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...my sweetie bastette_joyce just forwarded me this excellent critique of the movie by Robert Jensen, professor of journalism at the University of Texas: "Stupid White Movie: What Michael Moore Misses About the Empire".

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( 22 comments — Leave a comment )
mamatiger
Jul. 26th, 2004 01:37 am (UTC)
hm
Interesting take. Fascinating to see him at one point raise the question of racism in the movie, and then to later say "To raise questions about U.S. policy in the Middle East without addressing the role of Israel as a U.S. proxy is, to say the least, a significant omission. It's unclear whether Moore actually backs Israeli crimes and U.S. support for them, or simply doesn't understand the issue." The guy seems to be a hard-left socialist anti-Zionist. brr.

Here's a page with a point by point examination of 56 deceits in Moore's movie -- http://davekopel.com/Terror/Fiftysix-Deceits-in-Fahrenheit-911.htm -- which also includes links to Moore's rebuttal, if any, of these criticisms.

Never ceases to amaze me just how bad you can make someone look by quoting them out of context. (Why just the other day for example Atrios said "I have no idea what the truth is and don't particularly care.")
firecat
Jul. 26th, 2004 07:57 am (UTC)
Re: hm
I'm not sure that you have to be "hard left" to think that Israel has committed war crimes or that the U.S. looks the other way while they do. But maybe I'm wrong.

Yep, I don't talk to reporters for that very reason (quotes out of context). I talked to one reporter once about getting romantically involved with people on-line. She was a friend of a friend and quite sympathetic (not out to get me) and interested in writing a good article. But she still quoted me out of context in embarrassing ways.

I liked the rebuttal articles for Bowling for Columbine, but for some reason I can't work up enthusiasm for the rebuttal articles for F911. But yep, Moore lies and distorts the truth freely and stages events that put people in the position "damned if they do and damned if they don't." I agree with the broad strokes of his politics, and find it interesting to see how he'll present things, and find it very gratifying that he gets people talking about stuff.
liveavatar
Jul. 26th, 2004 02:27 am (UTC)
I don't agree with this author, because he's looking for Fahrenheit 9/11 to be the film that would make *his* arguments, and in the manner *he* would do it. For that, I'm afraid he's going to have to make his own movie. "And it is hard to imagine how a successful anti-empire movement can be built on this film's analysis unless it is challenged." No kidding. Moore's a populist, not a dedicated anti-empirist. I've heard Moore speak on several occasions, and he's quite aware that the Democrats are flawed, tied to big business, attempting to out-hawk the hawks for votes, etc.

Jensen instead ought to see The Corporation, an excellent movie that makes many more of his anti-empirist points in a manner that he'd probably approve.

That Dave Kopel piece, oy, so full of quarter-truths, misdirection, and red herrings. I thought this critique of Kopel's own errors served as a useful counterpoint.
firecat
Jul. 26th, 2004 08:02 am (UTC)
If you think that Jensen is saying "Moore should have made a different movie," then what you say is correct. I got the impression that Jensen was responding to people on the left who think Moore's movie is strongly left-wing. It's not.

Thanks for the critique critique, although I don't think I have energy for that this time around (I enjoyed following all that arguing and counterarguing about Bowling for Columbine).
liveavatar
Jul. 26th, 2004 01:07 pm (UTC)
Mmn, I'm thinking more that Jensen wants it to have made Jensen's own points in Jensen's style. Agreed that Fahrenheit 9/11 isn't strongly left-wing, though. My own impression was that Moore aimed to make, and to my mind successfully created, a "bridge" film for people who otherwise might not have been able to jump the gap between mass-media pablum/distortions and their own good sense. That gap's become so broad over the years that only a halfway measure would do.

