Monday, June 28, 2004

this is gonna be a big'un, because in my rebuttal to the hitchens piece, i've opted to reprint the original in its entirety, interspersed with my comments. this doesn't mean i won't be derisive when i think hitchens is being a jackass, but it should at least show that i'm including those passages i cannot rebut.

Unfairenheit 9/11
The lies of Michael Moore.
By Christopher Hitchens
Posted Monday, June 21, 2004, at 12:26 PM PT

Moore: Trying to have it three ways
One of the many problems with the American left, and indeed of the American left, has been its image and self-image as something rather too solemn, mirthless, herbivorous, dull, monochrome, righteous, and boring. How many times, in my old days at The Nation magazine, did I hear wistful and semienvious ruminations? Where was the radical Firing Line show? Who will be our Rush Limbaugh? I used privately to hope that the emphasis, if the comrades ever got around to it, would be on the first of those and not the second. But the meetings themselves were so mind-numbing and lugubrious that I thought the danger of success on either front was infinitely slight.

Nonetheless, it seems that an answer to this long-felt need is finally beginning to emerge. I exempt Al Franken's unintentionally funny Air America network, to which I gave a couple of interviews in its early days. There, one could hear the reassuring noise of collapsing scenery and tripped-over wires and be reminded once again that correct politics and smooth media presentation are not even distant cousins. With Michael Moore's Fahrenheit 9/11, however, an entirely new note has been struck. Here we glimpse a possible fusion between the turgid routines of and the filmic standards, if not exactly the filmic skills, of Sergei Eisenstein or Leni Riefenstahl.

talk about starting off with a bang... first he compares moore to limbaugh (which i don't think is entirely fair, though an actual discussion of why moore is not as bad as the limbaughs, coulters, & savages of the world would itself probably be a long piece; let's just say it's a question of degrees), but then compares moore to stalin's filmmaker eisenstein and top nazi director riefenstahl? there's an adage that roughly says that when you compare your opponent to nazis, you have lost the argument. so i could stop right now (especially since hitchens is just aping o'reilly & the like, who have been comparing moore to riefenstahl for weeks [yet flip out if anyone on their side is compared to a nazi]... not exactly an "original" argument, but i'll get to that).

To describe this film as dishonest and demagogic would almost be to promote those terms to the level of respectability. To describe this film as a piece of crap would be to run the risk of a discourse that would never again rise above the excremental. To describe it as an exercise in facile crowd-pleasing would be too obvious. Fahrenheit 9/11 is a sinister exercise in moral frivolity, crudely disguised as an exercise in seriousness. It is also a spectacle of abject political cowardice masking itself as a demonstration of "dissenting" bravery.

blah blah blah. from what i can tell, this is hitchens' way of saying that "the war on iraq was the right thing to do, & anyone who disagrees with me is morally bankrupt." this is not new for hitchens:

phil shannon at writes:
Hitchens joined the pro-war refrain that the millions who marched in February 2003 against an attack on Iraq were “marching for Saddam”. He caricatured all anti-war opposition as “anti-Americanism”, the marchers as “the silly led by the sinister”. Abuse was his sole resort — Tariq Ali was a “moral idiot” and Robert Fisk a “reactionary simpleton”, Susan Sontag poured forth “infantile self-righteous drivel” and Nelson Mandela “spouted garbage”, whilst the Dixie Chicks were “fucking fat slags”.

okay, so delusions of grandeur and moral superiority... infantile comparisons to nazis... and childish name-calling dressed up in the "grown up" language of erudition. and not a single concrete complaint about the movie in the first three paragraphs. so far, not so good.

In late 2002, almost a year after the al-Qaida assault on American society, I had an onstage debate with Michael Moore at the Telluride Film Festival. In the course of this exchange, he stated his view that Osama Bin Laden should be considered innocent until proven guilty. This was, he said, the American way. The intervention in Afghanistan, he maintained, had been at least to that extent unjustified. Something—I cannot guess what, since we knew as much then as we do now—has since apparently persuaded Moore that Osama Bin Laden is as guilty as hell. Indeed, Osama is suddenly so guilty and so all-powerful that any other discussion of any other topic is a dangerous "distraction" from the fight against him. I believe that I understand the convenience of this late conversion.

so moore is not allowed to change his mind, two years later? this has nothing to do with the film; it's just an excuse to dredge up old laundry for personal attacks on moore. if i wanted to get personal & accuse hitchens of hypocrisy for changing his mind, i could easily do so (but others already have; see the greenleft article posted above for one example).

