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Michael Moore is an optimist

I saw F911 and it's the feel-good movie of the summer. Don't believe the lukewarm critics who half agree with it but imply that it's a hatchet job.

Compared to the chimp jokes and conspiracy theories that abound in anti-Bush circles, Fahrenheit 9/11 is restrained. Compared to the meandering and inconclusive arc of Bowling for Columbine, it's clear and pointed. Compared to the camera ambushes of Roger & Me, Moore's street antics (reading the Patriot Act over an ice-cream truck loudspeaker, inviting members of Congress to enlist their kids in the war) are gentle. And compared to everyday if-it-bleeds-it-leads TV news, his letting soldiers and grieving relatives speak for themselves is the opposite of exploitation.

Although Moore has been known to say a few unkind things about the intelligence and gullibility of Americans (frankly, who can blame him?), compared to most art-house political documentaries Fahrenheit 9/11 is a gust of red-white-and-blue optimism. We may have been duped into another cruel and unnecessary war, but it's pretty clear what the first step out of the mess is.

If only I felt that confident about the second step.

causes 2004.06.26 link

Comments

I've said to Colin and now, I repeat to you: Farenheit 9/11 is perfect to mess things up to Mr. Bush...

Mina [neuza punkto paranhos cxe uol punkto com punkto br] • 2004.06.27
Yes, it is definitely a welcome change from the abstruse animal-research-is-blood-for-oil spiel by the usual suspects (the kind of people they call xiítas in Brazil), and the papers are gushing about the movie's "red state" success. And it looks like it will go over big in Piauí and Rondôndia, too!

So what's eating Christopher Hitchens? He has always portrayed himself as a voice in the wilderness proclaiming one of the central tenets of the film: one trillion dollars of Saudi in U.S. banks have corrupted our political elite. Is it that Kissinger was a skilled liar. whereas these people are not guilty by reason of mental defect?

So we could not quite bring ourselves to attend a MoveOn.org F911 house party after the show, and I had some fun playing the devil's advocate for Nader to the 19-year-old Democratopublican street organizers chirping "Wanna help us beat Bush?" outside. But it was encouraging to see the garish mix of stockbrokers, slackers, hip-hop nationals, West Side yoga-and-rhinoplasty queens, various factions of the hack-license demographic, and 100-year-old Wobblies packing the Loew's Village VII last Friday. It calmed my personal terror index down to tangerine. I feel closer to my fellow Americans now. We're all in this no-brainer together.

Colin [cbrayton cxe blogalization punkto nu] • 2004.06.28
I wonder how you get the contract to do a Brazilian MM site, and what kind of quality control Moore's own organization can exercise over it? Or the analogous sites in Thailand or Russia or France, for that matter. Heck, maybe there's money to be made translating those sites back into English for the opposition researchers at O'Reilly and Fox.

Chandrasutra and others have been blogging about Christopher Hitchens. I'm not enough of a Hitchens fan to follow all their points, but the short version that makes sense to me is that he enjoys being a contrarian and signed onto the Iraqi war because he liked seeing the yankee hegemonists take on a bad guy for a change, despite their bogus pretexts and their lack of a plan for afterward. Having declared his allegiance he's too proud to back down and his attacks on Moore are just a corollary to the position he's taken. Poor bastard -- a foolish consistency and all that.

I thought about attending an afterparty but since they were scheduled for 7:00 PM Friday and I couldn't get into the movie till noon Saturday the timing was off. I wasn't that interested in a beforeparty.

P.S. I don't blame Nader for 2000 but there's nothing less Green than a cult of personality. Whatever happened to bottom-up politics? Ralph is wasting his street cred on his ego when he could be the elder statesman out there stumping for city council candidates and state legislators instead.

Prentiss Riddle [riddle cxe io punkto com] • 2004.06.28
I just read the Chandrasutra posting on Hitchens on Moore, and frankly it looks to me as if she simply psychologizes Hitchens rather than dealing with the issues he raises. I don't find that kind of thing very persuasive.

I haven't seen the film yet, but I've read a fair bit about it. One thing from a leftish perspective I've come across that strikes me as apt is this blog posting by Ogged of Unfogged. The estimation of Moore and his film in the first paragraph comport well with what I already know about him. The second paragraph raises what I take to be the real question. One of the commentors points to a piece by Kevin Drum in Washington Monthly, which takes much the same line. I also think Amygdala's response is close to perfect.

If you are interested in a critique of Fahrenheit 9/11that has more clearly formulated objections to the film's portrayal of its subject, try this column by a couple of Newsweek columnists. Spinsanity.org has a number of articles on the subject of Moore in general, though nothing yet on Fahrenheit 9/11.

Chuck Bearden [cbearden cxe hal-pc punkto org] • 2004.07.02
Thanks, Chuck. I'll try to read up on some of the references you offer. However, one thing jumps out at me: you say Chandrasutra is talking about Hitchens rather than responding to his arguments, whereas you describe some of your links as being about Moore rather than responding to *his* arguments. Is there an inconsistency there?

That may be unfair, since I haven't followed the links yet. Very likely they talk about both Moore and his work. But I do find that it's common for defenders of Bush to respond to F911 with ad hominem attacks on Moore. From what I've heard there's plenty to criticize Moore about personally and I agree that his previous work is spotty. But none of that necessarily invalidates F911.

(By the way, I'd agree that Chandrasutra was writing about Hitchens -- but I think in that case it's a given that she disagrees wildly with him and is trying to figure out how somebody with a long history of leftist opinions jumped so far to the right. You could make a similar inquiry into what makes Moore tick but that's not as interesting a question; the discussion of Moore seems more an attempt to discredit his work than to solve a puzzle.)

