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Fahrenheit 9/11 And Michael Moore
W ith Fahrenheit 9/11 , Michael Moore has made more than a terrific film. By breaking out of the usual art house documentaries, Moore has managed to bring his trade-marked skewering of U.S. political scoundrels before millions.
Naturally enough, howls of fulminating right-wing anger greeted the presumption and audacity of that task. Not at first, though. At first these guardians of our morals, beliefs, and patriotism tried to laugh it off, dismissing Moore’s new project as once again “preaching” to the choir.
But the Disney folks knew better and tried to stop Farenheit 9/11 in its tracks. When Moore walked off with the top prize at the Cannes Film Festival, however, there was no stopping it. Smelling the money, and remembering the success of Moore’s Academy Award-winning Bowling for Columbine , film distributors by the carload offered to take the new film on. Eventually, however, Disney sold the rights to Harvey and Bob Weinstein, the original producers of the film.
Nevertheless, the Bush gang still wasn’t worried. Only pinkoes and liberals, they said, would slap down $9 to see a documentary film. But when the movie opened late in June and skyrocketed past all previous records for documentaries, the Bush think-tankers began sweating. They could live with sold-out showings in New York, San Francisco, and Los Angeles. But reports of packed movie houses in cities like Fayetteville, North Carolina, Tulsa, Oklahoma, Fort Lauderdale, Florida, and scores of smaller towns across middle America are not what Bush and Co. wanted to hear. Especially irksome were reports of Republicans as well as GIs and Iraq war vets flooding local movie houses and cheering Moore’s devastating critique of Bush and the war in Iraq in towns adjacent to military bases.
That’s when the far right got to work. Rush Limbaugh—who else? —immediately declared the film “a pack of lies.” A hitherto little known filmmaker announced the production of a film called Michael Moore Hates America . A book titled Michael Moore is a Big Fat Stupid White Man rolled off the presses in record time. Christopher Hitchens, the one-time Nation writer now turned war hawk, came up with a nine-page diatribe on the Internet. Among his milder comments: “A sinister exercise in moral frivolity…. A spectacle of abject political cowardice,” and “a piece of crap.”
Nor were the Hollywood moguls who determine the ratings of films happy about it all. In an act of petty vindictiveness, they tagged Fahrenheit 9/11 with an “R” rating—despite the absence of any sexual content and a handful of wartime violence scenes from the press. Then there was the Las Vegas casino manager who kicked Linda Ronstadt out of the hotel where she was staying and performing for telling her audience: “There’s this guy who is a great patriot and I think he loves his country deeply and he’s trying to get the truth out. His name is Michael Moore and I’ve just seen his fine movie, Fahrenheit 9/11 .”
The principal right-wing critique of Fahrenheit 9/11 is that it’s all lies and cheap shots. Well, there are a couple of cheap shots, but the heart of the film and its most telling moments are made up of verified statements from well-known newspapers from the New York Times to the Wall Street Journal , videotapes of statements of real people, photos of real events, etc. In case anyone wants to check, Moore hired the main fact-checker for the New Yorker to review every statement and videotape in the picture.
Moore’s exposure of the blatant lies and obfuscations promoted by the Bush gang are the real source of right wing anguish. A few examples:
(1) Following the Supreme Court’s highly dubious coronation of Bush’s “election” in 2000, there was the usual inauguration parade. Anybody see it? Were readers aware of the huge protest that accompanied the parade, the egg-tossing on Bush’s limousine that kept him locked up in his car throughout and his eventual mad scramble to cut the parade short? How many were aware of vicious police attacks on demonstrators. Few, if any, since most media ignored it. But Fahrenheit 9/11 shows what actually happened.
When a joint session of Congress assembled to formally certify Bush’s
election, Black legislators mounted a protest, asserting that there
was overwhelming proof of tampering with the outcome, especially
in Florida. But according to the arcane rules of Congress, the protest
could not be considered unless at least one senator formally supported
it. Not one Republican stood up. No surprise there. But neither
did a single Democrat. Among those sitting on their hands are such
“liberals” as Barbara Boxer, Christopher Dodd, Joe Lieberman,
Joseph Biden, Tom Harkin, Barbara Mikulski, Ted Kennedy, John F.
