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Will Fahrenheit 9/11 Bring Down Bush And Howard?

Will Fahrenheit 9/11 bring down Bush and Howard?

Rohan Pearce
Green Left Weekly

“I have long thought Michael Moore a liar, and should not have been shocked when I saw his `documentary' Fahrenheit 9/11. Even so, I was horrified. This film — breaking box-office records in America — is so deceitful that it makes the infamous Triumph of the Will documentary by Hitler's propagandist, Leni Riefenstahl, seem balanced. But what shocked me even more than Moore's hymn of hatred of America and its president was the reaction to it of the small audience at the preview I saw at the Crown multiplex. Many there clapped when the dis-credits finally rolled.” — So moaned right-wing commentator Andrew Bolt in his July 21 column in Melbourne's Herald Sun.

I was amused and a little offended by Bolt's rant, but hardly surprised by his predictable Rottweiler-like assault on Moore's documentary. Bolt is part of a desperate — and unsuccessful — campaign to derail the relentless forward march of the film.

It's easy enough to dismiss a far-right loon like Bolt, especially when he comes up with gems like this, from his September 4 column: “There's something a little fishy about Finding Nemo and I don't mean the clownfish hero with the gammy fin. I'm talking instead about the too-easy, no-pain, nature-worshipping New Age-ism being pushed by this hit animation.”

But while Bolt may have been in the loopy, fringe minority when it came to Finding Nemo, he enjoys much broader company in the corporate media with his attack on Fahrenheit 9/11. For example, the “liberal” Melbourne Age ran an op-ed by Matthew D'Ancona on July 9 that referred to “the dodgy detail of [Moore's] work” and claimed that the US press had already conducted a “forensic demolition” of Fahrenheit 9/11.

Leaving aside whether the US (or Australian) corporate media have the credibility to dissect Moore's film after their uniformly unquestioning coverage of US President George Bush's invasion and occupation of Iraq — particularly the refusal to seriously investigate Washington's (and Canberra's) pre-war lies about Iraq possessing weapons of mass destruction — errors of fact in Fahrenheit 9/11 have yet to be discovered.

Bolt's crude hatchet-job appears to rely almost entirely on an essay by David Kopel, “Fifty-nine Deceits in Fahrenheit 911”, published by the Colorado-based Independence Institute (Bolt directs his readers to Kopel's flag-waving website). Kopel is a “policy analyst” at the US far-right Cato Institute.

Kopel's list of Moore's “deceits” include “affiliates of the Iranian and Syrian-backed terrorist group Hezbollah are promoting Fahrenheit 9/11”, “The only Iraqi casualties which Moore shows are civilians, although military casualties far outnumbered civilian” and, “In Fahrenheit, Moore pretends to support our troops. But in fact, he supports the enemy in Iraq — the coalition of Saddam loyalists, al Qaeda operatives and terrorists controlled by Iran or Syria — who are united in their desire to murder Iraqis and to destroy any possibility of democracy in Iraq.” (An entertaining summary of Kopel's claims is available at , although reading the original is amusing enough.)

Unfortunately for Bolt, Kopel and their ilk, Moore has produced an extensive list of sources for all the claims made in Fahrenheit 9/11 and posted rebuttals of claims that his film is inaccurate on his website ( As Moore pointed out in an interview with the July 12 Time magazine: “There's lots of disagreement with my analysis of these facts or my opinion based on the facts. But there is not a single factual error in the movie. I'm thinking of offering a $10,000 reward for anyone that can find a single fact that's wrong.”

Of course, many right-wingers accept leftist-turned-hawk Christopher Hitchens' approach. “I think we can agree”, Hitchens wrote in a June 21 article for the online journal Slate, “that the film is so flat-out phoney that `fact-checking' is beside the point”.

The corporate media is attempting to discredit Fahrenheit 9/11 because, despite Moore's endorsement of Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry, the film goes far beyond the carefully managed bounds of “debate” between the Republican White House and the pro-war Democratic challenger in the lead-up to the November election. Whatever the limitations of Moore's political views, Fahrenheit 9/11 spectacularly exposes and undermines the US ruling class's phoney “war on terror”. It graphically and emotionally reveals whose interests are really being served in the bloodbath in Iraq.

