The irony is that, for all the finger-pointing, both sides rely upon the same emotional ploys, the same scapegoating, and the same "with us or against us" mentality in order to herd the American public in favor of their respective agendas.
As Moore successfully points out in his new film, the Bush administration was adept at using the vulnerable post-9/11 climate of grief, outrage, and fear to elevate his own political position. Many of us can vividly recall the images that filled our screens following the attacks: first the heart-wrenching scenes of carnage (accompanied by sweeping, mournful music), then infuriating images of the Enemy celebrating our pain. Finally, onto the screen would flash a resolute George W. Bush, against a backdrop of waving flags and moving renditions of "God Bless America." Whatever his faults in the arenas of policy making and word pronunciation, Bush demonstrated his expertise as a propagandist, effectively appealing to our emotions under the guise of apparent logic.
Unfortunately, in his urgency to expose the President, Moore resorts to many of the same emotional ploys he condemns in his subject. Among the opening scenes in "Fahrenheit 9/11" are sequences mirroring Bush's own visual rhetoric: the same devastating images of Ground Zero (insert sweeping, tragic soundtrack), followed by an enraging eyeful of another Enemy (Bush), reaping the rewards of our suffering against sinister music. The simplicity and black-and-white absolutism in the film stand in stark contrast with Moore's previous work, such as the ground-breaking and far more nuanced "Roger and Me."
How are we to account for this change? Clearly, this aspect of "F-9/11" is largely a product of the growing polarization of American society and the extremely charged nature of the upcoming election. It is, perhaps, an element of human nature that prompts us to find unprecedented unity in the face of a common enemy. It is a trait that leads us-unfortunately-to act only when things have spiraled into crisis, and to raise our voices only when subtlety has already been made obsolete. Why did it take a tragedy of the proportions of 9/11 to bring out our unity as a nation? Why did it take a hasty, unnecessary war to send thousands into the streets in the affirmation of life against corporate greed?
In this election, few voters will be voting with their consciences. Rather, they will vote with their fear and outrage, not for an appealing candidate, but against an opponent. Liberals and Democrats, regardless of their support for John Kerry's platform, are mobilized to exfoliate Bush from the Oval Office; Conservatives and Republicans prepare to stand down the subversive, presumably un-American elements in their midst. Both sides are primarily moved not by their own intrinsic convictions, but by apocalyptic visions of the end of civilization as we know it.
This is understandable, in light both of America's vulnerability to further terrorist attacks and the steady diminishing of the very civil liberties that make us the great nation we are. However, this battle of hysterias has contributed immensely to an even deeper, far more devastating loss: the ability to think critically and see the larger picture.
We stand at a critical moment in American history, and our decisions now are sure to have dramatic repercussions for future generations. The level of crisis we face in such difficult times does not have to preclude the ability to think for ourselves, rationally, or to encourage this ability in others.
It is important for people on both sides to foster an appreciation for the complexity of political situations, as well as the diversity of motives among those in either camp. Americans who oppose the war in Iraq, for example, should be able to distinguish between the agendas of policy makers intent on reaping financial benefits from the conflict and the intentions of ordinary people who genuinely sought to bring democracy to Iraq. Conversely, those who support the war must recognize that many dissenters do indeed support our troops, precisely by trying to ensure that they are not sent to fight and die unnecessarily.Among the strengths of Michael Moore's "Fahrenheit 9/11" is its success in bringing to light many facts about the war that were previously unknown to many viewers. The disclosure of facts and information is the pillar of a truly enlightened, democratic society. Let's leave the conclusions to the people.