Recruiters in Michigan
Fahrenheit 9/11 makes the following points about Bin Laden and about Afghanistan, and makes them in this order:

1) The Bin Laden family (if not exactly Osama himself) had a close if convoluted business relationship with the Bush family, through the Carlyle Group.

don't forget 1.5) while osama is portrayed as the "black sheep" of the family, his ties to the rest of the family are not as estranged as some might like you to think.

2) Saudi capital in general is a very large element of foreign investment in the United States.

3) The Unocal company in Texas had been willing to discuss a gas pipeline across Afghanistan with the Taliban, as had other vested interests.

this is all basically right, although "willing to discuss" is such an extreme euphemism i had to interrupt. unocal wanted that pipeline pretty badly, & they still do. that is well established fact.

4) The Bush administration sent far too few ground troops to Afghanistan and thus allowed far too many Taliban and al-Qaida members to escape.

5) The Afghan government, in supporting the coalition in Iraq, was purely risible in that its non-army was purely American.

in case your head is collapsing trying to make sense of #5, he means that afghanistan was part of the "coalition of the killing" that invaded iraq. moore points out that this is a complete joke, because at that time afghanistan was little more than a puppet for the US & had no real military of its own.

6) The American lives lost in Afghanistan have been wasted. (This I divine from the fact that this supposedly "antiwar" film is dedicated ruefully to all those killed there, as well as in Iraq.)

michael moore never states or even implies that those lives were "wasted".

It must be evident to anyone, despite the rapid-fire way in which Moore's direction eases the audience hastily past the contradictions, that these discrepant scatter shots do not cohere at any point. Either the Saudis run U.S. policy (through family ties or overwhelming economic interest), or they do not. As allies and patrons of the Taliban regime, they either opposed Bush's removal of it, or they did not. (They opposed the removal, all right: They wouldn't even let Tony Blair land his own plane on their soil at the time of the operation.)

finally, a decent point! yes, moore paints some fairly broad strokes in f9/11. he doesn't pretend to have all the answers; it's more about asking the right questions (hitchens doesn't have the answer to many of moore's questions either, but that doesn't seem to bother him so much). everything doesn't tie together perfectly into one tight "conspiracy" (if it did, i suspect moore would be criticized as a conspiracy nut for it). moore does use a "buckshot" approach, hitting lots of different points instead of focusing & possibly hitting a deadlier shot.

and yes, obviously saudi arabia does not "run U.S. policy" or else we probably wouldn't have invaded arghanistan or iraq. but moore never says they run policy; only that their close ties to the bush clan and heavy investments get them undue influence or "special treatment", which he demonstrates pretty well.

Either we sent too many troops, or were wrong to send any at all—the latter was Moore's view as late as 2002—or we sent too few. If we were going to make sure no Taliban or al-Qaida forces survived or escaped, we would have had to be more ruthless than I suspect that Mr. Moore is really recommending.

i for one don't see a conflict between saying "we shouldn't be there at all, but since we did go in, we should have sent more in order to do the job properly" (indeed, that is exactly what i would say about the iraq invasion). as for moore ever saying we "sent too many", i'm not sure he ever did (there's no documentation; just hearsay from a debate two years ago), except maybe "any is too many", which is still not necessarily inconsistent with that line of reasoning. BUT

And these are simply observations on what is "in" the film.

no it's not, hitch! just two sentences ago you brought up something from two years ago!!! that has absolute zero to do with what's in the film. all hitch is saying here is that michael moore seemingly changed his mind about bin laden in the past two years. fine, maybe he did (i don't know; it's really hearsay, but let's just accept that moore did say something like that), but even if so it is not an inconsistency "in" the film.

If we turn to the facts that are deliberately left out, we discover that there is an emerging Afghan army, that the country is now a joint NATO responsibility and thus under the protection of the broadest military alliance in history, that it has a new constitution and is preparing against hellish odds to hold a general election, and that at least a million and a half of its former refugees have opted to return. I don't think a pipeline is being constructed yet, not that Afghanistan couldn't do with a pipeline. But a highway from Kabul to Kandahar—an insurance against warlordism and a condition of nation-building—is nearing completion with infinite labor and risk. We also discover that the parties of the Afghan secular left—like the parties of the Iraqi secular left—are strongly in favor of the regime change. But this is not the sort of irony in which Moore chooses to deal.

