Beyond Fahrenheit 9/11
July 13, 2004
By Marcus Reichert
and fear are the two emotions essential to tragedy, those emotions
it is essential to engender in one's audience." - Aristotle
Michael Moore imposing his own practical interpretation of reality
on George W. Bush should be far less disconcerting for Americans
than the antagonism at work between Bush and the real world, that
world beyond America's borders.
It is not people like Michael Moore who contribute most to Bush's
particular form of alienation, it is Bush's own sense of unworthiness
within the context of an idealized and unreal life. Thus, as Moore's
film progresses, we know, through the legitimacy of our own reasoning,
it is Moore we have to side with.
This inclination grows ever stronger as we come to realize that
it is ourselves who are sacrificed, our lives extinguished or permanently
deformed as the result of another man's moral code. We are sacrificed
for an ideal. But Bush's idealism is bent, subverted by dishonesty
and flushed with the excitement of deception.
Michael Moore has come to appreciate the complexity of life, having
first flirted with its absurd fickleness via his own earnestly amusing
theatre. Such an approach to levelling one's own neuroses is not
altogether alien to George W. Bush. Although Moore must act within
the confines of real life, Bush must not - because he has finally
come to believe that he is fulfilling an important and worthy role
Gone are the drunken afternoons at the ballpark bar, the dirty
jokes made in the midst of negotiating an oil contract, the prolonged
moments of anguish when confronting the wife. Bush has come to see
his actions in inevitable and irreversible theatrical terms. In
fact, he has come to see himself as a great tragic hero, one most
likely destined to be misunderstood. Please forget John F. Kennedy,
he muses endlessly, it's my moment now.
As President of the United States, George W. Bush embodies a mythical
form of justice. He sees his fellow world leaders as inadequate
to deal with evil, the kind of evil embodied in spectres like Saddam
Hussein, sworn enemy of his family and friends. Osama Bin Laden,
he believes, is not only America's nemesis but his own, and that
of all decent people. Bush is preoccupied with Osama Bin Laden as
a man who can do no right but, conversely and paradoxically, can
do no wrong.
For him, it is unthinkable to acknowledge that Bin Laden, former
spoiled brat, has been embraced by a vast hidden world of disdained
peoples living out their lives in a perpetual state of humiliation:
if it weren't for the unabated subjugation of the Palestinians,
intones Bin Laden, there would have been no 9/11.
As Bush sees it, he and Bin Laden are both mythical figures. They
are gladiatorial combatants compelled by the force of circumstance
- one might even say destiny - to fight to the death within the
arena of their own twisted temple of doom. The only problem is that
their arena is our world.
Theories abound on the perversity of George W. Bush's character
- obviously Michael Moore has his own - but a few of us have darker
theories than most. If he were not who he is, who would George W.
Bush be? What if he were among America's dispossessed? What if he
were a man on the edge?
Many men who have suffered the consequences of a discarded life
yearn for retribution - for mayhem and murder. In their minds, it
is fated, the logical result of a gestation period of accumulating
hatred. That person, or those people, who abused and humiliated
the potential killer are manifest in the eventual victim.
This, although glaringly apparent to anyone at all knowledgeable
in pathological behaviour, often, in its obviousness, is beyond
the realization of those responsible for meting out justice. How
does this reflect upon the psychological terrain of George W. Bush?
The act of murder is not only a means of destroying the hated,
abused and humiliated self, but also, in a stroke, a means to punish
the society which brought no relief. Why should fewer than half
of the American people have voted for George W. Bush when he had
redeemed himself, when he had, through sheer will-power and self-denial,
transformed himself into a viable leader?
Warfare is the punishment of an ungrateful society on the grand
scale. George W. Bush is a lethal misfit, however he will never
himself experience the horror and abject despair of his own society's
form of retribution: capital punishment. Spoiled in equal measure
to Osama Bin Laden, he will always insure that someone else suffers
instead. Bush's entire life is a testament to such cowardly transference.
No international court of law for himself or his people.
Bush undoubtedly sees the world in which he thrives as a malignantly
superficial place - the American people, he is convinced, are not
only supremely gullible, they are also sublimely culpable. He simultaneously
sees himself as protector and avenging angel of the higher morality
that is being desecrated and degraded all around him. For the moment,
he has perhaps fastened on Michael Moore as a specimen of such moral
This is George W. Bush's tragedy, his script handed to him on a
silver platter: he interacts with the world in its complexity through
an inverted morality, itself a reaction to the humiliation he suffered
within an atmosphere of sugar-coated cynicism, and he makes an ungodly
and gory mess of things. The existence of Fahrenheit 9/11 is unacceptable,
but what can he do about it?
Marcus Reichert is the writer/director of the first neo-noir,
Union City. His film works are held in the Archive of the Museum
of Modern Art, New York. Reichert: The Human Edifice by Mel
Gooding, a selection of 100 colour photographs over 30 years by
Marcus Reichert, is published by Artmedia Press, London. His website