Was one second of Fahrenheit 9/11 flubbed when Michael Moore "invented" a headline from a newspaper, which was actually part of a letter from a reader, not a real story?
Director Alan Peterson and writer Dick Morris dutifully debunk Fahrenheit 9/11 -- essentially frame by frame -- with the goal of discrediting the rotund filmmaker's acclaimed work.
Peterson and Morris's m.o. is to trot out more talking heads like Ed Koch, actor Ron Silver, and conservative pundits like Ann Coulter, along with copious commentary from Morris himself, designed to prove that not only the facts in Fahrenheit 9/11 are wrong, he's got his thinking on Bush all backward. Fahrenhype tells us that, hey, Clinton was just as lax about terrorism as Bush was, that Clinton let those Taliban guys into the country, and that the country is absolutely crawling with terrorists, so you better lock your doors.
Sadly, for Peterson and Morris, many of their arguments work against them. Moore's statement that Bush spent 46% of his first several months in office on vacation earns the retort that "well, that includes weekends... and travel time!" Bush's "some people call you the elite; I call you my base" is followed up with more of that speech, where he gently makes fun of himself -- as if Bush somehow doesn't feel that rich people really are his base. Arguments about the greatness of the Patriot Act are absurd to the point of making the people on screen look like fools. Peterson and Morris's arguments that Bush isn't a warmonger despite invading Iraq are equally weak.
To be sure, Peterson and Morris -- through their mouthpiece Silver, who narrates -- cast doubt on much of Moore's work and show that Clinton probably just got lucky in evading a major terrorist attack. The filmmakers even go all the way back to Jimmy Carter to show that politics and foreign investment are tangled horribly and inextricably. Morris has plenty of obscure "evidence" too -- none of which we ever get to see. Perhaps the movie is at its most powerful when some of Moore's same sources -- namely the wounded veteran seen in the movie -- directly contradicts his testimony from Moore's film, comments he says (in a roundabout way, that is) were taken out of context and provided to another journalist altogether. Fair enough.
So does all of this make Bush a good president, or an ethical one? Not exactly. Your opinion of the president probably won't be any different after seeing this film, and your opinion of Moore will only be lessened if you haven't already seen one of the dozens of Fahrenheit 9/11 deconstruction websites.
The problem with Michael Moore is that he's a terrible politician, but he's a very good filmmaker. Peterson and Morris are iffy politicians too, but they aren't really capable of building an argument against Moore and they certainly don't present an entertaining film like Moore did. (And for the record, I'm apolitical.) In the end, the very fact that Fahrenhype 9/11 got made at all serves to give credibility to Moore and his message. Sorry, fellas.
That said, next to reactionary pap like Buried in the Sand, Fahrenhype 9/11 is a freakin' masterpiece. If the conservatives get a filmmaker as talented and crafty as Moore is for the liberals, they might be able to build themselves a good war via cinema.
Run time: 80 mins
In Theaters: Tuesday 5th October 2004
Contactmusic.com: 2.5 / 5
IMDB: 4.8 / 10
Director: Alan Peterson
Screenwriter: Dick Morris
Also starring: Dick Morris, Zell Miller, Ann Coulter, Steve Emerson, David Frum, Jason Clarke, Frank Gaffney, David Hardy, Dave Kopel, Bill Sammon, Peter Damon, Peter King, Ron Silver, Steve Haugen, Dave Sapp