Michael Moore's True Believers
Fahrenheit 9/11 stirs up anti-Bush crowd, or was it just a glucose high fueled by Skittles?
By Greg Payne
There probably won't be any impact on my daughter because she attended an early afternoon screening of Fahrenheit 9/11 on the Fourth of July. At three weeks of age, she can't vote (although it is New Mexico) and spent most of the 120 minutes asleep in her mother's arms anyway. And while there are parts of the movie I wish I'd slept through, my suspicion is that Fahrenheit 9/11 will have some impact on the November elections.
For starters, I can't remember the last time an audience applauded at the end of a movie. The crowd at the screening we attended put their hands together (some even giving a standing O) and had the sort of palpable energy normally associated with a religious revival. Maybe these true believers were riding a glucose high fueled by popcorn, soft drinks and Skittles, but there wasn't any question they'd seen the light of some sort.
Granted, most probably wouldn't ever vote for Bush. But there's a difference between a disgruntled, apathetic voter and a voter who is angry and determined. Fahrenheit 9/11 seems to motivate the anti-Bush vote the way evangelicals found inspiration in The Passion of the Christ. Only in this case, the guy writing the epistle is Michael Moore, not Mel Gibson, and there's a presidential election less than four months away—not necessarily the best news for Republicans.
Some personal thoughts on the movie: Moore's got a left-of-center agenda you have to take into consideration. His pre-war Iraq looks like a desert version of Sesame Street—no gassing of Kurds or any of that other Saddam Hussein nastiness here. The scene in front of the White House focused on a grieving mother whose son died in Iraq seems contrived, overdone and gratuitous. Her emotion is much more powerful—and real—in an earlier interview filmed at home with her family.
Off-camera shots intended to make his Republican targets look foolish (Paul Wolfowitz licking a comb, then spitting on his hand to smooth his hair back before an interview, for example) can be taken of anyone—including, I suspect, Michael Moore. For whatever reason (bias?) the Democrats don't have any of their goofy outtakes as part of the Fahrenheit scenery.
Moore does raise questions that deserve nonpartisan thought, deliberation and answers, though. The close personal (and, possibly, financial) relationship between the Bush family and the Saudi monarchy and the effect it has on U.S. foreign policy, for example.
We know that 15 of the 19 hijackers involved in the 9-11 attacks were Saudi nationals and that the wife of Prince Bandar (nicknamed Bandar "Bush" by the president's family) contributed money to at least two of the hijackers, albeit "inadvertently." According to news reports, 28 pages of the 9-11 Commission report on the 9-11 attacks remain blacked out, because they are potentially embarrassing to the Saudis. Then, of course, there are those flights after 9-11 when Saudis—including members of the Bin Laden family—were allowed to take to the air and go home while American citizens were faced with travel restrictions.
At the end of the day, Fahrenheit is a political film and, like the political races before voters this November, you can take it or leave it. Although, for my money, it's worth the price of admission just to see John Ashcroft sing "Let the Eagle Soar."
And a final thought ... Thou shalt not kill. But you probably shouldn't beat your kids, either. Cody Posey will have one helluva "What I did this summer" paper to write in the fall. Having just completed the eighth grade, the 14-year-old is now charged with the murder of his father, stepmother and stepsister. But this doesn't look like an Eric and Lyle Menendez murder for money or Nintendo. It looks like Posey wanted his father to stop beating him.
National attention has been attracted to the homicides, because they took place on the New Mexico ranch of ABC news personality Sam Donaldson. Donaldson acknowledged that Posey's father Paul was "... a little hard on his son, but that's the way in the Southwest."
Others would disagree with Donaldson on Southwestern mores and might see Paul Posey's treatment of his son as abuse. School friends recall repeated incidents over the years of black eyes and bruises. According to news reports, Faustino Salcido, father of two of Cody's friends, said, "There were a lot of people who wanted to whip his dad because of the way he treated him [Cody] in public." And that attitude was based on treatment they saw in public.
Where the stepmother and sister fit into this tragedy is a question mark. Either way, three people who should be alive are dead and a kid who, according to teachers, was bright, full of energy and got good grades, will have a far different life than he would have before he reached for a gun.
Then again, if reports prove true, Paul Posey could have found a different way of communicating with his son. Perhaps one that didn't involve his fists.
The opinions expressed are solely those of the author. Payne, a former city councilor, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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