Wednesday, May 26, 2004

Praising the Factually Challenged

The Star Tribune ran this mentally-deficient editorial about Michael Moore's latest "documentary", Fahrenheit 9/11 today. The first paragraph gives one a pretty good notion why I called it that:

We haven't seen Michael Moore's "Fahrenheit 9/11," and so cannot praise or criticize the film on its merits. But enough is known about its ambitions and general thrust to establish that this is something Americans should have a chance to see, and so congratulations are in order -- not only to Moore, but to the Cannes International Film Festival jurors who gave it their top award on Saturday.

The Palme d'Or is of dubious commercial worth, it is said, but in this case it has removed any doubt that deals will be struck to distribute Moore's latest project in the United States, as they already have been struck for every other territory on the planet. Certainly the prize has already increased audience interest in advance of the film's release later this summer. And, as a side benefit, it has added to the deserved embarrassment that Michael Eisner, the Disney chairman, is suffering for having tried to suppress it.

Don't they do any research before they write these things? First they recommend this film without, by their own admission, having seen it and judging on its actual merit. Apparently ambition and the point of view it expresses (trashing the current US administration) is enough. Second, they repeat the discredited story about Disney attempting to suppress this work of 'art'. The facts are a bit different. Disney told Miramax (and Moore) over a year ago that it would not permit Miramax to distribute the film. Moore was always free to peddle his movie elsewhere, so Disney was not trying to suppress it. They just didn't want their name associated with it. Given Moore's strained relationship with the truth, that sentiment is understandable. The Star Tribune even admits that Moore is a less than honest filmmaker:

His "Bowling for Columbine" was shot through with fakery, from the staged gun giveaway at a Michigan bank to the soundly discredited notion that Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris had gone bowling before slaughtering their high-school compatriots. Nor did it probe deeply into the most troubling aspect of American gun violence: its disproportionate visitation on people who are not white and not wealthy. Moore built the film to look like a documentary, and so no matter how vigorously he rejects that label, he can't easily excuse the liberties it took with facts.

But no critic has yet tagged such a distortion in "Fahrenheit 9/11," which, by all accounts, moves in a very different direction.

The reason that no critic has tagged any distortions in "Fahrenheit 9/11" is that people interested in actually critiquing the film haven't had a chance to see it yet. The audience at Cannes was not likely to be one critical of his efforts, given that is an attack on George W. Bush.

The editorial goes on to list events in the movie it heard about in an attempt to make the case that it is factual. Then it makes the following comment about Moore's effort:

Yes, Michael Moore makes polemics in the form of popular films. So what? The points he is raising deserve to be raised, and they demand answers from a president and an administration who remain dedicated to evading the ugliest truths about this war with a combination of secrecy, denial and blithe changes of subject.

Setting aside the unwarranted shot at administration (they don't bother to tell us what "ugliest truths" are being evaded for one thing), the editorial writers go on to praise this factually-challenged clown for making polemics. Since the Star Tribune has now officially endorsed the presentation of distorted facts and misrepresented events as useful and desirable, I'll be looking forward to a positive review of Ann Coulter's next work. I just won't hold my breath while I'm waiting.

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