yes, michael was selective in what he included in the movie. he has been very clear that f9/11 promotes his point of view; he's never claimed it was objective. it should be no surprise that moore doesn't include the hawks' talking points in the film, because they do detract from the sharpness of his point. so things aren't going quite as terribly in afghanistan as moore would suggest. likewise, hitchens does not acknowledge any of the good points moore makes in the movie, or the things that have gone terribly wrong in afghanistan since the US invaded. never mind that moore never says in the movie that we should not have invaded afghanistan; only that we handled the invasion poorly.

this is really the crux of the debate; i have seen few good arguments anywhere about f9/11 that didn't revolve around this: he uses selective editing. he's "manipulative" or "sensational" and "takes cheap shots" where documentaries are supposed to be "objective". i'm quite sick of hearing people say f9/11 is "not a documentary"... those who say it never give a better suggestion for the kind of film he makes (other than "propaganda", which would never fly on oscar night). i'm more apt to go with roger ebert's definition of a documentary than christopher hitchens', thank you very much.

this is essentially a style debate about the "old guard" school of documentaries, where they believe in a "journalistic" objectivity (though the trend toward so-called objectivity in journalism is dying), versus moore's new-school razamataz, in-your-face, beat-you-over-the-head-with-the-message style. it's true that moore can be sensational and manipulative, but at least he is up front about it. he doesn't try to pass himself off as an objective journalist like, say, bill o'reilly. i'm inclined to think that's where we get into trouble: when a demagogue like rush limbaugh can get on the news & pass for a real journalist, that's dishonest. but this is all shades of gray & maybe i'm wrong.

He prefers leaden sarcasm to irony and, indeed, may not appreciate the distinction. In a long and paranoid (and tedious) section at the opening of the film, he makes heavy innuendoes about the flights that took members of the Bin Laden family out of the country after Sept. 11. I banged on about this myself at the time and wrote a Nation column drawing attention to the groveling Larry King interview with the insufferable Prince Bandar, which Moore excerpts. However, recent developments have not been kind to our Mike. In the interval between Moore's triumph at Cannes and the release of the film in the United States, the 9/11 commission has found nothing to complain of in the timing or arrangement of the flights. And Richard Clarke, Bush's former chief of counterterrorism, has come forward to say that he, and he alone, took the responsibility for authorizing those Saudi departures. This might not matter so much to the ethos of Fahrenheit 9/11, except that—as you might expect—Clarke is presented throughout as the brow-furrowed ethical hero of the entire post-9/11 moment. And it does not seem very likely that, in his open admission about the Bin Laden family evacuation, Clarke is taking a fall, or a spear in the chest, for the Bush administration. So, that's another bust for this windy and bloated cinematic "key to all mythologies."

moore himself explains this somewhat in his 9/11 facts page. the point he's trying to make is that the saudis got special treatment because of their ties to bush & friends; not that they needed to be investigated more thoroughly, but that they would've been investigated more if they'd been anyone else. it is inconvenient that clarke doesn't make as big a deal of it as moore does, but it doesn't answer moore's question of what was the rush in getting these individuals out of the country?

furthermore, the link hitch gives as some irrefutable argument against moore is itself a little ambiguous... it starts off with clarke taking full responsibility for clearing the flights, but later on it gets iffy:

the hillnews article hitch linked to says:
This new account of the events seemed to contradict Clarke’s sworn testimony before the Sept. 11 commission at the end of March about who approved the flights.

“The request came to me, and I refused to approve it,” Clarke testified. “I suggested that it be routed to the FBI and that the FBI look at the names of the individuals who were going to be on the passenger manifest and that they approve it or not. I spoke with the — at the time — No. 2 person in the FBI, Dale Watson, and asked him to deal with this issue. The FBI then approved … the flight.”

“That’s a little different than saying, ‘I claim sole responsibility for it now,’” Roemer said yesterday.

However, the FBI has denied approving the flight.

FBI spokeswoman Donna Spiser said, “We haven’t had anything to do with arranging and clearing the flights.”

“We did know who was on the flights and interviewed anyone we thought we needed to,” she said. “We didn’t interview 100 percent of the [passengers on the] flight. We didn’t think anyone on the flight was of investigative interest.”

hmm... so did clarke approve it or did he co-approve it with the fbi? it gets juicier:

the hillnews article hitch linked to says:
Instead of putting the issue to rest, Clarke’s testimony fueled speculation among Democrats that someone higher up in the administration, perhaps White House Chief of Staff Andy Card, approved the flights.

