Monday, June 28, 2004

I haven't seen Fahrenheit 9/11, nor do I have plans to do so, since the only thing it would really accomplish would be to make me hate the Bush administration more. But, although I'm personally not much for Moore's polemical style, I'm glad the movie's out there and having an enormous amount of box office success. Although it seems to be largely preaching to the converted, if it converts even a very small handful of swing voters or convinces wavering anti-Bush voters that they must vote for Kerry, it will have done a world of good.

Generally speaking, the Moore-styled brand of criticism is the type of thing that liberals have to do to counteract the rise of the self-styled badass conservatism of talk radio and Fox News that has helped shift American discourse irretrievably rightward. It's clear that as distasteful as this style of communication may be to most left-type folks, it works a hell of a lot better than the liberal strategy does. The current brand of mass media discourse is but one of the many reasons why the left has been on the run in this country for the past 25 years or so: allowing conservatism define the debate, affix labels and generally steamroll over a genial, hapless left that still believes in creating political change with devices like protest marches and public radio panel discussions.

Political debates aren't won by the careful, logical consideration of the facts before the audience, especially with this electorate. They're won by appealing to and manipulating others' emotions and creating some sort of personal stake for the voter. Most people make political choices based on emotional reasons and then use intellectual reasons to justify them. Moore, for all his sins, realizes this, and stacks his documentaries accordingly, creating something that's far more likely to resonate with people than a dry but thorough recitation of the facts. (This leads to the much-documented factual distortions of his prior works, although the fact that Fahrenheit 9/11 hasn't been slammed for this is a rather damning indictment of just how dubious the Bush administration's case in Iraq was in the first place.) Fahrenheit 9/11 probably won't win the election for John Kerry, and it should be regarded as the first blow in a liberal assault on the media rather than the final and decisive shot. But even if it won't shift the national debate, at least it's crammed a phonebook under one of the legs of the crooked coffee table, and that's an important first start.

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