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Friday, July 02, 2004

Fahrenheit 9/11 and Christopher Hitchens being an idiot

I finally gave in and saw Fahrenheit 9/11 - an accomplishment for me, who tends to hate Michael Moore after his, frankly, error riddled portrayal of Columbine and the aftereffects he hoped to effect. I used to think of him as the Ann Coulter of what's called the American left - preach-to-the-choir types whose analysis doesn't even withstand the laugh test to an objective observer. If you want to see the movie, I encourage you to do so - it's actually a decent documentary/overview of policy and profiteering by the administration post-9/11. I'll spare you a complete overview, and just note a few things:

- Some of the implications are sort of sketchy. One of the things Moore is a pro at is politicizing his documentaries and implying things very strongly, but dodging from that implication when asked directly, with things like, "I didn't imply that, I just showed the facts. If you made that inference, though..." One such tacit accusation during Fahrenheit was the discussion of the appointment of leaders in Afghanistan post-Taliban. In its most basic form, it says, "When an oil company was trying to get support for a large, government project through Afghanistan, it consulted these people to advise becuase they were the most able people in the region. Later, when the Afghan government fell, the US went to these same people." What we're supposed to draw from this is that it was because of the oil company connection that they were appointed. Moore is guilty of post hoc fallacies all over the place. Another which I found puzzling was, after stating that fifteen of the hijackers were Saudis and Saudi nationals were strongly implicated in the 9/11 attacks, he attacks Bush for meeting with the Saudi ambassador.

- Speaking of Saudis, Moore is guilty of what would be called horrid bigotry if done against any other group. About eleven times during the movie, he condemns the US government for doing things like "letting Saudis go," even though they have nothing whatsoever to do with the attacks.

- On a personal level, the woman who lost her son in the war was an excellent addition to the movie to show the human level on which this affects people. Showing how she went from pro- to anti- army, and showing how nuanced some people's beliefs can be (such that they're not a strict democrat or strict republican) just helped portray how complex the political system can be. But was the scene in front of the white house really necessary?

- With respect to the reports that were released. Moore makes a painful analysis where he shows some tenuous connection between a guy who served with Bush in the Air National Guard and the bin Ladin family. He then says that the man's name was likely struck from the records the government released becuase they didn't want the people to know that connection was there. Isn't it also possible that releasing military disciplinary records which talk about other people is, at the very least, unethical? Even if their motive wasn't protecting privacy rights (which, as we know, they so believe in), I can't really fault them for not dragging someone else into the fray, who is not a government employee or public official of any kind.

- Props for not including footage of the trade center. (There was a brief scene with the pentagon smoldering)

But now on to what I really wanted to post this about: Christopher Hitchens is a pompous, ignorant prick who only writes to see his name in print, and has never in his life said anything worth preserving.

Not just becuase it's filled with name dropping and redundancies (why use one multisyllabic word when you can use six which all mean roughly the same thing!), but becuase on many levels he's guilty of the exact same thing he keeps accusing Moore of. He presents Moore's dual claims that the US shouldn't have immediately have invaded another country and that the US screwed up the ground invasion by sending too many troops as a contradiction. If he were literate, he would understand the form of the argument "We shouldn't invade, but if we do, we shouldn't do it in a stupid and ineffective manner." There's nothing internally inconsistent about that sentiment (and it happens, by the way, to be one I hold.). It's better to have a swift invasion which actually accomplishes our objectives than it is to have a slow one which drags out and doesn't actually accomplish anything. But this would make Hitch's whole point unnecessary, and would not occaision yet more name dropping and pointless banter.

Then he goes on to list a bunch of things which say that Saddam Hussein is a bad guy. Okay, Chris. He's a real bastard. Your argument doesn't follow from the premise, however. Just becuase he's a bad guy, that doesn't mean that we should invade, and it definitely doesn't mean we should do so under false pretenses and proceeding towards the goal of "fighting terrorism." Hitchens even says, "Thus, in spite of the film's loaded bias against the work of the mind, you can grasp even while watching it that Michael Moore has just said, in so many words, the one thing that no reflective or informed person can possibly believe: that Saddam Hussein was no problem. No problem at all." Actually, if by "no reflective or informed person" you mean "a good chunk of the military advisors in the Pentagon," then you're exactly right. He was a problem, but by and large he was an extremely minor one. His country was occupied, he had no military, and he couldn't harm anyone. We won that war, remember? Most of the Middle East experts even said that, even given that Saddam had weapons, he could be deterred from using them (as he was in the first gulf war, incidentally).

Then there are the parts which are referred to specifically by Moore in the film. If Hitchens had watched the movie, he would probably have been forced (if intellctually honest) to address the criticism cited in the film: "In the interval between Moore's triumph at Cannes and the release of the film in the United States, the 9/11 commission has found nothing to complain of in the timing or arrangement of the flights." Yes. The 9/11 commission, hand picked by Bush, miraculously didn't find any fault with any of the administration. I've heard in their next report, they're going to solve the crime of what happened on gumdrop lane in fairyland. I can't wait.

Hitchens also says things which are just patently lies. For example, "If Michael Moore had been listened to, Afghanistan would still be under Taliban rule, and Kuwait would have remained part of Iraq. And Iraq itself would still be the personal property of a psychopathic crime family, bargaining covertly with the slave state of North Korea for WMD." No, if Moore had been "listened to," Afghanistan would not be under Taliban rule, but would also not be under the rule of a bunch of heroin growing druglords, as it is now. I know Hitchens understands this argument, since he stupidly mocks it earlier in the article (the "Moore complains that not enough troops were used" pseduocontradiction.) Moore also, at no point, says that force shouldn't be used in retaliation for invasion. So sorry about the Kuwait thing. It's just another dumbass assertion Hitchens makes without any rational basis whatsoever.

I'll close with something that Hitchens says within the article, that I wish he would read over (yes, we all know he will. Probably ten or twenty times):
But if you leave out absolutely everything that might give your "narrative" a problem and throw in any old rubbish that might support it, and you don't even care that one bit of that rubbish flatly contradicts the next bit, and you give no chance to those who might differ, then you have betrayed your craft.

Good call. Next time you bash a movie, keep it in mind and attack what was said, not some straw man version of it.

cranked out at 4:22 PM | |

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