There has never been a more perfect time for a Michael Moore expose—an election year in the midst of a war. Moore himself makes no bones about the fact that he created Fahrenheit 9/11 to help defeat George W. Bush in the 2004 Presidential Election.
The movie begins by revisiting Election Night 2000, and the infamous Florida voting controversy. Fingers point to it having everything to do with Dubya’s brother running the state, and possibly influencing the vote. Moore’s voiceover goes on to declare that little was accomplished in the first few months of Bush’s presidency and that he spent most of his time going on vacation and playing golf…rather than paying attention to terrorist alerts.
September 11th was portrayed in a highly unique and effective way. Not once did the film show the twin towers on fire. The screen merely faded to black, then you heard the crash and ensuing screams, shouting and sirens. When the picture fades in again, it only shows the horrified reactions of people on the ground looking up, or embracing one another in terror. Then we cut to George W. reading to the children in the classroom. Once the aide whispers the alarming news in his ear, the camera is trained on him for a good long while, and Michael Moore wonders what the president was thinking and why he wasn’t reacting. He offers possible thoughts Bush might’ve been having about hanging with the wrong group of Saudis.
One of Fahrenheit’s main issues was the questionable relationship between the Bush family and the bin Laden family, and Saudis being given special treatment in the United States. Another issue was the Patriot Act. One of the film’s more comical moments, as seen in the trailer, was when Moore rents an ice cream truck so he can use its PA system to read the Patriot Act to members of Congress as he drives past them on Capitol Hill. He does this after his discovery that most of them never took the time to even read the act before signing it.
Other issues covered by Fahrenheit are the faulty aspects of Homeland Security, shady recruiting practices when U.S. troop numbers needed a boost, and the link (or lack thereof) between Iraq and Al-Qaida. As Fahrenheit plunges viewers head first into graphic scenes of Operation Iraqi Freedom, we see disturbing footage of dead or maimed women and children, soldiers explaining which rock songs help pump them up as they fire guns and missiles, and frightened Iraqi families yelling and praying as their homes are searched. There are several interviews with soldiers (some who have since come forth in the media and complained that their words were used out of context), and the most compelling one was the serviceman who admitted that he loses a piece of his soul every time he takes a life. Fahrenheit brought out the Vietnam-like demoralization of troops who are beginning to question their purpose for fighting, and realizing that it’s not going to be over for a long, long time. Even a patriotic, flag-waving mother from Flint, Michigan began to question the purpose of the war after her son was shot down in a Blackhawk.
Moore indulges in some cheap shots, using unflattering footage of politicians and certain pop songs to satirize solemn events. He also peppers a lot of speculation around the facts (which are carefully documented on his website www.michaelmoore.com), and critics have accused him of editing out parts of the raw footage to better accommodate his ideas. I’m wondering why there were no interviews with liberated Iraqis, whose family members were tortured and killed by the Hussein regime. Or perhaps a feature on some of the Afghan women who were finally able to take off those veils and have careers again. Just for the sake of balance and fairness.
If you like Michael Moore, you will be proud. This was one of his better creations, overall. If you are a neutral observer, wanting to investigate more than one viewpoint, check out http://www.davekopel.org/Terror/Fiftysix-Deceits-in-Fahrenheit-911.htm#2000_Election_Night for a fairly unbiased, factual refuting of some of Fahrenheit’s allegations. And good luck at the polls this November.