Tonight I went to see Fahrenheit 9/11 with my Dad.
Even though we’d waited a while since the opening, the cinema was surprisingly busy. Maybe it was helped by a special offer that’s on at the moment but it’s still telling that people chose to use that offer to see a political documentary rather than some pleasingly escapist multiplex blockbuster.
I’m afraid I’m as subject to propaganda as the next person. So I’d expected a strident, nakedly emotionally manipulative film that made obviously outrageous links and associations. After all, that’s what 90% of the reviews I’ve seen have said about the film.
And then there’s the lateral criticism: it seems people have been queuing up to make ad hominem attacks on Moore. Ray Bradbury, Pete Townshend, a whole raft of net-based right-wing nutters. The effect of this barrage of negativity is twofold. Firstly, it paints Moore as a totally self-serving blowhard, riding roughshod over the will of little people (though I don’t personally count rock stars and famous authors as little people). Thus, secondly, it makes people doubt anything Moore says.
You have to ask yourself, whose interests does the rubbishing of Moore serve?
I’m a lefty. I’m an anti-war protester and an anti-government protestor since the 1980s. If I sit down in the cinema already slightly cynical about Moore, how much has the average person been affected by the media pillorying?
So there I sat, in the dark. A two hour documentary, a lot of it about purely American politics? I was prepared for boredom. I thought I’d learn nothing new, I thought I’d fail to connect with what has been portrayed as a monochromatic and lumpy film.
I was wrong.
Fahrenheit 9/11 is one of the best political documentaries I’ve ever seen. It encompasses a huge range of emotions. There were scenes that I never, ever want to see again. There were scenes that I think every war-hungry dupe of government should be forced to watch on loop for the rest of their lives. Moore’s film is incredibly well paced, the narrative unfolding with all the panache of a prime mystery thriller. I’d certainly rank this documentary alongside The Weather Underground and Manufacturing Consent.
I haven’t been converted into an uncritical Mooreophile. I wish more time had been spent on the role Butcher Blair played in the illegal invasion of Iraq. I wish that Moore had followed an Iraqi woman who’d lost her family to American “liberation” in the same way as he followed the mother of a US serviceman killed in action.
But could I ever make a two hour documentary that put as many bums on seats on a midweek night during the school holidays? No.
And that’s the importance of Fahrenheit 9/11. Moore may indeed be a total wanker. I don’t really care. But F 9/11 has reached and is reaching a huge mass audience and it’s doing the most important thing possible in any democracy, it’s making us question our glorious leaders. I didn’t find the tone of the film hectoring at all, that’s Moore’s brilliance. Where on the one hand we have the overgrown puppet that is Dubya, regurgitating PNAC neo-Nazi dogma as fact, on the other we have Moore, merely posing questions.
It’s these questions that Bush, Blair and the PNAC cabal want unasked. Where are the WMDs? Why attack Iraq when Iraq had made not one move of aggression or even threat of aggression? Why is it always the poor who are sent to fight and die while the rich rulers keep their progeny safe at home and count their profits?
I looked round my fellow audience as I left at the end of the film. I was trying to work out who they were. It wasn’t all beardy-weirdy Trots and SWP sellers. It wasn’t all terminally guilty middle-class activists festooned in CND and ANL badges. But the composition of the audience looked familiar to me.
Then I remembered. It was the same kind of people who I marched alongside on February 15th, 2003. One and a half million ordinary British people, marching to stop Bush and Blair’s warmongering, trying to stop the bloodshed and atrocities that we knew would be unleashed. I think Moore has obviously tapped into that mass audience of people who wouldn’t normally call themselves “political” but were forced into acting by the arrogance of Blair.
Every day brings more horror stories from occupied Iraq. The ordinary people there are ground under the heels of both the occupying torturers (the US and UK troops) and the madmen bombing their way to salvation. They had no democracy under Saddam, they have none now.
What can we do about it? If you do nothing else, at least go and see this film. Listen to Moore’s questions about the West’s attack on Iraq and see if you can answer them and still sleep soundly at night.
I know I can’t.
I got this email from my mate Paul:
I just saw Mr Moore’s recent film at the cinema.
I was going to ‘blog’ something about it, but I’m all but lost for words.
Except to say ‘Christopher Hitchens is a cunt’.
I was very affected by it. To be honest, I think anyone who leaves that film questioning Moore more than the USK government might as well join their local SS branch.
The criticism of 911 reminds me of all the neo-Nazis that crawled out of the woodwork when ‘Schindler’s List’ came out. All I saw were attacks on Spielberg’s “sentimentality” and “distortion” but behind it all was a movement of holocaust denial.
And I think the same is true now: we’re in the middle of a bloodbath that cunts like Hitchens are seeking to deny is happening *as it’s actually happening.* This isn’t even a distortion of history, it’s a distortion of now.
I guess I should have put all that in the bit I wrote about 911… Maybe I’ll tack it on with your email…