FAHRENHEIT 9/11 director Michael Moore has been under attack recently. He has been called a self publicist, a propagandist and a paranoiac.
One journalist even suggested his size makes him a hypocrite, “a walking testament to American consumption”. Others have criticised him for his arrogance and expensive lifestyle.
Now there is a thing—a film director with a big ego who stays in expensive hotels. As my friend said after seeing Fahrenheit 9/11, “Who cares where he sleeps as long as he keeps telling the truth?”
Funnily enough the right have also attacked him for tinkering with the truth in Fahrenheit 9/11.
Their criticisms don’t add up to much—the footage of pre-war Iraq is too idyllic (maybe he should have tampered with it), the shot of Bush strolling at his ranch isn’t proof that he is lazy because he is talking to Tony Blair.
This is desperate stuff. And when you think about it, anyone who supported Bush and Blair’s war and criticises Michael Moore for not telling the truth is taking self delusion to near clinical levels.
Amazingly, some people on the left are joining the chorus of criticism of Michael Moore.
I have read people who say he is not part of the movement, that his film is a mess and that he is cavalier with the facts. They need to think for a minute about what is really at stake here.
Fahrenheit 9/11 is a deeply disturbing film for right wing audiences.
It is not just that it tells the alarming story of what happened behind the scenes in the White House and the Pentagon post-9/11, though that is bad enough.
It is not just that it fits that story into a larger picture of class, corruption and imperialism in the US.
Perhaps its biggest crime is to reveal the impact of the war on working class Americans through their own testimony.
There’s no more powerful indictment of the war than the GI in the desert brooding darkly about the innocent Iraqis he has killed, or the military mum reading out angry letters from her dead soldier son.
These are moments of choking anger and despair with an overwhelming emotional power. No wonder people have been leaving the cinema sobbing. Such scenes reveal the meaning of war more clearly than a month of Newsnight programmes.
The nightmare for the right is that the scenes are also evidence that working people are starting to turn against the war.
Box office statistics in the US suggest the same thing. Fahrenheit 9/11 has grossed $100 million—more than any documentary in US history.
Though it is showing in a restricted number of cinemas, it has hit number three in the US film charts.
Disney refused to distribute Fahrenheit 9/11. Then they put out a reply to Moore’s film, America’s Heart and Soul, which is a patchwork of down-home tales to warm the hearts of all real Americans.
They gave it massive publicity, arranging more than 500 screenings for community, religious and political groups. After four weeks it has made $311,572. Last week it was showing on just 13 screens across the US.
It looks like the right is losing the battle for hearts and minds at home as well as losing the war on the ground in Iraq.
Personally I’m grateful as hell for Michael Moore’s contribution to that process.