(And to anticipate one more argument: some would say that Moore's movie is an ad hominem attack on Bush and his pals. But the sins Moore accuses them of are directly related to their duties and their policies. He's not talking about their sex lives and he passed up many low blows he could have made about Bush's alleged youthful indiscretions. He also passed up the monkey pictures. :-) )

Anyway, more when I've had a chance to follow those links.

Prentiss Riddle [riddle cxe io punkto com] • 2004.07.02
Hi Prentiss! You ask if I involve myself in an inconsistency by citing articles that take issue with Moore while criticizing Chandrasutra for doing the same. That's a good question, and I think if I were citing the Ogged and Kevin Drum posts as refutations of Fahrenheit 9/11, the answer would clearly be "yes". I realize now that my post could have been better worded so as to make clearer how I see the Ogged and Drum posts functioning in this discussion (note the time of day I posted :). I'll try to clarify.

The column by the Newsweek guys on MSNBC and the articles on Moore (or better, on his work) at Spinsanity.org are the ones that take substantive issue with the film. FWIW, the MSNBC column does not simply trash the movie--they acknowledge that there are many valid questions to be raised about the Bush administration's handling of terrorism and the war in Iraq. It's also worth noting that the Spinsanity.org editors all have Democratic, labor, or liberal credentials, so I don't think we can dismiss them as simply carrying water for Bush. They take everyone to task. It's a valuable resource. I do think Hitchens also raises substantive points, though his piece is larded with a fair bit of mere polemic.

My references to the Ogged and Kevin Drum posts have a different purpose. They exemplify people on the left who think the movie is fundamentally deceptive. Ogged is a self-avowed Bush-hater who asserts that Moore (perhaps meaning his movie) is "dishonest and grossly manipulative" but who nonetheless found himself applauding because he and Moore both hate Bush. Drum, who used to blog as Calpundit, and who is arguably one of the best-known liberal/left bloggers, considers the film "unfair, full of innuendo and cheap shots, and guilty of specious arguments". His conclusion (itself specious, or at least imcomplete, in my view) is that it is the perfect complement to the tactics of "the other side". This looks to me like a version of the tu quoque argument, which, if meant to justify Moore's film, is a fallacious argument.

I like Ogged's post mostly because of the issues he/she goes on to raise: after noting that "surely some governments are so bad that rousing the rabble with propaganda is a small price to pay for combating them," he reflects:

"But I'm profoundly uncomfortable surrendering the insistence on an honest discourse. I don't know if it's possible to regain a healthy political life--whatever the administration--if our means are dishonest."

This I take to be the fundamental question in the whole matter, and it is one that folks on all sides of the political wheel shold wrestle with.

I also urge you to read Amygdala's comment and blog posting (linked to above). I think he's dead right.

As you can probably tell, it's been quite a while since I was politically left. Nonetheless, I don't listen to Limbaugh or Savage, and I have no plans to pick up an Ann Coulter book. There's plenty of solid, informative conservative and libertarian news and commentary out there, such that I don't have to wade through demagoguery and fluff just to feel affirmed in my beliefs. In my view, we are screwed chiefly because people either don't know how or don't care to reason and talk clearly, being content to let their emotions drive their judgements.

It's fine with me if Moore wants to criticize the Bush administration. It's fine with me if me makes a bundle doing so. But if he misleads people into imagining that they know things about the Bush administration that really aren't true, well that's both destructive and extremely annoying.

So, there's my rant for today! What I really want to know is, why is Ralph Nader going on about Moore's weight (scroll down to the last paragraph)?

I hope you and your family are all doing well. Perhaps we can have lunch some time when you are next in town.

Chuck Bearden [cbearden cxe hal-pc punkto org] • 2004.07.02
Hey Prentiss... Onde anda vocę? Bloga mais, rapaz! Bjus

Mina [neuza punkto paranhos cxe uol punkto com punkto br] • 2004.07.09
"I just read the Chandrasutra posting on Hitchens on Moore, and frankly it looks to me as if she simply psychologizes Hitchens rather than dealing with the issues he raises"

I wasn't interested in addressing the issues but contextualizing Hitchens for those who may be discovering him for the first time via his review of 9/11.

Additionally, my response to the film was all about Moore's subversion of conventional news techniques in his form. All of the negative responses from the right are simply taking issue with his "facts" rather than *dealing* with what Moore actually presents. Again, to me the more interesting analysis is not the particulars of his film but how he presents them. I'm familiar with his particulars and POV.

The most interesting thing to me about the right's criticisms of Moore as a filmmaker is their total ignorance of film form and their laughable attempts to redefine documentary filmmaking as "unbiased" and "objective" to suit their current purposes.

Speaking of suiting one's current purposes, my objective in analyzing Hitchens was to show that he has applied the same rhetorical strategies to both the right and the left with equal aplomb. Ultimately, his purpose in doing so is to draw attention not to the issues but his skills as a rhetorician. His political convictions take a back seat to his ego. What he said about Moore's film was nothing we haven't already heard from the rest of the right only better argued.

As for my own approach: I don't aim to pursuade but simply observe and reflect on what I see. Trying to illuminate something in a different light is another objective.

Mel [chandra_sutra cxe hotmail punkto com] • 2004.07.20
Persuade, even.

Mel [chandra_sutra cxe hotmail punkto com] • 2004.07.20
la la la. where are you?

badgerbag [lizzard cxe bookmaniac punkto net] • 2004.07.21
Go out and view FahrenHYPE 9/11 and you'll see how many lies are in fahrenheit 9/11

Shotgun Shells Man [rmcewen cxe polywad-shotgun-shells punkto com] • 2005.11.09
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