Fahrenheit 9/11 and Michael Moore – Intro to Film Essay
Michael Moore deals with the taboo subject of politics with his film Fahrenheit 9/11. This documentary uses the rhetorical form of film making as its main purpose is to
persuade the viewer to agree with Moore’s point of view. Regardless, of one’s political view, this film is not likely to leave the audience indifferent to the opinions portrayed in the movie. Fahrenheit 9/11 is a powerful movie that effectively gets Moore’s message across but what is it that make the film efficacious? There are several aspects of the film that should be considered in terms of its effectiveness. One is that the movie uses the rhetorical form which means the entire focus of the film is to convince the audience of something and it contains some powerful arguments. This film uses three types of arguments: from source, subject centered, viewer-centered arguments. Each one of these elements contributed to making this film and its message more compelling and credible and each one of these elements will be discussed in further detail after a brief summary of the movie is given.
As previously mentioned, Fahrenheit 9/11 is Moore’s attempt to link the Bush administration to the tragic events of 9/11. Moore spends the first part of movie giving evidence of this connection, using documents, interviews, and news footage. Supposedly, there is major deceit and gross negligence on behalf of the current president that caused the terrorist attacks. With this premise, Moore narrates a convincing story. From here, Fahrenheit 9/11 explores the results of September 11, 2001 from the Patriot Act to airport security to the war in Iraq. The end of the movie ties both these aspects together by appealing to the viewer’s emotion with scenes of the poor, soldiers, and their families.
The purpose of the film is to convince its audience of the Bush administration’s wrongdoing so this type of documentary is considered to be rhetorical. If the viewer is a republican, Moore tires to expose the Bush administration’s lies and persuade them to believe what he feels are the true values of that party, money. If the viewer is a democrat, then it seems Moore is trying to convince them of how important it is to remove the current administration. This is, of course, Moore’s opinion which is a characteristic of the rhetorical documentary. However, it does make use of evidence to help prove his point even if at times this proof is bias and, perhaps, purposely misleading. The last aspect of rhetorical documentaries, appealing to the audience’s emotions, is perhaps the film’s most powerful element because it forces the viewer to see and think about things they may not normally have to, say, watching the news. Even if one does not agree with Moore’s politics, they are bound to be touched by the stories heard and images seen in the movie. This use of emotion is a device Moore uses to present his arguments more profoundly.
One such argument is viewer-centered, which simply means that the filmmaker is using emotional footage to help persuade the audience of a particular opinion. Moore shows images that do not play too often on American television. He personalizes the war in Iraq by showing the atrocities that are happening there everyday. We do hear about the U.S. soldiers that have died there but rarely are the injured ones mentioned. In the film, you get to hear their point of view on the war and about their point of view about their various injuries, from nerve damage to lost limbs. Fahrenheit 9/11 also shows the suffering of the Iraqi people themselves. He interviewed Iraqis talking about how men carry around their dead wives in their arms and showed pictures of Iraqi women with severe face and head injuries due to the misuse of napalm. It showed dead Iraqis being piled into the back of a truck, a scene not at all dissimilar or unlike some depicting the Holocaust. Moore also interviews and follows a mother whose son was killed in war, showing her crying and getting into an argument with someone who was pro-war. In all these instances, Moore wants the audience to feel deep sympathy for all the people who have been effected negatively by the war, a war started by the Bush administration.
This aforementioned war moves directly into another argument for rhetorical documentaries, subject-centered arguments, meaning an argument related to the films main subject. The main argument in Fahrenheit 9/11 is that the war in Iraq was started so Bush and is political friends could get richer and cover up their own connections to 9/11 and the Bin Laden family. Moore presents this arguments in several ways. According to Moore, instead of trying to find weapons of mass destruction or protecting the Iraqi people by removing Saddam Hussein, the war was started because of how much money Bush and his associates stood to make from it. As the narrator, Moore entered President Bush’s thoughts after he found out about 9/11 and asked the question “which one of them screwed me”. With this statement, Moore setting up the next few possible scenarios of who was behind the 9/11 attacks. According to Moore, when Bush determines that it is Bin Laden that was the culprit, he chose to blame Saddam Hussein by making false accusations about him having weapons of mass destruction and a connection to Al Qaida, Bin Laden’s terrorist group. Bush needed to blame Saddam Hussein because he did not want people learning about his financial and personal connections with the Bin Laden family. Saddam, it seems, was a good scapegoat because while fighting a war on Terror in Iraq, Bush and his associates could make millions of dollars for their various companies,like Unocal and Haliburton, in the process. His attempt to prove this was by providing footage of several corporations having a meeting discussing how much money they could make from the war in Iraq. The film showed scenes of both Bush Jr. and Sr. cavorting with Saudis who had invested in their various companies. To emphasize this relationship, the film showed scenes of Bush and the Saudi while playing the song Shiny Happy People by REM in the background to convince viewers how close they are. Saudi Arabia just happened to be where Bin Laden and his very wealthy family are from. The movie also states The Saudi’s own 7 percent of U.S. wealth and if they were to take out all of their money invested in America, U.S. economy could collapse. Telling information like this, although one-sided, does give the appearance that Moore is well informed and knowledgeable about this subject.
Thus, the last argument is from source, which is presenting the film as a reliable source of information. Moore may be most adept in this argument because, in some cases, his opinion are confirmed by the very person he is saying them against. For instance, when Moore states that there were no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, he reinforces this statement by showing Bush and members of his party saying, pre- 9/11, that Saddam has no weapons of mass destruction. Moore also used news clips from channels like CNN and FOX networks that are considered trustworthy and credible. He also supports his opinion by interviewing people in prominent positions like congressmen. Moore is also able to present himself as a believable and educated person, even if this may not be true. As the narrator, he can talk in first person making the narration more personal. Moore’s voice, as well as its tone, changes in relation to the topic at hand. If he is talking about soldiers, their families, or the Iraqi people his voice is filled with compassion. When talking about Bush and his friends his tone of voice is sometimes indifferent as if he were merely presenting facts, but at other times, depending on the subject, his tone would become sarcastic. Moore also proves himself to be researched and visionary when he talks about Bush’s National Guard record. Moore he requested a copy of this document, which proves another connection with the Bin Ladens, in 2000 and then one in 2004, when controversy about it surfaced. In the 2004 version a name was blacked out, which was the evidence in this link between Bush and Bin Laden. This name was not marked out in the 2000 one, however. Moore is able to show that he was suspicious of Bush long before other people were.
This documentary in its rhetorical form can be considered a piece of propaganda but regardless of if you agree with the opinions it expresses or believe the message trying to be conveyed, it is hard to ignore because it makes such strong accusations. Fahrenheit 9/11 is a commentary on current American life and regardless of its truth, it does send a powerful and controversial message that raises questions and does deserve discussion. This ultimately may have been Moore’s point.