Article > Fahrenheit 9/11
Description :: What the ... ?
I drove two hours each way through mountain passes at eleven thousand feet to go see this movie in a little theatre. It was sadly exactly what I expected it to be. Don't get me wrong -- like Phaedra, I'm at least slightly pleased that (though for the wrong reasons) this movie might inspire people not to vote for Bush who otherwise might have. But I really would have preferred it be for all the right reasons.

Attached you'll find a link to a "deceit-finding" article which attempts to show in what ways the movie is deceitful. Most of it isn't about outright lies -- Michael Moore's more careful than that. Amusingly enough, though it points out how Mr. Moore defends himself on technicalities, most of the deceits presented are also based on technicalities or, just like the movie, on circumstantial evidence. Watching rebuttals, counter-rebuttals, and so forth has been like watching a really sad, ugly parade, and none of it actually improves the debate like it should (or claims to.)

I have a problem with the movie because it's weak to the point of attracting cheap shots that might work. It's weak in that rebuttals can ignore some of the more important parts of the movie yet seem complete by sheer quantity of things discussed. It's weak in that it actually relies on emotional appeal and cirumstantial evidence to make a point that could have been made purely with big, obvious facts and a little bit of logic. It's weak in that it cheapens the debates not just by what it says, but what it causes everyone else to say in response.

Most of the response to this movie seems to follow these points:
- Michael Moore is biased, rather than objective / Documentaries (like editorials in a newspaper) are always biased
- The movie is technically true, but leaves out a lot / It's your job to bring the rest of the facts to the table to make it balanced
- The movie is technically true, but implies un-truth / An intelligent viewer already knows this and sees through it

That having been said, I'm reminded of my philosophy class in high school (that would be in France, where it was a required class.) When writing philosophy dissertations, we were taught that it was appropriate to break it into the following parts: your point of view, the other guy's point of view, and proof that your view is superior. It was assumed you would always start by looking at all sides of a debate, objectively decide on a winner, and then write your paper from that winning point of view. I've never seen this happen since then. Most of us are terrible at presenting the "opposing" point of view accurately -- we just build and set fire to straw men. The real world is made up of people who can't get past their own opinions, or whose opinions change more slowly than the skyline. It's rare for anyone's opinion piece to effectively change someone else's mind -- everyone just shouts from their position, and we get nowhere. We don't side with the winners, we side with ourselves in an attempt to make ourselves the winners (by sheer strength of will or voice.)

The movie is so kind as to bring to the table a few factual pieces that might come in handy: Donald Rumsfeld telling us he knows exactly where the weapons are (around Baghdad and Tikrit, in all four cardinal directions), Mr. Rumsfeld and Dr. Rice (in 2000/2001) telling us that Iraq hasn't been able to rebuild its weapons programs thanks to our vigilance, a few reminders about who Osama is (trained by the CIA to do terrorism/guerilla work to force the USSR out of Afghanistan.) The rest of the movie, however, is dedicated to telling us that patriots can oppose this war, that war is bad for our soldiers, that the Bush family has money, that the Saudi families have money invested in them, and that generally some non-nefarious stuff is going on. You're expected to see grand conspiracies of evil people, almost as evil as terrorists. In my opinion, that kind of malice requires more intelligence than what's offered by terrorists and politicians alike -- but that's just me.

It wasn't Mr. Moore's job to bring everything to the table in a balanced manner. (There's no guarantee that the issue is even actually balanced -- we just assume it is to make ourselves feel better about not winning arguments.) It was his job, however, to bring the important parts to the table and leave the rest behind, and he failed. Those of us who care enough are left with the job of cleaning up this mess he's created.

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Owned by Unordained - Created on 07/04/2004 - Last edited later the same day
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