“The question is not what goal is envisaged for the time being by this or that member of the proletariat, or even by the proletariat as a whole. The question is what is the proletariat and what course of action will it be forced historically to take in conformity with its own nature.
Karl Marx, “The Holy Family”
They wept! They roared with laughter! At inappropriate times they applauded, the politically correct, white middle class audience at the Academy Theatre in avante guard Northampton, MA, home of Smith College, and many fine restaurants.
But, then again, Michael Moore was preaching to the choir, wasn’t he? And that’s the first of two big problems with Fahrenheit 911.
The other big problem is this frivolous film’s utter futility.
Let’s be realistic. Moore says the purpose of his incoherent mockumentary is to get Bush out of office which, in and of itself, “t’is a consummation devoutly to be wish’d.” But the political passing of George W. Bush has no meaning, for even if the public shuffles him off, it’s still left with Long John Kerry, and the strangling coil of oppressive laws, secret decrees, and eternal imperialistic war (with its attendant corruption) that Bush has wrapped so tightly around America’s neck.
“Ay, there’s the rub.”
Kerry is just another “money-grubbing, ass-kissing, bromide-mouthing” politician, as Gail Sheehy might say, and he is as acceptable to the Establishment as Bush. With Kerry in office, the war on terror and the occupation of Iraq will continue apace, with perhaps a little more of the stolen loot going to our anxious allies waiting avariciously in the wings. In the larger scheme of things, Fahrenheit 911 changes nothing: Halliburton keeps its blood-soaked contracts, the Republicans control both houses of Congress, and no neo-conmen go to the gallows for stealing $20 billion in oil revenues from the Iraqi people (I’m curious to know how Christopher Hitchens rationalizes that?), or for the massive war crimes they have committed. Kerry’s performance during the Iran-Contra investigation assures the rich political elite of a continuing cover-up.
While watching the movie, I couldn’t stop thinking about how Moore had evidence of the torture at Abu Ghraib, and didn’t tell anyone! I wanted to stand up and scream: What’s it all about, Mickey? Is it just for the moment, or the money, we live? Or is it the thrill of being catapulted into the stratosphere of American celebrity?
I thought to myself: I should have seen it coming, when the nouveau riche glitterati gave the movie a twenty-minute standing ovation at Cannes. Anything that so pleases the perfect people in Porsches cannot, by definition, have any redeeming value.
A monumental letdown, Fahrenheit 911 is a sick exploitation film that tells us nothing new about ourselves, and changes nothing in the world. Yes, the farcical clips of Bush making a fool of himself add comic relief to the melodramatic footage of Bush and his venal clique visiting vengeful tragedy upon the world, and profiting from it. And, to his credit, Moore courageously goes where no man in the corporate media has dared to go before: he loosely chronicles how the tragedy unfolded, while being extra careful not to mention Israel. Here’s how the story goes: Bush steals the election, lets the main Saudi suspects in the 911 mass murder case escape because his “daddy” is in business with them, and then goes on a worldwide killing spree with the blessings of Major Generals Rather, Brokaw, and Jennings.
You’ve heard it all before; any tenth grader from Freyburg, Maine could have told us that.
To sum it up, Moore’s swipes at Bush are irrelevant during the current crisis-du-jour of capitalism. How much time must we waste laughing at Bush, tripping over his tongue, before we grab our pitchforks and storm, as family-values proponent Dick Cheney might put it, the fucking White House?
The answer, to judge from the reaction of the “progressive” and academically oriented audience I was sitting with, is over and over again. Which, again, is the saddest part of watching his film. I’m sure Moore didn’t intend it, but his mockumentary is as much an indictment of his adoring, bourgeois fan club as it of the criminal Bush regime.
Even the film’s unstated premise that the government, on behalf of the rich, creates employment and a disposed, easily indoctrinated lower class that will happily fight and die in imperialistic adventures was put forth about a hundred and fifty years ago.
Alas, to the earnest audience in Northampton, this subliminal message seemed like a revelation.
So there we sat. When the clapping was over, there was no place to go (save one of those fine restaurants). Like Bush in Iraq, Fahrenheit 911 has no exit strategy. Nor was one ever intended. F-911, like the psychological warfare campaign we are subjected to by the Bush regime, is a cataract of powerful, contrived words and images that generate raw, predetermined emotions that result in a disturbing, but aimless, class-consciousness.
DOUGLAS VALENTINE is the author of The Hotel Tacloban, The Phoenix Program, and TDY. His fourth book, The Strength of the Wolf: The Federal Bureau of Narcotics, 1930-1968, is newly published by Verso. For information about Mr. Valentine, and his books and articles, please visit his web sites at www.DouglasValentine.com and http://members.authorsguild.net/valentine