Tuesday, August 24, 2004

Belgravia Dispatch: "charlatan, publicity-hound and talent-challenged fraud"

The New York Review of Books finally got around to publishing a review of Michael Moore's Fahrenheit 9/11 ("Is It All Just a Dream?" Volume 51, Number 13 · August 12, 2004).

Belgravia Dispatch has an excellent review of the review:

Put differently, I suspect, for those that hate Bush, they will leave the theater still hating him--but not really anymore than before. For those that like Bush, they will leave unpersuaded and further convinced that Moore is a cheap charlatan. And for any Bush undecideds, they will leave in a blur of pop culture references, a REM song here, a 'Keep on Rocking in the Free World' riff there, a Marine recruiter plying his trade in an iconic mall parking lot there.

So they will leave bemused and entertained--but not truly interested, persuaded on the merits, advanced in knowledge, fulfilled spiritually, improved in any real way (as true art is meant to do). That such efforts are even considered art and worthy of significant prizes speaks to the cultural desert we inhabit today. It's a sad state of affairs--but at least the dangers of a Leni Riefenstahl are not presented by this faux-artist who is really an imbecilic Howard Stern type shock-jock with a camera and a bone to pick from the old Flint days.

So yes, I'm clearly deeply underwhelmed, and doubtless others will increasingly be so going forward. The emperor has no clothes (much like the Cannes jury's selection process).

And yet, like it or not, Fahrehheit 9/11 passes for compelling fare among many. Surely though, better times must beckon? Or has cultural production truly become so desparately bleak? It hasn't, I know (many talents toil in near anonymity), but critics need to yell more loudly so the boorish lout that is Michael Moore is unmasked for the charlatan, publicity-hound and talent-challenged fraud that he is.

Monday, August 09, 2004

911 Commission Criticizes Moore: "No Credible Evidence"

Fueling the Fahrenheit 9/11 controversy, members of the 9/11 Commission dispute filmmaker Michael Moore's claims that 26 members of Osama bin Laden's family were secretly shuttled out of the country while planes were grounded after the terror attacks.

"That's not what we found," commission member Jamie Gorelick said of Moore's assertion that the Saudis were snuck out on a charter flight on Sept. 13 in violation of airspace restrictions.

Gorelick told the Herald that restrictions had been lifted by the time the Saudi planes took off that day and that the FBI interviewed 22 of the 26 members. The others were cleared by the agency of any connection to the attacks, the commission found. . . . READ MORE

Source: "Moore is less than honest, panelist says"
By Dave Wedge

Sunday, August 8, 2004.

Sunday, August 01, 2004

Joey Tartakovsky: "As a polemic, masterful; as a basis for informed decision-making, irresponsible."

Enthusiasts of the film have taken Moore's decision to hire a team of fact-checkers as confirmation of the film's truthfulness. The team certainly has its work cut out. But objections to various details should not cause us to miss the larger point: the real deceit lies not in his "facts," but in how he cobbles them together. There may be some evidence that four thousand Saudi princes manage U.S. foreign policy, a theory of Fahrenheit 9/11 advances, but there is substantially more evidence that they do not. Will the fact-checkers prove that the Saudis are, contrary to popular belief, thrilled with the war on terror? The bottom line is that there exists a boundless sea of "facts," and an ideologue willing to play fast and loose with them can easily manipulate them into extreme or unwarranted conclusions. You can "prove" just about anything and its opposite, and you can traduce any public figure, a President easiest of all.

No one has challenged Michael Moore's right to "reveal" the consequences of President Bush's decisions as brutally as he wants. But this is not what he does. He seeks to embarrass Bush by culling choice footage from hundreds of hours of recording, cutting-and-pasting them in unflattering ways, and then spicing it with wild innuendo and cinematic manipulation. If any one of us were on camera on a daily basis, speaking on record about a half-dozen issues, we'd have quite a blooper reel as well. Fahrenheit 9/11's unforgiving character assassination is corrosive to civil democratic culture. If everyone behaved this way towards their political opponents, and if every important issue were simplified to the point of absurdity, normal political processes would break down. Fahrenheit 9/11 thus resorts to the oldest, nastiest trick in the book: attack Bush's character, not his policies; impugn his motives, not his arguments. It's hard to ignore how relentlessly personal this movie is. All this, even as there remain few matters more in demand of partisan discretion and common decency than terrorism and war. . . .

As a polemic, Fahrenheit 9/11 is masterful; as a basis for informed decision-making, it is irresponsible. The thought that Fahrenheit 9/11's dishonorable message might actually become a basis for individuals to make decisions is the most disconcerting part of all.

Source: Joey Tartakovsky. July 28, 2004.