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Day June 27, 2004

Reactions to Fahrenheit 9/11

Like many, I saw Fahrenheit 9/11 this weekend. I liked it, and at the same time hated it.

I liked it because it’s an amazing piece of propaganda and electioneering. And unless you obsessively follow the news, there was something in the movie that you didn’t know before. The audience cheered, the audience booed, the audience occasionally gasped when they learned something new. The musical choices were simply brilliant and had the audience in stiches. If anything can galvanize support among voters on the fence, let’s hope Moore can.

I hated it because increasingly it takes stunts like Moore’s movie to make us aware of the facts. Fahrenheit 9/11 would be pointless if the majority of people didn’t believe that Iraq and al-Qaeda were linked, or if we were knowledgeable about the Middle East, Iraq, and Afghanistan. On average, however, we aren’t. A functioning democratic republic requires informed citizens, and increasingly we’re not.

Moore tasked himself with creating a concise but entertaining lesson in recent American and Middle Eastern history, and succeeds brilliantly.

Was he “fair”? Hardly — many of the issues discussed are more complex than he portrays. Did he succeed in educating us? That depends strongly on whether his audience follows up by expanding what they read and listen to in the coming months. I’d like to believe that we can read, talk to each other, and come to our own conclusions. But I’m willing to let satire, humor, and invective take the place of more sober forms of learning. And Moore is simply the master at driving the Democratic message using all three.