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Celcius 37

Two months after everyone else in the whole wide world, I saw Fahrenheit 911 the other night. This was what all the fuss was about? 45 minutes of solid but pedestrian documentary making about the troops in Iraq, their experiences and their background, preceeded by 75 minutes of snark and innuendo?
That said, the editing was very strong, the soundtrack would be a worthy edition to my music collection and the portrayal of President Bush's personal ineptitude and lack of seriousness was right on the money. Also, the bit about the alert colors and the culture of fear resonated with me, having just read Imperial Hubris: Why The West Is Losing The War on Terror.

But these things could have fitted into a much shorter, much less manipulative movie; or one that treated these issues in greater depth. That would have earned F911 the appellation "Documentary", instead of it being merely a luke-warm polemic.

Comments (10)

cmkaapjes:

Havnae seen F9/11 myself, but I'm sure a "serious" documentary wouldn't have gotten nearly as much attention. Which in this case must be worth at least something. Hell, there may even be a good documentary on the subject, but we wouldn't know, because it would be too hard a sell...

Geir:

Slightly off topic:

Somebody, I forget who, once said that Science Fiction is stealth litterature: The message slips in below your radar.

I just finished reading a sf novel like that, which dropped smart bombs all over the "war on terror" territory.

Australian author John Birmingham's "Weapons of choice" is a alternate history / time travel / high-tech thriller / war novel with plenty of good things going for it. First of all it's well written, which has become something of a rarity since the AH genre became big business. It's got lots of excitement of the Tom Clancy variety, without the preaching. It's clearly a work of love, with good-humoured digs at other genre writers buried in the text, occasionally sneaking up on the reader with small twists that makes fun of your expectations. And, oh wonder, it's a novel of ideas.

The premise is simple enough that it would have done for a multi-million-dollar Hollywood SFX extravaganca:

In 2021, the War on Terror has been growing ever hotter for 18 years. A UN battle group is displaced in time, appearing in the middle of the US fleet heading for Midway in 1942.

However, Birmingham is NOT going down the road that I expected upon reading the back cover.

One of my pet hates with time travel novels, is how the author expectes natives of other times to simply and joyfully throw away their belief systems and once introduced to revoultionary new ideas of personal freedom, free trade, superior technology and cheerleaders. Birmingham realizes that new ideas meet WILL with opposition. "It's good for you" never sold a broccoli, much less an idea.

You'd think the cultural difference between USA 2021 and USA 1942 was surmountable. And you'd think that the ideological distance between 2004 and 2021 would be smaller still. Birmingham says you're wrong on both counts. This is a novel about the clash of ideas. About how the post-war era has crafted us, and about where we may go if the War on Terror is allowed to escalate.

It sneaks up on you, it is never said. But: In 2021 the Western civillization is fighting Islamistic terror fiercer, more uncompromising, more effectively than ever. But we are loosing. In fact, twe can't even find escape by searching back into our past.

It's a damned good roller-coaster kind of a read. The downside is that it's the first of a #!"%@! trilogy!

Boo to trilogies! Where have the days of Science Fiction novellas gone? The days when, say, Dune was considered a doorstop of a novel instead of the average-length read that it is compared to today's SF novels.
Someone get Neal Stephenson an editor with an axe.

Anyway, I've actually read the same argument with direct reference to F9/11. It promises to be a movie about the connections between the Bush and Bin Laden families, with the strong implication of collusion between the two. It never makes that case at all; even the insinuation of it only takes up a small part of the movie. What we *do* get is a lot of footage of Bush acting like a dolt.
This explains the movie's relative lack of popularity in Europe. We've already seen plenty of Bush-as-a-dolt footage, and only Bush-dolt porn fanatics crave more of it. I saw it in a half-filled art-house theater (the tropical weather is a factor in the theater being half-filled; however, Pathe isn't even showing it).

Geir:

Still off topic, out or order, going on and on about John Brimingham....

How can you not love a guy like this: http://www.abc.net.au/hobart/stories/s881871.htm

Geir:

Even more out of order...

Oh, well, sure you can not love him... if you follow the wrong link provided by me.

This one does the good Birmingham a little better in the eyes of us AH fanatics, though: http://www.abc.net.au/central/stories/s1154760.htm

Part of the fuss is that this comes in an election cycle in the US in which new campaign reforms are in place -- supposedly "taking the money out of politics", but actually restricting free speech in many ways in a country that prides itself on freedom of speech.

These reforms do much more to stifle freedoms than the Patriot Act, despite the hand wringing... and I fault Bush for not opposing it sufficiently. He didn't want to be seen as too obstinate in the face of Democratic-backed reforms. Lot of good it did him, because despite constantly backing their measures, the left continues attacking him on mythological charges about being stubborn, too right-wing, etc, anyway.

We note that while money and voices of citizens are being restricted, Hollywood is free to spend millions producing tons of anti-Bush fare. In other words, Michael Moore now has even *more* freedom of speech than your run-of-the-mill citizen than if he just simply had the resources Hollywood provides him that normal citizens do not. Hollywood is technically free to produce pro-Bush fare, as well; they aren't, but even if they were, this imbalance would be wrong.

This situation can also be contrasted with 1980 and 1984... actually, pretty much the entirety of the 80s, when there was a complete embargo here on all films starring Ronald Reagan (except, suspiciously, his personal worst "Bedtime for Bonzo" which was aired often and with great glee). The argument was that viewings of his old films on TV gave him an unfair advantage over the Democrats, despite the utter lack of political content; compare that to Moore's film which will be promoted straight through the election cycle, and will probably get extra promotion on election day.

