Published at: June 22, 2004, 4:29 p.m. CST by headgeek
At last. Finally. I’ve seen FAHRENHEIT 9/11 and frankly, having seen the film, I think the title is all wrong. The temperature at which freedom burns isn’t really the goal of the film. Yes, this film does have tangible real world goals, with every sprocket hole, this flick is asking you to not re-elect that Bush dude. This is propaganda.
I love propaganda, it’s fascinating. The study of propaganda has been a part of my life as far back as I can remember. My father showing me WWII propaganda cartoons, comics and posters. I remember watching Frank Capra’s WHY WE FIGHT and having my father point out to me how completely Capra tears apart any sympathy for the Nazis. The point was to turn the enemy not into a human being, but a monster you could kill without batting an eyelash. Capra wasn’t just targeting the members of the Nazi party, but the entire history of the German people. He was creating the argument that for once and for all we must fight and destroy these aggressive monsters and punish them to such a degree that they may never rise to inflict their evil upon the Earth again. He was definitely overstating his case at the time… Hell, he didn’t even have the ammunition of knowing about the Holocaust and what was really going on over there. But he did have access to Leni Riefenstahl’s TRIUMPH OF THE WILL, which he re-edited footage from, ran it backwards and forwards to reduce the vaunted leaders to buffoons and monkeys. Taking imposing imagery and turning it into ludicrous imagery. Capra’s WHY WE FIGHT is a masterpiece of propaganda filmmaking. It is funny, disconcerting, persuasive and definitely politically incorrect. It was filled with deception and never ever made an argument for the otherside. There was no sympathy for the Germans, this was to convince every man, woman and child that America was fighting the good fight. That film was successful in every single aspect that it wished to pursue. It was a terrible documentary and a farce of any concept of accurate journalism… and even morally repugnant in it’s characterization of the GERMAN PEOPLE as a whole. It was Great Propaganda though, and it was absolutely necessary in order to motivate those that would otherwise sit on their hands to motivate to fight, to build and to sacrifice to bring freedom and sanity back to the world we lived in.
So how does FAHRENHEIT 9/11 stack up to Capra’s great work of Propaganda? Well, pretty damn good actually. In some ways, I feel the title of the movie should be: WHY WE VOTE, because honestly… that’s what this film is about and for. Like Capra, Michael is looking to erase any sense of propriety from this administration. Michael Moore shows the viewer how this isn’t just one Bush, but all the Bushes that we need to burn. He creates a history of shady deals, connections and decisions made out of personal profit. He shows this isn’t just recent, but that the connections go back to when Bush was vacationing from the National Guard. He shows what Bush was attempting to hide, and why he was hiding it… and why he was concerned about how that would make him look. He doesn’t state conclusions, but pushes the viewer to make the “right” conclusion for themselves. He uses humor, he allows Bush to look the fool that he so often comes across as being. He shows Bush being serious and seemingly sincere, then within a blink of an eye, you see that it was a front as he returns to the “real” Bush – which is the joking loafer. At every point in this film, it is about defaming and ridiculing Bush… showing him to be an insincere ignorant desperate servant of the powers that be. That he is not a President, but a man that doesn’t care about America, Americans, Soldiers, The Homeland, Justice or the Truth.
So is it the great piece of Propaganda that WHY WE FIGHT was? Not quite. But frankly, that isn’t really Michael Moore’s fault. The Nazis and Hitler had hired Leni Riefenstahl to shoot their footage, so the quality of images that Capra had to work with… well, simply they were far better than the images that C-Span or Fox News or Nightline could provide. Also, I don’t feel that he pushed hard enough the concluding message. He wants to leave that to the audience, but Capra understood… he was talking to the masses, people that need the message underlined and spoken aloud. I honestly feel he needed to do his Chaplin moment where he demanded that we not allow this to continue. That this country, our soldiers, our people and the world deserves and demands better for the United States. The film is one knock out tirade away from being a homerun work of Propaganda, but ya know what. It’s pretty damn good.
There’s images in this movie that I honestly feel are just exactly the sort of thing that pisses all human beings off. When you watch this, and you definitely should, be prepared for some hurtful imagery. The civilian and soldier dead and mangled survivors WILL effect you strongly. Women burned by napalm and in particular the kid who cries out in pain as they’re sewing his scalp back together… it hurts. And he asks the question, “Why?” He shows you these images because apparently the media isn’t. Where are the interviews with amputee soldiers, our American Heroes? Why do I have to pay to hear what they think? Why is this on film and not on Nightline? Why are we not being shown the human cost of this war? The film raises up scenes that are quite volatile and by getting to 700 theaters this Friday, and by having the enormous amount of publicity that Michael has managed to drum up… Maybe it has a chance. Maybe.
The history of American Cinematic Propaganda has a good record of return. WHY WE FIGHT worked, it motivated Americans to volunteer. VICTORY THROUGH AIR POWER by Walt Disney did result in Roosevelt creating the Air Force as a separate branch and approving the long range bombers the film demanded this country to dedicate itself to constructing in order to defeat the AXIS. The films in advance of Korea and Vietnam did motivate audiences to believe in those fights. So will Michael Moore’s film unseat these monkeys, can it make a difference?
Time will tell. At the end of the film, the last thing on screen is the statement, “DO SOMETHING: HTTP://WWW.MICHAELMOORE.COM” It is clear that he wants you, all of you to watch this film and do something… give a shit… to voice your anger at him, Bush, the system, something… BUT CARE! Find out more, read more and above all else fucking register to vote and VOTE. Get your friends registered, give them the forms, sit with them as they fill them out. Mail them for them and on Voting day, drive them to the polls and while you’re at it… DON’T FORGET TO VOTE TOO!
Propaganda is generally held in low esteem, almost as a bad word. My grandfather used to claim that America never used propaganda… and if you argued with him, he would just state that it was TRUE. Well, I think I understand that thought-line. If you agree with the propaganda, is it propaganda? If you believe it to be true, and ultimately history proves it to be true, then is there anything wrong with propaganda that was necessary in order to take the world in a better direction? Honestly, I think propaganda is necessary. When governments deceive, when the news programs get brow beaten into sublimation, perhaps independently financed and produced Propaganda to remove those that would lead this country to ruin… Maybe it is necessary to get outrageous and defiant. It is time to protest and motivate. The day Michael Moore and all the other liberal or conservative pundits shut their mouths… it’ll be a glorious day, because it means something is working… unless it’s a really terrible day, because they’ve all been silenced. If Michael Moore’s purpose was to reinforce my beliefs that Bush and his cadre of criminals must be removed from office this November, then by golly… he succeeded!
I know way too many people that gripe about Bush, gripe about the war and then when it comes right down to it… They don’t vote. They look at it like this… They know Bush will win TEXAS no matter what. They feel their vote doesn’t count, but to me, my vote always counts.
Meanwhile, if you see FAHRENHEIT 9/11 and wished it had been meaner to George, I suggest picking up Ted Rall’s GENERALISSIMO EL BUSHO, I just recently got a review copy of the collection of his Bush era editorials and political cartoons and highly recommend it to those that love to see Bush torn to shreds in writing and illustration. Also, Rall tends to make a more aggressive case!