finesse. He attacks George W. and his White House cronies with a cinematographic shovel. Moore's Bush comes out looking stupid, inert and fuddled.
This column has always had a low opinion of the president's intellect, but it's hard to believe that Bush, who, after all, won the presidency, is quite as dense as the film portrays him. Taking film clips and parts of speeches out of context, as Gov. Howard Dean can sadly attest, can make anyone look rabid or stupid.
Nor do I buy Moore's contention that Bush is merely the tool of evil big business and the Iraq war a money grab by Halliburton and the sinister Carlyle Group. Life in Washington is far more complex than this simplistic view.
Big business certainly takes advantage of every opportunity and sways governments -- Republican or Democrat. But the second Iraq war was not started by Enron's Ken Lay or the board at Chevron. Moore is rehashing old, anti-capitalist agitprop from the Democratic party's liberal left.
By contrast, Moore did a smashing job in capturing the zeitgeist of the Bush administration's fear-mongering that terrorized unworldly Americans into believing they were in mortal peril, and only the president could save them.
Moore clearly smells the whiffs of proto-fascist behaviour coming from the White House. I wish he'd made the disturbing contrast between 9/11, and the ensuing anti-democratic Patriot Act, and the Reichstag burning of 1933 that led to the Emergency and Enabling Acts ending Germany's civil liberties.
Unfortunately Moore's sweeping attack on the self-proclaimed "war president" totally ignores the 900-pound gorilla at the tea party: The neoconservative conspiracy to push America into the disastrous Iraq war.
Phony Iraq crisis
The entire phony Iraq crisis--weapons of mass destruction, germ labs dire threats to America--was all concocted by neocons as part of their long-term campaign to push America into a Mideast war to destroy Israel's enemies. That, and the lust to control oil, were the two driving forces behind the war.
Moore's spotlight should have pointed at the administration's neocon cabal, led by VP Dick Cheney, Paul Wolfowitz, Lewis Libby, Richard Perle and their media allies, who fed false information to the White House and the public. Alas, the only reference to this cabal was a truly nauseating little clip of Wolfowitz licking his comb.
I was also disappointed Moore didn't spend more time pounding the U.S. national media. He took only a few shots at the big TV networks for parroting administration war propaganda.
The neocon conspiracy and its manipulation of the U.S. media is the most shocking story of the Iraq war.
Instead Moore allows the final third of Fahrenheit 9/11 to get bogged down in maudlin personal stories from Flint, Mich., instead of keeping up the first part's furious pace and shocking revelations.
The film is heavy-handed and occasionally unfair. But a powerful counterbalance to all the propaganda shamefully force-fed to the American public by the national media was overdue and desperately needed.
Until recently Americans have heard only one side of the story, which, we are discovering, was a tapestry of lies worthy of the Nazis' Dr. Goebbels.
Kudos to Moore for shining a bright light into the propaganda darkness.
Copyright 2004 West Art, Prometheus 93