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06/27/2004 Archived Entry: ""

Gary Varvel's Private v. Public; Chan Lowe's "Bush Family Values"; Steve Sack's "On the Run"; Tom Toles' "You Break It".

Lee K. provides the following "review" of Fahrenheit 9/11, a movie that has received such mixed reaction - pro and con - that I've decided it is a must see . Lee's comments follow...

"I saw Fahrenheit 9/11 tonight. Here are my comments. Forgive me if they are disjointed, and forgive the length.

Fahrenheit 9/11 was a good summary of the failed foreign policy of the Bush administration, and the lives ruined in Iraq and in the U.S. The specific events documented in Moore's movie will not be news to internet news junkies, but for people who have only seen network TV news and mainstream papers, some of it might come as a surprise.

That does not lessen the film's entertainment value, though.

Fahrenheit 9/11 was the first movie I had gone to a theater for in over 12 years. I wait for most movies to come out on DVD/VHS, since I prefer watching them at home. But this one couldn't wait, because the future of the U.S. is hanging in the balance. Going to a theater after 12 years was an experience in itself. It was almost like an airport, minus the security checks: You order your tickets online ahead of time, and then you walk in and insert the same credit card that you used online into a small machine, and your tickets come out. Then you wait in a long line to enter the theater. Our line was a over a hundred feet long, spanning two hallways. [To the privacy-conscious: I don't care if TIA, CAPPS, MATRIX, etc. records that I bought tickets to Fahrenheit 9/11 with my credit card. I'll gladly join Ashcroft's watchlist.]

I went with a coworker. On the way to and from the theater, which is about 40 miles from my house (the closest theater showing Fahrenheit 9/11), we played Corntato's NCR (National Corporate Radio) CD, which is a nice spoof of NPR.

Our theater was auditorium-sized, which was huge. There were actually two adjacent auditoriums showing it at the same time. We went into the left one. My eyes took some adjusting to get used to the large screen, since I spend over 80 hours a week in front of a 19" monitor. I was sitting in the second row from the front. The room was not completely full, which was good since it left some seats empty next to me. A security guard was standing in the front watching for people using cellphones or smoking cigarettes. He scolded someone for using their cellphone before the movie started.

But back to Fahrenheit 9/11.

Moore starts off with the Florida Presidential election of 2000, and points out the conflict of interest between Bush and his brother Jeb, and his campaign manager, Katherine Harris. Moore made the point to show several Democratic congressional representatives who tried to challenge the Florida vote, but who were stopped by an obscure rule which requires one Senator sign on as well. Whether you preferred Bush, Gore, Nader, or Browne, there's no denying serious conflicts of interest existed in the way that election was handled.

(I think that the U.S. Supreme Court should have remanded it back to Florida, not because the outcome would be different, but because it was a state matter -- electoral votes belong to the states, and separation of powers would imply that the U.S. Supreme Court cannot intervene.

Fahrenheit 9/11 has lots of humor, and it was mostly straight from the horse's mouth (Bush). Moore didn't need to edit Bush much if at all, since Bush made Moore's points for him, with help from Cheney, Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz, Rice, Powell, Ashcroft, etc. I like the scene where Moore compares Bush's cabinet to the Cartwrights on Bonanza. This occurs in the context of comparing some of Bush's actual public statements, to some quotes in westerns.

There were some noticeable omissions, but in any production you have to cut corners and choose what to include and what not to include. I thought Moore was neutral on the question of who committed 9/11. He
mainly focused on the irresponsibility of Bush during and after 9/11, such as when Bush was sitting by reading goat stories to kids while both of the attacks happened.

When watching Fahrenheit 9/11, I never got the impression that Moore was accusing the Saudis of the 9/11 attacks, a charge often leveled at Moore. I think Moore was agnostic on the 9/11 question, although he did show photos of the 19 alleged terrorist passengers, mostly Saudis, without questioning whether they were really on the planes on 9/11. It's true that Moore hinted at the possibility that Bush was between a
rock and a hard place -- the Saudis and the Bin Ladens -- and that he choose Saddam as a scapegoat to get out of the corner. But just because Moore suggests that Bush has his loyalties divided between the Bin Ladens and the Saudis, and that this could negatively affect his judgment on 9/11, doesn't to me translate into claiming that the Saudis, or anyone for that matter, committed 9/11.

I think Moore was quite rightly pointing out the family and business connections between the Bush and Bin Laden families, and how this led to a conflict of interest, such as when the Bin Ladens were given safe passage out of the U.S. after 9/11 while all civilian planes were still grounded. Moore does not insult the intelligence of his viewers by drawing conclusions for them.

Moore could have spent a little more time on the USA Patriot Act. For example, he mentioned that almost no Congressmen had read it before passing it, and featured John Conyers admitting that that's how the game is played in Washington. Moore did not mention Dr. Ron Paul or his staff, who read the USA Patriot Act and opposed it.

Moore did show a lot of interview segments with Congressman Jim McDermott (a psychiatrist), who talked about Bush's "Fear Factory" of scaring the U.S. public with terror alerts. McDermott compared this to classical conditioning (Pavlov's dog). Too bad Moore didn't insert a segment on the duct tape mania at this point, since I view it as a prime example of America being fooled by its own government. I still remember walking into a Home Depot and seeing a 4 foot cube stack of duct tape on a pallet in the store's entrance. That day made me sad for America. Really!!!

Moore never mentioned PNAC or Israel, and did not use the term "neoconservatives" or "neocons" (Kristol and company). He did not specifically mention "Rebuilding America's Defenses", PNAC's plan for U.S. global domination and war in Iraq, which was written before 9/11. He did not compare 9/11 to Pearl Harbor. Moore could have shown more photos and interviews of natives in Iraq, to show the devastation on civilians and their culture. He showed brief shots of prisoner abuse, but probably stayed away from showing more than a minute of it to keep the movie palatable for more sensitive viewers, and to avoid glorification of such treatment. The Abu Ghraib scandal already has plenty of other examples to choose from.

He showed one family whose mother cried out to Allah for the war to end. It was as moving as the housewife from Flint Michigan whose son died in Iraq. I like the scene where the elderly woman tears Bush's story apart.

There were many U.S. soldiers interviewed. One even said that he would fire Rumsfeld if he could. One became a conscientious objector after returning to the U.S., and made a moving argument against invading a country which is not threatening us. One soldier talked about the war dehumanizing him -- killing part of his soul, to use his words -- one body at a time.

Moore left out all mention of Nick Berg from the film, probably out of respect for Nick Berg's father, an antiwar protester and Bush critic. Before Berg's beheading, Moore reportedly had obtained information about Berg that was to be in the movie. Moore includes the Apache helicopter killing video, already shared all over the internet, where unarmed civilians on a farm in Iraq are killed by U.S. soldiers.

As the movie ended, there were cheers and applause. I threw about 30 Deception Dollars into the air that I had brought with me, for people to pick up. Without staying around long enough to be asked about them, I could tell that people were picking them up and that some people thought it was real money at first.

On our way out, someone handed us some "Turn Up The Heat on George W. Bush" literature. It's a Democratic Party thing, so I probably won't get involved.

I was left wondering what will become of Iraq as we remake it in our image. What of Iraq's culture will be preserved? Moore succeeds in showing George W. Bush to be incompetent, with callous disregard for human life, and his administration to be corrupt. Whether you prefer Bush or not, I recommend you see Fahrenheit 9/11.

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