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Author Topic: Fahrenheit 9/11 is a Stupid White Movie  (Read 10986 times)
Yann
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« on: July 07, 2004, 11:55:25 AM »

Published on Tuesday, July 6, 2004 by CommonDreams.org
 
"Fahrenheit 9/11" is a Stupid White Movie
What Michael Moore Misses About the Empire


by Robert Jensen
 
I have been defending Michael Moore's "Fahrenheit 9/11" from the criticism in mainstream and conservative circles that the film is leftist propaganda. Nothing could be further from the truth; there is very little left critique in the movie. In fact, it's hard to find any coherent critique in the movie at all.

The sad truth is that "Fahrenheit 9/11" is a bad movie, but not for the reasons it is being attacked in the dominant culture. It's at times a racist movie. And the analysis that underlies the film's main political points is either dangerously incomplete or virtually incoherent.

But, most important, it's a conservative movie that ends with an endorsement of one of the central lies of the United States, which should warm the hearts of the right-wingers who condemn Moore. And the real problem is that many left/liberal/progressive people are singing the film's praises, which should tell us something about the impoverished nature of the left in this country.

I say all this not to pick at small points or harp on minor flaws. These aren't minor points of disagreement but fundamental questions of analysis and integrity. But before elaborating on that, I want to talk about what the film does well.

The good stuff

First, Moore highlights the disenfranchisement of primarily black voters in Florida in the 2000 election, a political scandal that the mainstream commercial news media in the United States has largely ignored. The footage of a joint session of Congress in which Congressional Black Caucus members can't get a senator to sign their letter to allow floor debate about the issue (a procedural requirement) is a powerful indictment not only of the Republicans who perpetrated the fraud but the Democratic leadership that refused to challenge it.

Moore also provides a sharp critique of U.S. military recruiting practices, with some amazing footage of recruiters cynically at work scouring low-income areas for targets, whom are disproportionately non-white. The film also effectively takes apart the Bush administration's use of fear tactics after 9/11 to drive the public to accept its war policies.

"Fahrenheit 9/11" also does a good job of showing war's effects on U.S. soldiers; we see soldiers dead and maimed, and we see how contemporary warfare deforms many of them psychologically as well. And the film pays attention to the victims of U.S. wars, showing Iraqis both before the U.S. invasion and after in a way that humanizes them rather than uses them as props.

The problem is that these positive elements don't add up to a good film. It's a shame that Moore's talent and flair for the dramatic aren't put in the service of a principled, clear analysis that could potentially be effective at something beyond defeating George W. Bush in 2004.

Subtle racism

How dare I describe as racist a movie that highlights the disenfranchisement of black voters and goes after the way in which military recruiters chase low-income minority youth? My claim is not that Moore is an overt racist, but that the movie unconsciously replicates a more subtle racism, one that we all have to struggle to resist.

First, there is one segment that invokes the worst kind of ugly-American nativism, in which Moore mocks the Bush administration's "coalition of the willing," the nations it lined up to support the invasion of Iraq. Aside from Great Britain there was no significant military support from other nations and no real coalition, which Moore is right to point out. But when he lists the countries in the so-called coalition, he uses images that have racist undertones. To depict the Republic of Palau (a small Pacific island nation), Moore chooses an image of stereotypical "native" dancers, while a man riding on an animal-drawn cart represents Costa Rica. Pictures of monkeys running are on the screen during a discussion of Morocco's apparent offer to send monkeys to clear landmines. To ridicule the Bush propaganda on this issue, Moore uses these images and an exaggerated voice-over in a fashion that says, in essence, "What kind of coalition is it that has these backward countries?" Moore might argue that is not his intention, but intention is not the only question; we all are responsible for how we tap into these kinds of stereotypes.

