I don't doubt that there will be a number of reviews here on LRC covering all of the best aspects of Michael Moore's new movie, Fahrenheit 9/11. I'm sure I will agree with most or all of those reviews. Except for The Passion of the Christ, this is the most important film of the year, and everyone who still harbors a modicum of respect for our present government should see it.
That said, the movie had some problems. First, believe it or not, I think Michael Moore does not give Bush enough credit with respect to the first half of his presidency. More importantly, we should be careful in giving Michael Moore too much praise for anything, ever.
Let's be honest: Bush did the right thing, sometimes.
There are some things Bush has done for which we should praise him things for which Moore seems to fault Bush, but which I'd like to see Bush do a lot more.
For example, Moore faults Bush for spending a record amount of time in office on vacation on his ranch, during the first part of his term. How can that be a bad thing? Time spent on vacation is time not spent bombing the rest of the world, oppressing citizens at home, and growing government to a record size. I would go so far as to assert as an axiom that the more time a president spends playing, the better. (Warren Harding may be the model president in this and most other respects).
Moore also wants us to be disturbed by the fact that Bush remained in a Florida classroom reading My Pet Goat for seven minutes after being told that America was “under attack” on September 11. Roger Ebert describes this as the “most devastating” thing in the whole film. But this piece of information has never disturbed me in the slightest. The only objectionable aspect is that he stayed there for only seven minutes. As with vacation, the more time he spends in an elementary school classroom with a blank look on his face, the less time he spends doing anything else. I'm happy about having seven more minutes of freedom than I otherwise might have had. I wish he were still down there.
Moore also seems to fault the Transportation Security Administration for allowing you to take matches and lighters, but not your own breast milk, on board an airline flight. For this, he credits the influence of the tobacco companies, who want you to be able to smoke before and after you get on a plane. I don't know what basis he has for this assertion, but even if it's true, I'd say good for the tobacco companies. Now, allow cigarettes to be smoked on flights, as long as all of the passengers consent, and we might have something like freedom. Of course, Moore's main point is that the TSA is not about security at all, it's about the government befuddling and controlling Americans, with virtually no regard at all for genuine security risks.
The movie could have bolstered its own credibility where it counts by eliminating some other extraneous criticisms. No matter how much I may dislike Bush, I will never get upset about him "stealing" the election. Every election is always stolen from anyone who did not cast a vote for the winner and therefore did not consent to whatever the winner might do to him. I'm not even upset about the Supreme Court deciding the election, because that means we're just nine voters away from abolishing democracy entirely.
The worst thing about Fahrenheit 9/11.
There are more serious reasons not to get too excited about Michael Moore.
Keep in mind that this movie's success will give Moore more influence over the minds of the American people. When he wants to speak again, through another film, he will have the country's full attention.
And when, perhaps thanks in part to this film, John Kerry is elected president, what will that film be about? A devastating critique of welfare statism? Of course not. In all likelihood, it will be something like an attack on the alleged evils of Wal-Mart. And given Moore's undeniable talent as a propagandist, to the mass-man who does not understand economics, that film will look every bit as credible and persuasive as Fahrenheit 9/11.
Surely anyone would agree that it's ethically wrong to give someone money, when you know for certain that they are going to spend it on a weapon with which they will commit a murder. Is it any more conscionable to give Moore money and accolades when we know he's going to spend his enhanced credibility on advancing economic ignorance, and, if he is successful, increasing poverty and even death in countless unseen ways?
Well, maybe. It is a great movie.
Regardless, let's celebrate a movie that, as the noted political philosopher the Libertarian Jackass has observed, has the laudable goal of “bring[ing] down a president.” Bringing down a president is fun, and we should revel in it, and do it more often.
But at the same time, we must be circumspect. As good as this film may be, remember that Michael Moore is a man who doesn't want you to be free to buy the products you want, to hire whomever you want, or even to defend your own person, property, and family.
When the tables inevitably turn on the neocon regime, he will once again be our worst enemy. We would be wise to continuously acknowledge that, and never fail to remind everyone of why he is so wrong about everything else.
June 28, 2004