Monday, August 16, 2004

Indystar : Dialing in '911' for return fire

By the time I got around to seeing "Fahrenheit 911" several weeks into its raucous run, I was less prepared than I thought I'd be.

I'd read so much, heard so much, knew all about Paul Wolfowitz spitting on his comb (Evil Michael Moore) and Lila Lipscomb the bereaved Michigan mother (Good Michael Moore) and the rest of the cheap shots and priceless thrusts that bestowed on a single movie such inordinate carrying capacity for public conversation.

I expected the expected. I did not expect to be so humbled by the power of that medium in this guy's meaty hands.

Behind the rather tedious slacker/prankster image, Moore is a pro who knows how to use, and overuse, hard facts as pointedly as any "straight" investigative producer. And his dramatizations, whether borrowed clips from fund-raising galas or guerrilla captures of chicken-hawk congressmen or raw testimonials from grieving military kin, are heat-seeking missiles to the tailbone and gut, alternately jolting the viewer out of his seat and nailing him to the back of it.

Is it disingenuous at times? Is it manipulative? Sure. Any cinematic venture worthy of the trouble aims to move audiences to do more than break up into discussion groups. Moore wants everybody who sees his movie to vote against George W. Bush and urge others to do so. It is this undisguised motivation, and his unique ability to get his agenda on film and get the film into theaters, that have made the fat kid from the Rust Belt the GOP's bete noire of the moment. His information is not the issue.

In a healthy democracy, especially in a time of crisis as profound as this one, there would be many Michael Moores and many nuances of ideology among them. They would exert less impact, furthermore, because the points they made about consolidation of power and lies from Washington would already be known from the mainstream media. When the mainstream media stuff their audience with fashion, fitness and football, pausing briefly for a few words of grace from the government, democracy is sick in bed and demagogues will take over. That's when you need Michael Moore, warts and ice cream truck and all. He's the nice people's champion against a schoolyard full of bullies; they can't expect Queensberry rules.

(click on the title for the whole article)

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