More subtle and important is Moore's invocation of a racism in which solidarity between dominant whites and non-white groups domestically can be forged by demonizing the foreign "enemy," which these days has an Arab and South Asian face. For example, in the segment about law-enforcement infiltration of peace groups, the camera pans the almost exclusively white faces (I noticed one Asian man in the scene) in the group Peace Fresno and asks how anyone could imagine these folks could be terrorists. There is no consideration of the fact that Arab and Muslim groups that are equally dedicated to peace have to endure routine harassment and constantly prove that they weren't terrorists, precisely because they weren't white.Full Article
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iyah360
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« Reply #1 on: July 07, 2004, 01:31:51 PM »

EXCELLENT ARTICLE. Let us not forget Moore is in the pocket of the democratic wing of the plutocracy. He endorsed NATO commander Wesley Clarke for president.

Lest we forget that a major financial player behind the scenes of the "anti-Bush" wing and democratic party is none other than fellow Carlyle group member - George Soros.

"In short, these wars are not a sharp departure from the past but instead should be seen as an intensification of longstanding policies, affected by the confluence of this particular administration's ideology and the opportunities created by the events of 9/11."
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Ayinde
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« Reply #2 on: July 09, 2004, 08:58:32 AM »

Pandering to the lies the Left tells itself about the Democrats

By Stephen Gowans

Robert Jensen, a professor of journalism at the University of Texas,  has written a penetrating and mostly cogent critique of Michael Moore's Fahrenheit 9/11, in which he argues the filmaker's documentary panders to the lies Americans tell themselves about the US military protecting Americans' freedom, rather than projecting US power abroad.
 
Calling the film conservative, and not the far-Left critique it's believed to be,  Jensen takes issue with Moore's attributing the US drive to war to the business dealings of the Bush family, rather than recognizing empire-building as a regular feature of US foreign policy, as ardently pursued by Democrat as Republican presidents.

Isn't Clinton responsible for more Iraqi deaths than both Bush presidents combined? And didn't regime change become official US foreign policy when Clinton was president, before Bush?

But with Moore working furiously to atone for what he now regards as the sin of punishing the Democrats by backing Nader in 2000, the country's long history of aggressive foreign policy, and the Democrat's central role  in shaping it, is swept under the rug.

The problem, we're told, is the moron in the White House. And that means the solution is Kerry.

Moore isn't alone. A bevy of US Leftists, including Noam Chomsky, Angela Davis, Michael Parenti and Pete Seeger, have called on "peace and social justice activists" to dump Bush in November in a "Letter to the Left", citing the need to stop Bush's drive to war, as if somehow, the drive to war belongs to Bush alone, and isn't indelibly etched on the country's foreign policy.

The group pussyfooted around the question of whether dumping Bush means voting for the Democrat candidate, as if recognizing it's an anathema for a self-respecting radical to actually utter the words vote Democrat, but the message, delivered obliquely, was clear. Today, Left-wing voters are urged to feel free to vote for a third party where it makes no difference, but to vote for Kerry where it does.

Elsewhere, the Communist Party is going all out for the Democrats. And so too is Joel Wendland, a "Marxist for Kerry", who is editor of the party's Political Affairs magazine. It seems all sorts of Leftists have come to the same conclusion as Moore on electoral choices.

Jensen says Moore's analysis is dangerous, misleading and superficial for failing to recognize empire-building as a recurrent and systemic pattern of US policy. But doesn't it follow that an analysis that concludes that Bush must be defeated and Kerry installed to stop "Bush's" drive to war, is similarly dangerous, misleading and superficial?

Jensen doesn't think so, which is why I've only taken my gushing over his critique so far. Here's Jensen on strategic voting.

Quote
"I agree that Bush should be kicked out of the White House, and if I lived in a swing state I would consider voting Democratic. But I don't believe that will be meaningful unless there emerges in the United States a significant anti-empire movement. In other words, if we beat Bush and go back to "normal," we're all in trouble. Normal is empire building. Normal is U.S. domination, economic and military, and the suffering that vulnerable people around the world experience as a result. This doesn't mean voters can't judge one particular empire-building politician more dangerous than another. It doesn't mean we shouldn't sometimes make strategic choices to vote for one over the other. It simply means we should make such choices with eyes open and no illusions. This seems particularly important when the likely Democratic presidential candidate tries to out-hawk Bush on support for Israel, pledges to continue the occupation of Iraq, and says nothing about reversing the basic trends in foreign policy."

