Michael Moore’s new film is an interesting mixture of excellent points and very bad ones.
The film itself is a brave attempt to speak out against the actions of the Bush administration and educate the US people in the face of extreme hostility from the bourgeois press and the pro-imperialist and zionist ‘fat cats’ that control the film industry. Michael Moore has been the subject of character assassinations and far-fetched accusations of bias, bullying and even insanity. However, the success of his film at the box office is testimony to levels of demand amongst the general public for material that is critical of the imperialist exploits of the US, Britain and their allies. As the bourgeoisie become less and less able to bribe the working class into ignorance and acceptance, the less effective our biased media becomes for convincing people that everything is fine and there is nothing to worry about.
Moore successfully humiliates George Bush at every available opportunity, playing on the popular theme of his apparent imbecility, and does a very good job of highlighting the manner in which Bush’s government is controlled by big business and operates entirely in its interest. He details the Bush family’s links with the house of Saud and the mutually beneficial business arrangements that exist between Saudi companies and those owned by Bush and his associates. The highlight of the film has to be clip of Bush addressing a room full of the US’s most rich and powerful people – in short, they are the bourgeoisie, the people in whose interests all the actions of every US president have always been taken. To the assembled audience, Bush says, with admirable candour: “I’m with the haves and the have mores. Some people call you the elite; I call you my base.” It is moments such as these that make watching Fahrenheit 9/11 worthwhile – he has done his research carefully and uncovered much invaluable information.
The film begins with a detailed exposition of the farce that was the 2000 American presidential election. Moore discusses the variety of ways in which Bush was able to fix the election, including having voters that were not likely to vote for him struck from the electoral register. While it provides an interesting insight into the mechanics of imperialist corruption, it also sets the context for what turns out to be the major problem besetting the film’s overall message: the implication that all the problems in the States can be boiled down to George Bush, and that as long as he is voted out at the next election the US will, in all probability, once more become a shining beacon of democracy. The argument here is not dissimilar to that of RESPECT when attacking Blair and ‘new’ Labour. Such an argument makes the recent actions of the imperialists in Iraq, Afghanistan, etc seem like anomalous occurrences perpetrated by a few unsavoury characters rather than a more overt and public continuation of the imperialist exploitation and aggression on which the privileged existence of people living in the imperialist countries is based. Such arguments imply that structural change is not necessary; that to change the personnel would change the system. This is, of course, an extremely destructive message.
The Presidential election clearly was rigged, but then so has every previous election been, albeit in a less overt manner. The Bush family represents the interest of big business, but every other US president has also represented those same interests. The army recruits from poor towns and working class areas in order to gain cannon fodder for the wars fought for imperialist super profits – an excellent point, but when has this ever not been the case?
Moore glosses over the brutal war waged against the Afghan people as if it was something incidental and badly managed – the clear implication being that Afghanistan, as the hideout of Osama Bin Laden, was a legitimate target, and the US’s only mistake was not to send enough troops. This willingness to accept the imperialists’ logic is Moore’s fatal weakness. He does not seem to question the carefully-nurtured prejudice instilled by imperialism that Bin Laden is ‘evil’ and a ‘terrorist’; that the 11 September attacks were a tragic atrocity; or that destroying an entire country to find one man is anything other than reasonable retribution for the above. Despite the title of the film, the question of why the attacks happened is altogether ignored.
Whilst the film features clips of injured and disillusioned American soldiers claiming that the war caused them to abandon their Republican leanings and campaign for the Democrats, Moore tactically refrains from any great exploration of the alternative offered by the Democratic Party. Senator Kelly, the Democrat candidate, is not mentioned at all, perhaps because he is a hawk whose political alliances are not nearly as different from Bush’s as Moore might like us to think they are.
Another telling omission from the film is any discussion of the role of Britain in the war in Iraq. Moore patronisingly mocks the countries that have been press-ganged into Bush and Blair’s “coalition of the willing” in a truly typical example of American arrogance. However, it is possible to speculate that underlying such attitudes is the prejudice, very popular with petty-bourgeois liberals, that Britain/Europe have the potential to offer a fairer, more pleasant from of government – one from which the US should take example.
Fahrenheit 9/11 is a courageous voice of opposition to US imperialism in a country where political dissenters are routinely persecuted. It does not, however, offer any real solution. As a result, those who have realised that imperialism cannot function without exploitation and plunder, but are not aware of the hope provided by scientific socialism, will leave with a feeling of despair.