Every successful predator has a distinctive way of succeeding; some ways are more cerebral than others. The fox and the badger have been equally successful for millions of years: the fox by being clever and adaptive, the badger by the dogged employment of a single trick: he digs. You might say that the badger has the genius of will; he has discovered one simple trick that works for him and he has stayed with it; his constant repetition his one trick has made the badger a well-fed predator indeed.
Michael Moore is a badger. A close examination of Moore’s biographical information reveals a man who had screwed up everything he had put his hand to until he stumbled upon the one simple trick that would make him a rich celebrity. All of Michael Moore’s success has flowed from his dogged repetition of that one simple trick.
Michael Moore: The Clueless Years
In 1972 Michael Moore was hired to work on a Buick assembly line in Flint, Michigan. He lasted one day.
After honing his signature proletarian shtick, Moore was hired as an editor of the liberal magazine Mother Jones in 1986. At his first editorial meeting he savaged the magazine’s previous efforts. He was dismissed after a few months. recalled, “He was impossible to work with. He was arbitrary; he was suspicious; he was unavailable. He ignored deadlines . . .” A pouting Michael Moore sued Mother Jones for $2 million, then quickly settled for $58,000. Moore used this unearned $58,000 as seed money for his “documentary” Roger & Me. That’s the flick in which he features himself in a fruitless pursuit of GM boss Roger Smith. In truth, Mr. Smith had already granted a thoughtful interview to Michael Moore on camera. Moore chose to conceal that film footage from the ticket-buying public, pretending all the while that Roger Smith was evading him.
A year later, Moore was generously offered a grant by Ralph Nader’s group to write a newsletter. Soon afterward the Nader folks asked Moore to go away, citing his failure to show up for work. Moore claimed that Nader was just jealous of Moore’s book deal.
By 1989 Moore was vilifying those critics of Roger & Me who had convincingly demonstrated that Moore had patched together a false history of the GM layoffs in Flint, Michigan. Moore’s response to their detailed criticisms was to sputter an unsubstantiated claim that his detractors has been bought off by General Motors.
In 1994 NBC abruptly cancelled Michael Moore’s TV Nation after only nine episodes because of low ratings. According to the New Yorker: “Little by little, he began to alienate people. He disliked sharing credit with his writers. He would often come in late. He didn’t yell at people: if someone said something he didn’t like, he wouldn’t argue; he would simply not invite the person to the next meeting, or the person would be fired.”
The following year Fox picked up TV Nation, but dropped it after only eight episodes. Michael Moore and his writers were soon embroiled in a nasty credit dispute.
Since then Moore has made several films that have been widely mistaken for documentaries. I will deconstruct these fantasies later. In 2004 Miramax, a subsidiary of Disney, gave Moore $6 million to produce Fahrenheit 9/11. Shortly before the film’s release date, Michael Moore began ranting that Disney had suddenly refused to distribute his film. It was all a phony show to hype his flick. Soon afterward, during a CNN interview, Moore foolishly blurted out that “Almost a year ago, after we’d started making my film the chairman of Disney, Michael Eisner, told my agent that he was upset Miramax made the film and he will not distribute it.” So Moore’s feigned dismay was only a publicity stunt; he had known for a full year that Disney wanted nothing to do with Fahrenheit 9/11.
Moore’s Bogus Biography
Michael Moore was born and raised in the prosperous suburban community of Davison, Michigan. He attended Davison High School. Although there is no law preventing black people from owning a home in Davison, the town’s African-Americans are only one half of one percent of its population. Davison is a haven for management types, not laborers. You’ll never hear any of these truths from Michael Moore.
Moore’s website, his speaker’s bureau and his film Roger & Me have all pounded out the fiction that Michael Moore is a native of Flint, “where his father and most of his relatives worked in the automobile factories” according to his production company’s website. In an interview with the People’s Weekly World Moore explored the wellspring of his special empathy with the working man: “I think it’s just a function of growing up in Flint, Michigan.” His empathy is just another dimension of Michael Moore’s total proletarian public-image package: the four-day facial stubble, the plaid shirts, the sprung belly and the baseball cap. It’s all a costume affected by a working-man wannabee. In truth Michael Moore is a socially maladroit middle class white guy with an eating disorder who got filthy rich by exploiting a few cinematic gimmicks and by ignoring the truth. When he’s not denouncing the wealthy in speeches for which he charges thirty to forty thousand dollars a pop, he’s dividing his leisure time between his $1.9 million home in New York City and his $1.2 million vacation retreat in Michigan. It’s tough being a working-guy wannabee.
As a member of the United Auto Workers, Moore’s father received free medical care, free dental care, and four weeks of paid vacation. Free legal help was also available. The Moore family had two automobiles and they owned their own home free and clear. They lived in a well-to-do community and they took nice vacations. Daddy Moore sent three children to college. Michael Moore attended the University of Michigan, but says he quit one morning because he couldn’t find a parking space. After the eighth grade Moore had enrolled in seminary, but his resolve only lasted one year. Moore’s dad worked the first shift from six to two and then played golf. He retired with a full pension at age fifty-three, after which he took it easy. The current pension crisis at General Motors was born of the lavish entitlement of the United Auto Workers. Michael Moore was a comfortable beneficiary of that lush system of entitlements; he is embittered that it didn’t continue even though it was doomed from the start by its spendthrift impracticality.
Mike’s First Efforts
Michael Moore is a man of little imagination. That’s why he stole the scenario for what became Roger & Me from Michael Westfall. During a visit to Flint, Michael Moore was privy to the details of Westfall’s proposal for a documentary on General Motors that would use Ralph Nader’s idea of personalizing the harm done to Flint by focusing on individual GM executives and on Roger Smith in particular. Michael Moore was present at the meeting where Westfall’s friends discussed how to maximize the emotional impact of the film by using humor. It was the intention of the Nader group to use the profits from their documentary to help the people of Flint.
Michael Westfall generously offered Moore hundreds of pages of research on GM. Westfall even got Moore into a GM shareholder’s meeting where Moore interrogated Roger Smith at length as Moore’s camera captured every articulate response. Michael Moore had the opportunity to question Roger Smith a second time at a press luncheon and once again on an exhibit floor. Moore’s film footage also included Michael Westfall and other Nader activists, all of whom assumed that Michael Moore was making a documentary about the conflicted needs of GM and the surrounding Flint community. They were mistaken. Michael Moore was making a flick about Michael Moore; he had hijacked the project away from the altruistic idealists and given it a most appropriate title: Roger & Me. The footage of the activists was tossed into the trash; the footage of Roger Smith candidly answering all of Michael Moore’s questions in thoughtful detail was hidden away. Henceforth, this flick would be about Michael Moore’s fictitious attempts to secure an interview with Roger Smith. It became a one-gag movie that falsely depicted Roger Smith as a heartless, elusive coward and Michael Moore as a proletarian crusader with a camera. In truth, Moore was in it for the money.
After this exercise in narcissism and false history was released, Moore went on television live with Phil Donahue and denied that anyone had aided him in any way. He blabbered to the Flint Journal that “they want money and they’re trying to extort it from me!” Moore killed the dream of using the profits from the documentary to help Flint; he threw a few nickels to four families depicted in the film and then pocketed the remaining millions.
Michael Moore saw the chance to get rich and he took it; he had seen privation on visits to Flint and he wanted no part of it; his upbringing in prosperous Davison had prepped him for the executive life. If his “documentary” had only a passing acquaintance with the truth, Michael Moore was unconcerned; his flick had done its job: it had made money. Along the way Moore honed the one simplistic trick that would make him fabulously wealthy: the misleading film montage.
People who watch documentaries assume the existence of a timeline, of a chronological order and of a proper relationship between cause and effect. The film Roger & Me is supposed to be about the consequences of the GM layoffs of May and December 1986, but these layoffs occurred at least a full year after many of the events that Moore would have us believe were responses to the layoffs. Film clips of Ronald Reagan visiting Flint were from his visit as a candidate in 1980, a full six years before the layoffs. Moore’s movies are tossed salads of film clips edited for ideological and emotional effect; any resemblance they may have to the truth is coincidental. When Harlan Jacobson, editor of Film Commentary pressed Moore on the matter of his invented timelines, Moore retorted: “Okay, so you can say that the chronology skips around a bit!” This is analogous to a surgeon admitting that his hand jumps around a bit during surgery. The result is the same: a hack job. A documentary with no respect for chronology is just a fantasy.
Moore does no better with location than he does with time. Locations he identifies as Grosse Pointe were actually shot in Flint; scenes identified as Flint were shot in Detroit. Moore records his pursuit of Roger Smith at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel in New York City, a hotel at which Roger Smith has never stayed. Moore stakes out the Grosse Pointe Yacht Club, of which Roger Smith is not a member. Moore knew all this; he was simply gulling his ticket buyers.
Pauline Kael, reviewing Roger & Me for the New Yorker, called the film “shallow and facetious, a piece of gonzo demagoguery that made me feel cheap for laughing.”
A Few Words about Faking Reality
Every trade has its distinctive lingo and once the creation of fake histories became big business it too acquired a revealing nomenclature. The vest-pocket dramas called Reality TV are a window on the craft of cinematic deception. Recently the liars who spin this fluff began to quarrel with one another and revealing details of their craft became public knowledge. According to Time magazine (2/6/06): “Those staff members – who create the storylines, coach interview answers and cobble together video – say their work amounts to writing, and they are suing their networks and production companies, arguing that they deserve to be covered by the Writers Guild of America.” Their employers prefer to call these folks “story editors” or “segment producers” because this nomenclature preserves the illusion that these productions are authentic replicas of real-life events and totally uncontaminated by scripting, which is a lie.
When a participant in The Dating Experiment disliked a suitor whom the producers wanted her to like, they called her aside and asked her “Who’s your favorite celebrity?” to which she replied that she really loved Adam Sandler. Later, in the editing room, the craftsmen of deception stripped out Sandler’s name and spliced in the name of the disliked male contestant. This technique is called Frankenbiting; it is used to put words in the mouths of people who never expressed such thoughts.
Another deceptive technique is the Fake Setting. For example: Donald Trump’s boardroom on The Apprentice is a stage set; so is the “apartment” where the contestants supposedly dwell. A variation of the fake setting would be Michael Moore’s deliberate misidentification of scenes shot in Flint, Grosse Pointe and Detroit for the purpose of creating false impressions. When Michael Moore tramps around the Waldorf Astoria and the Grosse Pointe Yacht Club in pretend pursuit of Roger Smith, a man who has no history at either of those locations, Moore is using these posh locations to generate the false impressions that Roger Smith is elusive and a habitué of luxury.
The creators of false history may also use The Leading Interview to elicit answers that seem to heighten conflict and drama. This technique is akin to push polling in which the pollster pretends to be questioning the interviewee but is really feeding the subject suggestions and narrowly framing any possible answers. Al Gore used a push-polling blitz during the 2000 election to panic thousands of elderly Florida voters into believing that they might have mistakenly cast votes for Pat Buchanan. They hadn’t, but their fevered calls to their Democrat representatives provided the pretext Gore needed to take the 2000 election before the Democrat-friendly Florida Supreme Court. So the Leading Interview is a powerful tool of persuasion.
The trashiest technique is The Overdub. On Fox’s show Joe Millionaire, the lead hunk disappears into the bushes with Sarah Kozer. The Fox craftsmen then added suggestive sound effects to suggest that Sarah was indulging in oral sex. Sarah says the producers added captions and dubbed in the line “It’s better if we’re lying down” which she had said earlier in the day in another context. Variations of this technique are off-camera comments by people who were not present when the scene was shot and the addition of screams, explosions and ominous music to jack up the drama of lackluster footage.
All of these sleazy deceptions are signature features of Michael Moore’s films, but the one gimmick that has made Michael Moore a multi-millionaire is the Misleading Montage or what cinema historiographers call the Soviet montage. By stitching together film snippets shot at different places and times, perhaps years apart, Moore can create any false history he chooses, as I will demonstrate now.
Loose Cannon or The Real Gun Nut
Michael Moore’s deep seated personal hatred for Charlton Heston drove Moore to fabricate numerous utterly false film montages slandering Mr. Heston. A central theme of Bowling for Columbine is Moore’s assertion that the National Rifle Association and its then-president Charlton Heston are indifferent to the victims of firearm injury. From the very beginning Moore misleads his audience by using misleading film montages to suggest that the NRA held a boisterous “large pro-gun rally” in Denver soon after the Columbine High School shootings in nearby Littleton. In one of these Moore montages a clip of weeping high schoolers is immediately followed by a snippet showing Charlton Heston holding aloft a muzzle-loading musket and proclaiming with a smile, “I have only five words for you: ‘from my cold, dead, hands.’”
Stitched onto this is a clip showing a billboard advertising the NRA gathering which is enhanced by an overdub of Moore’s voice darkly intoning that “Just ten days after the Columbine killings, despite the pleas of a community in mourning, Charlton Heston came to Denver and held a large pro-gun rally for the National Rifle Association.” Then the film snaps back to Charlton Heston who is just then saying “I have a message from the mayor, Mr. Wellington Web, the mayor of Denver. He sent me this: It says ‘don’t come here. We don’t want you here.’ I say to the mayor, this is our country, as Americans we’re free to travel wherever we want in our broad land. Don’t come here? We’re already here!”
This carefully crafted film montage is calculated to plant in the mind of every unsuspecting viewer the idea that Charlton Heston and the NRA callously blundered into Denver soon after a local tragedy and began thumbing their noses at tearful mourners. Here are the facts that Michael Moore concealed form his ticket buyers in order to distort their perceptions and fatten his bank account:
One: There was no “large pro-gun rally.” The gathering was an annual NRA meeting, the time and place of which were set years before the event.
Two: The NRA is a New York non-profit corporation which is bound by New York law to hold annual member meetings.
Three: New York law requires a minimum ten-day notice to all voting members of any change in the time or place of an annual meeting. The Columbine shooting happened a scant eleven days before the long-planned NRA annual meeting, so there was no time to notify the NRA’s four million members of a last minute change of venue.
Four: The Denver meeting was a dour bare-bones affair. Out of consideration for the folks in Littleton the NRA cancelled all of its usual sporting events, dinners and rallies. The only event was the annual members’ vote. The Rocky Mountain News announced: “President Charlton Heston and the group’s executive vice president Wayne La Pierre, said all seminars, workshops, luncheons, exhibits by gun makers and other vendors, and festivities are cancelled.”
Michael Moore knew all of this before he entered his editing room; he knew the NRA was bound by law to hold a meeting; he knew it was impossible for them to change the location of their annual meeting; he knew the NRA had done everything humanly possible to be subdued and respectful. Furthermore, the film clip of Charlton Heston holding a musket was shot a year after the Denver meeting at a venue in Charlotte, North Carolina. Mr. Heston had just received the musket as a gift; his words “from by cold, dead, hands” was meant as a gesture of gratitude to those who had given him an exquisitely crafted keepsake. He was saying “I will cherish it always.” Michael Moore knew all this; he chose to carefully stitch together the clip of Heston holding the musket and the clip of weeping students because Moore chose to slander Charlton Heston. Moore’s slanders are never inadvertent slips of the tongue; they are carefully premeditated pieces of cinematic craftsmanship. Moore’s deceptions are the result of great effort.
Michael Moore expresses his hatred of Charlton Heston once again in the video-clip collection wherein Heston seems to be defiantly challenging the mayor of Denver. This sequence is a master work of uber editing heavily peppered with Frankenbites. What seems to be coming from Heston’s mouth is actually audio lifted from seven sentences which were plucked from five separate parts of a speech, together with part of an entirely different speech.
Let’s deconstruct this classic bit of Michael Moore mummery: Associating the scene of the weeping students with the clip of Heston holding the musket is meant to mislead you into believing that Heston was heedless to their grief. Moore wants you to hate Heston. Next comes the breakaway shot of the billboard announcing the NRA meeting. This breakaway is necessary because the viewer must be distracted long enough to forget that Charlton Heston, who was wearing a purple tie and a lavender shirt before the breakaway shot, is suddenly wearing a red tie and a white shirt after the breakaway shot. As if by magic the draperies behind Mr. Heston have changed from maroon to blue. Clearly, this whole segment is false history that Moore invented in his editing room. Moore’s bedazzled fans are so uncritically attached to him that they would never think to examine his films closely, but this is the Age of Tivo when anyone, including you, can sit at home and examine any Michael Moore movie frame by frame. Used copies of Michael Moore movies are available on Amazon.com for less than three dollars each; you can confirm the truth for yourself and not a nickel your purchase price will go to Michael Moore.
Moore carefully edited out the part of the speech where Charlton Heston says “As you know, we’ve cancelled the festivities, the fellowship we normally enjoy at our annual gatherings. This decision has perplexed a few and inconvenienced thousands.” It’s hard to demonize a man who is showing compassion, so Moore edited out all signs of Heston’s compassion.
At this point Bowling for Columbine becomes a tossed salad of film clips, frankenbites and false settings. Moore had gotten his hands on a video segment in which Heston was ruminating about his veteran status. Speaking about World War II, Heston had remarked “I said to the mayor, well, my reply to the mayor is, ‘I volunteered for the war they wanted me to attend when I was 18 years old . . .” Moore then clipped out the words “I said to the mayor” and grafted them to a sentence from a later paragraph: “As Americans, we’re free to travel wherever we want in our broad land.” The graft is concealed behind a cutaway shot of protestors. Moore’s audience is duped into believing that they are hearing an unaltered sentiment.
The next clip shows Heston, seemingly defiant, proclaiming “Don’t come here? We’re already here!” even though this clip was imported from an audio segment buried five paragraphs deeper in Heston’s original speech. Moore uses another cutaway shot to mask the splice. Here in it s original context is part of Charlton Heston’s conciliatory and uniting speech:
“Don’t come here? We’re already here. This community is our home. Every community in America is our home. We are a 128-year-old fixture of mainstream America. The Second Amendment ethic of lawful, responsible firearm ownership spans the broadest cross section of American life imaginable.