“It couldn’t have come from Clarke. It should have come from someone further up the chain,” said a Democratic Senate aide who watched Clarke’s testimony.
Clarke’s testimony did not settle the issue for Roemer, either.

“It doesn’t seem that Richard Clarke had enough information to clear it,” Roemer said Monday.

“I just don’t think that the questions are resolved, and we need to dig deeper,” Roemer added. “Clarke sure didn’t seem to say that he was the final decisionmaker. I believe we need to continue to look for some more answers.”

Roemer said there are important policy issues to address, such as the need to develop a flight-departure control system.

Several Democrats on and off the Hill say that bin Laden’s family should have been detained as material witnesses to the attacks. They note that after the attacks, the Bush administration lowered the threshold for detaining potential witnesses. The Department of Justice is estimated to have detained more than 50 material witnesses since Sept. 11.

it's true that the 9/11 commission released a statement saying the flights were "handled properly". but clearly not everyone on the commission is convinced.

A film that bases itself on a big lie and a big misrepresentation can only sustain itself by a dizzying succession of smaller falsehoods, beefed up by wilder and (if possible) yet more-contradictory claims. President Bush is accused of taking too many lazy vacations. (What is that about, by the way? Isn't he supposed to be an unceasing planner for future aggressive wars?) But the shot of him "relaxing at Camp David" shows him side by side with Tony Blair. I say "shows," even though this photograph is on-screen so briefly that if you sneeze or blink, you won't recognize the other figure. A meeting with the prime minister of the United Kingdom, or at least with this prime minister, is not a goof-off.

i don't see why it couldn't be a goof-off... cheney & scalia get together to go hunting, & they claim they don't discuss work when they do it. but even acknowledging that some of those vacations were "working vacation", the criticism that bush is on vacation more than anyone else in the country stands.

The president is also captured in a well-worn TV news clip, on a golf course, making a boilerplate response to a question on terrorism and then asking the reporters to watch his drive. Well, that's what you get if you catch the president on a golf course. If Eisenhower had done this, as he often did, it would have been presented as calm statesmanship. If Clinton had done it, as he often did, it would have shown his charm. More interesting is the moment where Bush is shown frozen on his chair at the infant school in Florida, looking stunned and useless for seven whole minutes after the news of the second plane on 9/11. Many are those who say that he should have leaped from his stool, adopted a Russell Crowe stance, and gone to work. I could even wish that myself. But if he had done any such thing then (as he did with his "Let's roll" and "dead or alive" remarks a month later), half the Michael Moore community would now be calling him a man who went to war on a hectic, crazed impulse. The other half would be saying what they already say—that he knew the attack was coming, was using it to cement himself in power, and couldn't wait to get on with his coup. This is the line taken by Gore Vidal and by a scandalous recent book that also revives the charge of FDR's collusion over Pearl Harbor. At least Moore's film should put the shameful purveyors of that last theory back in their paranoid box.

the golf clip is a cheap shot perhaps (though whether there's anything wrong with cheap shots is debatable), but is hitchens even giving bush a pass for sitting there in that classroom for 7 minutes like a deer in headlights? not even hitch's fellow slate writer will let him get away with that:

david edelstein in slate wrote:
But what can even Bush partisans make of those seven minutes in the elementary school classroom after he received the news that a second plane had hit the World Trade Center and the nation was under attack? In one of the few lapses in an otherwise virtuoso rant, Christopher Hitchens argues that Moore would have made sport of a martial, Russell Crowe-like response. Nice try, but that blow wouldn't have landed, and this one does, spectacularly. It is downright spooky to watch the nominal commander in chief and "leader of the free world" behave, in a moment of crisis, like a superfluous man.

okay, back to hitchens:

But it won't because it encourages their half-baked fantasies in so many other ways. We are introduced to Iraq, "a sovereign nation." (In fact, Iraq's "sovereignty" was heavily qualified by international sanctions, however questionable, which reflected its noncompliance with important U.N. resolutions.) In this peaceable kingdom, according to Moore's flabbergasting choice of film shots, children are flying little kites, shoppers are smiling in the sunshine, and the gentle rhythms of life are undisturbed. Then—wham! From the night sky come the terror weapons of American imperialism. Watching the clips Moore uses, and recalling them well, I can recognize various Saddam palaces and military and police centers getting the treatment. But these sites are not identified as such. In fact, I don't think Al Jazeera would, on a bad day, have transmitted anything so utterly propagandistic. You would also be led to think that the term "civilian casualty" had not even been in the Iraqi vocabulary until March 2003. I remember asking Moore at Telluride if he was or was not a pacifist. He would not give a straight answer then, and he doesn't now, either. I'll just say that the "insurgent" side is presented in this film as justifiably outraged, whereas the 30-year record of Baathist war crimes and repression and aggression is not mentioned once. (Actually, that's not quite right. It is briefly mentioned but only, and smarmily, because of the bad period when Washington preferred Saddam to the likewise unmentioned Ayatollah Khomeini.)

