Moore raises temperatures
What is the deal with the violent responses to Fahrenheit 9/11? Is it any surprise to David Brooks or Chris Hitchens that Michael Moore is an attention-grabber, an occasional panderer and a showman not a journalist?
When you attack Michael Moore for being a weak intellectual or a fact-manipulator, you miss the point and you sound awfully defensive besides. It’s particularly dismaying to me to see the scathing sarcasm in Brooks’s Saturday column in The Times and in Hitchens’s recent Slate piece.
Both attacks on Moore reveal the writers’ own elitism. Here’s Hitchens:
From Fahrenheit 9/11 you can glean even more astounding and hidden disclosures, such as the capitalist nature of American society, the existence of Eisenhower’s “military-industrial complex,” and the use of “spin” in the presentation of our politicians. It’s high time someone had the nerve to point this out. There’s more. Poor people often volunteer to join the army, and some of them are duskier than others. Betcha didn’t know that.
Maybe snarky Slate readers who went to Brown and Princeton use words like “capitalist” and “military-industrial complex” all the time over mini-tinis in our gleaming media meccas, but I “betcha” the multiplex crowd could use a reminder that the Bushes are more like Ken Lay than Ronald Reagan or that a lot of servicepeople enlist out of financial desperation not career opportunism.
Brooks says “So we have our Sartre. And the liberal grandees Arthur Schlesinger, Ted Sorenson, Tom Harkin and Barbara Boxer flock to his openings.”
Since when did a hot filmmaker have to be a Rhodes Scholar to make a point? If Super Size Me was as big a hit as “Fahrenheit 9/11,” would people be leaping out of their Aeron chairs to attack Morgan Spurlock? “You’re no Andrew Weil, sir! How dare you lecture us about nutrition or call suburban Americans fat?! Save Ronald! Save the Clown! Don’t make Grimace cry!!!”
Decrying Moore’s failure to point out that his Baghdad bombing footage is of military targets, Hitchens says “In fact, I don’t think Al Jazeera would, on a bad day, have transmitted anything so utterly propagandistic.” You can’t attack Michael Moore for being utterly propagandistic. That’s all he’s doing. This. Isn’t. Journalism.
Hitchens goes to great lengths to show why Moore’s statement that Saddam has “never attacked or killed or even threatened” Americans is reductive and technically false. It’s an effective and incisive rebuttal, and presumably there are other implications in the movie that bear similar scrutiny for technical accuracy. Hitchens and other real journalists and real intellects should absolutely hold propaganda like “Fahrenheit 9/11” up to the light that way.
But the vitriol and snottiness of these anti-Moore attacks seems disproportionate and territorial. And you can’t help wonder if there’s even a little jealousy behind it. He may be whiny and manipulative, but he’s creating real conversation and you could do a lot worse for a Democratic demagogue than Michael Moore. Any Democratic demagogue in a storm.