“So we have the same right as all other citizens to be here. To help shoulder the grief and share our sorrow and to offer our respectful, reassured voice to the national discourse that has erupted around this tragedy.”
“NRA members are in City Hall, Fort Carson, NORAD, the Air Force Academy and the Olympic Training Center. And yes, NRA members are surely among the police and fire and SWAT team heroes who risked their lives to rescue the students at Columbine.
“Don’t come here? We’re already here. This community is our home. Every community in America is our home. We are a 128-year-old fixture of mainstream America. The Second Amendment ethic of lawful, responsible firearm ownership spans the broadest cross section of American life imaginable.
“So we have the same right as all other citizens to be here. To help shoulder the grief and share our sorrow and to offer our respectful, reassured voice to the national discourse that has erupted around this tragedy.”
So Moore created a false history of confrontation and discord where none had existed in reality. The long hours he spent fabricating his phony montages beggars the imagination. And to what end? To dupe the gullible, to feed liberals the stereotypical fantasies they crave, to poison the national discourse and to stuff Moore’s pockets with millions of dollars.
Moore takes a lingering slime bath when he juxtaposes the gunshot death of Kayla Rolland with another speech by Charlton Heston. Kayla had died from a wound inflicted by a fellow elementary-school student in Mt. Morris, Michigan, just north of Flint. Here Moore injects the lie that “just as he did after the Columbine shooting, Charlton Heston showed up in Flint to have a big pro-gun rally.”
As a matter of fact, Heston’s speech was given at a voter drive rally in October of 2000, a full eight months after the death of Kayla Rolland. George Bush and Al Gore were also stumping around Flint looking for votes. Even Michael Moore had been beating the drum for the Green Party candidate Ralph Nader in Flint.
A day after Heston’s speech the Detroit Free Press asked “What do Al Gore, Charlton Heston, Jesse Jackson, Lee Iacocca, and George W., Laura and Barbra Bush all agree upon? That Michigan is a really big deal right now” and went on to note that it was only 20 days until Election Day and that Charlton Heston was working hard for the Republicans. This get-out-the-vote rally was what Moore later misrepresented as “a big pro-gun rally.”
Moore fires images at viewers so fast that their minds have no time to think about the content of his presentations. Moore doesn’t want his audiences to think, he wants them to fall under the spell of the mood he is trying to engender; unhurried reflection is the enemy of every propagandist. Complicated montages may fly past in half a minute: faces, voices and photos of newspaper articles too fleeting to be read. Moore’s bogus montages were calculated to give the false impression that Charlton Heston had hosted a “big pro-gun rally” only 48 hours after a local girl had been shot. This is a complete and calculated lie but more than one reviewer of Bowling for Columbine was made to look foolish by making such baseless statements as “What was Heston thinking going to Colorado and Michigan immediately after the massacres of innocent children?”
Bowling for Columbine includes an interview during which Moore does his best to provoke Charlton Heston. Michael Moore swears that this interview is almost unedited. He’s a liar. There was a clock on the wall behind Moore. At its first appearance the clock reads 5:47. When Mr. Heston realizes that Moore only wants to defame him he takes his leave, at which time the clock reads 6:10. So the on-camera interview lasted twenty-three minutes, but the interview Moore presents in Columbine lasts only five minutes and 15 seconds. Therefore, over 77% of the interview is missing. That’s what Moore calls nearly unedited.
As Heston departs, Moore and his camera team pursue him. Moore arrives at the top of a flight of stairs in time to see Heston walking away on the floor below. Moore calls out to Heston who turns about in response. The next image in the Columbine movie is a shot of Moore holding up a photo of the slain Kayla; Moore asks Heston to look at the photo. In the next shot Heston just walks away. Heston’s seeming indifference suggests that Heston is a callous bastard. On closer examination, however, this misleading montage is exposed for the artful piece of character assassination that it is.
For this eighteen-second segment to have been filmed in only eighteen seconds and to also include as it does five perspectives and four changes in perspective would have required at least two cameras pointing toward one another. But at no time is any cameraman visible in any shot. All the shots include Moore; they quickly alternate from back to front to back to front to back. The first and last shots include Heston walking away. All the back shots are looking downward from over Moore’s left shoulder; all of the front shots aim at Moore’s chest and include the space above and behind Moore’s left shoulder. If there had been two cameras, then each camera would have recorded the presence of the other, but there are no cameras in any of these shots. Therefore, we are driven to conclude that all of the film footage was shot with a single camera.
The eighteen-second montage must have been produced this way: 1. Moore and his cameraman pursue Heston; 2. Moore and his cameraman reach the top of the stairs as Heston reaches the bottom; 3. the cameraman records Moore calling to Heston and films Heston’s response from over Moore’s left shoulder; Heston turns, looks up at Moore and then walks away; 4. after Heston has departed, the cameraman walks around in front of Moore and films Moore holding up the photo of the slain Kayla and asking the no-longer-present Mr. Heston to look at the photo. Later, in the editing room, Moore interspersed the back shots 1, 3 & 5 with front shots 2 & 4 to create a fictitious exchange between himself and the unsuspecting and long-departed Charlton Heston.
Michael Moore has grown fabulously wealthy by slandering people who are clearly his moral and intellectual superiors. His success is based on his relentless exploitation of a single gimmick: the misleading film montage. By stitching together film clips retrieved from disparate times and places, by robbing these clips of their original contexts and then cobbling them together in curious ways, Michael Moore has provided his liberal audiences with the dark fantasy version of American history that they believe must be true. Michael Moore is their ideological Santa Claus: a fat man with a big bag of gifts for every good left-wing True Believer.
Moore’s eighteen-second montage is yet another false memory that liberals will tuck away in their minds along with hundreds of other false memories from Michael Moore movies. Talking to any Michael Moore movie fan is an almost hallucinatory experience: their heads are so full of false memories that their political chatter mimics the babbling of the insane. Watching Michael Moore movies can actually render a human unfit for political conversations.
In Bowling for Columbine Moore portrays Kayla Rolland’s killer as a likable kid from a struggling family that couldn’t rise above its troubles because of an uncaring America. Here are a few facts that Moore chose not to include in Columbine: the shooting was no accident; the kid who killed Kayla had fought with her the previous day. The kid fetched his murder weapon from his uncle’s crack house. The gun had been reported stolen; the uncle had purchased it in exchange for drugs. The boy’s father was already in the slammer for dealing drugs and the kid’s grandmother and aunt were arrested on drug charges only weeks after the shooting. A CBS report on the case quoted a policeman who observed: “The day the boy was born he went from hospital to crack house.” So the kid had spent his life among a pack of criminals; he had been surrounded by violent and lawless felons from his first moments on Earth. It should also be noted that this kid had previously been suspended from school for stabbing a classmate with a pencil and sometime after he gunned down Kayla he stabbed another child with a knife.
The particulars of this young killer’s life are so freakishly abnormal as to be useless for the purpose of building a case against firearm ownership. A better armed neighborhood might have been less intimidated by this family of jerks; when the cops hauled them away the neighbors cheered, but you won’t see that reality in Bowling for Columbine.
From start to finish this movie is a loosely woven magic carpet of suggestive overdubs, misleading montages, fake settings, false history, fabricated statistics and lies by omission. One of the most memorable scenes in Moore’s anti-gun flick shows Moore emerging from a bank with a spanking-new shotgun that he wants everyone to believe he had just been given as a “thank you” from the bank for opening a new account. It’s a phony staged event. This hunting-country bank did, at one time, offer such a premium, but to gain possession of any firearm the depositor had to pass a criminal background investigation and then wait the required waiting period before picking up his premium in another town. The scene in Bowling is totally fake. Michael Moore packs his movies with fake scenes because reality doesn’t support his liberal suppositions; he also has no respect for the suckers who part with their money to sit in a darkened room and gawk at his phony film montages.
Fortunately for those of us who prefer reality to illusion, we live in the Age of Tivo when anyone can deconstruct a Michael Moore movie frame by frame. Sometimes all you need to do is press the “pause” button and consult the nearest encyclopedia. For example: the fast-talking narrator of Columbine does his best to marry the National Rifle Association to the Ku Klux Klan, telling his at-one-time-theater-bound audience that the NRA was founded in 1871 “the same year that the Klan became an illegal terrorist organization.” Moore fabricates a dramatization in which an NRA member sets fire to a burning cross while another NRA member assists in the lynching of a hapless black person. Just when you think Michael Moore has hit rock bottom he surprises you by demonstrating that, for him, there is no bottom. The truth is totally irrelevant to Moore and his witless admirers, but here is the historical truth: the NRA was founded in 1871 by an act of the New York State Legislature at the request of General George Wingate, former commander of the 22nd New York volunteers and Colonel William Church, former staff officer of the New York Brigade, as well as other former Union Army officers. Because it was founded by recent Union officers the NRA was profoundly hostile to the Ku Klux Klan. Eight of the NRA’s first ten presidents were Union veterans.
The Klan, by contrast, was founded by former Confederates in 1866, not 1871. The Klan was soon recognized as a domestic terrorist organization. President Ulysses S. Grant signed into law the federal Ku Klux Klan Act and the Enforcement Act which empowered the president to use federal troops to crush the Klan. Grant pursued the Klan with enthusiasm, making five thousand arrests. Frederick Douglass praised Grant for his efforts. After his presidential term, the NRA elected Grant as its eighth president. He succeeded the seventh president of the NRA, the hero of Gettysburg, General Winfield Scott Hancock. Grant was succeeded as NRA president by General Philip Sheridan who had formerly used his power as a military commander to remove the governors of Texas and Louisiana because of their failure to crush Klan activity.
So the NRA has been openly hostile to the Klan from its very inception. Here’s an historical footnote left out of Columbine: Back in the not-so-distant 1950s and 60s black folks organized as NRA chapters as a way of acquiring surplus military rifles so that they could defend themselves from marauding Klan terrorists. One of their number, Robert F. Williams, wrote a personal account of these self-defense NRA activities titled Negroes with Guns that recounted how his rifle club had shot up a very surprised gang of Klansmen who had come to attack his house.
Brain Dead at Any Temperature: The Sad Story of Fahrenheit 9/11
With his 2004 release of Fahrenheit 9/11 Michael Moore set himself the ambitious goal of terminating a presidency. No longer content to merely pad his bank account, Moore attempted to alter history. He brought to Fahrenheit all the editing skills he had honed in Bowling for Columbine. Like his previous efforts, Fahrenheit was a faux documentary, a party platter of false histories, invented memories and fabricated “facts.” Each time Moore is questioned about the misleading nature of his film-clip montages his puerile defense is that he is not responsible for the false conclusions of others, so it’s your fault if you were misled. Again and again he petulantly whines “I didn’t really say that” even though it’s obvious that his carefully crafted montages were designed to push the viewer toward a false conclusion. His childish hair-splitting defenses demonstrate his utter disrespect for his audiences. For example: In Fahrenheit 9/11 Moore asserts that military action against Saddam Hussein was unprovoked because Saddam had not “murdered” even a single American. When Moore was reminded that Saddam had sheltered Abu Nidal and other terrorists and that he had attempted to assassinate President H.W. Bush with a bomb, Moore childishly responded that he had said “murdered” not “killed,” as though this fine legalistic distinction somehow absolved him of all responsibility for the misleading nature of his narration. When Moore claims that his misleading montages are not really lies he is speaking in exactly the same spirit in which Bill Clinton claimed that the oral stimulation of his erect penis was not really sex. Every adult knows better and every adult knows a big phony when they hear one.
Moore’s endlessly repeated claim that he did not intend to mislead anyone is belied by the painstaking artfulness of his ideological celluloid tapestries. For example, Michael Moore used his editing skills to persuade his viewers that George Bush personally helped members of the bin Laden family scram out of America right after the September 11th attacks when all commercial air traffic was grounded. Moore finds a former FBI agent who will say on camera that the Bureau should have been allowed to interview the bin Ladens before they flew away. Moore splices in footage of singer Ricky Martin grounded in a congested airport terminal and adds the overdub, “Not even Ricky Martin would fly. But really, who wanted to fly? No one. Except the bin Ladens.”
The 9/11 Commission Staff Report states flatly that there were no exceptions to the no-fly ban. The FBI questioned everyone of interest; the bin Ladens were grounded for almost two weeks, like everyone else. When reporters sought an explanation from Michael Moore, this coward used an associate as a human shield: according to the Washington Post “Joanne Doroshow, an associate producer of Fahrenheit 9/11, said Moore did not intend to suggest that the bin Ladens flew away while civilian flights were grounded.” [Emphasis added]
In his book Dude, Where’s My Country? Michael Moore sets up this same slimeball lie with a carefully excerpted passage from the New York Times: “In the first days after the terror attacks on New York and Washington, Saudi Arabia supervised the urgent evacuation of 24 members of Osama bin Laden’s extended family from the United States . . .” He relied on the intellectual laziness of his readers whom he could count on not to dig up the entire article. In the next paragraph the Times tells how the two planes carrying Saudi nationals were “caught up in the FBI dragnet” and “Both planes, one Jumbo jet carrying 100 family members, and the other 40, were eventually allowed to leave when airports reopened and passports were checked.” The planes didn’t depart America until September 22nd; not a single bin Laden left America before that date. Some bin Ladens may have been on domestic flights as early as the 13th. The authority who granted permission for their departure was Michael Moore’s favorite Bush critic, Richard Clarke. Mr. Clarke is on record as declaring; “I take responsibility for it. I don’t think it was a mistake, and I’d do it again . . . It didn’t get any higher than me . . . On 9/11, 9/12 and 9/13, many things didn’t get any higher than me. I decided it in consultation with the FBI.” (The Hill)
On NPR’s Weekend Edition Saturday (7/24/04) Clarke stated flat out: “I think Moore’s making a mountain of a molehill.” Moreover, said Mr. Clarke, “He never interviewed me.” Moore had once again lifted a clip from an ABC interview rather than risk getting answers that did not comport with his paranoid thesis. For purposes of smearing the president innuendo worked better than the truth.
The lie about the favoritism shown the bin Laden’s is a central pillar of Moore’s confused Fahrenheit thesis. Here’s what the 9/11 Commission Report had to say on this subject:
“Second, we found no evidence of any political intervention. [Here there is a discussion of Richard Clarke’s consultations with the FBI before making his decision.]
“Third, we believe that the FBI conducted a satisfactory screening of Saudi nationals who left the United States on charter flights. [Here there is a discussion of that screening process.] The FBI interviewed all persons of interest on these flights prior to their departures. They concluded that none of the passengers was connected to the 9/11 attacks and have since found no evidence to change that conclusion.”
“First we found no evidence that any flights of Saudi nationals, domestic or international, took place before the reopening of national airspace on the morning of September 13, 2001. To the contrary, every flight we have identified occurred after national airspace reopened.
“Second, we found no evidence of any political intervention. [Here there is a discussion of Richard Clarke’s consultations with the FBI before making his decision.]
“Third, we believe that the FBI conducted a satisfactory screening of Saudi nationals who left the United States on charter flights. [Here there is a discussion of that screening process.] The FBI interviewed all persons of interest on these flights prior to their departures. They concluded that none of the passengers was connected to the 9/11 attacks and have since found no evidence to change that conclusion.”
So, Michael Moore is just smearing our president so he can sell more tickets; rather than doing any honest investigating and reporting he scrapes up some former FBI guy who was totally out of the loop to offer his uninformed personal opinion. Moore’s witless followers can only bob their empty heads in agreement.
Now compare the truth of the 9/11 Commission Report with the lying jabber of Michael Moore:
“ [W]hile thousands were stranded and could not fly, if you could prove you were a close relative of the biggest mass-murderer in U.S. history, you get a free trip to gay Paree!” and “A frightened nation struggled to get through those days after September 11. Yet, in the sky above us, the bin Ladens and Saudi royals jetted home. I think we deserve an explanation.” (Dude, Where’s My Country?)
Later, Moore would embellish this fantasy: “Bush said: No you’re not to interrogate any of the bin Ladens. They get a free pass out of the country. 280 million Americans, and the only people who flew on those three days were people named bin Laden.” (Playboy 2/02) This is slander, plain and simple.
Here’s another example of how Michael Moore movies can lower a viewer’s intelligence: Moore got his hands on film footage from a February 28, 2003 press conference in which Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld was discussing a cooperative anti-terrorism program between the United States and the Philippines. Rumsfeld is explaining to the press that the program is still in its formative early stage. A reporter announces that he has heard that the program has been finalized; Rumsfeld contradicts him; the reporter reiterates that “. . . we were told that that was agreed upon.” Rumsfeld responds: “You weren’t told by me.” He continues: “I mean, you’re going to be told lots of things. You get told things every day that don’t happen. It doesn’t seem to bother people . . . All I can tell you is, it hasn’t happened, it’s going to happen, and we’re worrying through those issues in a very constructive, friendly, positive way.”
His meaning couldn’t have been more clearly stated, but Michael Moore took this film segment into his editing room and deliberately stripped out the sentences “You get told things every day that don’t happen. It doesn’t seem to bother people” which Moore then stitched into a section of Fahrenheit in which Moore is making the assertion that the Bush administration was habituated to lying about the war in Iraq. In its new context Rumsfeld’s words are no longer a caution to the press to beware of rumors, but are transformed into a warning to the press that they should become accustomed to being told lies by the administration.
To create another of his classic montages Michael Moore butchered a monologue by Thomas Kean, the chairman of the 9/11 Commission. In the unaltered original text Kean praised the White House for its cooperation but was critical of some other government agencies. Kean: “So while I think the White House is cooperating, I think they’re trying to do their best to help us in a number of ways, some agencies, led at the moment by the Department of Defense, are not cooperating to the extent we need that cooperation. Now, it’s better than it was, and it’s moving in the right direction . . .”
Kean’s appraisal is consistent with a statement given by President Bush on February 13, 2004: “We have given extraordinary cooperation with Chairman Kean and Hamilton. As you know, we made an agreement on what’s called ‘Presidential Daily Briefs,’ so they could see the information the CIA provided me . . .”
