Despite the title, Fahrenheit 9/11 Michael Moore’s follow up to his Oscar winning 2002 feature Bowling for Columbine is not a conspiracy piece about the Twin Towers as one might expect but rather it tackles the subject of terrorism and the War on Terror. Along the way, the Bush administration takes a severe hammering and the motives for the invasion of Iraq are examined.
The attacks of September 2001 hailed a new era in global warfare brought about by a new battle against an intangible evil. Terrorist attacks are nothing new but previously took the shape of generally botched airline hijackings or at least occurred off of American soil. It was not until the Oklahoma City bombings in 1993 that America felt the true force of what a few small units could do but as that was chalked up to a white nutcase getting revenge for Waco and Ruby Ridge, there were no calls for sweeping changes to the law to help prevent similar events.
The New York attacks were a game changer and suddenly America were being openly challenged from afar by a threat they could not easily resist. In came a media fire storm which reminded Americans that they were constantly at risk and fear became the order of the day. On the back of this fear, the government had carte blanche to initiate the Patriot Act which under regular circumstances would have likely caused a public outrage. However, in a world where your people are afraid, the power of fear allows you to get away with almost anything “ just ask the leaders of the church 500 years ago.
Whilst all that might sound rather cynical, it makes a lot of sense and I share Michael Moore’s view point on the whole affair. Luckily he stays away from 9/11 itself on the whole and does not suggest that it was an inside job masterminded to get the Patriot Act passed but he also unsurprisingly has not a single complementary word for Bush and his cronies throughout.
After a strong start, the film rather loses its way as the focus gets a little lost once we have all been made well aware that Bush is a buffoon. As is his style, Moore bombards us with well edited news stories and set pieces which when strung together can make any situation seem utterly absurd. It is easy to get caught up in his films and wonder why on earth the world is not up in arms and although I applaud his manipulative style in some ways, other times it is unnecessary and somewhat insulting.
Viewed in isolation without considering any other works from Michael Moore, this documentary would be considered a triumph but with the constant niggling doubt that all may not be as it seems due to selective statistic gathering or editing, you are left wondering how much to truly believe. Whilst the majority of what is presented is no doubt accurate and paints the correct overall picture, Moore’s incendiary style does not quite get the job done for me.
Despite the flaws, Moore remains perhaps the most important documentary film maker of the current era and his mass appeal at least means that important issues can be highlighted outside of the main stream media who are less trustworthy on the whole than anything Moore could edit together.