From Fahrenheit 9/11, someone new to this information might be able to leap to The Corporation (which I highly recommend) or even Manufacturing Consent. Were I part of the organized left (free straight line declined), I'd stand outside theaters showing F9/11 and hand out leaflets that say, "If you thought F9/11 was amazing, try *these* links."
supergee
Jul. 26th, 2004 04:14 am (UTC)
Here is an excellent critique of that kind of lefter-than-thou stuff.
djm4
Jul. 26th, 2004 07:24 am (UTC)
Hmmm. Any article that calls The Onion 'squeamish' for its coverage after 9/11 - which was, in my opinion, among the best articles written about it in any forum, anywhere - loses a few credibility points in my estimation.

I'm not convinced that that article is anything more than the usual exhortation to the Left to be a bit less self-critical if it wants to win. Trouble is, the part of the Left I support doesn't want to win at that sort of price.

Haven't seen Farenheit 9/11 yet, though, so I'm not certain where my beliefs lie on this one.
firecat
Jul. 26th, 2004 08:05 am (UTC)
Hm. I like and agree with the general point that the American left is destroying the American left. But I don't know if I see Jensen's article as part of that, because I don't know that critiquing what someone else more-or-less on your side does is the same as destroying it. If so, it makes me very sad.
rmjwell
Jul. 26th, 2004 06:05 am (UTC)
I agreed with the analysis of thhe friend: Moore does need to mobilize comfortable, mostly white, mostly middle-class people and the way to do that in a movie is to give the audience images that resonate with them personally. Picking out the white guy may or may not be arguably racist, but I think it is necessary for the audience Moore is trying to reach: people who perhaps haven't begun too experience, let alone articulate, their rage at the efforts of the Bush administration.
firecat
Jul. 26th, 2004 08:09 am (UTC)
I agree with you that Moore pitched his movie to white middle-class people and overall I think that was a reasonable choice. I also think it's worthwhile to point out the ways in which his choices can be seen to contribute to racism in our culture.
rmjwell
Jul. 26th, 2004 08:26 am (UTC)
I think it is, too, but not as a repudiation of the overall message of the film as constructed.

Additionally, I think that I'd have a strong disagreement about tactical imperatives with anyone who put "smacking around Moore for supposed racial marginalization" ahead of "getting Bush out of office."
firecat
Jul. 26th, 2004 09:06 am (UTC)
The author had this to say about the importance of getting Bush out of office. I largely agree (the one difference is that I'm voting for Kerry even though I'm not in a swing state):
I agree that Bush should be kicked out of the White House, and if I lived in a swing state I would consider voting Democratic. But I don't believe that will be meaningful unless there emerges in the United States a significant anti-empire movement. In other words, if we beat Bush and go back to "normal," we're all in trouble.
Note also that I don't think a significant anti-empire movement will emerge. If the US gets out of the business of empire-building, it will be because we get it beaten out of us or our economy collapses, same way as other empires have fallen.
rmjwell
Jul. 26th, 2004 09:44 pm (UTC)
I find his language interesting in its self-defeatist tone. The christian right didn't spring forth fully formed from the forehead of Jehovah; it involved a lot of grassroots organizing and single-issue voting. I've seen more whinging from lefties like Jensen who want the political fruits with little or none of the labor.

djm4
Jul. 26th, 2004 09:31 am (UTC)
Additionally, I think that I'd have a strong disagreement about tactical imperatives with anyone who put "smacking around Moore for supposed racial marginalization" ahead of "getting Bush out of office."

Possibly, but I despair somewhat for your country if that's actually an either/or. And when you've elected your 'any person who's not Bush', I hope you do then turn your attention to addressing the ethical compromises that you've had to make to do it before you've so much as poured your first glass of champagne.
rmjwell
Jul. 26th, 2004 09:30 pm (UTC)
I think it is possible to do both.

However, I also realize that in order to effect change within government one first has to hold office. So I'm not seeing the ethical compromises you are in removing Bush from office and I will enjoy a toast to succeeding in achieving the first step before moving on to the second, third, and 995th.
djm4
Jul. 27th, 2004 12:02 am (UTC)
So I'm not seeing the ethical compromises you are in removing Bush from office...

