Thursday, July 01, 2004

Farenheit and Journalism

Apparently, lots of commentators are taking potshots at Michael Moore's new movie, Farenheit 9/11. The once plucky underdog Moore has become sufficiently well-known to make it chic to tear him down rather than admire his tenacity, and he has developed influence with the public that most of these commentators have only in the wettest of their dreams, which makes him a target of jealousy. According to a friend who lives in Toronto, even Canadian pundits are having a go at Michael.

I don't feel bad for him, though. He made a powerful, intelligent movie that is playing to a large audience, triggering debate, and actually bringing some anti-Bush facts to a lot of people that might not otherwise see them. And he's rolling in lots of money with which to make his next movie.

The wearily predictable nature of the rain of criticism is a bit irritating, however. It is middle-class liberal arts snobs who care more about form than about the real world pointing out that the film is not great art, which of course it is not. It is everyone from Bush apologists to so-called progressives who prefer their politics less engaged and more erudite -- even that rather sad figure, Christopher Hitchens, is having a go -- pointing out that Moore has left stuff out, which of course he has. After all, documentaries that are composed like an academic dissertation may win points for completeness but they tend to be deathly dull. With the exception of the few nitpicks mentioned in my previous post on the subject, I didn't see any gaps that are substantive, considering the overall state of the media environment.

What seems to be missing from mainstream commentary, and even much progressive commentary that I have seen, is a recognition of an important implication of the relatively massive interest in this film: It offers something the public knows it hasn't gotten from the mainstream media, and this shows the lie of the media claim to present all relevant facts and a healthy range of analyses. Farenheit's success is a sign of the mainstream media's failure to live up to their own hype. This failure is nothing new, and has been documented time and time again, but it is the fact that significant chunks of the general public seem to be agreeing (as they vote with their movie-going dollars) rather than just easily dismissible dissident eggheads that has put the twist into the knickers of mainstream pundits.

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