Friday, June 25, 2004

Burning Bush at Fahrenheit 9/11

I have all kinds of things to say about Fahrenheit 9/11. In fact, I've already got a Fahrenheit 9/11/Control Room contrast and compare piece in my head ready to go. But when I read this review by David Edelstein, I found myself nodding in agreement, as if Edelstein sat next to me and transcribed my thoughts exactly as I watched Moore's agitprop. So why expend energy, right? Post the link and be done with it.

Only problem? I have yet to see the damn movie.

F9/11 is unprecendented. A major movie with a wide release that basically rips a major party presidential candidate to shreds in the heat of election season. And never has a movie been made to which I can almost perfectly predict my own reaction before having seen it.

The reaction to Moore's movie thus far has been all over the map. The wingers, predictably, have their panties all up in a bunch. But Moore's equally reviled by a certain segment of liberals -- call them smarter-than-thou liberals. For this set, Moore's schlubby persona, dishonest argumentative techniques, shaky reasoning, smug populism, and all around bad manners activate a certain kind of liberal self-loathing. In a word, Moore's distasteful -- he's a prole bombthrower feeding propoganda to the masses. We know better, and don't you dare associate us with him, because this dude frequents Burger King. And he probably smells bad.

It's fascinating to watch Moore get devoured by some on the elitist camp, while the rank-and-file lefty activists are cheering him on. This divergent reaction to Moore reflects an interesting split among the left that have not been widely discussed. More than "moderate" vs. "progressive", liberals can been as being divided between fundamentalists and relativists, between an activist left for whom progressive values are a righteous and certain cause, and the intellectual left, for whom progressive values above all mean an opening one's mind to differing points of view and coming to independent conclusions (I'll call them "multi-viewpointists").

Having been exposed to the activist set via lefty blogs, activists seem to view the relativist liberals -- mainstream Democrats, Bill Clinton, much of the media -- as wimps who sold out the cause. One recurring criticism is "SCLM" (so-called liberal media) wimping out on calling out Bush and obsessed with "balance" in news stories, even when it's clear that the conservatives are wrong. The correctives to the right-wing propoganda machine, aided and abetted by the SCLM, are Air America and Michael Moore.

There's something to that criticism, but I'm not sure having the media divided into opposite wingnut camps is the answer. Right now all sides have held their fire due to the unifying hostility to Bush, but I don't expect this uneasy truce to hold after Kerry's win.