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Nostalgia and something less cheery
Michael Moore's fabulously effective piece of propaganda

By Sam Fayyaz
June 29, 2004

Something that has been increasingly apparent over the past few weeks is that nostalgia -- the sentimental yearning for return 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 cynical observers believe that unrelenting optimism can change the world. And, although former President Clinton hardly made any of us proud, his soft, 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 Secretary 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, shown 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."

Ok, Mike. 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.

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