Kerry, Charles Schumer, John Edwards, Patty Murray, and Democratic
Minority Leader Tom Daschle. The farce is presided over by Al Gore
in his capacity as vice-president and president of the Senate.
captures the entire travesty on film.
(3) A clip from a TV news program in March 2001 shows Condaleeza Rice and Colin Powell declaring that Saddam Hussein had no weapons of mass destruction or the capabilities of getting them. It then switches to a tape taken eight months later in which Rice and Powell assert the exact opposite.
(4) In one scene, Moore’s ubiquitous camera follows two Marine recruiters looking for prospective enlistees. They don’t bother talking to obviously well-heeled white young men. Instead they focus on a shopping mall in downtown Flint, Michigan—one of the most depressed communities in the country. There they encounter a group of young, unemployed black men and offer them a variety of enticements to sign on, even offering one young man with musical ambitions a recording contract on the spot.
(5) There’s another telling scene where Bush is addressing an assembly of his fat cat supporters, calling them the “haves and have-mores,” much to their boisterous delight.
(6) One of the most telling depictions is a scene of George Bush in an elementary school in Florida on September 11, 2001. He starts reading the children a story called, “My Pet Goat,” when an aide interrupts and whispers to him that a plane has struck the World Trade Center. For the next seven minutes, Bush sits on a stool in the classroom doing nothing and saying nothing. He clearly doesn’t have the faintest clue of what to do or who to call.
(7) One of the most powerful sequences in the film is the story of Lila Lipscomb of Flint who calls herself a conservative Democrat, puts out the flag every morning, and encourages her children to sign up for the military. But a letter from her son in Iraq bitterly declares, “Bush got us out here for nothing whatsoever. I’m so furious right now, Mama.” A few weeks later, her son is killed and she is consumed with rage and is forced to look at her life and values in a new way. Lipscomb’s grief and grim determination to get an explanation are almost unbearable to watch.
These scenes and many more like them are the heart of the movie and the reason so many viewers sit grimly silent through it, telling one another in somewhat hushed tones, “I never knew that. Did you?”
The Wall Street Journal carried a report on showings of Fahrenheit 9/11 in Fayetteville, North Caro- lina. More than half the audience were GIs from Fort Bragg; some marines came from Camp Lejeune two hours away; at the last minute, three soldiers from South Carolina showed up. An army machine-gunner from Fort Bragg, who voted for George Bush in 2000, commented after seeing Fahrenheit 9/11 : “That was pretty thought-provoking…. I guess I’m a little disillusioned. I’ve got a lot more questions than answers now” ( Wall Street Journal , July 12, 2004).
Irwin Silber was editor of Sing Out! , the Guardian , and Crossroads . He is the author of numerous books.
Z Magazine Archive
AnnouncementsLABOR - May 1 is May Day. Workers of the world will celebrate the 124th anniversary of International Worker’s Day. Born out of a call for an 8-hour workday in the United States, this day is an opportunity for all workers to show their solidarity with one another, as well as to renew the call for labor rights.
FARM CONFERENCE - The Farm Conference on Community and Sustainability will be held May 24-26 in Summertown, TN, in partnership with the Fellowship of Intentional Communities. Tour green homes, see sustainable food production, learn about solar installations, alternative education, midwifery, and more.
Contact: Douglas@thefarmcommunity.com; http://www.thefarmcommunity.com/.
PALESTINE - The Conference of the Palestinian Shatat in North American will be held June 3-5 in Vancouver. The conference will examine the future of the Palestinian liberation movement.
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LABOR - The Pacific Northwest Labor History Association’s 45th annual conference will be held May 3-5, in Portland, OR. This year’s theme is Labor Under Attack: Learning from the Past and Preparing for the Future. A call for presentations, workshops and papers is currently underway.
