ST. JOHN’S, Nfld. (CUP) — Michael Moore and controversy go hand in hand, but no more than the rage surrounding Fahrenheit 9/11. But controversy does not a movie make, and you will hear no more of it from me.
Fahrenheit 9/11 is a portrait of a man. It is a film about how this man is shaped by the hopes and dreams inherited from his successful family. This man does not have the intellect to live up to these dreams on his own. He instead uses the advantages of his family’s riches and international connections to overcome his mediocrity, becoming the most powerful and most dangerous man in the world.
This is not a common description of American President George W. Bush, but it is perhaps the most accurate. Fahrenheit 9/11 begins by tracing Bush’s rise to power. He starts a variety of high stakes businesses, only to fail and have his family bail him out. But also among those who come to the aid of the dimmer Bush son are the bin Ladens, one of the richest families in Saudi Arabia.
Sound familiar? Fahrenheit 9/11 points out the similarities between George W. Bush and Osama bin Laden, both born of the upper crust of their countries, both ideologues who will use any means necessary to crush their opposition. Fahrenheit 9/11, more than Moore’s past films, focuses on the very heavy issues. What is at first a more mature version of his earlier antics (the “It was all a dream” beginning, the Go-Go’s on the soundtrack to Bush’s vacations) takes on a sombre tone with the destruction of the World Trade Center.
As the War on Terror begins, Moore traces the increasingly sinister benefits the Bush family’s business ties reap from American military interventions in Afghanistan, and later in Iraq. As one executive at a trade show says, war is “bad for people, but great for business.”
From here, the film takes a different tack, returning to Moore’s old stomping ground of Flint, Michigan. You might worry here that Moore would cross the line into the most blatant of propaganda, but he widely keeps his wide frame out of the picture. Instead, he focuses on Lila Lipscomb, a patriotic American whose daughter served in the 1991 Gulf War, and whose son is serving in the current Iraq occupation. Lipscomb is proud of her president, until her son’s death forces her to reconsider. His own disgust with the war, revealed as Lipscomb reads his last letter home, pushed her over the edge. She asks herself why her son was killed, and tearfully realizes that there was no reason.
Lila Lipscomb’s cries are at the heart of Fahrenheit 9/11 and bring a sense of bitter foreboding to the scenes following army recruiters, who spend their days trolling the poorest parts of Flint looking for young people with no other way out of poverty. Perhaps, Moore wants us to believe, their parents will be crying too.
Michael Moore hates George W. Bush, and he knows it. He knows it so much that if he were to let his hatred through, it would ruin his movie. Moore appears in Fahrenheit 9/11 far less than in his other documentaries, since he knows his own emotions would ruin it.
Instead, he lets his stars tell the story. Lila Lipscomb is the average American, striving to make ends meet. George W. Bush is the elite — his family always there to bail him out of trouble. Bush is shown in one scene giving a speech at a fundraising dinner with the richest men in America, among them his own family. He says to them, “This is an impressive crowd: the Haves and the Have-Mores. Some people call you the elite. I call you my base.”
Fahrenheit 9/11 is not about the differences between George W. Bush and Osama bin Laden. It shows how the affect they have on their people is eerily the same. “The base” in Arabic means “al Qaeda.”