Why I Am Not Watching Fahrenheit 9/11

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"Have you seen it yet?" is the question that many of my faculty colleagues here at Frostburg State University are asking each other. "It" refers, of course, to Michael Moore’s latest "documentary," Fahrenheit 9/11, which has entranced a wide variety of viewers from leftist Democrats to many libertarians. I have no problem with that, as the greater sin would be to censor this film — or anything else that filmmakers create these days.

Yet, I will not be counting myself among the moviegoers who pay their $8—$10 to see this film, and there are many reasons for that, ranging from personal habits and preferences to my loathing of the film’s creator. All in all, I will let other libertarians help enrich this anti-capitalist capitalist; I prefer to spend my money on other things.

Again, let me reiterate some things. I am not against others seeing the movie, and I have no doubt that at least some of the stuff in it is true; Moore has a history of distorting facts and telling outright lies, and I cannot imagine his having a sudden conversion to truth, but there is no doubt that some of what the movie shows is true, so I leave it to the viewers to determine which is truth and which is fiction. Furthermore, I have opposed the war in Iraq from the start, and the many articles I have written on this subject — as well as other atrocities of the Bush Administration — show me as a fierce critic of the cabal in the White House. Thus, my refusal to see 9/11 is not rooted in my views of the Iraq war.

On a practical matter, I happen to have extremely low time preferences when it comes to movies, preferring to see them on my TV screen (if at all), courtesy of Blockbuster. The only movie I have seen in the past six years was Nemo, which I saw with my young children. After paying for tickets, popcorn, and a babysitter, I am out more than $40, so one can be assured that anything that Michael "Marxist" Moore produces is not worth such a sum to me.

Thus, even if I were interested in seeing 9/11, it would be in about six months, after it were to come out on video; such are my preferences, and I am sticking by them.

However, in this case, I will not even be paying the $3 or so to rent the DVD when it hits Blockbuster next fall. The reason is simple: I do not trust Michael Moore, and his support in the past for war criminals and the murder of innocents — not to mention the murder of truth — is more than I can take. The man is evil, I believe, and I choose not to support anything done by such a person. After all, he cannot convince me that the Iraq war is evil; that I already know. Furthermore, I prefer to read people like Robert Higgs and Lew Rockwell when I view anti-war material; at least I know they are committed to the truth, not becoming a multi-millionaire by attempting to destroy freedom and free enterprise.

Again, I emphasize that these are my values speaking; I do not condemn or criticize anyone for seeing this movie and praising it. Murray Rothbard often made strategic alliances with people with whom he violently disagreed on other issues, and there is merit in his more flexible approach to things. (I admit to being rather inflexible on some issues, so perhaps this piece is more reflective of my faults than anything that could be called a virtue.)

Yet, something troubles me greatly about this movie. It is called an "anti-war" film, but Moore is anything but that. Remember last year that he endorsed Gen. Wesley Clark when he threw his hat into the Democratic presidential ring. If anything, Clark is a war criminal and his conduct when the U.S. Government had its murderous intrusion into Kosovo and Serbia five years ago demonstrates that he has no qualms about killing innocent people. That Moore would endorse him tells me that Moore also is selective in his anti-war views.

From what I have been told, one scene in 9/11 shows people gathering up dead Iraqi children after a U.S. attack. This is filmmaking at its best; the real costs of war are put front and center for everyone to see.

Yet, Moore could have matched such a scene had he bothered to gather film taken in Serbia following any one of the numerous vicious attacks by American bombers in that country. (The Bill Clinton Administration ordered the bombing to take place from no less than 15,000 feet in order to minimize potential U.S. casualties — and maximize civilian losses.) In the name of the United States of America, planes bombed schools, hospitals, homes, marketplaces, bridges, and even the Chinese embassy. People died horrible deaths in those attacks — and Clinton’s poll numbers rose. Michael Moore was not there, nor did he speak up.

Another scene in 9/11 demonstrates Bush’s near-cavalier attitude just before his television announcement that U.S. forces were invading Iraq. This is as it should be; the man carelessly throws away the lives of thousands, and someone has called his hand.

Yet, at the very time Clinton was discussing his war strategy (regarding a previous military intervention in 1996) with a top congressional leader (on the telephone, obviously), he was receiving oral sex from Monica Lewinsky. The man for whom Michael Moore has given hosannas was engaging in lewd and cavalier behavior at the very instant he was making a decision that ultimately would result in the loss of innocent life. (This situation involved a previous intervention in the Balkans that ultimately would lead to the 1999 attacks. Lewinsky — and the impeachment process her affair with Clinton helped to create — was out of the picture by then.)

Moore’s selectivity is not by accident. When he was the short-lived editor of Mother Jones about 20 years ago, he killed a story that would have placed some Democrats in a bad light, stating that he believed the purpose of the magazine was to promote the Democratic Party, not promote truth. His staff disagreed, and Moore was removed from his post. However, his viewpoints have not changed.

Again, this is not a charge against those who have chosen to see 9/11, or to praise its content. I have no faith in this current Republican administration to do what is right; yet, I also have no confidence in Moore to do what is right, either. His problem is not that the U.S. Government is engaging in violence overseas, given that he stood on the podium with the architect of some of the most egregious U.S. violence in my lifetime. No, his problem is that the government is not directing its violence at what he considers the right target: business owners, investors, and anyone who does not agree with his convoluted view of Marxism. I have no doubt that a Michael Moore country would be a place where none of us would want to live and almost certainly would be worse than what the Bushies and their allies have foisted upon us.

So, despite the praise I have heard and read for 9/11, I will not be watching it. After all, I have read Lew Rockwell and Robert Higgs and other libertarians on this war, and they have told me all that I need to know. Furthermore, I also know that these men are interested in the truth, not twisting facts in order to make money to destroy capitalism and the free society.

Note** In all of my LRC columns, I have tried to be accurate in what I have written. Unfortunately, it has come to my attention that a quotation that I used in my September 14, 2001, LRC column was wrongly attributed. I attributed the quote to Stephen Chapman, a columnist for the Chicago Tribune, and a well-known conservative writer. Unfortunately, Chapman did not make that quote; it was Andrew Sullivan. I apologize first to Mr. Chapman, who has been gracious enough to accept my apology. I also apologize to Lew Rockwell and the many readers of LRC. I can only say that I will be more careful in the future.

July 10, 2004

William L. Anderson, Ph.D. [send him mail], teaches economics at Frostburg State University in Maryland, and is an adjunct scholar of the Ludwig von Mises Institute.

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