When editing Fahrenheit 9/11 Moore extracted the single sentence “We have given extraordinary cooperation with Chairman Kean and Hamilton” from the president’s 2004 interview with Tim Russert and he attached it to sentences from Tom Kean’s 2003 monologue: “We haven’t gotten them in a timely fashion. The deadlines have passed” which was not a reference to the White House. Moore’s intent was to give his audiences the false impression that the White House didn’t cooperate with the 9/11 Commission.
Not content to keep his audiences ignorant, Michael Moore strives to make them stupid to boot. For example, Moore came into possession of footage shot in March 2001 that included a visit to the United States by Taliban representative Sayed Hashemi. Moore knew that before the September 11th attacks the Bush administration had used diplomacy to isolate Osama bin Laden, warning the Taliban that they would be held to account for bin Laden’s behavior. During his visit to the U.S. the administration rejected Hashemi’s contention that the Taliban had isolated bin Laden. Instead of explaining this to his ticket buyers, Moore stripped this video of its context and then pumped his audience full of nonsense. Moore’s overdub asks: “Why on Earth did the Bush administration allow a Taliban leader to visit the United States, knowing that the Taliban were harboring the man who bombed the USS Cole and our African embassies?” He knows why; it’s called diplomacy, but Moore has a dark purpose: This segment follows on the heels of another segment in which Moore falsely insinuates that President Bush tried to persuade the Taliban to permit the construction of a natural gas pipeline across Afghanistan that would enrich Mr. Bush’s campaign contributors. The bogus subtext here is that Bush consorted with the killers of thousands of Americans for financial gain. This is just more slander.
Later in Fahrenheit 9/11 Moore cobbles together fragments of four separate speeches on three different subjects delivered by three different people over a two year period. The result is yet another tossed salad of falsehood. Moore’s paranoid message is that terror-alert announcements are a tool to manipulate the American public. Here are the pertinent parts of the four speeches. I have italicized the six segments that Michael Moore extracted and I have numbered them in the order in which he later presented them to his unsuspecting audiences.
President Bush, 2001, from a stump speech for a Congressional candidate: “It’s important to have a senator and a President and people in Washington, D.C., who see the world really the way it is, not the way we wish it to be. And (1) the world has changed after September 11th. It’s changed because we’re no longer safe from potential threats overseas. It used to be that oceans could protect us. It used to be that we could sit back and say, well, we’re a protected continent because of two vast oceans. We learned a tough lesson on September 11th.”
President Bush, 2001, while speaking to airline workers about increased airline security he refers to the terrorists who attacked us: “When they struck, they wanted to create an atmosphere of fear. And one of the great goals of this nation’s war is to restore public confidence in the airline industry, is to tell the traveling public ‘Get on board. Do your business around the country. (2) Fly and enjoy America’s great destination spots. (6) Go down to Disney World in Florida, (4) take your families and enjoy life the way we want it to be enjoyed.”
Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, in 2003 speaking about why action must sometimes be taken even though the intelligence is less than crystal clear: “In our security environment, the consequences of failing to act until all the dots are connected might not be 3,000 lives, but 30,000 or 300,000. (3)We’ve entered into what could very well prove to be the most dangerous security environment the world has known. In the 20th Century, when we, the formers, served in the Congress we were dealing, for the most part, with a situation where, if we miscalculated, we could take the attack, take a deep breath, mobilize our forces, and go out and beat the attackers.”
Vice President Cheney, in 2003, speaking of intelligence from Afghanistan: “And we know to a certainty that (5) terrorists are doing everything they can to gain even deadlier means of striking us. From the training manuals we found in the caves of Afghanistan to the interrogations of terrorists that we’ve captured, we have learned of their ambitions to develop or acquire chemical, biological, or nuclear weapons.”
Having stripped these six fragments of speech from their original contexts, Michael Moore then spliced them together like this:
Bush: “The world has changed after September the 11th. It’s changed because we’re no longer safe. Fly and enjoy America’s great destination spots.”
Rumsfeld: “We’ve entered into what may very well prove to be the most dangerous security environment the world has known.”
Bush: “Take your families and enjoy life.”
Cheney: “Terrorists are doing everything they can to gain even deadlier means of striking us.”
Bush: “Get down to Disney World in Florida.”
Moore’s montage flashes at his audience so fast that critical thinking is impossible. Moore doesn’t want his audience to think; he wants them to form vague impressions rooted in emotion. If anyone is manipulating the public it’s Michael Moore. In Moore’s blenderized and repackaged version of events the administration is bent on bewildering us but, as I have demonstrated, it is Moore who is twisting the facts to feed the liberals’ insatiable appetite for fantasy. He’s the P.T. Barnum of liberal America and the suckers have made Michael Moore fabulously wealthy.
Only a mentally defective person could embrace the world as Michael Moore presents it to us because Moore’s work demands that the viewer embrace totally contradictory beliefs. For example, Michael Moore made very loud public pronouncements that the United States had no business pursuing terrorists in Afghanistan and then used Fahrenheit 9/11 to lash out at George Bush for not flooding Afghanistan with more troops and more aggressive methods. Moore wants everyone to believe that the administration has cynically inflated the fear of terrorism but also wants everyone to believe that the evil Mr. Bush has not done nearly enough to protect the coast of Oregon from a frightening amphibious invasion by terrorists. In Moore’s mind-numbing book Dude, Where’s My Country? he argued that Osama bin Laden couldn’t possibly have organized the September attacks on America, then he turned about in Fahrennheit 9/11 and belittled George Bush for not capturing the scheming bin Laden. According to Michael Moore whatever George Bush does is incorrect; if Bush attacks the Taliban then his diplomacy was ineffectual; if his administration receives diplomatic envoys from the Taliban, then Bush is hobnobbing with killers. In Liberal Fantasyland George Bush must always be depicted as wrong and incompetent.
Stuck in the Year 2000
Fahrenheit 9/11 begins with the unsubstantiated claim that Al Gore would have won a recount of the votes cast in the 2000 election. To buttress this claim Moore splices in a momentary shot of what appears to be a headline from a Florida newspaper: “LATEST FLORIDA RECOUNT SHOWS GORE WON ELECTION.”
The “headline” flashes past leaving in its wake a subliminal impression; it’s a message directed at the viewer’s subconscious mind. The message is “Gore really won; Bush is a usurper.” In a darkened theater the audience is a passive target of Moore’s subliminal messages, but at home anyone with a TV and a Tivo can freeze frame his propaganda flick and deconstruct it image by image. Freezing this “headline” identifies its origin as the December 5th, 2001 issue of the Bloomington, Illinois Pantagraph, which contained no such headline. This heading had appeared above a letter to the editor by a die-hard Gore voter who had bitterly objected to the Pantagraph’s conclusion that “the analysis doesn’t just validate the outcome of the 2000 election, it validates the American system.”
This heading was small and unimpressive, so Michael Moore had it re-typed and enlarged and then stripped it onto a phony recomposed newspaper page with an altered date and then he photographed it again so that the sulking Gore voters in his audience would feel validated in their paranoid sulk. Once again Moore has fabricated a false history using a fake document in order to create a false impression in the minds of an audience he does not respect. Just for the record: there were two recounts and Gore lost both of them.
Michael Moore’s Carlyle Group Craptacular
The Carlyle Group is an international investment corporation that manages about $18 billion in private equity. As the Carlyle Group expanded and prospered its successes attracted ever more investors. As it so happened, the sprawling bin Laden family plunked $2 million into Carlyle funds; for the bin Ladens that’s chump change. The Bush family also had some money invested in the same big international investment firm. Three members of Carlyle’s board of directors had once worked for the first president Bush back when he was the CIA director and vice president.
The Carlyle Group has a wide-ranging roster of executives that includes both Republicans and Democrats such as Bill Clinton’s former SEC chairman Arthur Levitt and Clinton’s senior advisor Thomas “Mack” McLarty. Its founding and longtime managing partner is David Rubenstein, a former ranking domestic policy advisor to Jimmy Carter. One of its managing partners is William Kennard, Clinton’s chairman of the FCC. Clinton-era spokesman Chris Ullman was a Carlyle spokesman. Michael Moore takes care not to mention any of these Democrats. At one time George Herbert Walker Bush was an adviser to an Asian affiliate of the Carlyle Group. He has long since terminated his investment in Carlyle. George W. Bush’s link to the Carlyle Group ended when he quit the Caterair board to run for governor of Texas, which was months before Carlyle awarded the first Saudi contract with the unrelated BDM firm. The piddling $2 million that the bin Laden family invested with Carlyle was profit from their humongous construction business in Saudi Arabia.
Like Rumplestiltskin who spun straw into gold, Moore bent to the task of spinning these few facts into a golden conspiracy theory that he could take to the bank. In Fahrenheit 9/11 Michael Moore asserts that the Carlyle Group “gained” from the September 11th terrorist attacks on New York and Washington because Carlyle owned the military contractor United Defense and war is good for military contractors. What Moore chose to keep secret from his audience was the fact that the $18 billion Crusader self-propelled artillery system was one of the weapons projects cancelled by the Bush administration. That cancellation had a powerful negative impact on Carlyle which still owns 47 percent of United Defense. The bin Ladens had withdrawn from Carlyle before Carlyle took United Defense public, so they did not profit from the offering. The same can not be said for the Bush-hating billionaire financier George Soros about whom Michael Moore is totally silent.
George Bush’s outspoken enemy George Soros has one hundred million dollars invested in the Carlyle Group, which is vastly more than the combined investments of the Bush and bin Laden families. Does the presence of his money in the Carlyle fund also make Soros a secret co-conspirator in the bin Laden plot? George Soros is the shadowy billionaire financier who bankrolled Moveon.org, the group that drummed up mountains of soft money from the far Left to fund the Democrat Party. With his thick foreign accent and his furtive financial dealings Soros reeks of international intrigue. So why doesn’t Michael Moore include Soros in his tenuous and paranoid vision? By Moore’s logic the Soros-Carlyle connection should implicate Moveon.org as a bin Laden sympathizer. Michael Moore himself was once on the payroll of General Motors (he lasted one day working alongside real working people). Doesn’t this mean he was secretly in league with Roger Smith, the GM bossman? Of course not; that’s called “guilt by association” and it’s considered a cheap form of the ad hominem attack, which is what people stoop to when they are unable to argue using facts and logic. It’s a trashy appeal to the darker emotions.
Moore tries to smear the Bush family again with the claim that they profited from a $1.4 billion gift. An investigation of this allegation by MSNBC revealed that $1.18 billion of this amount was money paid by the country of Saudi Arabia to the BDM Corporation for military training, stretching from the early to the mid-1990s. The only connection to the Bush family was the fact that George H. Bush once served on one of the Carlyle Group’s several advisory boards and that Carlyle had, at one time, owned the BDM Corporation. As the MSNBC investigation explained, even this tenuous connection evaporates upon learning that the Carlyle Group had sold its holding in BDM a full five months before Mr. Bush joined the advisory board in 1998. So once again, Moore leaves his audience in an even greater dither than before they were suckered out of the ticket price for this carnival of nonsense and lies.
Prince Bandar is Saudi Arabia’s ambassador to the United States; he has been a Washington power broker for decades, so it should surprise no one that there is film footage of George Bush chatting with Prince Bandar. Bill Clinton had turned to Prince Bandar again and again to promote the Clinton Middle East agenda. The Saudis have donated generously to the Clinton Library; the secret amount may be as much as $20 million. The Saudis once tossed Clinton $750,000 for a single speech. Jimmy Carter hobnobbed with ten bin Laden brothers in 2000 and they greased him handsomely with a $200,000 wad for the Carter Center in Atlanta. It was Carter who cozied up to Michael Moore, his favorite leftist propagandist, at the 2000 Democratic Convention, inviting Moore to share Carter’s private box.
Moore mentions none of this in Fahrenheit 9/11; his intention is to mislead the average American into believing that there is something new and special and devious about President Bush having conversations with the Saudi ambassador. It’s called diplomacy.
But Moore won’t give it up; he quips: “Saudi Prince Bandar is perhaps the best protected ambassador in the U.S. Considering how he and his family, and the Saudi elite own seven percent of America, it’s probably not a bad idea.” Huh? He’s talking rubbish. Moore got this bogus factoid from an author whose two cited sources don’t support his conjecture. The author had guessed that the Saudis may have $860 billion invested in America. Even if that were true, the Bureau of Economic Analysis puts total foreign investment in the U.S. at $10,515 billion in 2003, which would peg the Saudi share of only foreign investment at eight percent. That’s a long way from Moore’s assertion that the Saudis “own seven percent of America.”
Moore tried yet again to gull his audience into believing that the Saudis receive special treatment from President Bush. Moore and his camera crew went to Washington where they made a show of loitering in front of the Saudi embassy until they provoked a response from the U.S. Secret Service. Moore feigns innocence: “Even though we were nowhere near the White House, for some reason the Secret Service had shown up to ask us what we were doing standing across the street from the Saudi embassy.” When a uniformed Secret Service guard approaches, Moore says wonderingly that he “didn’t realize the Secret Service guards foreign embassies,” to which the guard replies, “Not usually, no Sir.”
Moore skillfully exploits this exchange to suggest that the Saudis enjoy special protection from displaced White House guardians. It’s another Moore deception. Any wandering tourist can spot many uniformed Secret Service guards protecting foreign embassies in our capital city. According to article 22 of the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations, to which the United States is a signatory, every host nation must protect every embassy within its borders. There are 170 foreign embassies in Washington, D.C.; most of them need no more protection than can be summoned by a phone call to the Secret Service. Some embassies warrant a more immediate Secret Service presence. Because al Qaeda has threatened and attacked Saudi Arabia, its embassy, among others, is guarded more closely. This is not evidence of a personal preference on the part of George Bush. As the Secret Service explains its functions: “Uniformed Division officers provide protection for the White House complex, the Vice President’s residence, the Main Treasury Building and its Annex, and foreign diplomatic missions and embassies in the Washington, D.C. area.” Moore would have you believe that the Secret Service is just George Bush’s personal Praetorian Guard
European, Asian and American administrations of every stripe have assuaged the Saudi royals for more than five decades. Moore seems to not have a clue how dependent the jobs of workers in Flint and elsewhere are on the steady flow of cheap oil.
Moore’s Harken Energy Deception
Michael Moore and the Democrats have done their best to suggest that George Bush indulged in insider stock trading when he sold his stock in Harken Energy and that he tried to conceal the deal by not filing a notice that the sale had been completed. Here’s the true story.
Back in the 1980s George Bush was the boss of an energy company called Spectrum 7. In 1986 Spectrum 7 was in deep financial straits due to a severe slump in the petroleum market. It was then that Harken Energy, a company that specialized in acquiring distressed oil companies, bought Spectrum 7. As part of the deal, Harken gave Mr. Bush a consulting contract, a seat on its board and half-a-million-dollars worth of Harken stock.
The following year, Mr. Bush and other investors sought to purchase the Texas Rangers baseball team. To secure his stake in the team, Mr. Bush took out a loan for $600,000. In order to pay off this loan, Bush decided to sell his biggest single asset: his shares of Harken stock. He sold 212,140 shares of Harken at $4 a share for $848,560 on June 22nd, 1990. About two months after this sale, on August 20th, Harken Energy announced an unexpectedly large quarterly loss. In the following months the value of Harken stock continued a slow decline, reaching $1.25 a share in late 1990.
When Bush’s political opponents got wind of the sale they did their best to paint a portrait of Bush as a sly insider trader. They made noises about Harken when Bush ran for governor of Texas in 1994 and when he ran for re-election as governor. They revived this matter once again when Bush ran for president in 2000. It was the endless harping by Democrats that prompted a full investigation of this stock sale by the Securities and Exchange Commission. According to their internal memos, the SEC examined thousands of pages of documents, interviewed witnesses and had candid conversations with Mr. Bush’s lawyers, Mr. Bush having waived his right to attorney-client privilege.
SEC investigators determined that “the evidence establishes that Bush was not aware of the majority of the items that comprised the loss Harken announced on August 20.” The SEC found that most of Harken’s losses were the result of expenses that Harken incurred after Bush sold his stock. The SEC found that Bush sold his stock after being queried by a stock broker whose institutional client wanted to buy a large number of Harken shares. Before selling his stock, Mr. Bush consulted Harken’s inside counsel, and also the company chairman, and then another director and finally Harken’s outside counsel to be certain there were no legal impediments to the sale. No one raised any questions; the sale looked proper to everyone.
The SEC also investigated whether Harken’s announcement of its unexpected losses harmed Harken’s investors; they concluded that it did not. The stock had fallen slightly on the day of the announcement, but regained its value the following day. Its value declined slowly over the remainder of the year, but recovered. By 1991 the value of Harken stock had reached $8 a share, double the price Bush had sold his stock for.
On the day of the sale Mr. Bush filed Form 144, a “Notice of Proposed Sale of Securities,” so the SEC had been informed of this stock sale. Mr. Bush was late filing Form 4, which informs the SEC when a sale has been completed, but in light of the absence of any impropriety, this was no big deal. In any case, the Form 144 was the more important one because it alerted the SEC of an insider’s intent to sell stock. According to former SEC commissioner Edward Fleischman, “There was precious little attention paid to a timely or tardy filing of Form 4.”
So that’s the truth about Harken Energy. There was no scandal. Nonetheless, Mr. Bush’s enemies won’t leave it alone; it’s just too tempting: it happened in the obscure past and it’s an event governed by obscure rules, so it’s a perfect topic for exploitation by conspiracy nuts and lying propagandists like Michael Moore.
Michael Moore, as usual, did his best to smear George Bush: “Yes, it helps to be the president’s son. Especially when you’re being investigated by the Securities and Exchange Commission,” and “Bush beat the rap from the SEC?”
I repeat: there was no “rap” because there was no charge, and there was no charge because there was no evidence of any wrong doing.
On the Matter of James R. Bath
In Fahrenheit 9/11 Michael Moore correctly identifies Houston businessman James R. Bath as a former money manager for bin Laden family investments in Texas, but then he adds: “James Bath himself, in turn, invested in George W. Bush.” Moore’s sly implication is that the bin Laden family, through James Bath, had invested in Bush’s energy company Arbusto.