What is sending the Andrew Bolts and David Kopels of this world into a panic is that the overwhelmingly positive reception Fahrenheit 9/11 continues to enjoy — and the anecdotal evidence of vast numbers of cinema-goers having their eyes opened to how big corporate interests determine US policy — may even influence the results of the US presidential election. With any luck, Australian Prime Minister John Howard will also be caught in the backlash.

On July 21, the Behavior Research Center (BRC), based in Phoenix, Arizona, released poll results that one in four registered Arizona voters intend to see the film before the presidential election. As might be expected, the film appealed most to Democrat voters, but nearly as many registered as “independents”, who account for 25% of Arizona's voters in the state. And 25% of Republicans plan to see the film and six per cent have already done so. The research found that while four in 10 white voters have seen or plan to see the film, the figure rises to 55%-60% among Hispanics and African Americans.

Announcing the survey's results, the BRC stated: “Most interesting, however, are the voting plans of people depending whether they have seen or plan to see the film. For instance, among voters who have already viewed the film, the vote favours [Democratic presidential candidate] Kerry by three-to-one. Among those planning to see Fahrenheit 9/11, the vote is 56% for Kerry, 30% for Bush and 15% undecided... Among voters who were uncommitted to either Bush or Kerry, an impressive 68% plan to see Fahrenheit 9/11.”

“The fact that they're undecided means they're still looking for information”, explained BRC's Earl de Berge. De Berge told the Capitol Media Services on July 21: “If you're looking at an election where you may be talking about 1% or 2% difference between the winning and losing candidate, all of a sudden a small shift may actually be fairly relevant.”

This trend is not restricted to Arizona. On July 20, the Gallup News Service also reported that more than half of all American adults (56%) either have seen or expect to see Fahrenheit 9/11. The Gallup poll was conducted on July 8-11. Among all Americans, more people have an unfavourable than favourable impression of the movie, however those who have seen it are overwhelmingly favourable.

It is easy to understand why Fahrenheit 9/11 has found such a receptive audience. A May Washington Post-ABC News poll found that 57% of Americans described themselves as “angry” about the situation in Iraq. Only a minority described themselves as being “proud” of the US invasion and occupation. A July 8-11 Washington Post poll found that 19% of Americans saw the war in Iraq as the most important issue in the presidential election. Another 19% saw the “the US campaign against terrorism” as the most important issue, only beaten by “the economy and jobs” (29%).

Moore has made it clear that he wants to see “regime change” in the other countries of the “coalition of the willing”, including Australia. If Bolt's experience of the audience applauding Fahrenheit 9/11 is any guide to the reception the film is having in Australia — and this being confirmed by reports from the first screenings of the film throughout Australia then it may well help unseat Prime Minister Howard and British Labour PM Tony Blair.

Pip Hinman, a campaigner for the Sydney-based Stop the War Coalition, hopes that Moore's film will reveal to millions of Australians the reality behind the occupation of Iraq in the lead-up to the federal election. “Although Labor leader Mark Latham has promised to bring Australian troops home `before Xmas' if he wins the election, neither he nor Howard are in fact opposed to the occupation of Iraq. Hopefully, Moore's film will convince even more people that all foreign troops have to get out of Iraq if there's going to be peace there.

“Many in the anti-war movement, myself included, are hoping that the film will encourage people to ditch Howard. But we're also hoping that it'll give a big boost to anti-war organising. Part of the reason people are so supportive of Moore's message is that most people are very disillusioned with the occupation of Iraq.”

Moore himself certainly seems to hope that the film will do more than encourage people to vote. On June 24, USA Today reported that “Fahrenheit 9/11 is about much more than beating Bush, Moore says. `The issues in this film are going to be with us next year', he says. `We're still going to have war in Iraq. We're still going to have al Qaeda, no matter who is in the White House. If I can contribute to re-energizing those who have given up, then I'd feel that we will have done a good thing.”

From Green Left Weekly, July 28, 2004.
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