Contact: PNLHA, 27920 68th Ave. East, Graham, WA 98338; 206-406-2604; PNLHA1@aol.com; http://www3.telus.net.
MARIJUANA - On the first Saturday of May marijuana legalization activists will hold informational and educational events, rallies and marches in over 300 cities around the world.
ECONOMICS - The Union For Radical Political Economics will hold its 39th annual conference May 9-11 in New York City.
RECLAIM THE DREAM - The 2013 Poor People’s Campaign & March from Baltimore to Washington D.C. will be May 11. Communities, schools and unions interested in participating are encouraged to contact the Baltimore People’s Assembly.
Contact: 410-500-2168; 410-218-4835; BaltimorePeoplesAssembly@gmail.com; Southern Christian Leadership Conference of Baltimore and the Baltimore Peoples Power Assembly, 2011 N. Charles St., Baltimore, MD 21218.
MOTHER’S DAY - The 17th Annual Mother’s Day Walk For Peace will be May 12th, in Dorchester, MA. The walk began in 1996 for families who had lost children to violence. The day has become a way for thousands of people to financially support the work of the Louis Brown Peace Institute.
Contact: http://www.ldbpeaceinstitute.org/; http://mothersdaywalk4peace.org/.
NATO 5 - An International Week of Solidarity with the NATO 5 has been called for May 16-21. Supports call on supporters to raise awareness of the NATO 5 and support funds for the defendants on the one-year anniversary of their preemptive arrests.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; https://nato5support.wordpress.com.
MOUNTAINTOP - The 2013 Mountain Justice Summer Activist Training Camp will be held May 19-27 in Damascus, VA. It will be a week of workshops, field trips to view Mountain Top Removal coal mines, direct actions, and service project.
FEMINIST SCI-FI - The feminist science fiction convention WisCon 37 is scheduled for May 24-27 in Madison, WI.
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ANARCHY FEST - A month-long Festival of Anarchy is scheduled for May in Montreal. The festival includes The Montreal Anarchist Bookfair (May 19-20).
Contact: http://www.anarchistbookfair.ca/; http://www.radicalmontreal.com/.
LABOR - The International Labor Rights Forum will present: Down the Supply Chain, Driving Corporate Accountability, on May 22 in Washington, DC. The Labor Rights Awards Ceremony and Reception will honor pioneers in supply chain worker organizing, working solidarity and international labor rights policy.
MULTICULTURE - The 26th annual National Conference on Race & Ethnicity in American Higher Education (NCORE) will take place May 28-June 1, in New Orleans.
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MEDIA - The 2013 Alliance for Community Media Annual Conference will be held May 29-31, in San Francisco, CA. Participants will include educators, community leaders, media professionals, journalists, nonprofit leaders, policymakers and students.
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BRADLEY MANNING - On June 1, a rally will be held at Fort Meade in support of Bradley Manning.
BIKES - Bikes Not Bombs is holding its 24th annual Bike-A-Thon and Green Roots Festival in Boston, MA on June 3, with several bike rides scheduled, music, exhibitors and more.
Contact: Bikes Not Bombs, 284 Amory St., Jamaica Plain, MA 02130; 617-522-0222; firstname.lastname@example.org; www.bikesnotbombs.org.
LEFT FORUM - The 2013 Left Forum will be held June 7-9, at Pace University in New York City.
Contact: 365 Fifth Avenue, CUNY Graduated Center, ? Sociology Dept., New York, NY 10016; http://www.leftforum.org/.
VEGAN FEST - Mad City Vegan Fest will be held in Madison, WI, June 8. The annual event features food, speakers, and exhibitors.
Contact: 122 State Street, Suite 405 B, Madison, WI 53701; email@example.com; http://veganfest.org/.
ADC CONFERENCE - The American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC) holds its annual conference June 13-16, in Washington, DC, with panel discussions and workshops on civil rights, media and other topics.