In this instance Moore is relying on Craig Unger’s book House of Bush, House of Saud. What Moore is careful to conceal from his ticket buyers is that Unger himself concluded that the “Bush-Bin Laden ‘relationships’ were indirect – two degrees of separation, perhaps – and at times overstated.” Of the suggestion that bin Laden money found its way into Arbusto, Unger says that “no hard evidence has ever been found to back up that charge.” In other words, it’s just idle speculation. Mr. Bath himself has adamantly denied that the $50,000 which he invested in Arbusto was anything but his own. “One hundred percent of those funds were mine,” Bath declared, “It was a purely personal investment.” All of this is in Unger’s book, but Moore chose not to mention it even though Bath’s denial was also reported by MSNBC, the Weekly Standard, and Newsday.
Bear in mind that the bin Ladens in question are prosperous business people who have never been linked to terrorism. Their money comes from their enormous construction company. If they had chosen to invest in Arbusto, then that would have been perfectly legal and proper. Moore isn’t making the case that a bin Laden investment would have been illegal, but that such a money connection made George Bush go soft on the Saudis all these years later. It’s a stretch, but so is most of his movie thesis.
Moore’s “proof,” his big smoking gun, is two identical copies of a page from George Bush’s Texas Air National Guard records. On the copy released by the White House the name of Bush’s fellow guardsman, James R. Bath, was blacked out; on the copy Moore had obtained in the year 2000, Mr. Bath’s name is clearly visible. Moore wants everyone to conclude that “the White House” blacked out Bath’s name to conceal a Bush-Bath-bin Laden connection.
Here’s the truth: Mr. Bath’s name was not blacked out by “the White House;” that mundane task fell to some minor bureaucrat who was complying with the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, a federal law that required the Air National Guard to black out every name that was not listed on the release-of-information request. This law went into effect on April 14th, 2003, which was before the White House made the document public. Moore had obtained his other copy in 2000, which was years before the medical privacy law took effect. Moore knew all of this, but his voice-over gloats “What Bush didn’t know was that I already had a copy of his military records – uncensored – obtained in the year 2000.” He left it to the suckers in his audience, the people for whom he shows no respect, to draw yet another false conclusion. To Moore’s peculiar way of thinking we would all be better off if George Bush snubbed the folks who are a major supplier of our petroleum, whose homeland is the location of several of our strategic military bases and who were our ally in both gulf wars. That’s how stupid Michael Moore is.
Twisted History: Distorting the Unocal Pipeline Proposal
Once upon a time the Unocal energy company proposed an oil and gas pipeline route across Afghanistan that would bring energy resources to Europe from deposits in eastern Turkmenistan. This pipeline was endorsed by the Clinton administration. Unocal tossed this project into the wastebasket years before the United States struck at Taliban-ruled Afghanistan. But telling you the truth wouldn’t fatten the fat man’s bank account, so Michael Moore took his audience for a bath in conspiratorial hogwash: “Or was the war in Afghanistan really about something else?” He points his finger of suspicion at the long-defunct Unocal pipeline proposal which had been abandoned in 1998. The 2003 Protocol that he mentions was part of a completely different pipeline project proposed by the new Afghan government, not the Taliban. The pipeline film footage shown in Fahrenheit 9/11 is not from either of these proposed projects. Moore deliberately confuses his audiences by presenting them with these signature-piece film-clip salads.
Moore slyly refers to a Taliban delegation that once toured Texas while Bush was governor of that state. The truth is, Bush never met with that delegation; such delegations did not seek or need the permission of the governor to visit Texas; they were entertained solely by the Clinton administration. As MSNBC noted: “Whatever the motive, the Unocal pipeline project was entirely a Clinton-era proposal. By the time George W. Bush took office, it was a dead issue and no longer the subject of any lobbying in Washington.”
Moore does his best to deepen his audience’s confusion by floating the lie that Afghanistan’s democratically-elected president, Hamid Karzai, was a consultant for the energy company Unocal. The company denies that Karzai was ever a consultant.
Moore’s webpage cites as its source an article published in the left-leaning French newspaper Le Monde (12/6/01) and two later articles that relied on Le Monde. The French newspaper itself offered no source for this assertion. Moore translates the critical passage of the French text as “He was a consultant for the American oil company Unocal, while they studied the construction of a pipeline in Afghanistan.” The actual sentence says, “After Kabul and India where he studied law, he completed his training in the United States where he was for a moment a consultant for the American petroleum business Unocal . . .” [Emphasis added] The phrase “fut un moment” would not suggest more than a fleeting interrogation if it were true, but with no more to go on than one unsubstantiated left-leaning Frenchman’s say-so and Moore’s reckless desire to have us believe this French rumor, we would be fools to accept Moore’s thesis that the Afghan war was about Unocal’s pipeline project which, in any case, had been abandoned back in 1998.
Memo to Michael Moore: Two American cities were attacked by agents of Osama bin Laden whose base of operations was the Taliban-ruled country of Afghanistan. Osama admitted on video tape to sending his attack team to America; that tape was broadcast on American television. Our country’s response to that attack was not motivated by a long-defunct pipeline proposal; it was provoked by the wanton murder of thousands of our fellow Americans.
Dude, Who’s Guarding Our Borders?
The responsibility for guarding the American coastline belongs to the Coast Guard . . . and the United States Navy. These folks are paid by the federal government; their commander is the president. Michael Moore feels confident that he can ignore these facts because his poorly-educated fans have little understanding of how their nation is governed.
So when Michael Moore heard that Oregon state troopers were clamoring for a pay raise, he rushed up to Oregon with a camera crew and captured their complaints on film. In Fahrenheit 9/11 Moore depicts the troopers as under-paid and their numbers stretched far too thin to provide an effective defense of the Oregon coast. Moore’s purpose is to suggest that the Bush administration is not sincere about homeland security. Moore makes no mention of the fact that the Oregon state government was in the midst of a state budget crisis and that the state of Oregon alone was responsible for paying its troopers; George Bush is not their paymaster. Moore makes no effort to enlighten his audience about the relentless patrolling by our Navy’s powerful air and sea forces, nor does he mention the 1,287 active-duty personnel, the 459 reservists or the 1,600 volunteers of the auxiliary whom the Coast Guard employs to protect the Oregon-Washington coast. If it weren’t for the rampant ignorance of millions of Americans, Michael Moore and P.T. Barnum would have remained penniless failures. For the record, the Oregon state troopers have one assignment: to patrol that state’s highways. It was never their job to repel amphibious invasions.
Improving Saddam’s Image
Michael Moore does his best to wash the blood from Saddam Hussein’s hands. In a carefully-parsed statement in Fahrenheit 9/11 Moore says Hussein’s Iraq “had never attacked the United States. A nation that had never murdered a single American citizen.” When he was challenged by ABC News to defend his wacky assertions, the cornered Moore began to mimic the hair-splitting legalisms of Bill Clinton. Moore sputtered that he had never claimed that Hussein’s regime had never killed an American, but rather that it “did not commit a premeditated murder” of any American. Moore was talking trash and he was doing it in an effort to make America look like an unprovoked bully.
Since Moore likes legalisms, let’s talk legalese: American law and custom hold that anyone who conspires to commit a murder is as guilty of that murder as the person who does the actual bloodletting. Has Saddam Hussein ever conspired to murder Americans? Yes, he has. Therefore, Saddam Hussein has murdered Americans. Let’s review: Saddam Hussein sheltered and supported Abu Nidal who murdered Americans, among them the wheelchair-bound Leon Klinghoffer who was thrown into the sea from the deck of a cruise ship; Saddam bankrolled suicide bombers who murdered Americans in Israel; Saddam sent an assassin to murder President George H.W. Bush during a visit to Kuwait in 1993. Saddam also sheltered the bomb crafter Abdul Rahman Yasin whose handiwork exploded inside the World Trade Center in 1993, killing six people and injuring thousands. It had been their intent to topple one the towers into the other and bring them both down, killing tens of thousands of people. Bill Clinton’s Iraq advisor Laurie Mylroie asserts that Ramzi Yousef, the ringleader of the ’93 World Trade Center bombing, was in league with the Iraqi spy network.
In 1991Saddam dispatched a hit squad to assassinate the American ambassador to the Philippines. He also ordered the murder of people working for the U.S. Information Service in Manila. Both of these energetic murder attempts were thwarted. Michael Moore relies on the poor education and short memories of his liberal ticket buyers to maintain his credibility; they have never let him down. They actually pay him to play them like a violin.
Moore’s defense of poor little Saddam includes the allegation that Saddam had “never threatened to attack the United States.” Here again, Moore hides behind the formality of narrow definitions. He would later claim that by “United States” he meant the landmass of the fifty states, but his sweeping statement in Fahrenheit was clearly meant to suggest “the United States” in the broader sense of American property, personnel, allies and interests around the world. As early as November 15th, 1997 Iraq’s newspaper Babel, run by Saddam’s son Uday, declared that “American and British interests, embassies, and naval ships in the Arab region should be the targets of military operations and commando attacks by Arab political forces.” On November 5, 2000 Saddam went on television and announced that “The Arab people have not so far fulfilled their duties. They are called upon to target U.S. and Zionist interests everywhere and target those who protect these interests.”
On September 11th, 2002 Uday Hussein’s newspaper encouraged Arabs to “use all means – and they are numerous – against the aggressors . . . including embassies, installations, and American companies, and to create suicide/martyr squads to attack American military and naval bases inside and outside the region . . .” and so on. Clearly the Hussein regime had already declared war on the United States.
After Saddam’s army was chased out of Kuwait and all the way back to Baghdad, Saddam was spared the final smackdown because he agreed to the imposition of a “no-fly zone” across northern Iraq to prevent him form slaughtering the Kurds. He broke this ceasefire agreement and made repeated attempts to shoot down American aircraft that were patrolling the zone and enforcing the agreement. These violations of the ceasefire agreement of 1991 were, by themselves, sufficient grounds to resume that war against Saddam’s Iraq. Calling the second incursion by another name and bolstering it with other justifications was a matter of practical politics – but it could have been called Desert Storm, Part B.
Partners in Crime: Al Qaeda & Iraq
The 9/11 Commission Report refers to “friendly contacts” between the Hussein regime and al Qaeda officials, some of whom operated under Baghdad’s protection. These two criminal gangs, Hussein’s and al Qaeda, one a bunch of utopian Muslim bigots and the other a secular tyrant with delusions of grandeur, joined one another in a non-aggression pact. This was mutually beneficial: the bigots acquired a protected base of operations and the tyrant gained an ally in his effort to keep the outside world off balance. A captured 1992 document revealed that Iraq considered bin Laden an intelligence asset. The two gangs held meetings and conversations for a decade.
Condoleezza Rice caught something of their relationship in November 2003:
”Oh, indeed there is a tie between Iraq and what happened on 9/11. It’s not that Saddam Hussein was somehow himself and his regime involved in 9/11, but, if you think about what caused 9/11, it is the rise of ideologies of hatred that lead people to drive airplanes into buildings in New York . . .”
Michael Moore uses Fahrenheit 9/11 to deny the existence of any relationship between the bigots and the tyrant. He took a stab at making Condoleezza Rice look foolish by presenting his audience with only the first line of the above quote: “Oh, indeed there was a tie between Iraq and what happened on 9/11” which elicited a derisive laugh from Moore’s audience of self-styled “sophisticated thinkers.” These suckers had been cheated out of the whole truth and they were sitting there laughing like know-it-alls.
Hating George W. Bush
Michael Moore panders to an audience that yearns to have its stereotypical assumptions about non-liberals validated. Moore does this by creating unflattering caricatures of non-liberals through the medium of the misleading film montage. Sound tracks are radically re-cut in a frenzy of frankenbiting to produce grotesque and cartoonish testimonials that were never spoken. Images are stripped of their original context and then recontextualized by dropping them into film narrations that give them new and misleading implications. Moore makes a fabulous living by collecting his cut of the ticket sales before fact checkers expose his fraudulence, by which time the suckers are tapped out. Then he slips away like a carnival huckster only to emerge later with yet another con-game movie to bedazzle and bewilder the left-leaning rubes.
Here’s a perfect example of how this hateful propagandist creates the cartoonish stereotypes that his liberal fans crave. Toward the end of Fahrenheit 9/11 Moore feeds his audience a short film segment of George W. Bush speaking to a seated gathering of men in tuxedoes. Mr. Bush addresses them earnestly: “I call you the haves and the have mores. Some call you the elite; I call you my base.” This segment is spliced in immediately after other segments in which Mr. Bush has been accused of attacking Iraq for no other reason than to enrich Big Business. It’s a vision of Wall Street straight out of a 1930s Soviet agitprop flick; all it lacked were the top hats and gold-handled walking sticks. At that moment the liberals loved Michael Moore; they just knew he had uncovered The Truth.
And from whence did this film segment, this revealing Rosetta Stone of the Republican Party, come? Well folks, this snippet is a surgically excised fragment taken from the October 19th, 2000 Alfred E. Smith Memorial Foundation Dinner. That’s the Alfred Smith dinner, not the Alfred Krupp dinner. All those men in tuxedoes are not really munitions makers and Wall Street bankers. This is an annual charity dinner to raise money for Catholic charities. The guests are generous people of every political persuasion. The candidates George Bush and Al Gore were the co-guests of honor. It is customary for the guest speakers at this event to indulge in self-deprecating humor, hence Mr. Bush’s laugh line about “my base.” Bush himself was exploiting a shopworn stereotype; in point of fact, much of the money raised by Republicans comes from small contributors; the Democrats are far more dependent on large lump-sum contributions from special-interest groups.
It’s a pity that Moore left Al Gore’s performance lying on his cutting-room floor. Gore, for once, had dropped his usual wooden demeanor: “The Al Smith Dinner represents a hallowed and important tradition, which I actually did invent.” In a send-up of his tediously repeated promise to put Social Security “in a lockbox,” Gore went on to promise to put “Medicare in a walk-in closet” and to put NASA funding in a “hermetically-sealed Ziploc bag.”
So Michael Moore’s misleading use of the Al Smith Dinner segment stands exposed for the cynical manipulation that it is. The hate-filled Mr. Moore chose to mischaracterize Mr. Bush as a greedy bastard even as Mr. Bush was in the act of helping to raise $1.6 million to bring comfort to needy families.
Michael Moore will falsify even the smallest detail in order to heighten his mockery of George Bush. On the fatal morning of September 11th, 2001 George Bush was at a scheduled photo-op at the Emma E. Booker Elementary School promoting his school-reform program. The cameras were rolling as the President of the United States sat silently as students read aloud passages from a book titled Reading Mastery 2. Among this book’s offerings is a story titled The Pet Goat. Michael Moore knew all of this, and yet he made a point of telling his Fahrenheit audience that George Bush was reading a book titled My Pet Goat because he thought this false detail would make the president look more ridiculous.
Moore does his best to make Mr. Bush appear confused and indecisive by presenting a time-lapse montage of the president continuing to sit with the students after being told by Andy Card that a second jet had struck a building in New York City. Moore knows that his audience cannot erase from memory all that they later learned about the 9/11 attacks; they cannot return to that first moment when this news was new. So the audience, with its vast fund of memories, sits in the dark watching a man who has only just received the first bare-bones report of a jet crash in a far-away city and asks “Why is he just sitting there?” Moore encourages his audience to believe that Mr. Bush is not leaping to his feet because he is an idiot. Moore would never suggest that our president did our nation a favor by not jumping up like a startled rabbit and inclining the nation toward panic. This moment was, after all, a photo opportunity and the visual media were capturing every detail. It had become an opportunity to communicate to the world that the President of the United States would not be taken captive by the mood of panic that the terrorists were striving to create. Power politics before the cameras is pure theater and sometimes there is genius in calm reserve.
In any case, the Secret Service was in no hurry to move the president from his secure position. Word came in that a Middle Eastern man had tried to gain physical access to the president that morning by falsely claiming to be a journalist with a scheduled interview. Off camera, things were happening at a furious pace. The intelligence network was trying to form a comprehensive picture of the attack; all aircraft were being called down out of the sky. In the back of the classroom Ari Fleischer, out of sight of the media, held up a legal pad on which he had written the words “DON’T SAY ANYTHING YET.”
George Bush can be clearly seen in Moore’s lingering close up of the president as he looks up and nods in acknowledgement. Events were unfolding; information was pouring in but there was still no clear picture of the source or extent of the threat; air traffic was going into lockdown and the local first responders were rising to the challenge locally. The president was not about to start making statements that might make matters more confusing. As Lee Hamilton, former Democratic Representative and vice-chairman of the September 11 Commission later observed: “Bush made the right decision in remaining calm, in not rushing out of the classroom.” The principal of the school, who was an eyewitness, told the Associated Press, “I don’t think anyone could have handled it better.”
Michael Moore knew all this before he sat down to patch together his constricted vision of George Bush’s morning at the school, but he chose to conceal this information because he has no respect for his ticket buyers. Moore himself was incapable of offering any suggestions about what the president might have done in those few minutes that would have changed events for the better. Moore is a cunning film editor but a shallow thinker; he cuts and pastes together film montages in the hope that his cinematic trickery will somehow transcend the limits of his intelligence. So far, the mental low-watts on the Left have kept his hope alive.
The New York Times did its best to promote Moore’s efforts to mislead the American public. The Sunday, June 20, 2004 New York Times showcased an article about Fahrenheit 9/11 which included this:
“Besides, it may turn out that the most talked-about moments in the film are the least impeachable. Mr. Moore makes extensive use of obscure footage from the White House and network-news archives, including long scenes that capture President Bush at his least articulate. For the White House, the most devastating segment of ‘Fahrenheit 9/11’ may be the video of a befuddled-looking President Bush staying put for nearly seven minutes at a Florida elementary school on the morning of Sept. 11, continuing to read a copy of ‘My Pet Goat’ to schoolchildren even after an aide has told him that a second plane has struck the twin towers. Mr. Bush’s slow, hesitant reaction to the disastrous news has never been a secret. But seeing the actual footage, with the minutes ticking by, may prove more damaging to the White House than all the statistics in the world.”
