Fahrenheit 9/11: A Conservative Critique

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I just returned
from viewing Fahrenheit 9/11 here in Appleton, WI. I went to the
1:30 PM showing, which was – astonishingly – sold out.
The crowd was overwhelmingly white and middle-class (this IS Wisconsin,
remember), ranging in age from early teens to retirees. The people
were polite, friendly, well-mannered (something we shouldn’t take
for granted on the part of contemporary theater crowds). There
was tumultuous applause at the end, punctuated by a moment of
reflective silence as we read the dedication card invoking those
murdered by terrorists on 9/11, and those murdered through state
terrorism in the aftermath.

The film
itself very much reflects its creator: It’s shaggy, flabby, occasionally
witty, and frequently infuriating. It will have a HUGE impact
because Moore – his facile leftist economics notwithstanding
– has nailed his case against the Bush regime flush to the plank.
It will be all but impossible for anybody who sits still and watches
this film to view Bush the Lesser as anything other than a petty,
spiteful, dim-witted, bloody-handed little fool – and the figurehead
of a murderous power elite. This explains why the Bu’ushists are
threatening to go Abu Ghraib on Moore: They’re busted.

The most
powerful moments in the film are those that humanize U.S. troops,
several of whom are shown on-screen criticizing the regime. A
major arc of the film is devoted to a Flint, Michigan housewife
from a military family whose son, just prior to being killed in
Iraq, wrote a letter condemning “George ‘I wanna be like my Daddy’
Bush” for staging this useless, unjust war. Moore himself, who
narrates the film (and makes himself too much a part of the story,
incidentally) observes that the largest immorality of this entire
enterprise is the actions of a dishonest president lying our country
into war and forcing decent young men (and women) to do immoral

It should
be pointed out as well that the film – despite being lambasted
as an exercise in unalloyed Bush-bashing – doesn’t spare Democrats
who acquiesced in Bush the Lesser’s power grabs and his criminal
war against Iraq. Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle comes off
particularly poorly, which in his case merely requires a recording
device of some kind.

An interesting
encounter immediately after seeing the film underscores its fundamentally
non-partisan nature. Some poor schlep had positioned himself outside
the theater with a clipboard soliciting signatures on a nominating
position for a would-be Democrat congressional candidate. A couple
of people seized the petition and started to sign. Impertinent
sort that I am, I asked, “What’s this fellow’s position on the

The scribbling
stopped, and several sets of eyes focused intently on the hapless
volunteer. “Well, um, ah, he thinks we should do something,”
he began, stammeringly. “Ah, he just thinks we should be more
careful.” On hearing this, a lady looked at her husband, who had
signed the petition, and snapped, “Scratch off your name.” I told
the volunteer that I’m what most people would regard as an “ultra-conservative
– not just a `conservative’ – but if your guy came out
against the war I’d vote for him, and knock on doors.” “Well,
I can’t really address all the details of his positions,” the
increasingly flustered guy responded. “Just let him know what
I said,” I suggested, telling him that there are a lot of people
who have the same point of view.

I chatted
with several other people as they left the theater, all of them
roughly my age (early 40s) and of similar economic and cultural
background. Each of them indicated that he or she would urge friends
to see the film – which means that it will have “legs” even if
the GOP and FEC were to choke off advertising somehow.

There were
no screaming Bolsheviks (one viewer had an anti-animal rights
T-shirt) or marijuana-scented bohemians in the crowd. This wasn’t
the sort of crowd you’d see at a Phish concert, or storming McDonald’s
at an anti-WTO rally. There were Wal-Mart customers, people who
probably listen to country music (even Toby Keith), and even vote
Republican. And they were PISSED – quietly, but palpably.
A would-be political prisoner Martha Stewart would say, that’s
a good thing. And well overdue.

26, 2004

Norman Grigg [send
him mail
] writes from Appleton, Wisconsin.

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