In the Grauniad today John Berger, apparently a highly regarded "Novelist and Critic" goes stark raving bonkers. Actually reading the Daily Ablution today he seems to be part of a general outbreak of "underwear on head-wearing" that makes me wonder about whether someone has put something in the tea over at Grauniad HQ, but I digress, I don't have time to fisk all the Moonbioats so despite this being a target rich environment I'll have to restrain myself and fortunately Tim Worstall is also on Moonbat patrol.
Before you get down to reading this fisking might I suggest reading the Belgravia Dispatch's view of Fakenheit 9/11
OK Back now? Are you sitting comfortably? Then I'll begin
Fahrenheit 9/11 has touched millions of viewers across the world. But could it actually change the course of civilisation?
Tuesday August 24, 2004
Fahrenheit 9/11 is astounding. Not so much as a film - although it is cunning and moving - but as an event. Most commentators try to dismiss the event and disparage the film. We will see why later.
I like to start my fiskings seeing where we can agree. And there is a bunch of agreement here. F9/11 has undoubtedly touchned millions and it could indeed change the course of civilization. If we in the West go along with the Moore version, civilization is likely to wear a towel on its head, which I suppose is not too different from wearing underwear on the head and no doubt explains why the moonbat wing likes it so much. On the other hand if we reject it then the global free-market economy and free-press will triumph. So yes it could change the course of history one way or the other and yes I agree it is indeed cunning and moving and in terms of bile-production it is also astounding. Looks like we are in resolute agreement
The artists on the Cannes film festival jury apparently voted unanimously to award Michael Moore's film the Palme d'Or. Since then it has touched many millions across the world. In the US, its box-office takings for the first six weeks amounted to more than $100m, which is, astoundingly, about half of what Harry Potter made during a comparable period. Only the so-called opinion-makers in the media appear to have been put out by it.
One would hesitate to argue with the facts so the only sentence I'd like to pick out is the last one. Firstly its good to know that the blogosphere counts as the media in Mr Berger's eyes, secondly, even including the blogosphere in the ranks of opinion-makers, excludes quite a few people who were extremely put out by it.
The film, considered as a political act, may be a historical landmark. Yet to have a sense of this, a certain perspective for the future is required. Living only close-up to the latest news, as most opinion-makers do, reduces one's perspectives. The film is trying to make a small contribution towards the changing of world history. It is a work inspired by hope.
Again we get to agree and disagree. It certainly is a landmark, but then as anyone who lived near a landmark castle in the middle ages knew being a landmark is not necessarily the same as being good. Perhaps the peasants oppressed by their close up view of feudal tyranny had a reduced perspective in their failure to realize that their oppressors were living in future tourist attractions.
However that's mere quibbling, the bit I have to disgaree with is the ridiculous claim that it is "a work inspired by hope", I think somehow Mr Berger mistyped "hate". The only hope apparent in Mr Moore was the hope that he would become significantly enriched.
What makes it an event is the fact that it is an effective and independent intervention into immediate world politics. Today it is rare for an artist to succeed in making such an intervention, and in interrupting the prepared, prevaricating statements of politicians. Its immediate aim is to make it less likely that President Bush will be re-elected next November.
One detects a hint of jealousy here - after all J Berger is a "Novelist and Critic", winner of the Booker prize and confirmed writer of works criticising the "New World Economic Order", whose writings seem to be slightly less popular. Fortunately since Moore's aim is something that Berger agrees with, its only the very palest of green tints.
To denigrate this as propaganda is either naive or perverse, forgetting (deliberately?) what the last century taught us. Propaganda requires a permanent network of communication so that it can systematically stifle reflection with emotive or utopian slogans. Its pace is usually fast. Propaganda invariably serves the long-term interests of some elite.
Well now that's a curious definition. While a swift check at dictionary.reference.com, shows that propaganda has changed its meaning (in the 17th century propaganda was a group of cardinals), no definition of the word seems to require network apparatus. One suspects that Mr Berger has confused censorship with propaganda. It is true that the two do frequently go hand in hand but the above statement is a bit like saying that because Wimbledon always serves strawberries with cream it is impossible to eat strawberries anywhere else unless you have some cream to put on them.
This single maverick movie is often reflectively slow and is not afraid of silence. It appeals to people to think for themselves and make connections. And it identifies with, and pleads for, those who are normally unlistened to. Making a strong case is not the same thing as saturating with propaganda. Fox TV does the latter; Michael Moore the former.
Oh my. I can't believe that was written seriously. "Appeals to people to think for themselves and make connections", yes it certainly does, rather like Erich van Däniken, appeals to people to make connections. Just because paranoid conspiracy theorists with tinfoil headgear make connections doesn't mean sane people should. And this "identifies ... with those unlistened to"! I guess it does because no one else pays attention to cranks and crackpots with their conspiracy theories. But the idea that this is just a movie making a "strong case" is laughable. Short of subliminal messages there is no propagandist trick missed, as this review in the New York Review of Books explains:
This is a description of propaganda, and only by redefining the word in true post-modernist fashion does Berger manage to deny it.
