Raging Bull

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At the end of last week, Fahrenheit 9/11 had ticket sales of more than $118 million. At roughly $7 per ticket, approximately 17 million people have watched the movie.

Unlike Jon Stewart's spoof of the news, The Daily Show, Moore's film is taken as documentary proof of wrongdoing by President Bush.

I gave up counting long ago the number of journalists, lawyers, doctors and Indian chiefs who've told me the proof of Bush's guilt unfolded in this movie.

Here is what you need to know before you watch Fahrenheit 9/11. Michael Moore repeatedly claims -- though, clearly, not in the movie -- that there is no terrorist threat. He has also suggested in writing that members of the Saudi Arabian air force, not terrorists, actually piloted the planes into the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and that patch of dirt in Pennsylvania.

"Who attacked the United States on September 11 -- a guy on dialysis from a cave in Afghanistan, or your friends, Saudi Arabia?" Moore asks Bush in Dude, Where's My Country? "You do not get this skilled at learning how to fly jumbo jets by being taught on a video game machine at some dip-shit flight training school in Arizona. You learn to do this in the air force. Someone's air force. The Saudi air force? What if these weren't wacko terrorists, but military pilots who signed on to a suicide mission? What if they were doing this at the behest of either the Saudi government or certain disgruntled members of the Saudi royal family?"

In contrast to the 17 million folks bamboozled by Moore's informative documentary, a mere 780,000 people bought copies of the 9/11 Commission report at a bookstore or online.

The exhaustively researched and scrupulously footnoted commission report is no dull tome. It reads like a noir thriller. And yet people have attended, and believed, Moore's paranoid fantasy at a rate of 20 to 1 compared to the book.

With a worldwide threat to our security that has already claimed thousands of American lives and facing a presidential vote, we prefer the ravings of fat fanatic to reality.

Bartender, another round for the house.

I met Michael Moore in 1980 when he stopped at the alternative press convention en route to his new job as editor of Mother Jones. He had yet to make a movie. But he was the same sleazy, self-absorbed liar that he is today.

He attacked the editors and publishers present for daring to publish Best Of guides to their cities. Moore considered Best Of issues a sellout. This is, of course, typical leftist dogma that goes something like this: Best Of issues are a wet kiss to businesses and advertisers when what you should be doing is showing how THE MAN is keeping poor people down.

The fact is that Best Of guides, when executed with integrity, act as a practical guide to a bewildering urban landscape. Yes, you identify your favorite Mexican food joint, and the owner of that establishment feels kindly toward the newspaper. Certainly. But the other 200 restaurants that sell burritos and that didn't get selected bear a grudge. And no matter what advertisers might think, it is the single most popular issue of the year with readers and represents less a sellout than a break from the other 51 issues of doom and gloom.

But Moore's simple-minded, clenched-fist rhetoric isn't what bothered me.

This clown had just folded his newspaper in Flint, Michigan. All of his writers, editors, salespeople, circulation staff and business support were left to fend for themselves without so much as a severance package to see them through while he dashed off to the job at Mother Jones in San Francisco (Mother Jones would show him the door before his cup of coffee had a chance to cool). Perhaps if he'd paid attention to the needs of his staff, took care of business and published the occasional Best Of, his paper would still be alive.

Instead, he begged money off liberals. He had musicians like Harry Chapin do fund-raising concerts. The problem was, his rag was never good enough journalistically to sustain the charity.

When he wore out his welcome in publishing, he turned to movies and proved himself a natural.

Every single fact that I state in Fahrenheit 9/11 is the absolute and irrefutable truth," claims Moore. "Do not let anyone say this or that isn't true. If they say that, they are lying."

In fact, Moore's movie begins with a forgery that would shame even Dan Rather. The film is so filled with lies, distortions and half-truths that sorting out the truth is a cottage industry on the Web.

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Michael Lacey
Contact: Michael Lacey