Contact: 1990 M Street, Suite 610, Washington, DC, 20036; 202-244-2990; firstname.lastname@example.org http://convention.adc.org/.
CUBA/SOCIALISM - A Cuban-North American Dialog on Socialist Renewal and Global Capitalist Crisis will be held in Havana, Cuba, June 16-30. There will be a 5 day Seminar at University of Havana, plus visits to a cooperative, urban garden, community development project, social research centers, and educational & medical institutions.
Contact: email@example.com; http://www.globaljusticecenter.org/.
NETROOTS - The 8th Annual Netroots Nation conference will take place June 20-23 in San Jose, CA. The event features panels, trainings, networking, screenings, and keynotes.
Contact: 164 Robles Way, #276, Vallejo, CA 94591; firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.netrootsnation.org/.
MEDIA - The 15th annual Allied Media Conference will be held June 20-23, in Detroit.
Contact: 4126 Third Street, Detroit, MI 48201; http://alliedmedia.org/.
GRASSROOTS - The United We Stand Festival will be hosted by Free & Equal, June 22 in Little Rock, Arkansas. The festival aims to reform the electoral process throughout the U.S.
SOCIALISM - The Socialism 2013 Conference is scheduled for June 27-30 in Chicago, featuring talks and panel discussions.
Contact: email@example.com; http://www.socialismconference.org.
LITERACY - The National Association for Media Literacy Education (NAMLE) will hold its conference July 12-13 in Los Angeles under the heading, Intersections: Teaching and Learning Across Media.
Contact: 10 Laurel Hill Drive, Cherry Hill, NJ 08003; http://namle.net/conference/.
IWW - The North American Work People’s College will take place July 12-16 at Mesaba Co-op Park in northern Minnesota. The event will bring together Wobblies from branches across the continent to learn new skills and build One Big Union.
PEACESTOCK - On July 13th, the 11th Annual Peacestock: A Gathering for Peace, will take place at Windbeam Farm in Hager City, WI. The event is a mixture of music, speakers and community for peace. Sponsored by Veterans for Peace.
Contact: Bill Habedank, 1913 Grandview Ave., Red Wing, MN 55066; 651-388-7733; firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.peacestockvfp.org.
CHILDREN’S DEFENSE - July 15-19, join clergy, seminarians, Christian educators, young adult leaders and other faith-based advocates for children at CDF Haley Farm in Clinton, Tennessee, for five days of spiritual renewal, networking, movement building workshops, and continuing education about the urgent needs of children at the 19th annual Proctor Institute for Child Advocacy Ministry.
Contact: email@example.com; http://www.childrensdefense.org.
ACTIVIST CAMP - Youth Empowered Action (YEA) Camp will have sessions in July and August in Ben Lomond, CA; Portland, OR; Charlton, MA. YEA Camp is designed for activists 12-17 years old who want to make a difference in the world.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; http://yeacamp.org/.
LA RAZA - The annual National Council of La Raza (NCLR) Conference is scheduled for July 18-19 in New Orleans, with workshops, presentations and panel discussions.
Contact: NCLR Headquarters Office, Raul Yzaguirre Building, 1126 16th Street, NW, Washington, DC 20036; 202-785-1670; www.nclr.org.
LABOR - The Eastern Conference For Workplace Democracy: Growing Our Cooperatives, Growing Our Communities, will be held at Drexel University in Philadelphia, PA, July 26-28.
Contact: email@example.com; http://east.usworker.coop/.
WOMEN/LYNNE STEWART- Radical Women is asking for support letters and cards to be sent to Lynne Stewart. Stewart is a civil rights attorney and political prisoner who is currently in jail. She has breast cancer and authorities have denied her request for transfer from her Texas prison to the New York City hospital where she received medical attention during a prior bout of breast cancer. Send messages and cards to: Lynne Stewart 53504-054, Federal Medical Center Carswell, P.O. Box 27137, Fort Worth, TX 76127.
