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"These are the days when the Christian is expected to praise every creed except his own." G.K.Chesterton

"You cannot grow a beard in a moment of passion." G.K.Chesterton

"As you perhaps know, I haven't always been a Christian. I didn't go to religion to make me happy. I always knew a bottle of Port would do that."C. S. Lewis

"I blog, therefore I am." Anon

Saturday, July 31, 2004

and the Leni Reifenstahl award for "documentary" film-making once again goes to...

... Michael Moore

Kay Hymowitz, writing a year ago in the summer 2003 edition of City Journal
accurately predicted the outcome of Fahrenheit 9/11:
Mr. Moore's moral stupidity, so ratcheted up by September 11, is likely to drive his next film, a documentary about the "twin errant sons of different oilmen"--George W. Bush and Osama bin Laden. The filmmaker is hoping to release the movie, called "Fahrenheit 9/11," a few months before the presidential election, to "make sure that Bush isn't returned." All signs point to his usual techniques--facts stripped of context and detail, dark insinuations and outright lies, all leavened by pop music and Strangelovian irony.

Tracing some of Mr. Moore's recent comments, one can piece together the argument--or rather the hazy impressions, for Mr. Moore never constructs an argument--that will make up this so-called documentary. Mr. Moore will insinuate that the United States created Osama--"or USA-ma, which is more appropriate considering we trained him to be a terrorist." He will tell us that in the late 1990s the oil firm Unocal held a meeting with Taliban representatives in Houston, "when Bush was governor," to talk about building a pipeline through Afghanistan. He will imply that this project was the reason the U.S. gave humanitarian aid to the Taliban, until "the deal went south," and "suddenly the Taliban were evil." And thus, Michael Moore will finally reveal the awful truth that only he is courageous enough to admit about why the United States really went to war with the Taliban.

And you can be sure that the trendy sophisticates in Cannes and Hollywood will once again rise to their feet to honor their mendacious auteur, European intellectuals will bow before his Manichaean simplicities, and the international radical left will cheer the moral obtuseness of the man who has made his fortune turning the documentary into fiction.

So prescient! Gideon Haigh asks

"But what to make of this latest two-hour tantrum, which doesn't merely ooze innuendo and misrepresentation, but is long, boring and puerile too?"

Consider the following:

This film is a half-baked, agitprop conspiracy fantasy...

Indeed, what is so striking is the deep contempt Moore has for his fellow Americans, and the bottomless regard for himself. For Mooreland is populated by the stupid, credulous or corrupt — except, or course, for Michael Moore...

Will such a farrago of paranoid distortions and ideological spite have any effect? You bet. The preview audience, overwhelmingly composed of our fashionable movers and shakers, applauded wildly.
Melanie Phillips in the London Daily Mail

I brought a notebook with me when I went to see Michael Moore's "Fahrenheit 9/11" and in the dark made notes before I gave up, defeated by the utter stupidity of the movie.
Richard Cohen in the Washinton Post

Trying to track the unproven innuendoes and conspiracies in a Michael Moore film or book is as futile as trying to count the flatulence jokes in one by Adam Sandler...

Back in 1991 that sharpest of film critics, the New Yorker's Pauline Kael, blunted some of the raves for Mr. Moore's "Roger and Me" by pointing out how the film misrepresented many facts about plant closings in Flint, Mich., and caricatured people it purported to feel for. "The film I saw was shallow and facetious," said Kael, "a piece of gonzo demagoguery that made me feel cheap for laughing."

His methods remain unrefined in "Fahrenheit 9/11." Mr. Moore ignores or misrepresents the truth, prefers innuendo to fact, edits with poetic license rather than accuracy, and strips existing news footage of its context to make events and real people say what he wants, even if they don't. As Kael observed back then, Mr. Moore's method is no more high-minded than "the work of a slick ad exec."
Scott Simon in the Wall Street Journal

There seems to be a growing sentiment among liberals that Moore is a bad guy, but dammit, he's our bad guy. I disagree. Liberalism is as badly served by liberal intellectual dishonesty as it is by conservative intellectual dishonesty.

But I also hope they won't be fooled by the bad logic at the center of his film.
Richard Just in The New Republic Online.

As has become my custom at Moore screenings, I began by scratching hash marks in my notebook, counting his conspiracy theories. Not only does this train the mind, but it distracts me from laughing inappropriately and disturbing fellow filmgoers. But in Fahrenheit 9/11, I quickly abandoned counting for cackling...

The intro credits are accompanied by creepy acoustic guitar runs--third-world atrocity music--which play under a montage of our leaders/war criminals sinisterly readying themselves for television appearances. There's Dick Cheney getting his rake-over fluffed. There's Tom Ridge diabolically laughing. There's Paul Wolfowitz smoothing a cowlick with spittle. They smile. They have make-up applied before going on TV. Bastards!

From there, Moore offers a full hour's worth of Bush-centric conspiracies so seemingly random, disjointed, and pointless that one's ticket stub should come with a flow-chart and a decoder ring. In my line of work, when you hear this strain of rhetoric, it's usually from a man in a sandwich board touting the apocalypse or Mumia's innocence, pushing stacks of literature at you while standing on the wrong side of a police cordon. It doesn't typically come from someone whose premiere is attended by half of respectable Democratic Washington, and whose film won the coveted Palme d'Or prize at Cannes.
Matt Labash in The Weekly Standard

What makes "Fahrenheit 9/11" notable is that feature-length movie-house agitprop is a relatively rare and new thing, and that so far it has been treated (for instance by the Cannes Film Festival jury) as something more than the clever (if breathtakingly sleazy) political propaganda that it is...