i've seen others make a similar complaint: that because moore doesn't show any of saddam's violence, he's trying to imply that saddam was not a monster. that's flat-out ridiculous; we have had the fact that saddam is "evil" pounded into our brains repeatedly since operation desert storm. moore doesn't need to depict saddam's brutal reign because we all know all about it already. i took that scene as showing that, as sucky as it might have been, life did go on "normally" in iraq until we invaded & transformed it into a total war zone.

That this—his pro-American moment—was the worst Moore could possibly say of Saddam's depravity is further suggested by some astonishing falsifications. Moore asserts that Iraq under Saddam had never attacked or killed or even threatened (his words) any American. I never quite know whether Moore is as ignorant as he looks, or even if that would be humanly possible. Baghdad was for years the official, undisguised home address of Abu Nidal, then the most-wanted gangster in the world, who had been sentenced to death even by the PLO and had blown up airports in Vienna* and Rome. Baghdad was the safe house for the man whose "operation" murdered Leon Klinghoffer. Saddam boasted publicly of his financial sponsorship of suicide bombers in Israel. (Quite a few Americans of all denominations walk the streets of Jerusalem.)

threats against israel are not de facto threats against the USA simply because the US & israel are allies. sorry hitch, but i'm not buying that one.

In 1991, a large number of Western hostages were taken by the hideous Iraqi invasion of Kuwait and held in terrible conditions for a long time. After that same invasion was repelled—Saddam having killed quite a few Americans and Egyptians and Syrians and Brits in the meantime and having threatened to kill many more—the Iraqi secret police were caught trying to murder former President Bush during his visit to Kuwait. Never mind whether his son should take that personally. (Though why should he not?) Should you and I not resent any foreign dictatorship that attempts to kill one of our retired chief executives? (President Clinton certainly took it that way: He ordered the destruction by cruise missiles of the Baathist "security" headquarters.) Iraqi forces fired, every day, for 10 years, on the aircraft that patrolled the no-fly zones and staved off further genocide in the north and south of the country. In 1993, a certain Mr. Yasin helped mix the chemicals for the bomb at the World Trade Center and then skipped to Iraq, where he remained a guest of the state until the overthrow of Saddam. In 2001, Saddam's regime was the only one in the region that openly celebrated the attacks on New York and Washington and described them as just the beginning of a larger revenge. Its official media regularly spewed out a stream of anti-Semitic incitement. I think one might describe that as "threatening," even if one was narrow enough to think that anti-Semitism only menaces Jews. And it was after, and not before, the 9/11 attacks that Abu Mussab al-Zarqawi moved from Afghanistan to Baghdad and began to plan his now very open and lethal design for a holy and ethnic civil war. On Dec. 1, 2003, the New York Times reported—and the David Kay report had established—that Saddam had been secretly negotiating with the "Dear Leader" Kim Jong-il in a series of secret meetings in Syria, as late as the spring of 2003, to buy a North Korean missile system, and missile-production system, right off the shelf. (This attempt was not uncovered until after the fall of Baghdad, the coalition's presence having meanwhile put an end to the negotiations.)

i will admit that i don't know enough to comment about all the things hitch mentions, nor do i have time to research them (i still have a long way to go on this entry!), but brandon at has a good head start at refuting some of this stuff.

Thus, in spite of the film's loaded bias against the work of the mind, you can grasp even while watching it that Michael Moore has just said, in so many words, the one thing that no reflective or informed person can possibly believe: that Saddam Hussein was no problem. No problem at all. Now look again at the facts I have cited above. If these things had been allowed to happen under any other administration, you can be sure that Moore and others would now glibly be accusing the president of ignoring, or of having ignored, some fairly unmistakable "warnings."

moore never says that saddam was "no problem at all". what he says is that the war on iraq was based on false justifications (virtually irrefutable), that bushco wanted to invade iraq from day one despite no real connection to al qaeda (also irrefutable), & that the war in iraq distracted from the "real" war on terror.

