Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Fahrenhype 9/11

I know it's old news, but I just watched Fahrenhype 9/11. For those who don't know, it's a response to Fahrenheit 9/11, the anti-Bush documentary by Michael Moore.

I was impressed with how similar it was to the movie it criticized. There were places in it that I thought not merely "that's a bad argument" but "they're leaving out something important here." (For instance, there was a brief discussion of the history of Osama bin Laden which included him moving to Afghanistan but did not mention that the United States trained him there to fight the Russians.) I wish I had time to track down all the claims made in it, but I just wanted to highlight a few things.

The movies aren't exactly mirror images, though. While Fahrenheit 9/11 was largely an attack on George Bush, Fahrenhype 9/11 is mostly an attack on Michael Moore and very little a defense of Bush.

They say the gap between President Bush receiving word of the second tower being hit and actually getting up from his photo op to do something was five minutes rather than seven. I'm not sure that's a big enough difference to spend time on it. In any case, the movie also presented the false dilemma of either finishing the photo op or jumping up and dashing from the room, causing more panic. (The fallacy implies that remaining for the photo op was the right choice.) I don't think it would have been terrible if the President had interrupted, told the kids he had some Presidentially important business to take care of, said some diplomatic goodbye, and left. I don't think anyone would look at that and say he was sowing panic, and I can't imagine anyone looking at that and saying he was not doing his duty. (So, Coulter, if you're reading, there's a liberal telling you what the President should have done.)

The movie pointed out that Moore worked for Nader in his failed campaign and suggested he might be bitter. I can't tell if that's a straw man or ad hominem, but it was a claim I hadn't heard before (and admittedly more interesting than the more usual "Michael Moore is fat!").

In general a lot of the things the movie talked about were things detailed on a web page I'd already read, so it didn't surprise me. Other things I listened to skeptically (much as I did Moore's film). A lot of the film consisted of various appeals to emotion in an effort to cement some opinions.

I hadn't heard about the misrepresentation of the President's remarks at a Catholic fund raiser, but it doesn't surprise me. It reminds me of Hillary Clinton being taken out of context.

I hadn't heard about Saddam's threats to attack the United States, but I'm not sure that what the movie talked about I'd really call threats from Iraq. Newspapers controlled by Saddam would print things saying the US should be attacked, for instance.

There was a lot of fear mongering. The movie emphasized threats. It emphasized "we're at war" and "these people want to kill us." In defense of the USA PATRIOT Act, it talked about a plot to demolish the Brooklyn Bridge (another story I hadn't heard). It also listed other terrorist attacks on the United States that took place outside the borders.

I think fear has a lot to do with why people supported the President (and why people didn't support the President), but I was still surprised at the amount of fear mongering.

There was some "blame Clinton for not doing anything" and maybe some "Clinton did the same thing." I think the implication is that if you criticize Bush for something that you didn't criticize Clinton for, you're at least biased or at most a hypocrite. How that makes Bush any better, I'm not quite sure.

One thing that struck me was in an interview, someone was asked "if you knew there were no WMDs, would you still want to go to war?" The answer was "yes" (naturally), but he went on to explain that it was very reasonable to think that Iraq was a threat—even though Iraq not being a threat was a premise of the question.

I thought it was interesting that Zell Miller's copperhead anecdote segued into the fly paper analogy. (In the anecdote, Miller kills an obvious threat without consulting anyone, implying that Iraq's threat was as obvious as a venomous snake two feet away.)

All in all, I'm glad I watched it, but it had a surprising effect. After seeing "the other side" do basically the same kinds of things Moore did, I don't feel quite the same condemnation toward Moore himself. Before, I liked Moore's conclusion (Bush bad, m'kay) but disliked how he showed it (look, look, Taliban in the same state as Governor Bush). He could have made good arguments, but instead he opened himself up to attack. Having seen the right's righteous response, I'm starting to think everyone "does propaganda," and it's just part of politics.
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