Even in its smallest notes, "Fahrenheit 9-11" is full of cheap and sleazy laughs, such as showing Paul Wolfowitz combing his hair down with his own spit. Let's hope Moore knows he's just setting himself up for elongated hidden-camera closeups of him trying to eat, or clips of him interspersed with cartoonish clips of the morbidly obese man buried in a piano case. That's the level of childishness indulged in this prank-umentary.
For the Left, this film is a test to separate the wheat from the chaff, the honorable from the dishonorable, the serious from the unserious. In the Clinton years, conservatives needed to step away from the unsubstantiated videos that talked in conspiratorial tones about all of Clinton's heinous secret crimes. To be taken seriously, every liberal today should criticize "Fahrenheit 9-11" as an affront to journalism and civil discourse.
To their credit, a number of liberal pundits and journalists have been passing this test: PBS's Gwen Ifill on "Meet the Press," William Raspberry and Richard Cohen in the Washington Post, and Nicholas Kristof in the New York Times, to name a few. ABC and NBC, after promoting Moore and the film for days, also greeted the film's debut with a "truth squad" feature pointing out a few inaccuracies. Newsweek's Michael Isikoff and Mark Hosenball have done the same.
Unfortunately, the nation's film critics are almost universally failing this test, raving about the greatness of the movie and leaving the matters of accuracy and civility by the wayside. Editor & Publisher found the vast majority of newspaper movie critics, nine out of 10, recommended the film. Their message boils down to this: "Hey, as cinematic art, it's great, and never mind the intellectual dishonesty of it all. Great flick."
Other critics are even worse, actually trumpeting this garbage as tremendously factual: "Its trajectory is guided with pinpoint accuracy," wrote Desson Thomson in the Washington Post, and it "obviously skews facts to its own advantage, but that's what the game is all about. What counts is the emotional power of Moore's persuasion."
That common argument -- facts, schmacts, how about the emotional impact? -- is too distressingly vague, an argument critics would not accept if the artwork were Leni Riefensthal's Nazi propaganda works, or D.W. Griffith's "Birth of a Nation." The message matters. The next test for theatre owners and movie critics is Mike Wilson's forthcoming film "Michael Moore Hates America," which should be finished later this year. Let's see what they have to say then.