BTW, Bush will be reelected this November despite all this nonsense. The internet helps tremendously to make up for the imbalance. Otherwise, the opposition's stranglehold on speech would be so complete, that we'd really believe stuff like "President Bush's personal ineptitude and lack of seriousness". ;)

Geir:

Errr... Yes... You know, this image of George Bush jr. as the poor, supressed underdog really have me... moved... to tears. Mmmmmmf. Yes. Sobbing. Absolutely. MmmmmmmmmmpHHAHAMPH! Sobbing, see?

>Hollywood is technically free to produce pro->Bush fare, as well; they aren't

NO! You mean they AREN'T?? Well, they sure did fool me. But of then, since Kerry's political platform - to the degree he has one - is virtually indistinguishable from Bush's, you'll have to excuse me. I've been taken in by yet another evil plot by the superbaddie, of course.

(On a more serious note, it's rather interesting to note that US laws restricting and mandating openness about funding for political parties is, and has been for decades, a lot stricter than in supposedly social-democratic Norway.)

Well, first, I never depicted Bush as an underdog. That post was written to address Reinder's question, "this was what all the fuss was about?" As someone who is annoyed by Moore, I'm giving at least one answer.

And this isn't about muzzling Moore's right to speech, either. I think his stuff should be offered for viewing as often as people want to see it. The problem comes in when you have the double-whammy of everybody else having to bow to restrictions combined with a press that gets lazy when it's covering their own (whether you think the media is liberal or not is irrelevant; in surveys, media overwhelming self-identify themselves as being Democrats and liberal, who then write books refuting the charge that they're overwhelmingly Democrat and liberal). The press tends to fawn over Moore when they should be asking him tough questions (big generalization, of course... he has been put on the spot in some situations)

An example of the imbalance from the other direction, for instance, is a smear campaign against the Swift Boat Veterans, who you probably also disagree with, but have as much right as Moore to be heard. But the lawyers for the Democrats here are trying not to counter their arguments with facts and information and debate, as most of us attempt to do with Michael Moore, but to shut them down. They are sending letters to press outlets threatening them with *legal action* if they air their commercials or give them interview time. Having no real legal basis (as far as I know) the letters are pure intimidation.

But while the straw man of the "underdog Bush" has been evoked, let us not accept the underlying premise that our Democratic party *is*. A man named Soros is flouting the campaign laws and promising to spend millions to install Kerry (the richest man in our Senate) as President, voters be damned. So much for democracy. The Republicans, btw, still lead the Democrats in $50 donations. The people here give the Republicans money, while the Democrats rely more heavily on the big money types. Most of our big-money scandals have come from the left, such as trial lawyers being caught handing out large sums of money to employees and clerks in order to donate to their candidate, in order to get around their supposed contribution ceiling. (Again, a big generalization, I know)

As for the diff between Kerry and Bush, it's cavernous, really. Kerry has only switched many key positions to sound like Bush's. Bush's positions were great political gambles based on obvious motivations (to us, anyway); only after having the safety of hindsight does Kerry adapt those positions, with the wussy "we can do even better" tagged on at the end. Remember, during the actual primaries, Kerry was trying feverishly to usurp Howard Dean's positions, diametrically opposed to Bush's as can be, for the simple purpose of defeating Dean. The ol' run-left, run-to-the-middle dodge. Kerry and Bush are different very distinctly in that Bush' positions are actually his own, whereas Kerry has nothing more than a strong Machiavellian streak. Problem is, if installed as President, he won't have anyone to follow; he will become a sort of vacillating non-entity, which he was in the Senate most of his career (seriously, wonder why nobody's talking about his Senate career?)

I'm trying to stick to Reinder's topic, btw, and only bring up that last bit because you did, Geir. And please settle down... I'm the friendly opposition, here. If I didn't like and support Reinder, I wouldn't be trotting over here so often. :)

I mean, how interesting would the political posts be if everybody was in lockstep, huh? :)

Geir:

Oh, I have absolutely nothing against getting a long, reasoned answer to a point I bring up. To the contraty - thanks, btw. And I'm neither fighting Reinder's war nor feeling he need to be defended. I'm just barging in with my own views and reactions because the topic interests me. If that's inapropriate to this forum, I do hope Reinder will tell me.

That I've got a strong love/hate affair with America and all things American should be pretty obvious for anybody reading "White House in Orbit". Or so I do hope, or I'm an even worse writer than than I fear I am.

At the moment my personal affair with America is rather at the late-night-quarrel state, because of her blustering, pompous, know-nothing father (mr. Bush) and the incessant, uninformed digs from her little brothers and sisters (all those "proud Americans" feeling the need to write letters-to-the editor in my local paper, telling me what a lousy, cowardly, shitty little socialist neighbourhood I live in).

But never fear. That's just the way you do think about the in-laws. We'll make up and have good sex again. (Next, of course, we'll quarrel about who fucked who).

If I were a cynic (hah! "if," he says) I would say that perhaps this is the (only) format of documentary that Merkins can actually swallow. I have read stories of movie goers leaving the theater crying. Although I haven't seen the documentary, I have read a transcription of the first half, and that seemed to be absolutely fact-free.

Then again, perhaps I am just beging a dense European, perhaps the facts were dancing before me like elephants in glitter tutus.

Geir, your newspaper editor lives in a (supposedly) free country too. He can refuse to print letters from trolls and other noisy people and print those with substance instead. He doesn't, because balanced, ripe, well-considered intelligent exposÚs of viewpoints don't sell newspapers. It's the noisy people that make the impression.

(I went to university in a town that had one of the lowest counts of fraternity members of the country (ca. 5%), yet it was the frat boys that decided the image people had of students, by being noisy and visible and obnoxious.)

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