This is from the left-leaning newspaper that calls itself “the newspaper of record,” by which they mean the one that historians will refer back to. But this article was written long after the event described and long after the Times should have gathered the facts that I have explained above. And yet, here is the Times presenting to the public exactly the constricted and context-depleted vision of those few minutes that Michael Moore wants to promote. The Timeseven refers to “a copy of ‘My Pet Goat’” a book that doesn’t exist; it’s a Michael Moore invention; so are the “seven minutes” which were actually five minutes. By relying on Moore for its “facts” the Times has, in effect, made Michael Moore a New York Times reporter of record. Paging Jason Blair!
The Times even included an unflattering picture of the president; my newspaper clipping archive reveals that it’s the same unflattering photo that they used to decorate another article showcasing Fahrenheit 9/11 that ran in the Sunday, May 23rd, 2004 New York Times.
In that article Frank Rich recycled Michael Moore’s context-depleted vision: “Instead of recycling images of the planes hitting the World Trade Center on 9/11 once again, Mr. Moore can revel in extended close-ups of the president continuing to read ‘My Pet Goat’ to elementary school students in Florida for nearly seven long minutes after learning of the attack.”
Once again, there were no “seven long minutes;” watching a static shot of some guy sitting in a chair can seem longer, much longer, to folks who are sitting in a darkened theater waiting to be entertained. If Frank Rich had paid attention he would have known that at no time did the president read aloud to the children; they read aloud to him. Michael Moore did everything he could to increase the tedium of those minutes so that they would seem like years. People who think that they are getting insightful analyses from the New York Times are deluding themselves.
The 9/11 Commission Report tells us that George Bush finished the little story and “He then returned to a holding room shortly before 9:15, where he was briefed by staff and saw television coverage. He next spoke to Vice President Cheney, Dr. Rice, New York Governor George Pataki, and FBI Director Robert Mueller. He decided to make a brief statement from the school before leaving for the airport.”
Moore tries to assassinate the president’s character once again as he snidely quips “Or perhaps he just should have read the security briefing that was given him on August 6, 2001, that said Osama bin Laden was planning to attack America by hijacking planes.”
There is no evidence that the president didn’t read the report; no person other than Michael Moore has made this unsubstantiated assertion. As Condoleezza Rice later explained, the information inside the report was “very vague.” In fact, the report states flatly that: “We have not been able to corroborate some of the more sensational threat reporting, such as that from a [redacted text] service in 1998 saying that Bin Laden wanted to hijack a U.S. aircraft to gain the release of ‘Blind Shaykh’ Umar Abd al-Rahman and other U.S.-held extremists.”
Moore distorted this into “planning to attack America” which he knew would mislead his audience into believing that the August 2001 briefing included clear warnings of an impending kamikaze attack.
We should strive for wisdom. Wisdom requires the best information; wisdom thrives on the truth. An intelligent person will fail to achieve wisdom if he is deprived of the truth. Michael Moore’s movies are intellectual junk food, false history and lying frankenbites from beginning to end. Therefore, we cannot escape the conclusion that Moore’s movies have actually harmed the political health of our nation. His films confound the truth and frustrate people’s efforts to achieve wisdom. Moore is a political Typhoid Mary spreading stupidity across the land.
Moore’s Mash Note for Saddam
In one of his love letters to Saddam’s homicidal regime, Michael Moore presents prewar Iraq as an idyll of kite-flying children, happy newlyweds and just regular folks living their lives. Then he jolts his audience with a display of precision bombing as a building is reduced to rubble. The Moore message: America is a nasty intruder in Paradise. What Moore is careful to keep secret from his audience is that the building being hit is the Iraqi Ministry of Defense in Baghdad, the longtime central command for genocide and mass murder in Iraq. There were no kite-flying children nearby; the ministry building was in a section of Baghdad that was off limits to the average Iraqi . . . on penalty of death. Moore makes no mention of Saddam’s children’s prisons where five and seven-year-old children were held captive; neither does he mention the children who were tortured in front of their parents. Now reflect on the fact that Moore made certain to exclude from Fahrenheit 9/11 any images of the terrorist jetliner fuel-bombs striking the World Trade towers. That’s because any reminder that we were provoked by a surprise attack launched by Muslim bigots would undermine Moore’s brainless thesis that the only reason America overran Osama bin Laden’s base of operations in Taliban-ruled Afghanistan was to enhance the prospects for a long-defunct pipeline proposal that had been scrapped way back in 1998. That’s how truly stupid this movie is. It’s a political Looney Tune.
It should be noted that during the Battle of Baghdad civilian areas of the city were showered with Iraqi anti-aircraft shells that had missed their intended targets and had fallen back into Baghdad neighborhoods. Moore uses Iraqi footage of civilian injuries inflicted by these errant shells in new contexts that suggest that these injuries were inflicted by indiscriminate American bombardment.
Smearing Our Representatives
Michael Moore intones: “. . . out of the 535 members of Congress, only one had an enlisted son in Iraq.” His words are carefully chosen because he can’t make his case without the restricting words “enlisted” and “son” and “Iraq.” He wants you to mistakenly believe that those in power are shielding their offspring from danger while the rest of the America’s families are being bled dry. It’s another Michael Moore invention.
Military personnel have no control over where they are deployed. As of 2004 seven members of Congress were confirmed to have a son or daughter in the military. As for Iraq: Democrat Senator Tim Johnson’s son fought in Iraq with the 101st Airborne Division in 2003. Republican Representative Duncan Hunter’s son quit his job after September 11 and enlisted in the Marines and served with an artillery unit in the heart of the war zone in February 2004. Moore doesn’t include Hunter’s son because he was a Second Lieutenant and was therefore not “an enlisted son.” Recall that in Vietnam Second Lieutenants had the shortest life expectancy of any rank. Moore is also careful to exclude Attorney General John Ashcroft’s son serving on the USS McFaul in the Persian Gulf. I guess cabinet members don’t fit well with Moore’s thesis either.
So, two congressional members have sons in Iraq. Is that an unusually low number? Well, . . . no. As of the summer of 2003 about 300,000 American troops had been rotated in and out of Iraq. According to the Census Bureau there were 104,705,000 households in America in the year 2000. Therefore the ratio of households to troops who have set foot in Iraq is 349 to 1. Since there are 535 congressional households and two Congressional sons serving in Iraq, their ratio is 268 to 1. Therefore, the average American family is 23 percent less likely to have a child serving in Iraq than is a congressional family. At least seven members of Congress are themselves military veterans. And so dies one of the Left’s most cherished myths.
How Michael Moore Promotes Political Murder
Terrorism is political murder; homicide is the terrorist’s stock in trade; every contribution to a terror group makes the contributor an accessory to murder. Contributions to terror groups may be material or intangible. The enemy combatants whom our country and the elected government of Iraq are struggling against are all operating outside the rules of the Geneva Conventions which define the boundaries of civilized warfare. To be considered a proper prisoner of war entitled to the convention’s protections a captured combatant must wear a uniform that identifies him as a soldier, he must carry his weapon openly, he must not attempt to blend in with the civilian population and he must not make war against the civilian population. The enemy combatants in Iraq ignore all of these defining characteristics. But to Michael Moore these bomb-happy thugs are not “the enemy” or even “insurgents” but national heroes. When referring to this loose coalition of al Qaeda agents, Saddam loyalists and unaffiliated thugs who are bankrolled by Iran and Syria and who are slaughtering Iraqis, Michael Moore has only kind words: “The Iraqis who have risen up against the occupation are not ‘insurgents’ or ‘terrorists’ or ‘The Enemy.’ They are the REVOLUTION, the Minutemen, and their numbers will grow – and they will win.”
The trade journal Screen Daily has reported that associates of Hezbollah, the Iranian and Syrian-supported terrorist gang, are promoting Fahrenheit 9/11 as a recruiting tool. Michael Moore’s Middle East distributor, Front Row, was eager for the chance to make big bucks from this terrorist hotbed. Here’s a quote from Screen Daily:
“In terms of marketing the film, Front Row is getting a boost from organizations related to Hezbollah which have rung up from Lebanon to ask if there is anything they can do to support the film. And although [Front Row’s Managing Director Gianluca] Chacra says he and his company feel strongly that Fahrenheit is not anti-American, but anti-Bush, ‘we can’t go against these organizations as they could strongly boycott the film in Lebanon and Syria.” In other words, Moore’s team was eager to cooperate with the blood-drenched serial killers of Hezbollah for money. All Moore had to do to stop this was make a phone call to Front Row.
Screen Daily announced that Fahrenheit 9/11 would open on screens in Lebanon and Syria. Salon.com reported that “Chacra was unfazed, even excited about [Hezbollah’s] offer . . .”
So Michael Moore is now the darling of Hezbollah, a gangster political group that has slaughtered and kidnapped hundreds of Americans and works closely with al Qaeda. To reach the widest possible audience with Michael Moore’s twisted vision of America, Hezbollah has shown Fahrenheit 9/11 on television. The New York Post quotes Hezbollah’s Lebanese leader, Sheikh Hassan Nassrallah, as declaring: “We may not be able to drive the Americans out of Iraq, but we can drive Bush out of the White House.” This was exactly Moore’s announced purpose when he released Fahrenheit 9/11, so he’s found common cause with Hezbollah.
Moore’s staff carefully scans all the media for commentary about Moore’s films so Moore himself can never claim ignorance that his flick was being used to increase the determination of the anti-American death squads. In fact, during a Washington press meeting when Moore was confronted with his distributor’s statement, his response was to stonewall and stammer and refuse to answer. When the camera was thrust in his face and the hard questions were asked Michael Moore came off as just the sort of buccaneering, profiteering huckster that he pretends to detest.
At heart Michael Moore is a money hungry opportunist whose central theme, bolstered by his own fraudulent cinematic inventions, is that America is a rotten country that is causing all of the world’s problems. This message contributes to social attitudes and a political atmosphere in which terrorist acts against America seem less horrific. Moore’s incessant anti-Americanism and his baseless polemics serve only to enrich Michael Moore at the expense of civilized order and the political health of our nation. His cynical cheerleading for terrorists is an endorsement of political murder.
With the release of Roger & Me Moore understood that he could say anything, no matter how bogus, as long as he kept his audiences entertained. This understanding encouraged Moore to construct every one of his film montages for its maximum emotional effect; any resemblance to the truth became increasingly coincidental. Moore discovered that yuppies and college snots would reward him handsomely for ridiculing working people and that Europeans would stuff his bank account in exchange for the opportunities he provided them to feel superior to Americans.
As we have seen, Bowling for Columbine is a hash of doctored campaign ads, false history and character assassination. Through the tricknology of film editing people give utterance to things they never said, as Moore works his audience, urging them onward toward ever more intense feelings of hatred and baseless superiority. All of Moore’s movies are cynical manipulations of people’s emotions for the purpose of enriching Michael Moore. Moore’s pretense of social concern is just camouflage, just like his ratty beard, his baseball cap and his burger belly; this middle-class twerp turned multi-millionaire is just a cross-dressing pretender to working-class authenticity.
As Moore’s former manager Douglass Urbanski told the Times of London, Michael Moore is “money obsessed.” He also has no empathy for the common folk. Moore announced that there would be a special screening of Bowling for Columbine for the survivors and grieving parents of slain students. Upon their arrival they were stunned to learn that Michael Moore expected them all to pay him an admission fee. Parent Ann Kechter captured the spiritual essence of Michael Moore when she remarked, “Maybe now that he has made millions of dollars off the blood of our children he could toss a DVD or two our way to view.”
“I’m a millionaire,” Moore gleefully boasted to Fox News, “I’m a multi-millionaire, I’m filthy rich. You know why I’m a multi-millionaire? ‘Cause multi-millions like what I do. That’s pretty good, isn’t it? There’s millions that believe in what I do. Pretty cool, huh?”
According to the New Yorker “One fan said that she had a spare ticket to a recent sold-out Moore talk in California, which she could have hawked for a fortune, but she didn’t, because making a profit from a Michael Moore event just wouldn’t be right.” Why not? Moore loves money; he brags about how rich he is; he even charged the friends and parents of students slain at Columbine a fee to see his flick about their suffering.
And who are his millions of fans? Well, there are the French, of course, who imagine him to be the greatest American artistic genius since Jerry Lewis. And there are the college students who, like the French, are attracted by Moore’s cartoonish vision of America and his incoherent paranoid 60s-retro brand of leftish utopian psycho-blather. Because Moore validates their assumptions, these folks are fiercely loyal to Moore; they are Moore’s unquestioning hard core. We know they’re not a curious bunch because anyone who had read the critical reviews of Roger & Me and Bowling for Columbine wouldn’t have spent a nickel to see anything Moore had put his hand to. Moore is a fantasist, not a documentarian. Moore knew that Fahrenheit 9/11 couldn’t stand close scrutiny. The New York Times (6/20/04) announced: “Mr. Moore and his distributors have refused to circulate copies of the film and its script before the film’s release this Friday; his production team said that as of last Wednesday there was no final script because the film was still undergoing minor editing – for clarity, they said, not accuracy.”
By “clarity” Moore means getting his phrasing exactly right, because his signature method is to malign people by suggestion and implication, but without clearly meeting the statutory definition of slander. Moore certainly didn’t want any copies of his film being screened by fact checkers whose negative press reports would have dampened ticket sales: Moore had to make his money fast, before the public got wise to the fact that Fahrenheit 9/11 was a pastiche of misleading montages, frankenbites, false history, paranoid speculation and malicious defamation.
Left-wing readers of the New York Times were comforted upon reading that “Mr. Moore is readying for a conservative counter attack, saying he has created a political-style ‘war room’ to offer an instant response to any assault on the film’s credibility. He has retained Chris Lehane, a Democratic Party strategist known as a master of the black art of ‘oppo,’ or opposition research, used to discredit detractors . . . And he is threatening to go one step further, saying he has consulted with lawyers who can bring defamation suits against anyone who maligns or damages his reputation.”
“We want the word out,” intoned Moore, “Any attempts to libel me will be met by force!” What a sissy. He used intimidation and the threat of nuisance litigation to dampen criticism of his flick. It’s all about the money.
Stepchild of the New Journalism
In a nation where high standards for journalism were cherished Michael Moore’s film fantasies would be hooted off the public stage, but journalism has been going all to Hell since the 1970s when frustrated novelist-wannabee journalists began to indulge themselves in something called The New Journalism.
Weary of in-depth reporting borne of asking hard questions, writing down-the-middle accounts, and letting their readers draw their own conclusions, the New Journalists sought to go beyond the confining limits of who, what, where, when and why in an effort to capture the ineffable essences of social trends. And so, they wandered from the narrow path. In short order, the readers of serious newspapers and magazines were introduced to such novelties as the “composite character” and “invented dialogue.” The ranks of the New Journalists included Gay Telese, Joan Didion, the drug-inspired Hunter S. Thompson and the dapper Tom Wolfe.
Describing Tom Wolfe’s signature technique, author Marc Weingarten tells us: “Before writing each chapter, he would review his notes, then close his eyes and try to imagine himself in the mental states of his [real-life] characters – a process of intellectual ‘sense memory,’ that he felt was akin to Method acting.” (The Gang That Couldn’t Write Straight Crown)
Unhappily, many readers of these Method exertions were still under the impression that what was being printed in their newspapers was a close approximation of the truth and that words within quotation marks were still the real-life utterances of the person to whom they were attributed. Once the New Journalism became the rage among the media deep thinkers, the arrival of Jason Blair was inevitable, even encouraged. The top editors at Esquire, New York magazine, and Rolling Stone were all noisy proponents of the New Journalism because it helped them differentiate their publications and increase their readership. It was a moneymaker.
This is how the bright edges that once separated journalism from advocacy, advertising and satire became blurred. This is the world of standardless journalism into which Michael Moore released his long-form pseudo-journalistic “documentary” Fahrenheit 9/11. Is it any wonder then that so many media pundits embraced Michael Moore as a comrade and kindred spirit?
Take, for example, Neal Gabler, whose essay in defense of Michael Moore’s methods first appeared in the Los Angeles Times. I snagged a reprint of this essay from the Newark Star Ledger where it appeared under the titleFair, if not balanced, with the subtitle “Michael Moore’s truth-telling puts the mainstream media to shame.” Above the title was a pen & ink portrait of a younger, healthier and more hygienic-looking Michael Moore beside an ink rendering of the presidential seal which had been deliberately soiled with ink spatter.
Gabler’s first paragraph reminds us that Moore’s flick “has raised a firestorm of controversy” “by declaring that he made the film in hopes of booting Bush from office.” Then paragraph two makes this frightening assertion:
“In the end, he isn’t likely to affect the presidential race. But “Fahrenheit 9/11” may have an altogether different effect: a change in the practice and the values of journalism. What Moore and the film have done is take dead aim at one of the most sacred of journalistic shibboleths: the idea that journalists are supposed to be fair and balanced. This isn’t just a function of Moore having a point of view to push; there have always been provocateurs. Rather it is a function of the film revealing the harm that balance has done to our public discourse and the distortions it has promoted.”
Got that? Mr. Gabler thinks it’s a burden on us all to be constantly exposed to competing arguments on topics of public interest. On those ideas about which Mr. Gabler has made up his mind he sees no point in allowing people with contrary opinions to have their say.
Gabler pouts: “For every pro on one side of the scale, there must be a con on the other. If the 9/11 commission declares that there is absolutely no credible evidence of any collaborative relationship between Saddam Hussein and al Qaeda, the press must also prominently post Vice President Dick Cheney’s view that there was a relationship, whether he provides evidence or not. If the preponderance of scientific opinion says global warming threatens the environment, the press must still interview the handful of scientists who dismiss it. That’s just the way it is.”
Well, that’s “just the way it is” in a healthy and functioning public forum. Despite the conviction among liberals that these matters are settled, they are not. Mr. Gabler is also using vague language to hide the weakness of his argument. The Bush administration did not assert that Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden had collaborated in the planning of the September 11th attacks on America. The administration did provide evidence that Saddam’s regime gave assistance and shelter to al Qaeda agents, carried on a decade-long dialogue with al Qaeda operatives, and considered Osama bin Laden an “intelligence asset” according to captured Iraqi documents. Shouldn’t this knowledge be part of open debates about the war in Iraq?