Otherwise sharp, crisp, concrete and to the point, Jensen's argument suddenly succumbs to a flabalanche -- it's loses its muscle tone and sags under the weight of its avoir dupois. What's he saying?

He says strategic voting can be an option, but does he mean it's the right option today?

He says there's nothing wrong with voting for the less dangerous empire-building politician, but who is the less dangerous option --  Kerry or Bush?

He says Kerry is trying to out-hawk Bush, pledges to continue the occupation of Iraq, and says nothing about reversing the basic trends in foreign policy, which makes it seem Bush is the lesser evil (he's less hawkish on Israel.) So, should we vote for Bush?

On the other hand, Jensen says he would consider voting for Kerry if he lived in a swing state, which makes you think he believes Kerry is the less dangerous empire-building politician, but how can a politician who tries to out-hawk his opponent be less dangerous?

What are we to make of this? Jensen seems to be saying that Kerry plus a movement against empire building has a chance of succeeding where Bush plus a movement against empire building doesn't. So do what you can to secure a Kerry victory.

That's also Howard Zinn's view. Politicians, says the historian, respond to their constituencies, so if Kerry is pressured he just might back away from pro-war policies.

Convincing? I don't think so. Why should Kerry be any more susceptible to pressure from the Left than Bush? Because Kerry needs the Left to win, and Bush doesn't?

That might be so were it not for the reality that there's a far more powerful constituency the Democrats, as much as the Republicans, are inextricably and powerfully bound up with: the business community. And the business community has a vital interest in US empire building.

The Left, greatly impoverished, is no match. The Iraqi insurgency, however, might be, as a North Korean nuclear weapons program might be against US designs on the Korean peninsula. Which is to say, what's going to stop US empire building is the only thing that's ever stopped it: the recalcitrance of the natives and the rivalry of competing powers.

What's more, most Left voters are going to vote for Kerry anyway, so Kerry doesn't need to do anything to accommodate them.

He doesn't even need to pander to the Left during an election, even if he intends to ignore it afterward, what established parties usually do when they need to appeal to left-leaning voters. Thank the dump-Bush-equals-vote-for-Kerry movement for that.

Indeed, Kerry hasn't pandered to the Left. On the contrary, as Jensen puts it, Kerry's trying to out-hawk Bush, which hardly seems to be the hallmark of either a less dangerous empire-building politician or one that's likely to be responsive to the Left.

To be fair, Jensen tries to play-down the election, and for good reason. It commands far more attention than it deserves, having diverted the energies of the Left from fruitful pursuits. What, for example, has happened to the once promising anti-capitalist movement that staged mass demonstrations against the World Bank, WTO and IMF – has it morphed into a dump-Bush, which is to say, get-out-the-vote-for-the-Democrats movement?

I agree with Jensen that organizing outside of elections is far more important, but I'd go further. I'd dismiss strategic voting as a mug's game and the election as an essentially meaningless affair, in which it's impossible to predict whether the infinitesimal differences to be achieved by a Kerry victory will be for the better or worse. Who's to say Kerry will be a little less dangerous and not a little more? So why bother? And why waste any more time and energy on it?

To put it another way, the difference to be achieved in voting for Kerry vs. not voting at all is tantamount to the difference between buying a lottery ticket and saving your money. Except the price of a lottery ticket is nothing against the opportunity cost of squandering time and energy on the Democrats, when it could be spent building genuine anti-war, anti-imperialist, pro-egalitarian movements and parties committed to radical change.

http://www3.sympatico.ca/sr.gowans/critique.html
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