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Jun. 28th, 2004 @ 03:55 pm Fahrenheit 9/11
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After getting back to MD from johnmeier1 and kissmary’s wedding(which was wonderful and exciting and I’ll post about later when I get photos online), queftzefoni and I decided to go see Michael Moore’s Fahrenheit 9/11. Course we decided to attempt to use Fandango to get tickets(which failed because that theatre didn’t have online ticketing), and attempted to Fandango to get us directions(which failed to work because it gave mapquest the wrong address). I fully blame bakasan for these failings, so he needs to watch Yatta! as punishment. So after turning into a community pool, I decided to use my rough memory to get us there with one trailer to go before the movie began. As I’m sure that many have heard, this is a very thought provoking but essentially an op-ed piece, and definitely had me thinking about some of the material presented within.



First off, it makes me exceedingly happy to know that we live in a country where such a work criticizing our government can exist. Just about any other country out there would seek to oppress such a work, or has an environment where such a work could never be created to begin with. The stumblings in obtaining distribution rights for the film don’t really bother me for this, as Disney is an entertainment firm(though that debate is for a different entry), and thus it’s reasonable that they don’t want to take on a work with such a strong political statement without another equally strong work from the opposite side.

Factually, I believe that the movie hits the target on all counts. Since my current job allows me lots of time surfing the web, I consider myself to be fairly up to date with regards to current events. From what, I’m told, some of the best fact checkers available out there were used to verify the actual facts that were displayed in the film, and I seriously couldn’t find any of the facts that were presented to be erroneous. The key to the piece however is not the facts, but the opinion that Moore is attempting to transfer to the audience. For example, when Moore makes the assertion that the name of James R. Bath was blacked out when Bush was being forced to release his military records, he uses it as a launching off point to talk about a coverup for a vast right wing conspiracy to hide Bush’s link to Bath(who is a Texas money manager for the bin Ladens). Now think about this for a moment, Bush was being forced to release his classified military records, not anyone else’s. Other people’s names should not have been given out in addition to Bush’s regardless of any suspicious connection between the two. For someone who seems to hate the forced releases of the Patriot Act, Moore seems to want to bash the White House for keeping records that weren’t asked for confidential.

After looking at a site like Bowling for Truth about the clever editing that Moore uses in Bowling for Columbine, which I haven’t actually seen yet, I was very suspicious of what types of manipulations Moore would attempt to use to demonstrate his point. From what I’ve heard about Bowling for Columbine, Moore does some very clever editing to splice together different speeches from the same person so that he can make them out to be the stupid person that he wants to mock as well as play with contextual cues to make accurate statements with different and misleading contexts. Trying to detect both in Fahrenheit 9/11 resulted in me seeing a substantial portion of the latter, but nary a trace of the former(but I didn’t go through and scrutinize everything like Bowling for Columbine has had).

Moore uses many different editing styles and effects to help portray his world where Bush is part of a vast Saudi conspiracy. The first and foremost is his toying around with context to give a radically different impression than where something does happen. So what he does throughout the movie is start with idealist liberal sounding democratic rhetoric, and then show a somewhat moderate statement by a republican. In comparison, this more moderate statement feels very much on the extreme right to the viewer, and thus helps Moore to paint a picture of a vast right wing conspiracy. Not even the democrats in Congress are safe from his mockery, since he goes out of his way to trash them for not doing anything to prevent a Republican takeover.

Many of the scenes that Moore chooses to use are cheap shots designed to play with people’s emotions. His footage of the woman who lost her child in Iraq isn’t really relevant, but panders to the audience who obviously wants to help a military family who lost a son who gave his life for this country. Moore’s use of him cheapens the sacrifice that he made because as much as Moore might say that the point is that these men and women of the military fight for our country asking only to only be put into situations where they are absolutely and justifiable needed, this film is very much a piece of hard left propaganda. He ambushes a couple of congressmen and asks them to sign their children up for the military, and he mocks the one that actually talks to him. Why are we supposed to be surprised that the other ones actively try to avoid talking to him when he’s well known for ambushing people and then making fun of them in one of his so called “documentaries” later?

One interesting effect that I was curious about is the video quality of much of the footage that was used in the film. There were many points where I thought that the poor quality of the footage was because that was all that was available, however there were other instances where I’m sure that much higher quality versions could’ve been easily obtained. This got me thinking about a subtle visceral connection that the fuzzier quality footage would’ve given the footage a less honest connotation. The example that really sticks out in my mind is the Haliburton commercial that was shown in the film, which looked like a low grade VHS tape in EP. For a professionally done commercial spot, it should be no problem with someone with Moore’s connections to obtain a much higher quality version. But he used that one to make a subtle mockery of the veracity of the statements of Haliburton in the commercial.

Still overall, the film is definitely worth seeing, not because it bring out the “correct” viewpoint or the “truth” but rather that it provides an extremely left leaning picture of the world to balance out the picture that shown through the eyes of the extreme right of the administration. We are living in an increasingly polarized society, not because any side is brainwashing the public into believing their view, but rather that both sides are preaching to the choir. People need to listen to all the various sides of any issue and form their own conclusions, rather than just talking to people who generally are in agreement about political beliefs. The internet is a medium which allows all types of people to congregate, and this ability has a very negative impact because it means that people separate into such extremist choirs rather than actively thinking about imagining about all possible viewpoints.
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From:drfell
Date:June 28th, 2004 03:13 pm (UTC)
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Hmm. That is far and away the most insightful and informed commentary on that film I've seen yet.

I'm looking forward to watching it for the manipulative methods in particular.
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From:bogosort
Date:June 28th, 2004 03:34 pm (UTC)
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Heh, thanks. Though I can't really claim that it's anything much beyond a bunch of random babbling to somewhat organize my own thoughts.
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From:kalium
Date:June 29th, 2004 12:15 am (UTC)
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Actually, I think low quality can be used to hide editing.
From:uberfluffy
Date:June 29th, 2004 09:35 am (UTC)
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If you ever wind up at that theater again and want to get tickets online, use movietickets.com.

Initially as I was coming out of the movie, I thought the same thing about the use of the family who lost a son in the war. I talked to Beth about this, and she has a different opinion: The mother who was highly featured in the movie chose to be in it the way she was, because this was the only way she knew how to express herself. It was her decision to be on camera, and her method of saying how hard it was to lose a son and to change how she thought about the war. We also wondered if the scenes of her talking about how she felt before losing her son were actually shot after that happened to her, and that the mother was really just explaining how she used to think. It's already recognized that the movie is mostly the opinion of Moore, so I think it's okay that the mother showed her grief and her opinion in the movie, too.

You make a good point about Bush releasing only what was asked for. (Although it's not the Patriot Act that forced them to release information, is it?) I actually thought that all the connections that Moore makes between Bush and Cheney's business interests and the Saudis were a little weak in both the movie and the book. I don't really think that all of those connections were relevant because Moore never says or gives any evidence that the Saudis were terrorists. Just because they wear turbans doesn't make them bad people. The relevant information there was about how the bin ladin family gave money and how they left the country without being questioned.

I also agree that the film is worth seeing and talking about, but the opinions expressed in it should be taken with several grains of salt.
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From:_way_
Date:June 29th, 2004 10:27 am (UTC)
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Well said. I have always held similar complaints about Michael Moore and his "clever" editing.
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From:bogosort
Date:August 3rd, 2004 07:37 am (UTC)
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I love how just now, about a month later, LJ finally emails me about this response...
From:uberfluffy
Date:June 29th, 2004 12:23 pm (UTC)
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Your link to http://bowlingfortruth.com is missing the http:// and has truth spelled as trugh, so you should fix that.