As for the “handful” of scientists who have dissenting opinions about the cataclysmic scenarios of future global warming, they number in the many thousands. These educated people don’t simply “dismiss” the issue, they ask probing questions such as, “Are humans responsible for atmospheric temperature fluctuations?” The temperature of the Earth has fluctuated since before some early human lit the first campfire. Our planet’s temperature is very sensitive to fluctuations in the Sun’s output of radiant energy. There is evidence that our planet is now releasing more heat from within itself. A single volcano can release more greenhouse gasses than all the factories and motor vehicles combined. Shouldn’t this evidence be included in a vigorous public debate about global warming, especially when some people want to exploit this issue to increase the reach of the nanny state?
Mr. Gabler may stand in awe of “the preponderance of scientific opinion,” but educated people can recall that at one time “the preponderance of scientific opinion” ridiculed the tiny minority who believed that the Earth was a sphere and that it revolved around the Sun. The man who suggested that the continents were drifting was dismissed as a nut, until the fossils of tropical plants were discovered in Antarctica. Likewise, the man who declared that doctors were killing women on their childbeds by going directly from dissecting cadavers to delivering babies without first washing their hands, was hounded from the medical profession because the “preponderance of scientific opinion” held that the germ theory of disease was a crock.
For insecure liberals who yearn for security, their chosen path will always be the one that maximizes their illusion of control over events; they unfailingly rush to pass laws that will further empower a utopian nanny state, the one ruled by Wise Liberals who will then dictate the proper use of everyone’s private property. If dire predictions about global warming increase their feelings of insecurity, then that’s reason enough to terminate all public debate on the issue and to begin passing restrictive legislation.
Mr. Gabler continues: “Obviously Fahrenheit 9/11 is not balanced. There are no Bush administration spokesmen giving the Bush spin. But by the same token, virtually every factual statement in the film, as distinguished from Moore’s interpretation of those facts, is accurate. In short, the film isn’t balanced, but it may be fair.”
Note Mr. Gabler’s dismissive assumption that the Bush administration could not have provided Michael Moore with anything more substantial than “spin.” Note also that Mr. Gabler uses the word “facts” in exactly the same sense that Michael Moore uses it in his defense of Fahrenheit 9/11: as a synonym for “data points.” But we, the reading-and-viewing public, do not hunger for data points, we seek a good approximation of The Truth.
A data point is just a tiny tile lifted from a much bigger mosaic; what we really want to see is the entire mosaic; we want to draw understanding from the facts as they existed in their original contexts. What makes Michael Moore such a profoundly corrupt and corrupting craftsman is his signature method of plucking individual tiles (factoids, images, sound bites) from their original mosaics (events, contexts) and then reassembling them into novel mosaics that resemble true events, but are merely pieces of political art. There’s a name for political art; it’s called propaganda.
Mr. Gabler, like so many other uncurious liberals, has been seduced by art; he mistakenly calls Michael Moore a “documentarian.” The spanking new film mosaics that Michael Moore manufactures are not historical documents, they are contrived slanders; their format is more high tech than that of The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, but they spring from the same malicious spirit.
Mr. Gabler succumbs to the false notion that Michael Moore is a reporter: “In noisily forswearing balance for genuine fairness, Moore has shamed an American press corps that, for fear of offending conservatives, refused to report what Moore is now reporting . . .” Yikes! Neal Gabler actually believes that the Big Three television networks, the Washington Post, the New York Times and all the lesser newspapers that robotically use the Times as a template for what to print and which poses to assume, are fearfully tailoring their presentations to avoid offending conservatives. If Neal is correct, then the rest of us just imagined the Memogate Scandal, when former CBS anchorman Dan Rather was eagerly pushing fake and defamatory documents on the voting public in an effort to smear George W. Bush. We must be delusional for thinking that the hundreds of articles printed in the New York Times promoting homosexual wedlock were anything but an effort to soothe conservative sensibilities.
Gabler chides the press corps for not reporting what Mr. Moore has “reported”: that the FBI did not grill bin Laden family members before allowing them to return home and “the astonishing fact that only one of 535 members of Congress has a child serving in the military in Iraq.” Perhaps the press corps had read what the 9/11 Commission Report had to say about the bin Ladens’ delayed departure. As for Mr. Moore’s “astonishing fact,” as I have demonstrated, it’s an illusion created by narrowly confining the search to sons of reduced rank in Iraq, when the true number is put at two sons from 535 congressional families the Congress comes off looking better than the American population as a whole. Only by remaining silent about the son of a Cabinet member and the seven former servicemen in Congress, and by narrowly focusing on the lone enlisted son can Moore hope to float the fraud that Congress is hiding its children from harsh reality.
Neal Gabler concludes his essay with this Orwellian send off: “The media know that whatever Fahrenheit 9/11 exposes about Bush, it also has exposed something arguably even more important about them: that balance is itself bias and that under its cover, they have protected a president whose administration, if examined fairly, may very well be indefensible.”
Neal’s mind is made up: Bush is a rat; Michael Moore said so, end of story. The uncurious Mr. Gabler has taken a position on the issues, so why are the rest of us still debating those issues? Balance is bias, so suppress your doubts and just join Neal and the rest of the Michael Moore fan club in their darkened screening room. You may listen to NPR softly, if you wish.
Michael Moore’s Flicks as Cinema
The slang expression “flick” to designate a motion picture is a back-formation of the slang expression “flicker,” which was a pet name given to the fluttering stream of images of the early silent films. It is a reminder that filmmaking is now over a century old, going back to such early documentaries as the Lumiere brothers’ The Arrival of a Train (1895). These early documentaries were shot, for the most part, in single long takes, which today are called “sequence shots.” A silent documentary might include several sequence shots spliced end to end, but cutting within a sequence shot was rare. The novelty of a motion picture was enough to hold the audience’s attention.
Before D.W. Griffith scenes in films were usually photographed from a distance (long shots) by a stationary camera: the editing syntax was primitive and straight forward. Audiences had already been conditioned to the condensed “subjective time” of cinematic story telling and accepted the implied elapsed time between sequences.
Griffith is called The Father of Film because he consolidated and refined the techniques of his predecessors into a language of great power and subtlety. In other words, he elevated filmmaking into the realm of art. His masterpiece, The Birth of a Nation (1915), introduced audiences to Griffith’s expressive editing style. In a sophisticated leap, Griffith had seized upon the principle of the association of ideas in film editing and he elaborated this principle in a variety of ways. Film scholars now refer to Griffith’s invention as “classical editing.” Classical editing is distinguished by its emphasis on editing for dramatic intensity, rather than for merely physical reasons. Griffith was the first filmmaker to exploit the “close-up” within a scene for its psychological impact.
By fragmenting the action into smaller segments Griffith was able to gain a far greater control over his audiences’ emotional responses. By constantly shifting the viewer’s point of view using the juxtaposition of carefully chosen long, medium and close-up shots, Griffith could draw his audiences into a radically altered cinematic space and time continuum, one very different from the one which had provided the photographed segments that were his raw material. By his sophisticated choice of emphasis, consolidation, exclusion, connection, parallel action and contrast, Griffith could persuade his audiences to accept the association of ideas implicit in his carefully connected shots. He exploited the very human desire to comprehend what is being seen; audiences will naturally strive to make sense of a series of connected visual presentations; they will tend to convert any series of images into a psychologically-connected series.
Classical editing breaks down the continuity of time and space; it emphasizes some things at the expense of others and it confines our attention to a chosen series of details. The action is no longer literal; it has become mental and emotional. Classical cutting has been the language of filmmaking since D.W. Griffith invented it. Well before the advent of widespread daily television viewing in the 1950s, Americans were being conditioned from birth to enter and accept the altered reality of classical editing in cinematic story telling and to suspend their disbelief.
What filmmakers chose to do with the kit bag of techniques that D.W. Griffith had bequeathed them is a very personal matter. The varied choices made by filmmakers over the last eight decades has produced many “schools” or camps of cinematic expression, each of which emphasizes one or another aspect of film’s possibilities.
Prior to making Roger & Me Michael Moore had never attended any film school or worked in the motion picture industry in any capacity. By a hideously ironic twist of fate Moore was taught almost everything he knows about filmmaking by the cinematographer Kevin Rafferty, who is a first cousin of George W. Bush. Mr. Rafferty’s influence on Moore can be seen in Moore’s use of archival footage from newsreels, TV commercials and vintage B movies, all of which Rafferty had exploited in his 1982 cult classic documentary The Atomic Café.
To quote the film critic Daniel Dayan: “Classical cinema is the ventriloquist of ideology.” That said, the director chooses his degree of ideological explicitness. Escapist movies tend to treat moral issues superficially. Still implicit, but more evident, are the conflicting value systems in such class-conscious entertainments as L’Avventura and Pretty Woman which bring together protagonists and antagonists from wildly distinct social backgrounds. And finally we have the thematically-oriented films that were created to entertain and persuade, such as John Singleton’s Boyz N the Hood and Oliver Stone’s paranoid schlock-u-mentary JFK. In such films as these it is usually an admirable character who articulates the values the filmmaker wishes to emphasize: think of Humphrey Bogart’s speech at the end of Casablanca.
In Michael Moore’s films, director Michael Moore has chosen to cast Michael Moore as the “admirable person” who articulates his film’s values. Overt hard-sell appeals to our sympathy usually repel film critics, but Moore has won an audience by dressing up his dopey over-wrought cinematic screeds in stylish panache. His material is perfectly slanted toward his fan base who mistake his jaunty stylizations for intellectual sophistication. In a better-educated America, Michael Moore would be penniless.
Moore employs time-worn devices to win our sympathy. Underdogs and the emotionally vulnerable play on our protective tendencies and Moore exploits such people to the fullest, even enlisting them when they have no connection to his subject matter. For example: three of the four families facing eviction in Roger & Me had no family connections to General Motors whatsoever. Moore even affects an underdog look himself before the cameras, looking rumpled and unshaven and wearing a proletarian ball cap.
People who are funny and charming also blunt our critical faculties; Moore does his best to be witty even as he adopts a superior attitude and encourages his fans to do the same. Conversely, Moore does his best to deplete our sympathy for his ideological targets by depicting them as greedy, cruel, tyrannical, mean-spirited and stupid. He shamelessly exploits film footage taken in unguarded moments as people prep themselves for public appearances; this is stolen footage slipped to him by low-level media employees friendly to Moore. Do any of us look our best while grooming before the mirror? Of course not. These shots are visual ad hominem attacks; they are the chosen weapon of the intellectually bankrupt propagandist. Moore stoops to invading his targets’ most private moments in an effort to garner a few cheap laughs. It’s surprising he hasn’t yet hidden a camera in someone’s toilet bowl.
Moore even uses clothing, décor and location to transmit encoded ideological messages. The tuxedoes worn by the audience whom George W. Bush addresses as “my base” are an encoded class-conscious message. He exploits this moment in an effort to diminish our sympathy for Mr. Bush, even as Moore hides from us the fact that Mr. Bush was in the act of raising money to help needy families. Moore exploited the distinctly affluent décor and locations of the Grosse Pointe Yacht Club and the Waldorf Astoria Hotel to emphasize the class difference between the wealthy and the average movie viewer in the theater, even as he concealed from his ticket buyers that Roger Smith, the man he was pretending to pursue, had never been to that hotel and had never been a member of that yacht club. These scenes have no informational value; they are tools of emotional manipulation.
Another manipulative device is “tone.” Tone may be elusive but it always affects our emotional response to a film. The use of light and music can be flattering or mocking. Think of the way Moore grafted the likenesses of members of the Bush administration onto the bodies of the cast of the vintage TV Western Bonanza as that show’s theme music mockingly suggested that the administration was just a bunch of witless cowboys. Moore exploits voice-over narration to set a tone, often setting an ironic or paranoid or cynical tone. In every instance the mood he creates is used to promote his ideological message.
Michael Moore and the Soviet Montage
In the 1920s the Soviet filmmakers enlarged on D.W. Griffith’s associational principles and established a theoretical foundation for thematic editing which they called montage, after the French verb monter: to assemble. The theoretical treatise of V.I. Podovkin was a probing exposition of Griffith’s methods and a visionary explanation of how some of these devices could be used to greater effect. Podovkin understood that by the artful juxtaposition of shots the director could create new meanings, not simply record physical reality. A new reality could spring from the association of separate shots.
The psychological theories of Ivan Pavlov had made a deep impression on Soviet filmmakers; they used Pavlov’s investigations into the associations of ideas as a guide for experiments in film editing. Lev Kuleshov, Pudovkin’s mentor, believed that ideas in cinema spring from the close association of film fragments and that viewers construct a mental narrative rooted in these associations. If visual details that are unrelated in the real world are juxtaposed on an illuminated screen, then viewers will infer a relationship between them.
To confirm his theory, Kuleshov conducted an experiment. First he filmed a close-up shot of an actor with a neutral expression. Next he juxtaposed that first shot with each of three other shots: a close-up of a bowl of soup, a shot of an open coffin containing a female corpse, and a shot of a little girl playing. After these paired film segments were shown to audiences, the viewers commented enthusiastically about the emotive power of the actor in expressing the pangs of hunger, the pain of bereavement, and the glow of parental pride. Kuleshov had established that emotions could be elicited by associations that were inferred from the juxtaposition of film images.
Henceforth, sequences would not be filmed, but constructed for maximum emotional effect. Long shots became rare; the rapid-fire barrage of close-ups became the generator of sequenced associations that were linked for the purpose of synthesizing new meanings. The audience became the passive recipients of linked associations presented on the screen in front of them. The Soviet montage became the ideal tool of the political propagandist. In time it would become Michael Moore’s meal ticket, his tirelessly exploited device for generating invented timelines, false histories, paranoid speculations and social discord. By this cinematic device alone, this and a shameless audacity for telling lies in entertaining ways, Moore has become what Teddy Roosevelt used to call a malefactor of wealth. Just remember: every time you purchase a ticket to a Michael Moore movie you are re-entering Lev Kuleshov’s experiment on the effects of the Soviet montage on the minds of movie viewers. I counted the film fragments that comprise Fahrenheit 9/11; there are over 1,250 of them; 177 before the end of the opening credits. That’s a lot of coupled-image associations.
Fools Rush In: The Perils of Believing Michael Moore
During a Saturday night performance at the Aladdin Casino in Las Vegas, Linda Ronstadt, now 58, began trashing President Bush and praising Michael Moore and his film Fahrenheit 9/11. The hefty songbird foolishly described Moore “as someone who cares about this country deeply and is trying to help.”
Her audience was not amused. Some folks hurled their drinks toward the stage; someone tore down Ronstadt’s poster; there was a rush on the box office as a quarter of the 4,500 patrons demanded a refund. Sensing a PR disaster in the making, the Aladdin announced that Ronstadt had been “escorted out” of the hotel and that she would “not be welcomed back.” Casino president Bill Timmins saw it all from the audience; he has since banned Ronstadt from the Aladdin. Pundits speculated about whether this dust up would re-energize Ronstadt’s sagging career.
Jim Fusilli mused in the Wall Street Journal that “after seeing about a thousand rock concerts, my feeling is that rock stars who discuss politics from the stage deserve whatever criticism they get – not for speaking their minds, but for assuming they might have something to say that we need to hear from them.”
Three days after she was booed off the stage in Las Vegas, Ronstadt sang at the Universal Amphitheater in Los Angeles. According to the liberal Los Angeles Times this liberal venue “reserved its longest and loudest ovation for her endorsement of filmmaker-provocateur Michael Moore and his documentary Fahrenheit 9/11 . . . Ronstadt was handed a bouquet of flowers. She asked the audience if they wanted to know who sent them and then answered their applause: ‘They are from the most bravest, most patriotic man. I am going to dedicate this next song to him, Michael Moore.’”
“This is an election year,” opined the songbird, “I want people to get their head up out of their mashed potatoes and learn something about the issues . . .” We can only wonder where Ronstadt’s head has been all this time. The hundreds of deceits that Moore perpetrated in his earlier films would have put any thinking person on notice that Moore can not be trusted. The L.A. Times said Ronstadt, whom they refer to as “a longtime liberal activist,” has been using the same line on her tour to introduce the song “Desperado”: “I’ll say, I think there’s this guy who is a great patriot and I think he loves his country deeply and that he’s trying to get the truth out . . . Then I say his name is Michael Moore and I’ve just been to see his fine movie Fahrenheit 9/11.” She went on to liken the Bush administration to Hitler’s NAZI Party: “It’s like the Weimar Republic . . . These [neoconservative] people are taking over the government. People are sound asleep . . .” Well, one person’s “take over” is another person’s democratic election. The Republicans didn’t come to dominate both houses of Congress and the White House as the result of a beer hall putsch, they were elected by a moderate American population whom Ronstadt and the Left think of as “sound asleep” with their heads in their mashed potatoes – to recall Ronstadt’s dismissive characterization of us. So bedazzled is Ms. Ronstadt by Michael Moore’s film fabrications that she felt compelled to return from entertainment obscurity to offer us Enlightenment. Perhaps she could join the Dixie Chicks for a Return to Obscurity Tour.
Those Final Moments
In the final moments of Fahrenheit 9/11 Moore attempts to give his feature-length exercise in pneumatic paranoia some much needed gravitas by quoting verbatim from George Orwell’s novel 1984 a description of a contrived and unending war between three superpowers. Moore’s sonorous voice-over, taken within the context of his thesis, is meant to suggest that there is no meaningful moral distinction between the behavior of the United States and the behaviors of the Taliban and the Baath Party. He suggests by this recitation that the armed struggle against murderous jihad is really about nothing. Moore has also stated emphatically on videotape that “There is no terrorist threat.”
