I'm not a member of either US political party. In fact, I despise the two-party system. I don't like Bush. Don't hate him, but think he isn't intelligent or strong.
So I go see F 9/11 to find out what I don't know. What I discover is, very little. Michael Moore is a man whose motivations I admire. But in F 9/11, after seeing image after image that attempts to say something, anything, negative about the Bush presidency but rarely actually gives proof of why we should think that, I walk away feeling used.
Oh, Moore shows us Bush is a timid man, possibly one who doesn't make a move (literally, in one instance in a classroom) without an advisor, but really, many top CEOs, movie stars and other in charge of large enterprises wait for handlers and assistants to direct them, sometimes to a fault. And he talks about the Bush family's connection to the Bin Ladens (old news for some). And he shows soldiers and parents questioning the Iraq war (just as some did over Vietnam and Korea). And then, in an odd twist, he returns to his Roger & Me roots and goes to Flint, Michigan, where he makes the specific and general point that the poor fight our wars while the elite (in this case, kids of Congress members) don't. Gee, that was true in the Civil War.
OK, so maybe some people don't know this stuff, or haven't thought about it. I can accept that. But the way Moore goes about making some of his points is highly manipulative, on the order of the same things he seems to accuse the Bush presidency of doing.
[Minor spoilers] For instance, he spends a good 10-15 minutes on a woman whose son was killed in Iraq, and on her and her family's grief. She questions why he had to die, and even says what has become a cliche in these case: "The parent should never have to bury the child." But while anyone would have sympathy for this woman and her family, this is nothing new. It happened during the Vietnam War. It happened during the Korean War. Questioning the goals of the US in a war and grieving over lost lives didn't start in 2003. And Moore knows this. But by spending so much time with this woman and her family, Moore tries to emotionally affect -- manipulate -- the viewer. This isn't about new information, or new ideas. This is about making you feel a certain way by appealing to your human emotions. Hitler did it, too. And it says absolutely nothing.
Moore does the same with vets who have lost limbs, and even a Marine who refuses to go back to Iraq. OK, fine. They feel that way. And it is a terrible thing to lose limbs in a questionable war. Not a new thought, and I hope these guys can lead happy lives. Next?
Even the opening credits are designed to manipulate. They show members of the Bush presidency having makeup applied before being interviewed on TV or giving a speech. Ominous music plays in the background. Are we supposed to think they are putting on their game faces, getting ready to perform? It is hard to say. But the truth is, almost everyone who appears on TV -- including Moore -- has makeup applied. It is a visual medium. Bush is no different. So?
Finally, the mini-sermon about how the poor fight our wars is not only old news, but it is easily explained. I graduated high school in the early 80s, and even then I thought -- as did many of my peers -- that those who joined the armed forces after high school did it largely because they had few options. Almost no one who could go to college -- whether on a scholarship or with financial aid or by paying themselves -- joined the military. It was an option of last resort. It wasn't preferred, except by a small percentage of people who wanted the military as a career (and these folks often went to the academies). So, the fact that the poor fight our wars -- and that recuiters go to places where they can find poorer people -- is not some scheme. It is the way it works in our society. The only way to change it would be to either enforce mandatory military service or pay the military so much that people would choose it over other careers. Somehow I doubt Moore would like either option.
In the end, I left F 9/11 dissatisfied, and a little depressed. Because if THIS was the movie that had so many people gasping, then those people either haven't paid attention or don't think about things much. And that was the saddest thought of all. I gave F 9/11 a 5.
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