Erm ... you don't see 'racial marginalisation' as an ethical compromise? It's not your compromise, certainly,because you're white, but if I'd just got a candidate I supported into office by playing down the message of support for genuine minority interests, I'd want to be pretty damn sure that such messages weren't going to be in any way marginalised once said candidate had got into office, or I wouldn't see a whole lot to toast. I would possibly permit myself a grim smile, because the wrong kind of lizard had been kept out of office, but that's about it.
rmjwell
Jul. 27th, 2004 08:22 am (UTC)
First off, I said supposed marginalization; I'm not sold yet on whether Moore did so or not.

Second, I see a difference between political and ethical compromise. To me an ethical compromise is setting aside the matter entirely; a political compromise is setting the schedule by which matters are prioritized.
djm4
Jul. 27th, 2004 08:53 am (UTC)
First off, I said supposed marginalization; I'm not sold yet on whether Moore did so or not.

Indeed, but I don't really think that changes my point. The people doing the criticising/smacking are sold on whether Moore did it, and are providing examples where they see Moore doing it, which makes it a legitimate area for debate in my opinion.

Second, I see a difference between political and ethical compromise. To me an ethical compromise is setting aside the matter entirely; a political compromise is setting the schedule by which matters are prioritized.

To the extent that I am a political person, my politics are heavily informed by my ethics. I don't think I can easily make that distinction. I'm not even sure I want to be able to do that - I can't actually conceive of a situation in which I'd want to say to someone 'we're going to represent your country as an insignificant bunch of savages' or 'we're not going to include a person with your coloured skin, because it'll scare our audience', and not feel that I was doing something deeply, hurtfully unethical. Adding the phrase '...but we might reconsider next year' to the end of either of those sentences doesn't change that for me.

One thing that might change that for me would be if the other (marginalised or stereotyped) person agreed that it was the right thing to do. But I don't actually see that happening here.

You and I have very different ethical structures, though, I think.
rmjwell
Jul. 27th, 2004 09:20 pm (UTC)
I dunno how far apart we are in our ethical structures as I don't think we've ever tried to compare them in detail.

As to my desire for prioritization, I think that the achievement of my ethical goals is better served by arranging my assets and efforts to proceed toward a victory rather than noble but defeated attempts. I see little benefit to whatever downtrodden class one is supposedly trying to aid if there isn't some forward movement. And if I judge that my efforts are unlikely to yield forward movement for FOO or that my efforts might more readily generate forward movement for BAR that can be used as a building block for FOO then I am less likely to apply them on towards FOO and direct them towards BAR.

As a slight digression, this touches somewhat on why I tire so of people who promote themselves as Selflessly Championing The [Poly/BDSM/Pagan/Etc] Movement. More of their efforts seem to be spent on enhancing their own stature as Noble Martyrs than actually doing something productive.
lysana
Jul. 26th, 2004 08:32 am (UTC)
The subtle racism Jensen noted in F9/11 pops up in left-wing and other writing more than some people might think. The anti-Splenda material I've seen winging around the 'Net lately included a Q&A with an alleged expert who denigrated a slew of countries who approved sucralose for sale in their countries as being too busy with matters like internal strife to be trustworthy. He ignored Canada and much of Europe in his zeal to claim only Third World nations were going along with it.
firecat
Jul. 26th, 2004 09:08 am (UTC)
Yeah. I think many people and coalitions on the left are more than subtly racist, although the racism looks different from much right-wing racism.
liveavatar
Jul. 26th, 2004 03:29 pm (UTC)
Thinking more about the anti-racism component of Jensen's critique, and agreeing that racism, subtle and not so subtle, haunts the left and right...

In the Coalition of the Willing section of F9/11, consider the filmmaker's constraints: 30 seconds or so of film *at most* to make it clear that the so-called Coalition consisted largely of nations, mostly not inhabited by white Anglo people, that had no resources to contribute to such a coalition. Remember that you're trying to keep it light and humorous. What humorous images and words would you choose to illustrate your thesis?

Meant as an open-ended question about humor in a situation where multiple cultures are involved.
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