What you’ll never hear is Michael Moore quoting from Orwell’s Notes on Nationalism (1945): “. . . Pacifist propaganda usually boils down to saying that one side is as bad as the other, but if one looks closely at the writing of the younger intellectual pacifists, one finds that they do not by any means express impartial disapproval but are almost entirely against Britain and the United States . . .” This is a apt description of Michael Moore and his fan club. Michael Moore expresses no disapproval of either the thirty-year-long Baathist reign of terror or the psychotic family of sadistic criminals who, until recently, dominated the people of Iraq without mercy.
Michael Moore’s Opinion of Americans
In a pathetic effort to appear hip and “down” with black folks, this stupid white man went on record saying that if the hijacked civilians of September 11th had been black they would have fought back. This brainless and totally uncool remark only consolidated Moore’s reputation as a fact-challenged ignoramus. It also did dirt to the memory of those valiant civilians who fought the hijackers tooth and nail and brought their United Airlines jetliner to ruin far short of its intended target in the heart of crowded Washington, D.C. The spontaneous bravery of those civilians is a reminder of something Michael Moore wants you to forget: this war is being fought everywhere, including our homeland. Moore’s response: “There is no terrorist threat.”
In the end, the unnecessarily strident tone of Fahrenheit 9/11 rendered it second-rate propaganda. First-rate propaganda seeks to win new converts; Moore’s movies only serve to harden the polarization of his like-minded post-literary fans who find it so much easier to sit in a darkened room and have their fantasies validated than to do a little challenging reading.
The French, who have demonstrated a national sweet tooth for glib falsifiers from Napoleon to Vichy, embraced Michael Moore, bestowing upon Fahrenheit 9/11 their top prize at the 2004 Cannes Film Festival. Moore is in fitting company: more recently the French inducted that other towering genius of the American cinema, Jerry Lewis, into the Legion of Honor, bestowing upon him the honorary title of “Legion Commander.” Culture Minister Renaud Donnedieu de Vabres gave a twenty-minute speech as Lewis, wearing bedroom slippers, yawned, checked his watch, stuck out his tongue, made funny faces and pretended to fall asleep. The French loved it. Lewis apologized for not speaking French, but his signature “stereotypical uncultured stupid American” act needed no translation. Like Michael Moore, Lewis does not challenge French assumptions about their superiority to Americans.
Debra Burlingame, whose brother was the pilot of the jetliner that smashed into the Pentagon, observed: “Michael Moore actually used footage of the Pentagon in flames as a sight gag. It was really hard to sit there in the theater listening to people laugh at that scene knowing my brother was on that plane . . .” It says something telling about Moore’s fans that they actually believe he’s smart and cool and funny. Ms. Burlingame suggested that people spend their money to see Celsius 41.11, a film financed and produced by the conservative group Citizens United, which is a refutation of Fahrenheit 9/11 and includes a Fahrenheit-style juxtaposition of the World Trade Center in flames as Michael Moore declares on camera that “This needs to be said on national television. There is no terrorist threat,” and sounding every bit like a used-theory salesman for Osama bin Laden or Abu Nidal.
Celsius 41.11, we are reminded by its subtitle, is “The Temperature at Which the Brain Begins to Die.” Moore copped his title from Ray Bradbury’s classic futurist novel Fahrenheit 451. Mr. Bradbury responded to Moore’s gesture by calling Moore a “screwed asshole.” Not to be outdone, Moore offered his opinion of Americans to the British newspaper The Mirror: “They are possibly the dumbest people on the planet . . . in thrall to conniving, thieving assholes,” and “We Americans suffer from an enforced ignorance. We don’t know anything that’s happening outside our country. Our stupidity is embarrassing.”
Moore delighted a crowd at Cambridge by saying of his homeland: “You’re stuck with being connected to this country of mine, which is known for bringing sadness and misery to places around the globe.” In Liverpool he reflected on the great wellsprings of evil in the world: “It’s all part of the same ball of wax, right? The oil companies, Israel, Halliburton.” In Berlin he told his audience “Don’t be like us.” In an open letter to all the German people published in Die Zeit, Moore asked: “Should such an ignorant people lead the world?” and cautioned “Don’t go the American way when it comes to economics, jobs and services for the poor and immigrants. It is the wrong way.”
A Reuters report from Havana in July 2004 said that “In a country with a deep-seated distrust of United States governments, the film [Fahrenheit 9/11] has generated widespread interest and added to a recent barrage of official criticism of President Bush. Cubans stood in long lines to buy tickets to see rough DVD copies projected at 120 theaters across the island.” After that, Cuba’s government-run television broadcast Fahrenheit 9/11 in prime time. “The film is a work of love for humanity,” said a professor at the University of Havana. “It confirms what many of us believe, that George W. Bush is a real threat to the world.”
Understandably, foreigners are fascinated by Moore’s insights. Moore’s books have sold far better abroad than in America. On the continent that gave the world Kant, Goethe and Descartes our very own Michael Moore is considered a serious American intellectual, second only to Noam Chomsky. Back in Washington a Senate vote was delayed because so many Democrats wanted to see a showing of Fahrenheit 9/11. Liberal deep thinkers such as Ted Sorenson, Tom Harkin, Arthur Schlesinger and Barbara Boxer were rushing to Moore’s openings.
Of course, none of Moore’s fans imagine that Moore is including them among “the dumbest people on the planet.” Moore’s fans fancy themselves to be far more sophisticated than the average American. And no wonder, Moore’s on-camera average Americans are invariably inarticulate lower middle-class joes. None of them are physically appealing or stylish which allows Moore’s target demographic of big-city ticket buyers to comfortably hold them in smirking contempt. For that opportunity alone Moore’s fans adore him.
Moore’s misanthropy extends even to those he pretends to care about. His tour of an amputee ward at Walter Reed Hospital is just a setup for an anti-Bush punch line. These scenes were fabricated from television footage; the amputees tell us that Moore was never there. A Fresno peace group is made to look clueless; Moore sets the tone for their time on camera by adding a soundtrack of soda-pop music over their scenes. Moore’s old stomping ground of Flint, Michigan is depicted as a bombed-out ruin populated by white trash and dispirited blacks.
All of the on-screen depictions of American soldiers are chosen to showcase them as uncaring trained killers; their interactions with frightened civilians are shown without context or explanation. The dead and injured come and go in fleeting images without comment; they are just used as props to stir up emotion. When Moore got his hands on audio of a soldier singing as popular hip hop song with profane lyrics, Moore made sure to run the soldier’s voice over scenes of combat to create the false impression that the soldier was unfeelingly singing along with the destruction. We already knew that war was “all Hell” – General Sherman told us that thirteen decades ago; what we long for is a deeper understanding of Moore’s chosen images, but he offers us no such understanding.
Having stigmatized and stereotyped Americans, Moore goes on to trivialize the national characters of America’s allies: Romania is represented by old movie-stock footage of Dracula; Morocco is represented by a pack of scrambling monkeys. Since Israel stayed out of this fray we don’t get to see Moore’s depiction of them as hooked-nosed diamond merchants. Having seen his unflattering depiction of our black servicemen as hapless dupes, we can be thankful that Congo was not a party to the coalition.
Moore depersonalizes the horror of September 11th by going to a simple black screen and piping in only the muffled sounds of chaos. But when the target is Baghdad the nighttime pyrotechnics are shown in vivid color immediately on the heels of idyllic scenes of joyful newlyweds and children playing. Moore included grainy film footage of a Saudi convict’s beheading as evidence that America has horrid allies. Kept well out of sight is the readily available footage of the savage beheading of hostage Nicholas Berg. Moore was in possession of an interview with Berg but kept it concealed from his ticket buyers.
This lopsided presentation is what the liberal press calls a “documentary,” but totally absent from it is the well-documented fact that George W. Bush had plenty of encouragement for his decision to pimp slap Saddam’s inhumane regime. With the exception of a few marginalized voices, the Democrats – including most of their presidential candidates – were vocal in their support of military intervention in Iraq. John Kerry had been rattling the saber in long and detailed speeches long before George Bush left the governor’s digs in Texas.
The Big Movie Opening
Moore’s mock-u-mentary opened in New York and Washington on June 23rd, 2004. Michael Moore was on hand for the “official” Washington premiere, wearing a black suit and gray sneakers. The New York Times recalled that
“With full Hollywood trappings – a red carpet, klieg lights and dozens of photographers – nearly 800 members of the capital’s Democratic leadership turned out for the official premiere of the film, which opened on Wednesday here in New York.”
Mr. Moore made his purpose clear: “It’s my personal aim that Bush is removed from the White House.” The Times continued:
“The guest list, liberally sprinkled with members of Congress, political consultants and lobbyists, tipped decidedly to one side of the aisle. It included Richard Ben-Veniste, a member of the commission investigating the Sept. 11 attacks; Paul Begala, a political adviser to the Clinton White House; Representative Rahm Emanuel of Illinois, a former Clinton aide; Senator Tom Daschle of South Dakota, the minority leader; and Terry McAuliffe, the Democratic national chairman. Senator Bob Graham of Florida said, ‘There might be half of the Democratic Senate here.’”
In truth, Fahrenheit 9/11 had opened in two Manhattan theaters the previous evening. Showings were restricted to only two small theaters in the first weeks, in a city of six million, to ensure long waiting lines, a contrived ticket scarcity and word-of-mouth buzz. The Times quoted one 22-year-old ticket buyer who captured the spirit of Moore’s post-literary fans perfectly: “We wanted to see it as soon as possible. This is easier for people to understand than reading books, reading newspapers or watching C-span.” Indeed. It’s also much easier letting other people think for you, but that’s not the hallmark of a mature adult.
Two days after its Wednesday opening in Manhattan it opened in 850 theaters nationwide. The New York Times reported that “The liberal MoveOn political action committee began an Internet campaign to get people to pledge to see the film, and said yesterday that 110,703 had promised to do so. At theaters across the country, MoveOn plans to distribute leaflets inviting people to house parties around the country next Monday, when Mr. Moore will have an online conference call to talk about the film, said Adam Ruben, the field director of MoveOn.”
As media buzz and an advertising blitz increased interest in Fahrenheit 9/11 the list of venues expanded to 2,011 theaters. Later it opened in the United Kingdom, Belgium, France and Switzerland, all in one week. The U.S. Army and Air Force Exchange Service, which distributes films to 164 theaters on military bases around the world, sought to book this “documentary.” “Our policy is that if a film is popular in the U.S. and we can get our hands on it, we’ll show it,” said Exchange Service spokesman Judd Austey.
Moore’s flick was heavily promoted by the Canada-based distributor Lions Gate Films as that summer’s must-see cinematic controversy – both entertaining and contentious. Some TV spots included the voice-over: “The most controversial film of the year.” Print advertisements featured a faked photo of a smiling Michael Moore and a smiling George Bush strolling hand-in-hand on the White House lawn with an over-print that read “Controversy . . . What Controversy?”
Lions Gate president Tom Ortenberg crowed: “We’re in all 50 states. We’re going in red states and blue states and purple states.” He opined that “The film is very informative and raises a lot of important issues, but Fahrenheit 9/11 plays like broad-based entertainment. That’s what will make the film viable to mainstream audiences.”
On Tuesday June 22nd, 2004 Moore and his Canadian distributor lost their appeal to the Motion Picture Association of America to take Moore’s flick even more mainstream by changing the film’s R rating to a more parent-soothing PG-13. The rating board denied the appeal because of the film’s “violent and disturbing images” and foul language. Lions Gate had hired former governor of New York Mario Cuomo to argue its appeal, but the Motion Picture Association refused to hear him because Cuomo had not been involved in the film’s production or distribution. “This is a film that speaks to the American spirit,” said Moore’s hired Canadian distributor Tom Ortenberg. “It has become America’s movie.”
Meanwhile, the Times reported that “In recent weeks Mr. Moore has given interviews to a wide swath of media outlets, from USA Today to the ‘Today’ show, talking about his hope that the documentary would be remembered as the first to help unseat a president.” It wouldn’t be the first time a film was used to sway America’s voters. In 1948 the Hollywood studios joined forces to exhibit a short pro-Truman film disguised as a Universal newsreel in all of America’s movie theaters. This saturation promotion for the Democrat candidate happened a scant six days before the election and reached an audience of 65 million Americans, or nearly 46% of the entire population of 146 million. Because television was embryonic in 1948, Thomas Dewey could offer no countervailing voice.
With the 2004 election only four months away, the White House kept a low profile to avoid hyping Moore’s film, saying it didn’t “do movie reviews.” Other Republicans were not so tongue-tied. The same week that Fahrenheit 9/11 opened in theaters the conservative Washington-based group Citizens United filed a complaint with the Federal Election Commission claiming that the film’s promotional campaign would violate the new McCain-Feingold election-law’s restrictions on corporate-funded campaign advertising if the ad campaign ran beyond the end of July 2004. The Sacramento-based conservative group Move America Forward lobbied movie houses to ignore the film and urged movie goers to avoid it. The dust they stirred up only increased the public’s curiosity. Keith Appell, a Republican consultant and the senior of Creative Response Concepts, a public-relations firm in Alexandria, Va., “estimated that the buzz created around the movie by protest groups added between 20% and 30% to the film’s take” according to the Wall Street Journal (6/30/04). Mr. Appell had urged conservatives to ignore the film and said he was proud that most did ignore it.
Not surprisingly the movie showed best in liberal strongholds such as New York City, which accounted for 12.25% of domestic ticket sales and Los Angeles with 11.25%. A national survey of one thousand likely voters taken between June 28 and July 1st, 2004 confirmed that most Fahrenheit 9/11 ticket buyers were Democrats. Eighty-six percent of those who had seen the movie said they intended to vote for John Kerry as did 68% of those who said they intended to see the movie. Only one percent of those who had seen the movie said that they were still undecided.
Republicans generally had been dismissive of Fahrenheit 9/11, believing that it would have little effect on the upcoming election because its audience would consist largely of folks who would never vote for Bush. Then came the advertising campaign which had its own implications and ominous potential. A far larger and more varied audience would be bombarded by the film’s $10 million’s worth of partisan advertisements, possibly all the way to Election Day. That’s what prompted the complaints to the Federal Election Commission. Michael Moore and his surrogates said they were pleased by all the attention because it fueled their marketing strategy of billing their film as the most controversial film of the summer. “It’s just going to send more people into a movie in which George W. Bush stars. And we’re going to have to make sure to send them a holiday card to express our gratitude,” quipped Moore’s spokesman Chris Lehane.
With the July 30th deadline approaching, the Federal Election Commission considered a ban on television and radio ads for Fahrenheit which would soon transgress a provision of the McCain-Feingold election law that prohibited any corporate-funded advertisements that identify a federal candidate within 30 days of a primary or 60 days of an election. For this law’s purposes the approaching Republican National Convention met the definition of a primary. It’s a stupid anti-democratic law; it should have been called the Incumbent Protection Act or the John McCain Senator-for-Life Law. How many Americans, after all, give serious attention to any political campaign until the months immediately prior to an election? McCain’s law stifles spirited free speech at exactly the time when it is most needed: when Americans are paying attention.
So it’s a pity that the multi-millionaire Mr. Moore and his gang of Canadian sidekicks chose not to challenge this rotten law in the courts. Moore pulled his ads from radio and television before the July 30th deadline. Moore had a chance to make one of those positive differences that he’s always talking about but he choked. The best response to humbug like Fahrenheit 9/11 is a factual response. I have done that here, though this essay is far from exhaustive. My purpose is to make folks aware of Michael Moore’s motives and methods. Think of it as a sort of inoculation against bogus propaganda.
In the final analysis Fahrenheit 9/11 was not a must-see phenomenon to anyone but the targeted demographic it was tailored to entertain. Predictably, it did well in the two mostly-liberal metropolises where it opened. The big brag by Moore’s Canadian distributor that “We literally sold out in Peoria, Illinois” seemed less impressive upon reflection that Bush beat Gore in Peoria by a scant 251 votes in 2004 which was fewer than half the 544 votes soaked up by Moore’s favorite candidate Ralph Nader. So Peoria is a not-so-Republican city in a safely Democrat state; there are more than enough bitter liberals in Peoria to fill a theater. Ortenberg’s company had struck gold with the 2002 release My Big Fat Greek Wedding, the biggest grossing independent film to that date. He stopped short of calling Moore’s film My Big Fat Fake Documentary, but in a telephone interview with Zap2it.com that he shared with Michael Moore, Mr. Moore was already downsizing his claims for Fahrenheit: “It’s my op-ed piece, it presents my opinion based on fact,” Moore said. That’s a long way from what the rest of us consider a documentary. Fahrenheit 9/11 was ludicrously hyped as “the most successful non-IMAX and non-musical documentary ever.” Huh? In the summer of 2004, in the documentary category, it beat out a documentary about migrating birds (Winged Migration) and a documentary about a spelling bee (Spellbound). Against honestly fictional films its box office numbers were crushed by Spiderman.
To Cannes and Beyond
At the 57th Cannes Film Festival the jury awarded Fahrenheit 9/11 the Palme d’Or, the festival’s top prize. The announcement, made by jury president Quentin Tarantino, was met with cheers. Not surprisingly all three of the French films in the competition also received awards. An earlier screening of Moore’s entry “had received what many thought was the longest standing ovation ever at Cannes” according to the New York Times.
At a news conference after the awards ceremony Moore dropped this whopper: “I did not set out to make a political film. I want people to leave thinking that was a good way to spend two hours. The art of this, the cinema, comes before the politics.” Art? What art? The art of deception? Suddenly the Big Mac-bellied populist was posing as an auteur. The official credits for Fahrenheit 9/11 list only 15 people, which points to the cut-and-paste nature of this film which was, for the most part, stitched together from pieces of stock film footage. Moore’s original footage is confined to a few scenes of gonzo street theater, such as his embarrassing attempts to press recruitment pamphlets on ambushed congressmen. Moore’s films have yet to include a single original contribution to the art of the cinema, whether stylistic, technical or historical. After repeatedly announcing that it was his heartfelt hope that Fahrenheit 9/11 would end a presidency, his assertion that “I did not set out to make a political film” is preposterous.
