Not Clever, Not Funny, Not Nice; Michael Moore's Movie Says More about Knee-Jerk Anti-Americanism Than about the Rights and Wrongs of the Iraq War WILL SELF ON FILM

The Evening Standard (London, England), July 8, 2004 | Go to article overview

Not Clever, Not Funny, Not Nice; Michael Moore's Movie Says More about Knee-Jerk Anti-Americanism Than about the Rights and Wrongs of the Iraq War WILL SELF ON FILM


Byline: WILL SELF

Fahrenheit 9/11

Cert 15, 112 mins *

THAT this tendentious compilation of TV clips and manipulative japes should have won the Palme d'Or at this year's Cannes festival is a sorry comment on the film industry, and European filmmakers in particular.

We live in interesting and momentous times, of that there can be no doubt; but that this film should be judged the response to them most worthy of accolade says more about sentimentality and knee-jerk anti-Americanism on the liberal Left than it does about either the quality of Michael Moore's work or the regime it attacks.

Don't get me wrong, until it was absolutely unstoppable, I was a vocal opponent of the invasion of Iraq; and until Stop the War was revealed as a tool of opportunistic Trotskyites and Saddam apologists, such as George Galloway, I was an active supporter. But none of this inclines me to unthinkingly endorse Fahrenheit 9/11.

It isn't clever, it isn't funny, and, far from representing a vital rallying point for the Democrats' campaign to oust Dubya from the White House, it is a simplistic rant that highlights - albeit from an opposite polarity - the isolationism and Manichaeism which runs through the American political world view.

The problems with this video collage start very early on. Moore is preoccupied by a disturbing fact: in the first few days after 9/11, when all civil and private aviation in the US was grounded, the government facilitated the removal from American soil of tens of Saudi nationals, including a number of Osama bin Laden's family.

This fact - and fact it is - was later imperfectly covered up, as Dubya tried to thwart the Congressional investigation into the attacks.

Why the Bush regime should have done this, why there should also be extensive links between the Bin Ladens and the Bushes, and why the odious Saudi regime should enjoy such preferential treatment by the American government is hardly a great mystery.

Money, Moore rightly concludes, mostly lies at the root of it (the Bushes are big oilmen, the Bin Ladens are big in construction in an oil-rich nation).

However, instead of analysing the complexities of Saudi politics which led Osama to become an implacable opponent of the house of Fahd and its US allies, while many of his relations remain in cahoots, Moore, carried away by his conspiratorial view of a grand cock-up, covertly advances the preposterous thesis that the Bush regime may have actively colluded in the attacks of 9/11.

I can't be bothered to take you through every twist of Moore's flawed reasoning, but take it from me that this vast and rotting red herring stinks up the rest of the film.

Moore's "gags", which he trialed on TV Nation and honed in Roger and Me, and Bowling for Columbine, may seem funny when they are deployed on domestic subjects within an effective frame of satirical reference, but when he goes global, he's revealed as merely puerile. …

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