Nostalgia and something less cheery
Michael Moore's fabulously effective piece
By Sam Fayyaz
June 29, 2004
Something that has been increasingly apparent over
the past few weeks is that nostalgia -- the sentimental yearning
to or of some past period -- is powerful political lodestone
in America. President Reagan's passing and President Clinton's
second coming proved to be the most talked about, read about,
and watched political events this Spring. It seemed fitting that
just as America's "great communicator" shuffled
off, "Bubba" waltzed into the spotlight once again
to remind us of more peaceful times when scandal in the beltway
had more to do with very real BJs and not phantom WMDs.
Reagan, it has been written ad-nauseum, was the last president
to make Americans on both sides of the isle proud to be American.
I find myself glued to the television when his son Ron waxes
sentimental about his father. Ronald Reagan made even the most
believe that unrelenting optimism can change the world. And,
although former President Clinton hardly made any of us proud,
unpretentious demeanor, and fundamental grasp of the inner workings
of the globalized technological orgy that this world has become,
made us feel safe. These were headier times when our latent arrogance
manifested itself as shameless goodwill.
For a few weeks Americans were able to rewind and conjure up
the sense of comfort that they felt when the Berlin Wall came crashing
down up to September 10th. Ronald Reagan's funeral and Bill
Clinton's book tour were events that awakened our collective
memory and reminded us that we elected leaders that stood for tomorrow
rather than yesterday, or the here and now.
Where these events inspire nostalgia, Michael Moore's Fahrenheit
911 painstakingly drudges up bad memories. Indeed, Moore's
cinematic op-ed serves to remind us all that the current administration
has fumbled on nearly every handoff the post-9/11 world has offered
us. According to Moore, neither bureaucratic errors, miscalculation,
nor the nebulous domain of foreign affairs account for the Bush
Administration's failings. Instead, the timeless vices of
greed, pride, and, in W's case, envy prove the alchemy of
failure. Instead of coming across as incompetent, the Bushies appear
sinister, with the exception of Bush himself, who Moore portrays
as a bumbling rube with a seedy underside.
The sequence following
the opening credits which portrays Bush and members of his cabinet
preparing for on-air interviews is, in my opinion, enough to
warrant an R rating. I will have nightmares thinking about Deputy
of Defense Paul Wolfowtiz slurping on his comb to tame his tresses,
all the while smirking sinisterly like a post-coital vampire.
President Bush's beady eyes shifting nervously while smirking,
in slow-motion, tells of a man both simple and menacing.
What viewers will take away from this film isn't the degree
to which the members of this administration are entangled in deceit
and avarice, but the degree to which they are removed from these
seemingly self-evident truths. Like the Nazis who administered
Cyclon-B in their victims' chambers, the Bush Administration
intentionally turns away and isolates itself from the lives they
have destroyed (or so Moore depicts). One gets the impression that
these men (and woman) go home at night, slather their hands with
Lava soap, and wash the blood off their hands right before they
brush their fangs.
As a political tool Fahrenheit is a fabulously effective piece
of propaganda. It has been reported that a majority of swing voters
who have seen the film swing left by the time the closing credits
roll. There is no question that if enough swing voters in swing
states like Arizona, Florida, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Ohio,
Pennsylvania, Washington and Wisconsin see this film Bush's
head rolls in November. Moore has never pretended to be "fare
and balanced," but merely a quasi-socialist filmmaker with
an agenda to unseat the current President. Does he go too far?
Bob Novak and Sean Hannity will certainly have you think so.
I certainly don't believe that any nation, let alone the
world's most powerful, charts a foreign policy premised on
greed and blood lust. Nor do I believe that every "fact" Moore
presents in his film are just that. Half-truths are exploited,
and generalizations are presented as fact. Example: (voice over): "Iraq
has never threatened to attack the United States."
No, Iraq has never explicitly declared war on the United States.
However, it doesn't take more than a "Google" search
to discover that Saddam was complacent when it came to striking
the "infidel": read -- U.S. and/or Israel. Like
Karl Rove, Moore is a master of image making. And, like Karl
Rove, I don't blame him for his efforts. However, unlike Karl Rove,
Moore has the luxury of beaming light on Bush's record to
reveal something less cheery than nostalgia.