The same "let's have it both ways" opportunism infects his treatment of another very serious subject, namely domestic counterterrorist policy. From being accused of overlooking too many warnings—not exactly an original point—

ooh, now he's accusing moore of not being "original" (after hitchens apes almost every single conservative "anti-moore talking point")? give me a break. i've seen others argue that f9/11 has "no new information", but that is only true if you're a news junky, the type who checks the international news (not just US news) on a daily or frequent basis... hell, i haven't even read craig unger's book, for example. for the majority out there who are not political addicts, there is tons of new info in the film.

the administration is now lavishly taunted for issuing too many. (Would there not have been "fear" if the harbingers of 9/11 had been taken seriously?) We are shown some American civilians who have had absurd encounters with idiotic "security" staff. (Have you ever met anyone who can't tell such a story?) Then we are immediately shown underfunded police departments that don't have the means or the manpower to do any stop-and-search: a power suddenly demanded by Moore on their behalf that we know by definition would at least lead to some ridiculous interrogations. Finally, Moore complains that there isn't enough intrusion and confiscation at airports and says that it is appalling that every air traveler is not forcibly relieved of all matches and lighters. (Cue mood music for sinister influence of Big Tobacco.) So—he wants even more pocket-rummaging by airport officials? Uh, no, not exactly. But by this stage, who's counting? Moore is having it three ways and asserting everything and nothing. Again—simply not serious.

fair enough: privacy vs security is a very complicated debate that moore does not treat in-depth or claim to have the answer to. i can see how his criticisms here might contradict each other. but there is still a big difference between "tight security", which moore wants, and "fear-mongering", which is what he accuses the bush administration of (and i would agree that, at least, bush used fear tactics to overhype the threat caused by saddam).

Circling back to where we began, why did Moore's evil Saudis not join "the Coalition of the Willing"? Why instead did they force the United States to switch its regional military headquarters to Qatar? If the Bush family and the al-Saud dynasty live in each other's pockets, as is alleged in a sort of vulgar sub-Brechtian scene with Arab headdresses replacing top hats, then how come the most reactionary regime in the region has been powerless to stop Bush from demolishing its clone in Kabul and its buffer regime in Baghdad? The Saudis hate, as they did in 1991, the idea that Iraq's recuperated oil industry might challenge their near-monopoly. They fear the liberation of the Shiite Muslims they so despise. To make these elementary points is to collapse the whole pathetic edifice of the film's "theory." Perhaps Moore prefers the pro-Saudi Kissinger/Scowcroft plan for the Middle East, where stability trumps every other consideration and where one dare not upset the local house of cards, or killing-field of Kurds? This would be a strange position for a purported radical. Then again, perhaps he does not take this conservative line because his real pitch is not to any audience member with a serious interest in foreign policy. It is to the provincial isolationist.

sure, this is all grey area & moore avoids these questions because they muddy the issue. besides, like i said above, it's not that the saudis "run U.S. policy", but that they have undue influence. i could just as easily answer this passage with my own question: "why didn't we invade saudi arabia, like many suggested?" moore has stated that if 15 of the 19 attackers on 9/11 had been from libya, the headlines would've read "libya attacks US". these are indeed difficult questions and moore sometimes glosses over them, but his view isn't as simplistic as hitchens suggests, either.

I have already said that Moore's film has the staunch courage to mock Bush for his verbal infelicity. Yet it's much, much braver than that. From Fahrenheit 9/11 you can glean even more astounding and hidden disclosures, such as the capitalist nature of American society, the existence of Eisenhower's "military-industrial complex," and the use of "spin" in the presentation of our politicians. It's high time someone had the nerve to point this out. There's more. Poor people often volunteer to join the army, and some of them are duskier than others. Betcha didn't know that.

see above, re: being "original". this may be old news, but these are still issues that 99.99% of the media does not address.

Back in Flint, Mich., Moore feels on safe ground. There are no martyred rabbits this time. Instead, it's the poor and black who shoulder the packs and rifles and march away. I won't dwell on the fact that black Americans have fought for almost a century and a half, from insisting on their right to join the U.S. Army and fight in the Civil War to the right to have a desegregated Army that set the pace for post-1945 civil rights. I'll merely ask this: In the film, Moore says loudly and repeatedly that not enough troops were sent to garrison Afghanistan and Iraq. (This is now a favorite cleverness of those who were, in the first place, against sending any soldiers at all.) Well, where does he think those needful heroes and heroines would have come from? Does he favor a draft—the most statist and oppressive solution? Does he think that only hapless and gullible proles sign up for the Marines? Does he think—as he seems to suggest—that parents can "send" their children, as he stupidly asks elected members of Congress to do? Would he have abandoned Gettysburg because the Union allowed civilians to pay proxies to serve in their place? Would he have supported the antidraft (and very antiblack) riots against Lincoln in New York? After a point, one realizes that it's a waste of time asking him questions of this sort. It would be too much like taking him seriously. He'll just try anything once and see if it floats or flies or gets a cheer.