The style of Moore’s films verges on the haphazard; his editing is a relentless exercise in the Soviet montage. In a moment of unintended humor, the New York Times reported that “He [Moore] also said that Mr. Tarantino had assured him that the political message of Fahrenheit 9/11 did not influence the jury’s decision.” Got that? It was all about the art. File that away along with the claim that there was “nothing political” about Jimmy Carter and Yasir Arafat winning the Nobel Peace Prize. The second prize at Cannes was given to “an action-filled South Korean revenge drama” according to the Times.
After Cannes, Moore struck deals with Sony BMG Music Entertainment and Warner Music Group that “will add a musical dimension to Mr. Moore’s political efforts” said the Times. The Warner release in October 2004 was a soundtrack of the film’s score. The Sony contribution was “a compilation of artists who Mr. Moore said provided motivation to him and his crew while they were making the film.” (N.Y.Times 9/9/04) These artists included the Clash, Bob Dylan and Bruce Springsteen.
Please note that Bob Dylan has long since disavowed any heartfelt attachment to the sentiments expressed in his protest ballads. Moore’s emotional attachment to Springsteen goes back to the long-haired hippie days of Moore’s youth in Davison. In 1982 Moore struck up a relationship with a young mother named Kathleen Glynn. According to the New Yorker (2/16/04): “They talked about their mutual love of Bruce Springsteen. They loved Springsteen so much that sometimes they would go to his concerts even though neither of them had a ticket. ‘We just wanted to stand outside and hear whatever we could through the walls,’ she says. ‘Just to soak up the karma.’”
Karma? What a laugh. Moore and Springsteen are soul mates: both of them are middleclass white boys from comfortable families who affected faux working-class personas. Springsteen’s latest effort is a sleep-inducing mix called “We Shall Overcome/ The Seeger Sessions.” This follows on the heels of his last album wherein he burdened buyers with his bad imitation of Bob Dylan. In his latest bid for authenticity, Springsteen affects a nondescript drawl and sings out of tune. The guy Springsteen meant to honor – Pete Seeger – was also a poseur. Pete was a Harvard dropout who acted folksy as a way of pushing his Marxist opinions. On a 1941 album Seeger sang “Franklin D., listen to me, You ain’t a-gonna send me ‘cross the sea.” A week later Hitler broke his peace pact with Stalin and invaded Russia and the albums were hastily yanked from the shelves to make room for a replacement calling for America to jump into the war.
By 1965 Dylan had gone electric and escaped from the closet of fake folk balladeering, but here we are over four decades later and ol’ Bruce is still droning on in a fake hick accent. At least Pete Seeger, once commonly known as “Stalin’s Songbird,” had the good sense to imitate authentic Appalachian and Mississippi Delta musicians. Springsteen has devolved into a working-class pretender imitating an imitator. No wonder a life-long faker like Michael Moore mistook Springsteen for the genuine article: both of them are hopelessly out of touch with bedrock America.
Mr. Moore’s Incredible Shrinking Defense
Soon after his big Cannes coup Moore returned to America feeling bullish and triumphant. “We want the word out,” he blustered, “Any attempt to libel me will be met by force. The most important thing we have is the truth on our side. If they persist in telling lies, then I’ll take them to court!”
“They” were the fact checkers who had examined Moore’s charges against Mr. Bush, the Bush family and the Bush administration. The release of the 9/11 Commission Report tore a big hole in Moore’s thesis that Bush had let Osama’s kinfolk skip the country during the national aviation lockdown. By June 20th a slightly more “evolved” Michael Moore told ABC News that “[Fahrenheit 9/11] is an Op-Ed piece. It’s my opinion about the last four years of the Bush administration. And that’s what I call it. I’m not trying to pretend that this is some sort of, you know, fair and balanced work of journalism.” He should have said that he was through pretending. The word “truth” had vanished from Moore’s description, but every responsible commentator who respects his audience strives to ground his commentaries in The Truth.
As more evidence of Moore’s film fakery accumulated, New York Times critic A.O. Scott sought to shelter Moore’s eroding reputation: “It [Fahrenheit] might more accurately be said to resemble an editorial cartoon.” Got that? The liberals were now defending Moore’s sweeping exercise in film fraudulence by calling it an editorial cartoon cross dressing as a serious documentary and they wanted us to know that it’s our fault if we can’t recognize satire when we see it.
With the sinews of truth removed, Fahrenheit 9/11 collapses into a jumble of dubious factoids marinated in sardonic rhetoric, seasoned with opinions from far-left people such as John Conyers and Jim McDermott and served on a bed of left-wing assumptions, with a side order of warmed-over conspiracy paranoia. Yet the fact remains that Michael Moore personally attended to the painstaking fabrication of numerous fraudulent film montages that were intended to mislead his audiences. He didn’t merely offer us his opinions; he served us lies by omission, false history, frankenbites, invented timelines, innuendo and every emotion-twisting trick of which the Soviet montage is capable. Even if his motives had been pure, his methods remain odious and insidious. His primary motive was to make Michael Moore lots of money; on that level his film was a success.
It isn’t for no reason that I call conservatives “the adults.” Just recall the profound lessons of Fahrenheit 9/11: With all the straight-faced seriousness of Geraldo Rivera opening Al Capone’s vault, Michael Moore revealed some of America’s best-kept secrets, such as the capitalist nature of the American economy and the fact that politicians sometimes “spin” their public pronouncements. Moore wants every one of his viewers to share his shock at discovering the existence of a “military-industrial complex.” Moore reaches his intellectual apogee as he mocks George Bush’s struggle with golden oratory. In a stroke of breathtaking insight, Michael Moore reveals to us that poor people often volunteer for military service and that some of them are not white people. Imagine that! Left unsaid in Moore’s movie are such trivial historical details as the black struggle to join the Union Army so blacks could participate in the good work the Union Army was doing smashing the slave system. Unmentioned is the persistent black effort to desegregate the American military which set the stage for the post-1945 civil rights revolution. Honorable participation in the American military has been a point of pride for blacks for over one hundred thirty years, but to Moore black soldiers are just hapless dupes doing something morally dubious. As Moore keeps repeating: “There is no terrorist threat.”
Having belittled black participation in the military, Moore complained that America’s ruling elite was not sending nearly enough troops to Iraq and Afghanistan. Does he favor the imposition of a draft? He won’t answer that, but he does, stupidly, believe that parents can “send” their offspring to Iraq. This is the deep thinker whose “documentary” attracted nearly half the Democrat Senate when it opened in Washington. This is the guy who was invited to sit in Jimmy Carter’s box at the Democratic Convention and who flashed John McCain the thumb-and-index-finger L-for-“loser” hand signal at the Republican Convention.
Did liberals really think that Michael Moore’s film was profound or were they just desperate for something to rally around? The New York Times of June 30th, 2004 adorned the front page of its Arts section with an article about Fahrenheit-related activities. It told how the liberal political action committee MoveOn organized thousands of parties tied to the opening of the film. According to MoveOn, they had recruited more than 4,000 volunteers to host parties – at least one in each state and Washington, D.C.
Said the Times, “The highlight was an 8 p.m. conference call and question-and-answer session with Mr. Moore.” But: “Mr. Moore’s promised Q. and A. session, broadcast on the Internet, seemed to involve more answers than questions, and at several parties, attention returned to chips, dip and wine long before Mr. Moore finished speaking.”
Straight to DVD
Back in 2004 a New York Times critique of new DVDs included the observation that Fahrenheit 9/11 “is receiving an unusually fast DVD debut a mere four months after its theatrical release, acknowledging both the film’s relevance to the election and its limited shelf life” and “one hopes that its DVD release will allow it to be seen and discussed in forums beyond urban art houses.”
An added inducement was the inclusion of “a few more clips for the George W. Bush gag reel.” It also came with a super-sized sticker price of $28.95. Time was of the essence. I bought my copy after Fahrenheit failed to unseat Mr. Bush, for the fair-market price of under three dollars. After Election Day Fahrenheit 9/11 became just another exhibit in the museum of dirty politicking.
The Fearful Mr. Moore
Moore rattles on about what fear-ridden fools Americans are; a key element of his world view is the belief that dark forces control us by stirring up baseless fears. He says that the Bush administration manages the public’s fear level by publicizing fictitious threat alerts. He has repeatedly declared that “There is no terrorist threat.”
And yet, the deeply suspicious Mr. Moore never travels without an escort of uniformed security men. Like Rosie O’Donnell who rails against gun ownership while keeping a gun-toting body guard on her payroll, Moore thinks that only his fears are not imaginary. Moore’s hired muscle comes from Gavin de Becker & Associates, the gimlet-eyed gumshoes who developed the threat assessment system Mosaic now popular with school administrators for ferreting out potential trouble makers. “Look,” says the fearful Mr. Moore, “those who are opposite to me politically are filled with a lot of anger and violence, in a way that our side is not.”
A profile of Moore in the New Yorker (2/16/04) helpfully disclosed that “Moore seems to feel, more than most, that people are out to get him and that there are few people he can trust, outside his family.” And “Moore can be quite paranoid, always imagining conspiracies against him.” This is commonly called a “bunker mentality” – think of the Fuhrer beneath Berlin – though no one has ever worked up enough energy to actually attempt harming Michael Moore. From the New Yorker:
“Perhaps it was because of this siege mentality that, when the student asked Moore about his bodyguards, Moore seemed momentarily to panic – and his instinctive response was to attack, and then to say something just short of a lie, delivered in the form of a joke. This last strategy is one he adopts frequently.”
How pathetic. His behavior could be symptomatic of a deep-seated mental illness and yet thousands of people attend his rallies and seek his guidance.
Moore Rubbish in Our Future
Is Michael Moore a hypocrite? Of course he is, and there’s plenty of documentation to prove it. Moore stigmatizes Halliburton as a war profiteer and yet Moore himself made a greater profit from the war-related Fahrenheit 9/11 than Halliburton made from its government contracts which limited Halliburton to a profit of no more than 4% above its costs. Its profit margin was often less than 4%.
Furthermore, Peter Schweizer’s book Do As I Say (Not As I Do): Profiles in Liberal Hypocrisy includes a tax return of Moore’s revealing that Moore and his wife control a varied stock portfolio that includes Halliburton stock. When confronted with this embarrassing disclosure Moore dissembled on C-SPAN: “Michael Moore own Halliburton stock? See, that’s like a great comedy line. I know it’s not true – I mean, I’ve never owned a share of stock in my life. Anybody who knows me knows that, you know – who’s gonna believe that? Just crazy people are going to believe it – crazy people who tune-in to the Fox News Channel.”
Well, call me crazy. Moore is carefully parsing his English again. The way to enjoy the profits from a stock without “owning” the stock is to have your spouse or your corporation “own” the stock for you. Moore knows this legal trick very well: this rich man who rattles on about how rich people should be taxed at a higher rate made sure his opulent Manhattan apartment was “owned” by a private corporation that Michael Moore had created just for the purpose of reducing his tax load.
So this mock populist can say he never “owned” any stock even as he spends his share of the Halliburton profits. The “regular guy” who says he doesn’t invest in the stock market because of his high moral principles has set up a private incorporated foundation that has invested its wealth in the pharmaceutical and medical companies Pfizer, Eli Lily, Merck, Genzyme, Elan, Becton Dickinson and Boston Scientific.
Moore is well into production of his next celluloid fabrication to be released under the title Sicko. It’s a rant against American methods of health care. It will savage HMOs and the pharmaceutical companies and after its release Moore will pretend that he never “owned” stock in Tenet Healthcare and Pharmacia Corporation and he will make these denials with the studied earnestness of John Kerry denying that he ever “owned” a stable of gas-guzzling SUVs. (They “belonged” to his wife.)
The profit-minded Mr. Moore has plenty of incentive to plunge ahead with Sicko: Disney’s original investment of six million dollars in Moore’s Fahrenheit 9/11 had turned a world-wide box-office of $250 million. “Clearly, if you make a movie that has this ratio of how much it costs to its gross, you’re going to find an easy time making your next film,” Moore told reporters in a conference call.
Will Sicko be a lopsided polemic by a manipulative polemicist? Of course it will. “Even if this movie [Fahrenheit] hadn’t done well, that movie [Sicko] was going to get made, because I think the American people are clamoring to see the HMOs punished.” Punished? Moore the documentarian had morphed into Moore the disciplinarian well before the release of Sicko. Moore has encouraged employees of drug and health care companies to audition for cameo parts in Sicko; all they have to do is tell horror stories about their employers. Moore’s website invites people with heart-wrenching tales of bureaucratic unresponsiveness to contact him at once:
“Ok, here’s your chance. As you can imagine, we’ve got the goods on these bastards. All we need now is to put a few of you in the movie and let the world see what the greatest country ever in the history of the universe does to its own people, simply because they have the misfortune of getting sick. Because getting sick, unless you are rich, is a crime – a crime for which you must pay, sometimes with your own life.” [Emphasis added]
Moore concludes his on-line invitation this way:
“Thank you, all of you, for your help and your continued support through the years. I promise you that with ‘Sicko’ we will do our best to give you not only a great movie, but a chance to bring down this evil empire, once and for all.” [Emphasis added]
So, Michael Moore wants to “punish” the “bastards” who maintain an “evil empire.” This is the guy who trashed George Bush for talking this way about Saddam Hussein & Company.
So it’s a certainty that Sicko will be as relentlessly negative and maudlin as Moore can possibly make it. His long established preference for out-of-context shock imagery, distorted chronology, the misleading montage, innuendo, rumor, ominous and mocking music, and outright lying is a virtual guarantee that Sicko will be little more than an expensive campaign commercial for the Democrat presidential candidate who most resembles former First Lady Hillary Clinton stumping for Universal Government-run Health Care for Everyone, Including Illegal Immigrants. Never mind that back then eighty percent of Americans said they were satisfied with their health care and that Hillary Care would have commandeered a full one seventh of the American economy and criminalized the historic doctor-patient relationship. Michael Moore has a better idea. His “better idea” is the medical system “enjoyed” by those North Americans who live north of America.
The first freedom that Canadians lost was their freedom to choose a healthcare provider. Now Canadians are forced to endure long waits for government approval for necessary surgery. If they succumb to fear or frustration and seek immediate medical treatment in the United States, then they will be denied Canadian post-surgery care. How’s that for compassion?
Moore has extolled the Canadian system for years. Of the American system he says: “About four hundred years from now, historians will look back at us like we were some sort of barbarians, but for now we’re just the laughing stock of the Western world.” Just to be clear: the guy who calls bigoted anti-democratic jihadist bomb builders “freedom fighters” and who likens them to the “Minute Men,” thinks we are “barbarians” and “the laughing stock of the Western world” because our way of treating patients is inferior to the way Canadians do things. Well, let’s see.
The median wait from the time a Canadian primary doctor refers a patient to a specialist and the time that patient actually meets the specialist is now 8.3 weeks. After that, the median wait until actual treatment begins is another 9.4 weeks. Average wait times from family-doctor referral to the start of treatment is five and a half weeks for cancer patients and forty weeks for those needing orthopedic surgery.
With such an obvious need for something better, private clinics are opening across Canada at the rate of one a week. According to one Canadian doctor who flouted the government healthcare monopoly: “We’ve taken the position that the law is illegal. This is a country in which dogs can get a hip replacement in under a week and in which humans can wait two to three years.”
But to Michael Moore’s way of thinking the big problem with HMOs is that they are private, whereas the Canadian healthcare monopoly is taxpayer funded; in his mind the government system must be more compassionate even when it is offering inferior care and therefore must be superior to the American system where private providers face the daunting task of quickly and efficiently providing the best treatment to a population that won’t say “no” to its own destructive appetites. Nearly 130 million Americans are overweight; sixty million of them are clinically obese. Healthcare costs for these home-built lard buckets now rivals that of another vast group of self-deteriorated people: smokers. The obesity bill for 2003 was $92.6 billion, with the taxpayer-funded insurers Medicare and Medicaid picking up almost half the bill. America’s big problem isn’t bad health care; its bad health. People chose to smoke and overeat; they can choose not to. There are now more former smokers in America than there are smokers. Anyone can quit. Healthcare costs would plummet if people chose not to indulge in unhealthy behavior. We should feel no urgency about saving these foolish people from the foreseeable consequences of their voluntary behavior.
Michael Moore could choose to behave responsibly; he chooses not to. From his adolescence to the present he has indulged his plus-size appetites for food, wealth and influence. His carefully crafted faux documentary Fahrenheit 9/11 exploded in the midst of an election year like a political dirty bomb, leaving in its wake a toxic residue of needless acrimony and confusion. His collected works, both literary and cinematic, constitute a library of misinformation. He has moved his entire fan club only one short step downward, from uninformed to misinformed, rendering them less capable of intelligent political discourse.
The chattering class loves Michael Moore. Prepare for another round of Moore appearances on Letterman, Leno, Good Morning America, Today Show, the Early Show, the Daily Show, etc. as the release date for Sicko approaches. Expect him to once again avoid his most insightful critics. Moore’s sidekicks, the Weinstein brothers, anticipate a $40 million domestic box-office gross. It’s all about the money. If Sicko turns out to be a campaign ad for a winning Democrat presidential candidate, then Michael Moore will be much pleased. For someone of his prodigious ego the next best thing to being the king is being the kingmaker. It suits him perfectly: a prestigious position with no responsibilities.
He struts upon the public stage like Shakespeare’s Falstaff: fat, ribald and boastful. At Cannes he posed as an auteur, the common slob’s Orson Wells, pleasing the French with nonsense about the art of the cinema. Now that you have reached the end of this far-from-exhaustive deconstruction of Michael Moore and his methods you can see him for what he really is: the Citizen Kane the American Left, a blustering fat man with a narrow talent for yellow journalism. My dictionary defines yellow journalism as “Journalism that exploits, distorts, or exaggerates the news to create sensations and attract readers.” That’s an apt description of every Michael Moore book and movie. Moore shares Charles Foster Kane’s acquisitive longings, his inflated sense of his own importance and his deepening paranoia. With his dying breath he may yet utter a nostalgic “honesty.” The meaning of that word will leave his closest associates forever perplexed.
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March 23, 2006