So my son called from Nevada to tell me I must see "Fahrenheit 9/11."
I told him I was not going to give Michael Moore my hard-earned money as a reward for attacking my world view.
He sent me a check for $10 and told me to go form my own opinion instead of just taking the word of right-wing commentators. Did I raise this kid right (i.e. correctly), or what?
Actually, he and I usually like the same films and novels. Our favorite book this year is Tom Robbins' "Fierce Invalids Home from Hot Climates," which contains the meaning of life if you are interested.
So I decided to see "Fahrenheit 9/11" in case I someday need to get Lance to a political documentary that could help him form an opinion not shared by the left-wing national media.
Most of my friends wouldn't be caught dead at this film. Then on Labor Day weekend I thought of Betsy.
Our taste in books is so different that I've always assumed we wouldn't like the same movies either. The last of her book recommendations that I read was "The Shipping News," which made me vow to never again read anything that had the word "Oprah" on the cover. But she is an avid fan of political talk radio and very well-informed on the issues of the day. So I decided she'd be the perfect person to sit through Michael Moore's propaganda piece with me.
Please don't think my mind was completely closed. The truth is, I laughed through his first film, "Roger and Me," in which he went looking for the CEO of General Motors to ask why plants were being closed in his hometown. Of course I could see that his basic premise was flawed: If Flint, Mich., was in decline, it was the fault not only of management, but of the unions. A fair documentary would have included interviews with the union leaders whose unreasonable demands were met with fewer jobs. Basic economics, Michael. But the interviews with Miss Michigan, the Chamber of Commerce and the woman who sold rabbits were hilarious.
"Bowling with Columbine" was disappointing. It was more obvious than in "Roger" how an interview can be edited to make Moore appear wise and any subject appear stupid. Like the congressmen who refused to stop for a chat in "Fahrenheit," I would refuse to talk with him on camera unless the interview was live so my position wouldn't be deliberately distorted and the last word wouldn't be a cheap shot.
The best part in his latest film is the scene where he rents an ice cream truck and drives around the Capitol, reading the Patriot Act over his loudspeaker to all the politicians who voted for it without reading it. Wish I'd thought to do that on Beacon Hill whenever complicated legislation passed without proper debate.
But for most of the film, Moore's lack of respect for his viewers came through with every unwarranted assumption and circumstantial conclusion. I'm sure he meant to make George W. Bush look bad, but a nonpartisan viewer would see what we always see — an unpretentious man playing with his dog or swinging a golf club. It's hard to imagine him as dangerously devious, no matter how hard Moore tries. As Betsy said, though nothing in the film would make one want to vote for Bush, there was nothing to make one think John Kerry would do a better job.
Lance said that the interview with the mother whose Marine son died in Iraq was powerful. I thought it was manipulative. You could ask any mother during any war if it was worth her child's death and the answer would probably be no, until alternatives to that war were considered.
To the mother whose son died at the Battle of the Bulge: Was it worth it to make sure that Hitler didn't conquer the world, to make sure your grandchildren wouldn't have to live under the Nazis? On the other hand, was Vietnam worth any American draftee's death? And now, is Iraq worth the death of anyone who volunteered to fight our nation's enemies? It's a fair question, if fairly asked; but it wasn't fairly asked by Michael Moore.
When there's a military draft, it's legitimate to ask congressmen if they would send their own sons to war. But when there's no draft, it's insulting to military professionals to assume that only dumb kids would volunteer. On the other hand, the Marine recruiters in the film weren't giving a balanced picture to their targets of what signing up could entail.
Betsy and I both thought that the issues raised about Saudi Arabia were interesting. But as she said afterward, "Many things that our government does are shadowy and we are not told what is really going on." This is true, and a good reason for people like Moore to ask questions. Too bad there is so much partisan nonsense in his film that you can't trust the answers that he offers us either.
Barbara Anderson is executive director of Citizens for Limited Taxation. Her syndicated columns appear weekly in the Salem
News and Lowell Sun; bi-weekly in the Tinytown Gazette; and occasionally in the Providence
Journal and other newspapers.