Ever since the Greek tragedies, artists have, from time to time, asked themselves how they might influence ongoing political events. It's a tricky question because two very different types of power are involved. Many theories of aesthetics and ethics revolve round this question. For those living under political tyrannies, art has frequently been a form of hidden resistance, and tyrants habitually look for ways to control art. All this, however, is in general terms and over a large terrain. Fahrenheit 9/11 is something different. It has succeeded in intervening in a political programme on the programme's own ground.
And talking of post-modernism we seem to have fallen into jargon here, possibly as a way to exorcise the jealousy? But anyway a documentary is surely a factual, impersonal thingy, to call it art implies that it might be dabbling in creativity i.e. making things up. In a way it is art, just as Comical Ali's Baghdad press conferences were art, and it has almost as much grounding with reality.
For this to happen a convergence of factors were needed. The Cannes award and the misjudged attempt to prevent the film being distributed played a significant part in creating the event.
Finally we get to an outright, verifiably false statement. Even Moore himself admitted that claims of a ban were a publicity stunt.Just possibly though it contributed to the Palme d'Or award.
To point this out in no way implies that the film as such doesn't deserve the attention it is receiving. It's simply to remind ourselves that within the realm of the mass media, a breakthrough (a smashing down of the daily wall of lies and half-truths) is bound to be rare. And it is this rarity which has made the film exemplary. It is setting an example to millions - as if they'd been waiting for it.
Again the green-eyed monster seems to be edging into view. Perhaps Berger is wondering how he might manage a similar "ban" for his own works. Still that's a mere sideshow to the claim that a movie with 56 or more deceits is in fact a paragon of honesty. Presumably this also requires some post.modernist redefinition of awkward words.
The film proposes that the White House and Pentagon were taken over in the first year of the millennium by a gang of thugs so that US power should henceforth serve the global interests of the corporations: a stark scenario which is closer to the truth than most nuanced editorials. Yet more important than the scenario is the way the movie speaks out. It demonstrates that - despite all the manipulative power of communications experts, lying presidential speeches and vapid press conferences - a single independent voice, pointing out certain home truths which countless Americans are already discovering for themselves, can break through the conspiracy of silence, the atmosphere of fear and the solitude of feeling politically impotent.
What did I say about conspiracy theorists? One question that springs to mind reading this is why, if the conspiracy theorists are right, didn't the gang of thugs stop the movie that exposed them? and shut down all the other brave voices that speak out? If there really is a conspiracy of silence, how come, to pick two simple examples, the NY Times hasn't replaced Maureen Dowd and Paul Krugman with a couple of people who can be relied on to tow the party line - say Coulter and Limbaugh?
It's a movie that speaks of obstinate faraway desires in a period of disillusion. A movie that tells jokes while the band plays the apocalypse. A movie in which millions of Americans recognise themselves and the precise ways in which they are being cheated. A movie about surprises, mostly bad but some good, being discussed together. Fahrenheit 9/11 reminds the spectator that when courage is shared one can fight against the odds.
Did we just start watching Fahrenheit 451?
In more than a thousand cinemas across the country, Michael Moore becomes with this film a people's tribune. And what do we see? Bush is visibly a political cretin, as ignorant of the world as he is indifferent to it; while the tribune, informed by popular experience, acquires political credibility, not as a politician himself, but as the voice of the anger of a multitude and its will to resist.
If Bush is a political cretin then how come he's head of this gang of evil thugs? Look it's possible to claim that Bush is a moron or to claim that he's a devious conspirator but to claim both in the space of 3 paragraphs is evidence that logic is not Mr Berger's strong point.
There is something else which is astounding. The aim of Fahrenheit 9/11 is to stop Bush fixing the next election as he fixed the last. Its focus is on the totally unjustified war in Iraq. Yet its conclusion is larger than either of these issues. It declares that a political economy which creates colossally increasing wealth surrounded by disastrously increasing poverty, needs - in order to survive - a continual war with some invented foreign enemy to maintain its own internal order and security. It requires ceaseless war.
Now I admit I have not visited the US for two years now, but I've kept informed. Poverty is relative, and apparently (same link) decreasing:
Looks like postmodernist redefinitions are required (again).
Thus, 15 years after the fall of communism, a decade after the declared end of history, one of the main theses of Marx's interpretation of history again becomes a debating point and a possible explanation of the catastrophes being lived.
It is always the poor who make the most sacrifices, Fahrenheit 9/11 announces quietly during its last minutes. For how much longer?
What the heck is this bit about? What Marxist inerpretaion is this? the exploitation of the proletariat by the bourgeousie? and just how does this apply to America? Yeah its the poor who are exploited and they never ever show any upward mobility. Nope never. That's why no one will ever replicate John Edwards' success at clawing his way up from grinding poverty ever again.
There is no future for any civilisation anywhere in the world today which ignores this question. And this is why the film was made and became what it became. It's a film that deeply wants America to survive.
Yep there is definitely something in the tea.Or the air. Or the pills. Logical arguments are good. Connected statements are good. What has the putative growth and expolitation of the poor got to do with September 11 and the war in Iraq? and how precisely does this film imply that it (or its creator) wants America to survive? I can answer the latter in that of America fails to survive Moore will be forced to be poor.but somehow I don't think that is what Berger means.
Fortunately the article ends here. I say fortunately because I my tolerance for 1984 style doublespeak is limited.