i already said that i don't see any real inconsistency in saying we shouldn't have gone there at all, but since we did we should've sent more troops. by this point, hitchens seems so blinded by his own smugness that he doesn't grasp the obvious counter-argument. hitchens asks "where should the troops have come from?" as if it were inevitable that the troops would be sent in. the simple answer is that we shouldn't have even sent them in without enough troops to get the job done right. how is that so hard to grasp? moore says in the movie that "the only thing our soldiers ask is that we never send them into harm's way unless absolutely necessary". the iraq war was obviously not "necessary". the afghan war was debatable, & even if that one was necessary, our military was not overstretched yet, plus we had true international support.

Trying to talk congressmen into sending their sons to war
Indeed, Moore's affected and ostentatious concern for black America is one of the most suspect ingredients of his pitch package. In a recent interview, he yelled that if the hijacked civilians of 9/11 had been black, they would have fought back, unlike the stupid and presumably cowardly white men and women (and children). Never mind for now how many black passengers were on those planes—we happen to know what Moore does not care to mention: that Todd Beamer and a few of his co-passengers, shouting "Let's roll," rammed the hijackers with a trolley, fought them tooth and nail, and helped bring down a United Airlines plane, in Pennsylvania, that was speeding toward either the White House or the Capitol. There are no words for real, impromptu bravery like that, which helped save our republic from worse than actually befell. The Pennsylvania drama also reminds one of the self-evident fact that this war is not fought only "overseas" or in uniform, but is being brought to our cities. Yet Moore is a silly and shady man who does not recognize courage of any sort even when he sees it because he cannot summon it in himself. To him, easy applause, in front of credulous audiences, is everything.

by this point, hitchens has exhaused all of the alleged inconsistencies in the movie & is once again stretching for anything moore has ever said in order to take more cheap shots. this has absolutely nothing to do with the film. i guess it's okay for hitchens to be overbroad & take cheap shots at his target, but it's not okay for moore.

Moore has announced that he won't even appear on TV shows where he might face hostile questioning.

where the fuck did moore say this? i have read dozens and dozens and dozens of articles about f9/11 & i have never seen this claim anywhere but from hitch. if anyone can actually back it up, please let me know. in fact, moore has a funny anecdote on his site about why he's not going on o'reilly, & it sure ain't because the questions are too hard:

michael's message says:
I'd go on O'Reilly but, like a coward, he walked out on a screening we invited him to (with Al Franken just a few rows away!). I personally caught him sneaking out. Embarrassed, he tried to change the subject. He said, "When are you coming on my show?" and I said, "Turn around and watch the rest of the movie and I will come on your show." He walked out. Fair and balanced.

so really, i don't know where hitchens' assertion came from but i think it's totally false.

I notice from the New York Times of June 20 that he has pompously established a rapid response team, and a fact-checking staff, and some tough lawyers, to bulwark himself against attack. He'll sue, Moore says, if anyone insults him or his pet. Some right-wing hack groups, I gather, are planning to bring pressure on their local movie theaters to drop the film. How dumb or thuggish do you have to be in order to counter one form of stupidity and cowardice with another? By all means go and see this terrible film, and take your friends, and if the fools in the audience strike up one cry, in favor of surrender or defeat, feel free to join in the conversation.

However, I think we can agree that the film is so flat-out phony that "fact-checking" is beside the point. And as for the scary lawyers—get a life, or maybe see me in court. But I offer this, to Moore and to his rapid response rabble. Any time, Michael my boy. Let's redo Telluride. Any show. Any place. Any platform. Let's see what you're made of.

no, i can't agree with that. & essentially, hitchens just violently disagrees with moore's opinion. even with the bravado of the big challenge to moore, hitchens really only points out a couple true factual erros in the film. he argues with the presentation, sure, as many do, but he cannot argue with the vast majority of the facts in the film, so he makes up some hooey about it being "beside the point".

