Commentary - #3 July 4, 2004

FARENHEIT 9/11

This is a propaganda film openly produced and promoted as such--a celluloid anti-Bush, anti-reelection ad. Yet, even propaganda can be art, as many politically-inspired posters by artist Ben Shahn demonstrated fifty or so years ago. Michael Moore is no artist. He is not even a very good propagandist. He is so afraid that his "art" may not persuade that he inserts voice-overs providing canned interpretations, to be sure that viewers don't miss points as he would have them recognized.

One who rails about the inability of the Bush administration to tell the truth should at least give the appearance of seeking whatever he imagines the truth to be. The question is not whether the devil is living in the White House. Who is living in a glass house? Who is better able to throw stones? Moore seems to think that he can make a case through juxtaposition. Put certain images together or in sequence and it will seem as if one causes another. Social scientists have recognized this sort of flimflam in studies that indulge in "spurious correlation." The mistake is easily made: Does rain cause worms? Some people may be led to think so when they see worms emerging on their lawns after a rain. It is the rare such person who has the financing to make a movie.

Part of the problem is that Moore is using a single film to chase too many left-liberal bunnies through the bush (u.c.?). Any attempt to convey a message through art or media raises questions of selection and focus. The film lacks focus. There appear to be several threads, such as:

  • The Bush family & Saudi royal family connection [leading us to what conclusion?]
  • The Halliburton company and its influence [one example of an anti-corporate jihad plugged into a movie with another purpose?].
  • Insufficient justification for going to war [as if WMDs were the only compelling argument].
  • The political cowardice or laziness (your call), go-along, get along, rubber-stamp behavior of our elected Congress (responding to your polls and preferences?).
  • The alleged stupidity of George Bush [as if smarts rather than wisdom were the key to being a good president].
  • The tragedy of sons lost [enough said, but one tear-jerking example does not a case make against the losses of war].
  • The sad state of Flint, Michigan [and Moore's point is...?].

Why spend so much time on the latter, then switch over to Halliburton? Are we supposed to think that the big, bad corporation had a big plant there which it closed and moved to Sri Lanka? What's the point, and how does it reinforce, or fail to reinforce, any of the others? How are allusions to Enron relevant? What about major airlines lobbying to weaken security standards?

Perhaps the saddest commentary on the movie, here as well as from many others, is that it won't succeed in changing more than very few minds. True believers going into the theater come out with beliefs reinforced. Others will continue to have questions, as they should. Perhaps the best outcome from the movie would be an investigation of why Saudis and members of the Bin Laden family were flown out of the U.S. right after 9/11. As for the rest, save your movie money. See reports of the 9/11 Commission, a much better effort to learn the truth of what really happened. Or, if like most of us, you don't have the time to wade through documents, see the short version, "The Wrong War," in the July/August issue of Mother Jones.

BILL CLINTON

In the new book, We, the People--on empowering people, politically, there is a section in Chapter 9 entitled "Goodbye, Bill Clinton." Well, with his new book-barf of almost 1000 pages, it seems we must say hello again. Apart from trying to raise pornography to a level where it appears to have some redeeming public value, the book confirms what we have known for years: we see a narcissistic man who has neither shame nor self-discipline. The latest example?--no editorial discipline, as if daily musings in notebooks alone were sufficient justification for the price of a book and time spent in reading it. For those who may not afford the price and time of We, the People, Bill's epitaph follows.

Clinton's departure from the White House: Was it a climax to the "Politics of Narcissism", or a prelude of more to come? What legacy has been left to us by a man who often seemed preoccupied with the question of what his "legacy" would be?

Clinton served to bring democratic politics to a new low; now to a point from which, hopefully, it has nowhere to go but up. Let us hope that he was the last great star of a political star system promoted by Hollywood, the media and the high proportion of people who look to charismatic leaders and political careerists for solutions to our political problems. "Bubba" advanced the politics of spectator sports, of personality, of political careerism, of "pseudo events" and of money and media ?V all the features of politics that have turned it into a pol's game rather than a citizens' exercise. Notwithstanding his talent as an eloquent public speaker, he lowered the tone and depreciated the coin of our public life.

Unfortunately for a man of great ability who modeled himself after JFK, the main postscript centers on his sex life, "or, as he would have it, his "nonsex"" activity.

"To the insecure male, power without access to and dominance over women is not worth having...A significant portion of a generation of aspiring Democratic politicians patterned themselves after John F. Kennedy. This emulation...sometimes included the pattern of "scoring" with as many women as possible...It may be that he (Clinton) was willing to risk his power for this because being in such a position relative to women has been the subconscious objective of his quest for power all along."(1)

When the quest for power comes to focus on empowerment of self over (an) other, then the ideal of democracy as expressed by Lincoln has been lost, by definition as well as in actuality. This is why Clinton's legacy represents an abridgement of the American dream found in Rockwell's painting(s) as well as in Lincoln's language. It's ironic that such a big-D Democrat turned out to be such a small-d politician and that a man who was so inspiring a leader in words should be so lacking true political leadership in terms of action.

(1) McElvaine, Robert S. (2001), EVE'S SEED: The Biology, The Sexes and the Course of History.

CAMPAIGN FINANCE REFORM & THE NATIONAL PARTY CONVENTIONS

The amount of private money committed to fete politicians and their favorite charities at the upcoming party conventions is obscene and illustrates just how quickly and easily the so-called "reform" of campaign finance has been subverted. Can we say that we tried to tell you so? The book We, the People predicted that the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act would fail, even before the ink was dry on the President's signature.

There are only two things that really count in politics and business, time or money. If you don't invest the time, you or someone else puts up the money. People have vacated the political scene in terms of their commitments of time to the process by which other people get elected to powerful positions. So, why are you surprised that big money has come to dominate politics?

The new book, WE, THE PEOPLE, predicts that the latest effort at campaign
finance reform will fail. It already has, less than two years after passage.

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