and More is Needed
By David Swanson
9-11 reminds me of Howard Dean. Both were wildly promoted
by the media in a manner not carefully thought through by
media bigwigs, and then both were savaged by the media just
before opening day.
The size of the audiences seeing this movie was guaranteed
by the media hype, and the notion that the audiences consist
mainly of liberal activists is disproved by the size of them.
More people have already seen this movie than subscribe to
progressive magazines or participate in political primary
MeetUps. The question is what will happen in the heads of
people who had never heard any of this stuff before.
What if you had never been told that U.S. soldiers come
from poor families, that U.S. presidents launch wars for corporate
profits, or that governments use fear to manipulate people?
Will two hours be enough to get you thinking like this movie?
Or will you have to go back and read all the books that I
had to read before I thought this way? Will your reaction
be a troubled uncertainty that you are able to maintain or
will you be immediately converted? Or will you steadfastly
resist the notion that your television has been lying to you
all of these years? "They wouldn't lie to me," sings Willie
Nelson. "Not on my own damn TV."
One Republican who was taken to see Fahrenheit by a friend
told me she had never known any of these things before, especially
that Bush had connections to the Bin Ladens. She clearly was
unsure whether to believe it all. And in the face of it she
was still able to think of Bush as a good president. But she
was overflowing with questions.
A Republican Floridian quoted by the New York Times
said: "Oh my goodness, I cried. I'm still trying to process
everything. It really makes me question what I feel about
the president. I'm still going to respect him as our president,
but it makes me question his motives. Of course, I think that's
the whole point of the film, to question his motives. But
after watching it, I do question my loyalty to the president.
And that's scary for me."
According to the San Francisco Chronicle, one viewer
"said he was an independent who had not decided how to vote
in November. He said, however, that a section of the film
showing U.S. troops in Iraq speaking out against the war had
a strong effect on him.
'That really hit me,' he said. 'That did tilt me toward
According to every corporate newspaper I've seen, the fact
that people could be so shocked by the revelation of such
recent and important events indicated absolutely nothing about
the performance of the media worth commenting on.
Where I saw the movie on Saturday in D.C., the audience
cheered and laughed at various points, but most people walked
out looking glum and not talking to each other, at least not
at first. My own reaction was complete agreement with the
movie - something I had not found with Bowling for Columbine.
But I wished, although I saw problems with it, that the movie
had included a successful popular fight for change and a call
to action. On second thought I revised my wish: I now wish
the movie had closed with a recommended reading list.
Such a list might begin with Moore's own recent books, in
which most of the themes of the film can be found. It might
then include books that look at a longer period of history
from a perspective that recognizes class struggle, books like
A People's History of the United States by Howard Zinn,
and Labor's Untold Story by Richard Boyer and Herbert
Then a sampling of the extensive anti-Bush literature might
be in order, including books by Molly Ivins and Lou Dubose
(who warned us about all of Bush's traits before he wasn't
elected), and books by David Corn, Al Franken, Jim Hightower,
Peter Singer, Kevin Phillips, Richard Clarke, Laura Flanders,
and especially these two books: The Five Biggest Lies Bush
Told Us About Iraq by Christopher Scheer, Robert Scheer,
and Lakshmi Chaudhry, and Warrior King: the Case for Impeaching
George W. Bush by John Bonifaz with a forward by Congressman
Finally, some understanding of the media might be needed.
A good place to start might be Corporate Media and the
Threat to Democracy by Robert McChesney. And a bit of
activism is indispensable. Perhaps The Activist's Handbook
by Randy Shaw would be a good place to start.
At this point, even the most reflexively Republican moviegoer
would be ready to read the media's (excuse me, the LIBERAL
media's) commentary on Moore's movie. While Moore failed to
make the media's failures a sufficiently large part of his
focus, he has managed to generate stellar examples of irresponsible
USA Today and Gannett have put out an article that
reads: "In Moore's voice-over narration about Bush's three-year
record, the president is depicted as clueless and deceitful.
He is so in thrall to Bush family business ties with the clan
of Osama Bin Laden and other wealthy Saudis that he misdirects
American reprisals for the 2001 terror attacks from Saudi
financiers of terrorism to Iraq's Saddam Hussein. Hoarding
military resources for a long-intended war with Iraq, he botches
the Afghanistan hunt for bin Laden. He has lost the confidence
of U.S. troops. These are incendiary assertions. Some will
believe them. Others will find them nakedly partisan."
USA Today, however, will not expend a single syllable
investigating whether they are true or not. Instead, it will
encourage readers to think of the film as "partisan" and "unobjective"
by pretending to report on viewers' reactions.
The Christian Science Monitor accuses Moore of lies
and half-truths but fails to cite a single example of either.
The Macon (Georgia) Telegraph accuses Moore
of oversimplification, but produces not a single example -
other than its own article which surely sets the standard.
Bill O'Reilly claims: "The 9/11 commission findings clashed
with Moore's thesis that the Bushies had done something dastardly
immediately after the attack by letting a bunch of Saudis,
including members of the Bin Laden family, fly out of the
U.S.A. while everybody else was grounded." He does not elaborate.
Is he claiming that Bush did not do this or that it was not
dastardly? Neither claim would be the least bit credible,
but the confused mixing of the two almost sounds as if O'Reilly
is saying something.
The New Republic, meanwhile (apparently still suffering
from the Stephen Glass episode), accuses Moore of unsupported
accusations. To back this up, the article cites Moore's contention
that an oil pipeline was part of Bush's motivation to attack
Afghanistan. Yet the New Republic offers not one word
of argument against this point. Instead, it goes on to bizarrely
accuse Moore of dishonesty because he makes both the point
that the war on Iraq is unjust and the point that our soldiers
are recruited from poor families. Of course Moore made more
than just these two points, and if the New Republic
had picked up on any of the others, who knows how dishonest
they might have thought him!
I encourage them and all Americans to watch the film more
than once and to follow up at their library, assuming it hasn't
been shut down and you don't mind having Ashcroft know what
you're reading. I then encourage you to register all of your
neighbors to vote, and to ask John Kerry to oppose the war.
The election is on November 2nd. Mark it on your calendar!
David Swanson's website is www.davidswanson.org.
The opinions expressed are his alone unless you share them.