Critics give Moore’s propaganda movie high marks

Fahrenheit 9/11 is a hit. From Fox News to the LA Times, the critics are nearly unanimous in their praise of Moore’s unashamed and undisguised piece of propagandistic entertainment.

After blistering the box office in its inaugural New York launch, Michael Moore’s anti-Bush documentary “Fahrenheit 9/11” opens nationally on Friday with most reviewers giving it high marks as brilliantly provocative but unflinchingly partisan.

While saying Moore’s latest work can fairly be classified as propaganda critics generally praised the film as an artfully rendered critique of President Bush, his war on terror and the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq.

“Unabashedly partisan, wearing its determination to bring about political change on its sleeve, ‘Fahrenheit’ can be nit-picked and second-guessed, but it can’t be ignored,” wrote Kenneth Turan of the Los Angeles Times

“It is propaganda, no doubt about it, but propaganda is most effective when it has elements of truth, and too much here is taken from the record not to have a devastating effect on viewers,” Turan added. “Anyone who is the least bit open to Moore’s theses will come away impressed.”

In a similar vein, New York Times critic A.O. Scott calls Moore “a credit to the republic” and writes of the movie: “It is worth seeing, debating and thinking about, regardless of your political allegiances.”

One of the more surprisingly glowing reviews came from Fox columnist Roger Friedman, who called the film “a tribute to patriotism” and “a really brilliant piece of work…that members of all political parties should see without fail.”

While the movie review Web site ranked critics’ opinions as running about 80 percent in Moore’s favor, the film was not warmly received by everyone.

Commenting on “Fahrenheit 9/11” after its premiere in May at the Cannes film festival, where it won top honors, the Wall Street Journal dismissed the film as “bad” propaganda.

And under the headline: “Moore Is Less,” the New York Post’s Lou Lumenick calls the film “a heavy-handed polemic” that “isn’t half as incendiary or persuasive as its maker would have you believe.” He adds: “Moore is still basically preaching to the converted and is unlikely to win over all that many hearts and minds.”

But even some of Moore’s harshest critics acknowledge he scores points with footage of a seemingly dazed Bush remaining seated in a classroom of Florida schoolchildren for almost seven minutes after being informed that a second plane has crashed into the World Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2001.

And more than a few reviews have noted that the film’s release shrewdly coincides with a presidential race focusing on the very issues explored in the documentary.

No one ever said Moore wasn’t shrewd. Also self-serving, sneaky, childish, at times hypocritical and obnoxious. Hmmm, sounds like just about every other artist. I’ll try to write my own review tomorrow.

The Discussion: 14 Comments

Putting politics away for a minute, what is this documentary like as an art piece.

Moore has done a lot of good pieces before, I hope that this matches up to them as a cinomographic production as well as a political statement. If it does then he’s on to a winner.

June 24, 2004 @ 8:07 pm | Comment

I can’t say for certain yet because I haven’t seen it. But I have seen bits and pieces and read reviews from the critics I trust, and there is obviously a great deal of artistic integrity to this film. Whether we like Moore’s worldview or whether he fails to tell the whole story, it seems that he’s made one hell of a good movie. (I’ve had mixed feelings about Moore myself — about his mischievousness, but never about his ability to put together a great show.)

June 24, 2004 @ 8:17 pm | Comment

Great show or no, wo bu zhi dao, it won’t be out in DVD in China until day after tomorrow, but I’m curious about this “seven minutes” : I’ve heard this feature of the film mentioned more than any other single part.

Someone who’s seen it could possibly tell me later: News of the second plane is passed to Bush, he’s stunned and horrified, tries to keep following the day’s agenda, but is distracted and (I would guess) waiting for further news, analysis, or advisory from his staff, and wondering what action to take. What’s the implication? That he should leap up with a six-gun and charge into battle? I don’t get it. I was teaching that day too, and I was stunned for a lot longer than seven minutes. We stopped classes, found a TV, and tried to get a grip on what was happening.

Maybe someone can tell me why being shocked and horrified, and taking a whole seven minutes to absorb what’s going on, is so significant. I’m going to have to see the damn thing myself, I guess.

June 25, 2004 @ 3:42 am | Comment

Sam, why do there have to be extremes?It is incredibly silly to frame it that way — as though Bush had only two extreme choices: sitting there reading The Pet Goat, or jumping on a horse to fight the Taliban mano a mano. Any mature leader would simply have said something along the lines of, “Children, I know you’ve been waiting for me to come here, and it’s been wonderful being here, but I have just been told about something very important that I need to discuss with people in Washington. I am so sorry to have to leave a little earlier than I planned.”

There. And that is something I think his father, or Reagan, and certainly Clinton would have done. But let’s see the entire scene, which lasts seven minutes (yes, he continued reading for seven full minutes), within the framework of the entire movie, which lasts about two hours, and then we can discuss it. I’m really not ready to discuss the individual moments of the film yet. However, those who have seen it, including Fox News and Rex Reed and other not-so-lefty voices, have loved it, which is a good sign. I’ll make my own conclusions, but when I hear the kind of argument you pose — well, it’s the exact argument I heard in the Hitchens article and then over at sites like InstaPuppy and Roger Simon. It’s as though they’ve all been brainwashed, with the exact same criticism of the movie. Hmmmm. 🙂

June 25, 2004 @ 9:25 am | Comment

Sam, another way to look at it is this way – the President’s agenda for the day was well-known and well-publicized. By sitting those extra seven minutes and staying at the school, he potentially placed those school children in harm’s way.

