Attacks on “Farenheit 9/11”
from the usual suspects on the right are not surprising. But when it comes from the left it’s
a story of “man bites dog.”
Robert Jensen, a
journalism professor at the University of Texas at Austin and the author of “Citizens of the Empire: The Struggle to Claim Our
Humanity” from City Lights Books,
makes the case that Michael Moore’s flick is a “Stupid White Movie.” Jensen writes:
The sad truth is that “Fahrenheit 9/11″ is a bad movie, but not for the reasons
it is being attacked in the dominant culture. It’s at times a racist movie. And the analysis that
underlies the film’s main political points is either dangerously incomplete or virtually
Jensen martials a detailed argument supporting his contention. He concedes that “it may strike
some as ludicrous” to assert, as he does, that “Farenheit 911” is also fundamentally “a
conservative movie.” But he points out, accurately, that it buys into a false mythology:
[T]he film endorses one of the central lies that Americans tell themselves, that
the U.S. military fights for our freedom. This construction of the military as a defensive force
obscures the harsh reality that the military is used to project U.S. power around the world to
ensure dominance, not to defend anyone’s freedom, at home or abroad.
Even so, anyone who expects a profound, thorough analysis of what’s wrong with U.S.
policies from a Michael Moore flick is kidding himself. The trouble is, Jensen approaches
“Farenheit 9/11” as if it were an academic paper published in Foreign
Affairs. This is not to excuse Moore’s insulting stereotypes,
wrongheaded generalizations, implicit racism and other egregious mistakes — all charges that
Jensen levels against it. At the same time, however, the critique illustrates something delusional in
My own reaction to the flick was favorable. I knew most of the movie’s theme and variations
beforehand, as anybody would who follows the news. So very little of the information was
revelatory. But I wasn’t bored, largely because I found the movie funny.
The moment I liked best — it made me laugh out loud — is a whacky one that some critics
have singled out as juvenile: Moore commandeers an ice cream truck, sort of a Mr. Softee truck,
and circles the street near the Capitol while reading portions of the Patriot Act over a
loudspeaker. Along with the words, you hear the innocuous music of the truck’s ice
cream jingle. It’s Moore’s comic response to an interview with Rep. John Conyers Jr., of
Michigan, which is both hilarious and devastating for what Conyers says about the
Congressional legislative process in general and the Patriot Act in particular.
Another detail I loved is the video clip showing our bonehead Maximum Leader reading to
the school children in Florida on 9/11 while the World Trade Center and the Pentagon are under
attack. It’s bizarre and funny because of the goofy look on his face, a moment stretched
out for emphasis in slow motion. The bonehead appears to be channeling Alfred E.
Newman’s “What Me Worry?” gaze from MAD magazine. For that alone, the flick was worth