Contact: 747 Polk Street, San Francisco, CA 94109; 415-864-1278; RadicalWomenUS@gmail.com; http://lynnestewart.org/; http://www.radicalwomen.org/.
HAITI/WOMEN - Haiti’s government is considering a legal reform measure that would prohibit and punish all sexual assault, including marital rape. MADRE and the International Campaign to Stop Rape & Gender Violence in Conflict are launching a petition to raise international support for this push to address violence against women in Haiti.
Contact: 121 West 27th Street, #301, New York, NY 10001; 212-627-0444; firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.madre.org.
SYRIA/MIDDLE EAST - The Middle East Children’s Alliance (MECA) is currently seeking funds to assist more than 200,000 refugees fleeing violence in Syria.
FOLK FESTIVAL - The Falcon Ridge Folk Festival will be held August 2-4, in the Berkshires, NY.
Contact: http://www.falconridgefolk.com/; email@example.com.
WAR RESISTERS - The War Resisters League will hold its 90th anniversary conference, Revolutionary Nonviolence: Building Bridges Across Generations and Communities, August 1-4, at Georgetown University. The event will focus on the U.S.’ long history of antimilitarism.
Contact: 339 Lafayette Street, New York, NY 10012; 212-228-0450; firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.warresisters.org.
POPULAR ECONOMICS - The Center for Popular Economics is holding its 2013 Summer Institute August 4-9 at Hampshire College in Amherst, MA. No background in economics is needed for this intensive training. This year’s theme is, The Care Economy: Building a Just Economy with a Heart.
Contact: Center for Popular Economics, PO Box 785 Amherst, MA 01004; 413-545-0743; email@example.com; www.populareconomics.org.
VETERANS - Veterans for Peace is holding the 28th annual convention August 6-11 in Madison, WI. This year’s theme is, Power To The Peaceful.
DEMOCRACY - The Democracy Convention will take place August 7-11 in Madison, WI. The convention brings together nine conferences including topics such as media, education, defense, race, environment and others.
MEN - The 38th National Conference on Men & Masculinity: Forging Justice: Creating Safe, Equal and Accountable Communities, presented in partnership with HAVEN, will be held in Detroit, MI, August 8-10.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.nomas.org/.
OCCUPY - An Occupy National Gathering will be held in Kalamazoo, MI, August 21-25.
Contact: email@example.com; http://occupynationalgathering.net/.
COMMUNITIES - The Communities Conference is a networking and learning opportunity for co-operative or communal lifestyles, with workshops, events and entertainment; scheduled for August 30-September 2 at the Twin Oaks Community in Louisa, Virginia.
LABOR DAY - The 29th annual Bread and Roses Festival, a celebration of the ethnic diversity and labor history of Lawrence, MA, will be held September 2, in honor of the 1912 Bread and Roses Strike. There will be music, dance, poetry, drama, ethnic food, historical demonstrations, walking & trolley tours.
Contact: PO Box 1137, Lawrence, MA 01842; 978-794-1655; http://www.breadandrosesheritage.org/.
OCCUPY WALL STREET - September 17 is the two-year anniversary of the Occupy Wall Street movement. Events are planned in New York City and worldwide.
TEACHERS - The 13th Annual Conference, “Teaching for Social Justice: The Politics of Pedagogy,” will be held October 12 in San Francisco, CA. The free event features workshops, resources, and free childcare.
Contact: 415-676-7844; firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.t4sj.org/.
HAITI - International Action, which brings clean water and chlorinators to Haiti, seeks office space capable of housing up to six people and their office equipment.
Contact: Zach Bremer, Zbrehmer@haitiwater.org; 202-488-0735; http://www.haitiwater.org/.
MEDIA - The Union for Democratic Communications and Project Censored are sponsoring a joint conference on media democracy, media activism and social justice to be held November 1-3 at the University of San Francisco. Proposals for presentations, workshops and panels from activists and critical scholars are invited.