Particularly in a state that many of the 9-11 terrorists did their training in.

June 25, 2004 @ 4:42 pm | Comment

“Sam, why do there have to be extremes?It is incredibly silly to frame it that way”

Richard, it’s an honest question, and since I haven’t seen the film, I’m sure context would help. And I haven’t read all the other commentary on this particular interval, so I have the “benefit” of not having heard all the spin here. I’m just having an awful hard time seeing the significance of “seven full minutes.” I mean, you could write, ominously, “The president did NOTHING, for SEVEN FULL MINUTES, while the nation’s fate hung in the balance”, but I don’t think that’s the intent (is it?).

What difference would it have made if the reading session had ended in three minutes? or twelve? Maybe I’ve been in China so long I’m missing all the “insider” nuances here.

June 25, 2004 @ 5:50 pm | Comment

Sam, I feel that after hearing the words, “Mr. President, the nation is under attack,” it is inconceivable and perhaps inexcusable to wait any minutes. At that instant, the eyes of the entire world are upon you. There could be more planes heading toward America, decisions need to be made, there is no waiting. To sit there, eyes darting in every way for one minutes is strange — though maybe it’s comprehensible because of the extreme pressure of the moment. At two minutes, it becomes scary because you know the world is waiting and you’re still reading My Pet Goat. Seven full minutes — I am sorry, but that is an eternity when America is under enemy attack in today’s world.

So to reiterate, waiting any number of minutes, be it 2 or 7 or 25 is to not live up to the situation at hand. The president finally had to be literally pulled out of the room. Do you find his waiting a full seven minutes after hearing the words “America is under attack” to be acceptable? Is it representative of strong and willful leadership, of wisdom and judgement?

I just saw the movie, and will write it up shortly.

June 25, 2004 @ 6:11 pm | Comment

“Do you find his waiting a full seven minutes after hearing the words “America is under attack” to be acceptable?”

No I don’t, and that’s some of the clarification I was looking for. I didn’t know if he was told “There’s been a second air crash” or what. So I’d have to say that if that’s really what he was told, delaying ANY minutes is very wierd.

June 26, 2004 @ 10:18 am | Comment

He was told of the first plane hitting the tower a few seconds before he entered the classroom. At that point he thought it was an acident (and he made his notorious remark, “Sounds like a lousy pilot”). While he was reading, his chief of staff came in and whispered that there was a second plane, and that “The nation is under attack.” You had to see how Buish handled it to believe it. No editorializing, so opinion — it’s right there on the videotape. The scariest part is that even after 7 minutes he couldn’t take action; his people had to literally pull him out of the room. This is our macho leader of iron resolve and supreme will.

June 26, 2004 @ 10:23 am | Comment


I’m going to check up on this, because I don’t believe he was told “the nation is under attack.”

That sounds apochryphal.

June 27, 2004 @ 7:04 pm | Comment

I believe it’s a matter of fact. What’s not to believe?

June 27, 2004 @ 8:03 pm | Comment

Yes, it appears to be a fact.

When the second plane struck the south tower of the World Trade Center on the morning of Sept. 11, 2001, President George W. Bush was told “the nation is under attack.” Bush, attending a photo opportunity at a Florida elementary school, sat dumbfounded, reading My Pet Goat with the students — for seven minutes.

With this devastating scene from Fahrenheit 9/11, in which a clock on the screen counts off the moments of Bush’s bewildered inaction, filmmaker Michael Moore hopes to make him the goat in this year’s presidential race.

June 27, 2004 @ 8:09 pm | Comment

Andy Card, Bush’s chief of staff, gave the following description in an op-ed he wrote for the SF Chronicle:

First of all, you’re watching, the cameras are on, and the audience is paying particular attention. And when it’s a student audience, it’s even a greater challenge.

So I was very uncomfortable about interrupting the president during one of his events … so I wanted to think, how can I convey to the president the situation? And I made a conscious decision to state the facts and to offer editorial comment. And the facts, as I knew them, were — since he knew about the first plane, I said, “a second plane hit the second tower.” Those were the facts. And the editorial comment was, “America is under attack.”

I said those things into the president’s right ear, and I stepped back, because I did not want to invite a discussion from the classroom. But I tried to be succinct in what I told him so that he understood the enormity of the problem. He looked up — it was only a matter of seconds, but it seemed like minutes — and I thought that he was outstanding in his ability not to scare either the American people that were paying attention to the cameras or, more importantly, the students that were in the classroom.

And he just excused himself very politely to the teacher and to the students, and he left.


June 27, 2004 @ 8:23 pm | Comment

Thanks. In the things I read I didn’t see that part.

June 28, 2004 @ 2:29 pm | Comment

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