mad in pursuit: greed & arrogance

2004 political season

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greed & arrogance index


5.28.04 Michael Moore

My friend asks what I think of "Fahrenheit 9/11" by Michael Moore, which won top honors at the Cannes film festival. Of course, it'll be a while before any of us see the movie because the Bush backers at Disney dropped their plans to distribute it in the U.S. But I did read of good review of it in the Sunday New York Times arts section.

Whatever you think of Mr. Moore, there's no question he's detonating dynamite here. From a variety of sources foreign journalists and broadcasters (like Britain's Channel Four), freelancers and sympathetic American TV workers who slipped him illicit video he supplies war-time pictures that have been largely shielded from our view. Instead of recycling images of the planes hitting the World Trade Center on 9/11 once again, Mr. Moore can revel in extended new close-ups of the president continuing to read "My Pet Goat" to elementary school students in Florida for nearly seven long minutes after learning of the attack. Just when Abu Ghraib and the savage beheading of Nicholas Berg make us think we've seen it all, here is yet another major escalation in the nation-jolting images that have become the battleground for the war about the war.


Last weekend The Los Angeles Times reported that for the first time three Army divisions, more than a third of its combat troops, are so depleted of equipment and skills that they are classified "unfit to fight." In contrast to Washington's neglect, much of "Fahrenheit 9/11" turns out to be a patriotic celebration of the heroic American troops who have been fighting and dying under these and other deplorable conditions since President Bush's declaration of war.

In particular, the movie's second hour is carried by the wrenching story of Lila Lipscomb, a flag-waving, self-described "conservative Democrat" from Mr. Moore's hometown of Flint, Mich., whose son, Sgt. Michael Pedersen, was killed in Iraq. We watch Mrs. Lipscomb, who by her own account "always hated" antiwar protesters, come undone with grief and rage. As her extended family gathers around her in the living room, she clutches her son's last letter home and reads it aloud, her shaking voice and hand contrasting with his precise handwriting on lined notebook paper. A good son, Sergeant Pedersen thanks his mother for sending "the bible and books and candy," but not before writing of the president: "He got us out here for nothing whatsoever. I am so furious right now, Mama."

I have to confess that ever since I saw "Bowling at Columbine" and "Roger and Me," Michael Moore has been a filmmaking hero of mine. I am in awe of his boldness and intrigued by his mix of film, cartoons, photos -- whatever it takes to get the message across. Of course he is bombastic and egotistical. But I look upon him as the left's answer to Rush Limbaugh -- a maniacal entertainer and influencer -- although I think Moore is a more careful and energetic trial lawyer. Limbaugh has descended into repeating old chestnuts and debunked information.

Even Donald Rumsfeld has admitted that he wasn't moved by the prison torture scandal till he saw the pictures. So while I love reading long scholarly analyses in the "New Yorker," it will be movies and pictures that snap Americans out of their apathy.

The media has been very careful since 9/11, doing a lot of self-censoring for fear of being seen as unpatriotic. And I'm tired of hearing how criticism or a "change in course" would be "bad for troop morale." Call me old fashioned, but somehow death seems worse than being underappreciated.

So it will take someone like Michael Moore and his no-hold-barred style to call this administration to task and reveal the terrible consequences of its decisions.






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