Sunday, June 13, 2004

It's the Lies, Stupid

Well, it's become fairly clear to me already what the rhetorical hand-trick regarding Farenheit 9/11 is going to be. Check out the Ebert and Roeper review here, for the perfect example. Several times during that audio clip, the both of them point out that Moore makes no claims to objectivity, and that this is an unambiguously polemical film. Also, here A.O. Scott from the NYT writes, "Is it partisan? Of course. But there are not many important films that haven't been."

Well, duh.

Ebert and Roeper seem to think this disclaimer makes criticism of the political arguments of the film unwarranted. I mean, come on, how can you say it's unfair when he's admitting it's biased! What more do you want?!

Well gosh, far be it from me to interupt all the obtuse missing-of-the-point that's going on here, and which will no doubt be repeated ad nauseum in the weeks after the film is released and in the run-up to the next Oscar awards, but I'm afraid I'm obligated to highlight the following:

It's not about bias, it's about dishonesty.

Single-celled organisms can tell Michael Moore has an axe to grind. His entire public persona is built around polemicism as strident and irresponsible as anything Ann Coulter ever gushed forth. An overly mild response to fans of the film who try to defend it by saying that Moore admits he's biased would be, "No shit? You come up with that all by yourself, did you? Capital job! Have a cookie. Run along now, grownups are talking."

Look, I don't care if Michael Moore has stupid opinions. I don't care if he puts those stupid opinions in a movie. I don't care if millions of people agree with those stupid opinions and give Moore lots of money and awards on account of their agreement. Were any of those things hto appen, I would be quite content to argue with the message and arguments of the film, and not the fact of the film itself. But what does in fact chap my hide, and what is the reason that Moore pisses so many other people off, is that he tries to advance his opinions (stupid or not) by deliberately misrepresenting the truth.

That's what the furor over Bowling For Columbine was about. It wasn't because he didn't equal time to NRA advocates to defend their position. It was because the movie was filled with dishonesty. Admitting one's partisanship doesn't make it ok for someone to selectively quote or edit material or facts so aggressively that it distorts the normal conclusion that would be drawn from the unedited source. If I tell you upfront I don't like Michael Moore, that doesn't give me license to claim with all seriousness that he sodomizes puppies and little boys.

Now, I haven't seen Farenheit 9/11. I'll probably download it off the internet when it comes out (how's that for the little guy taking something back from those rich, fat cats, eh, Mikey?), but as for now, I can't strictly comment on whether it's a steaming pile of mendacity like BFC. However, I've had a few scenes described to me that already seem to indicate Moore is in his usual form, such as when he does his aggressive fat-slob-with-a-mic shtick in which he ambushes someone important on the street then acts surprised when they refuse to grant an interview right there on the spot. In one scene, he's confronting members of Congress, asking them if they'll sign their children up for military service (cuz, you know, it's always the poor and minorities getting chewed up as cannon fodder). In fact, a few reveiwers have pointed this scene out as one of the more comedically powerful moments of the film. And it seems Moore is simply up to his tried-and-true busllshit artistry, since he apparently omits the response by one of the Congressmen who stops and points out to Moore that yes, his son happens to be in the military and yes, he went to Iraq.

I've only heard this secondhand, so I can't confirm the truth of it until I see the movie and then check the background, but it wouldn't surprise me if this and many other examples of dishonest filmmaking are littered throughout. After all, it would only be Moore staying true to his past M.O.

But that's ok. After all, he's just being admittedly "partisan."