Some people soothingly say that one should relax about all this. It's only a movie. No biggie. It's no worse than the tomfoolery of Oliver Stone. It's kick-ass entertainment. It might even help get out "the youth vote." Yeah, well, I have myself written and presented about a dozen low-budget made-for-TV documentaries, on subjects as various as Mother Teresa and Bill Clinton and the Cyprus crisis, and I also helped produce a slightly more polished one on Henry Kissinger that was shown in movie theaters. So I know, thanks, before you tell me, that a documentary must have a "POV" or point of view and that it must also impose a narrative line. But if you leave out absolutely everything that might give your "narrative" a problem and throw in any old rubbish that might support it, and you don't even care that one bit of that rubbish flatly contradicts the next bit, and you give no chance to those who might differ, then you have betrayed your craft.

brandon at points out that this last sentence applies equally well to hitchen' own piece. 'nuff said.

If you flatter and fawn upon your potential audience, I might add, you are patronizing them and insulting them. By the same token, if I write an article and I quote somebody and for space reasons put in an ellipsis like this (…), I swear on my children that I am not leaving out anything that, if quoted in full, would alter the original meaning or its significance. Those who violate this pact with readers or viewers are to be despised. At no point does Michael Moore make the smallest effort to be objective. At no moment does he pass up the chance of a cheap sneer or a jeer. He pitilessly focuses his camera, for minutes after he should have turned it off, on a distraught and bereaved mother whose grief we have already shared. (But then, this is the guy who thought it so clever and amusing to catch Charlton Heston, in Bowling for Columbine, at the onset of his senile dementia.) Such courage.

that's right; moore doesn't try to be objective. he takes a lot of cheap shots. he doesn't claim to be objective, either. he's honest about having a point of view.

as far as moore being sensational, or patronizing, or whatever, i like what mtv had to say: "...speaking from the halls of MTV (or just about any other major media outlet these days), to brand Moore as sensationalistic smacks a bit of the pot calling the kettle black." (pot: "you're not objective! you take cheap shots whenever possible!" kettle: "oh, hi chris, what's up?")

Perhaps vaguely aware that his movie so completely lacks gravitas, Moore concludes with a sonorous reading of some words from George Orwell. The words are taken from 1984 and consist of a third-person analysis of a hypothetical, endless, and contrived war between three superpowers. The clear intention, as clumsily excerpted like this (...) is to suggest that there is no moral distinction between the United States, the Taliban, and the Baath Party and that the war against jihad is about nothing. If Moore had studied a bit more, or at all, he could have read Orwell really saying, and in his own voice, the following:

The majority of pacifists either belong to obscure religious sects or are simply humanitarians who object to taking life and prefer not to follow their thoughts beyond that point. But there is a minority of intellectual pacifists, whose real though unacknowledged motive appears to be hatred of western democracy and admiration for totalitarianism. Pacifist propaganda usually boils down to saying that one side is as bad as the other, but if one looks closely at the writing of the younger intellectual pacifists, one finds that they do not by any means express impartial disapproval but are directed almost entirely against Britain and the United States …

And that's just from Orwell's Notes on Nationalism in May 1945. A short word of advice: In general, it's highly unwise to quote Orwell if you are already way out of your depth on the question of moral equivalence. It's also incautious to remind people of Orwell if you are engaged in a sophomoric celluloid rewriting of recent history.

oh sweet jesus... now hitchens is implying that moore is anti-american? talk about unoriginal arguments. socialists aren't supposed to get all their talking points from fox news.

If Michael Moore had had his way, Slobodan Milosevic would still be the big man in a starved and tyrannical Serbia. Bosnia and Kosovo would have been cleansed and annexed. If Michael Moore had been listened to, Afghanistan would still be under Taliban rule, and Kuwait would have remained part of Iraq. And Iraq itself would still be the personal property of a psychopathic crime family, bargaining covertly with the slave state of North Korea for WMD. You might hope that a retrospective awareness of this kind would induce a little modesty. To the contrary, it is employed to pump air into one of the great sagging blimps of our sorry, mediocre, celeb-rotten culture. Rock the vote, indeed.

Correction, June 22, 2004: This piece originally referred to terrorist attacks by Abu Nidal's group on the Munich and Rome airports. The 1985 attacks occurred at the Rome and Vienna airports. (Return to the corrected sentence.)

blah blah blah. this paragraph might as well have come from the new york post or liberals hate america, blah blah blah. i've spent hours on this rebuttal; i'm not going to waste my time arguing with this kind of claptrap.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Here's another (long) response...

Hitchens v Moore