Moore has defended deliberate inaccuracies in his prior films by claiming that satirists don't have to tell the exact truth. Fair enough. But if you take the lies, half-lies and distortions out "Fahrenheit 9/11," there isn't much of anything left.
Jonathan Foreman in the New York Post

Watching Fahrenheit 911 one could not have helped but to think that "this is what it must have been like in Nazi Germany." The propaganda was so blatant and one sided. I also was given an appreciation of what it must have been like to be on the OJ Simpson jury. I was surrounded by people that had reached a conclusion based on political beliefs, and seemed to have no interest in anything other than data that supported their preconceived conclusion. These are the people that use the scientific method in reverse. They reach a conclusion and then go digging for data to support their conclusion, and angrily ignore any data that contradicts their beliefs. Getting to the truth isn’t the issue, finding comfort in the acceptance from others is.
Robert Martin

It’s typical Moore: lies, half-truths, far-left wackos and kooks as experts, snarky cheap shots, and just plain nonsense.
Debbie Schlussel

To describe this film as dishonest and demagogic would almost be to promote those terms to the level of respectability. To describe this film as a piece of crap would be to run the risk of a discourse that would never again rise above the excremental. To describe it as an exercise in facile crowd-pleasing would be too obvious. Fahrenheit 9/11 is a sinister exercise in moral frivolity, crudely disguised as an exercise in seriousness. It is also a spectacle of abject political cowardice masking itself as a demonstration of "dissenting" bravery...

At no point does Michael Moore make the smallest effort to be objective. At no moment does he pass up the chance of a cheap sneer or a jeer. He pitilessly focuses his camera, for minutes after he should have turned it off, on a distraught and bereaved mother whose grief we have already shared. (But then, this is the guy who thought it so clever and amusing to catch Charlton Heston, in Bowling for Columbine, at the onset of his senile dementia.) Such courage...

If Michael Moore had had his way, Slobodan Milosevic would still be the big man in a starved and tyrannical Serbia. Bosnia and Kosovo would have been cleansed and annexed. If Michael Moore had been listened to, Afghanistan would still be under Taliban rule, and Kuwait would have remained part of Iraq. And Iraq itself would still be the personal property of a psychopathic crime family, bargaining covertly with the slave state of North Korea for WMD. You might hope that a retrospective awareness of this kind would induce a little modesty. To the contrary, it is employed to pump air into one of the great sagging blimps of our sorry, mediocre, celeb-rotten culture. Rock the vote, indeed.
Christopher Hitchens in Slate

"Fahrenheit 9/11," for those who haven’t seen it, is the ugly stepchild of mistimed comedy and sentimentalism. It has no discernible narrative; it botches the points it tries to score with smug self-righteousness; it contradicts itself ceaselessly; it fails to construct a homogenous argument; it is haphazard, narcissistic, self-promoting, slapdash, intellectually dishonest, and even racist. The only possible way to value the movie as a movie is to regard it as spoof propaganda - a parodic take on Frank Capra for the dumbed-down 21st century. But of course the film is no such thing; it is propaganda straight, with no chaser.
Turi Munthe in the Lebanon Daily Star

Most of the film's more febrile assertions disintegrate on any contact with evidence... in places, Moore doesn't merely twist facts; he bends them to breaking point.

"Propaganda", hitherto, has usually had pejorative connotations; Moore's apologists, by contrast, glory in his bias. To display their metropolitan sophistication, they will usually admit his flair for mangling fact, then acclaim him as a kind of idiot savant wakening viewers to deeper realities.

Moore's work... is too feeble, as art and politics, and a substitute for thought rather than a stimulant for it; the Palme d'Or it won at Cannes will, I suspect, eventually be seen in the same light as Milli Vanilli's Grammy. It is, in short, the ideal modern controversy: loud, empty and ultimately pointless.
Gideon Haigh in The Sydney Morning Herald

That Michael Moore's Fahrenheit 9/11 received the Cannes film festival's most coveted prize should have served as a warning that something about it was fishy. After all, a disturbing trend following the 2001 terrorist attacks was the absurdly generous attention the European media lavished on conspiracy crackpots, the moral equivalent of Holocaust deniers, who argued that 9/11 was actually an elaborate plot by the U.S., Israeli or British governments...

Fahrenheit 9/11 places Moore squarely on the growing list of charlatans and hucksters engaged in a steady business pawning off their fabrications on an unfortunately credulous public.
Rocky Mountain News

Go here to examine the "facts" presented by Moore in his hatchet job on Bush:

Fifty-nine Deceits in Fahrenheit 911 by David Kopel of the Independence Institute

If all you know is what the mainstream media tell you, then you
are living in a world of illusions. But you can’t free your mind if
you merely replace one set of manipulative illusions with another
set of manipulative illusions. Fahrenheit 9/11 is a twisted,
dishonest, paranoid, and hateful fantasy. Learn the facts, and
make up your own mind.

8:12:00 pm