Michael Moore is back this fall, as morally right and as journalistically corrupt as he’s ever been. “Fahrenheit 11/9” is his newest venture, delving into the atrocities committed by politicians over the last 30 years, tying them to Donald Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign.
Moore is more heavy-handed in “11/9’s” critiques of the United States than I have ever seen in films by the documentarian/propagandist. The film opens with a jubilant showing of the days and weeks leading up to Nov. 8, 2016. Shots of Hillary Clinton’s supporters dancing and cheering at her election night party in New York City, accompanied by Rachel Platten’s “Fight Song” dominate the first 10 minutes. Moore also cuts to melancholic views of Trump’s election night party.
He rolls his version of the montage we’ve all seen: pundits and talk show hosts predicting a landslide victory for Clinton, progressing to announcements of Trump’s building lead in battleground states, and ending in the bone-chilling proclamation that Trump would be our next President.
My assessments of this project, positive or negative, do not lie in my political alignments with Moore. I feel I should make clear that we do subscribe to nearly identical ideologies. I found myself becoming emotional at times throughout “11/9.” I sympathize and identify with Moore’s target audience. I felt the same pain in my heart that I did on that day almost two years ago.
My argument is in his method. I believe that Moore is a major contributor to, if not a cause of, the widening divide between American political parties. Under the guise of a voice for America’s unheard working class, Moore promotes his ideas without recognition of an opposing view. He uses the assumption of near-unanimity among America’s constituents to thrust his unsourced arguments upon anyone willing, or unwilling, to listen.
There was a noteworthy mirror between one of Moore’s performances in “11/9” and one in his 2002 installment, “Bowling for Columbine.” In “Bowling for Columbine,” Moore presents himself at the home of Charlton Heston, then-president of the National Rifle Association. Moore asked Heston to apologize for holding an NRA event in Columbine, Colorado after the deadly shooting at Columbine High School. When Heston declined and excused himself from the interview, Moore began following him around his mansion, needling him to react. Heston was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease the same year and retired from the NRA presidency.
During a segment of “11/9” focused on the national neglect of the water crisis in Flint Michigan, Moore procured a sizable tanker truck with the words “Flint Water” painted on the side. He introduced himself at Michigan Governor Rick Snyder’s home (through the intercom) and upon getting no response, proceeded to empty the tanker truck with what was supposedly lead-poisoned water from Flint’s public water supply onto Snyder’s lawn. This was after Moore attempted to place a citizen’s arrest on Governor Snyder in Snyder’s office, unsuccessfully.
These acts are meant to affirm that Moore is willing to throw himself into the fray for the betterment of his product, but come off as desperate, final measures to provoke a reaction from unwilling subjects.
Moore spends little time actually covering the Trump presidency, no more than a third of the film’s running time. A majority of that coverage is spent drawing parallels between the Trump administration and Adolf Hitler’s Third Reich. This approach to critiquing the Trump presidency, regardless of appeared truth, is especially counterproductive to repairing the rifts that have appeared in our society. I don’t believe that many conservative minds have been changed by comparing the American far right to the Nazi movement.
At best, “Fahrenheit 11/9” can serve as a galvanizing agent for America’s left. At worst, and far more likely, it will push conservatives further from understanding the left’s driving dissatisfaction.