Saturday, July 3, 2004

'Fahrenheit' is good for the debate


Even before its release last weekend, Michael Moore's Fahrenheit 9/11 received a lot of flak for being biased and unfair - criticism that would be applicable if Moore's movie were being offered as a balanced presentation of differing views. It is not.

Moore has been accused of skirting the fine line between propaganda and entertainment. But that's only because critics insist on misinterpreting the term documentary as meaning an objective recitation of facts.

This movie isn't "just the facts." It is the facts presented in the shade of Moore's opinion. As Moore himself describes it, it is "an op-ed piece." Fahrenheit 9/11 should be accepted for what it is - a cinematographic editorial opinion - an editorial cartoon set in motion. It's talking heads that, well, really talk.

The success of the film, taking in $23.9 million after its first weekend and becoming the highest grossing feature-length "documentary" of all time (as opposed to fictional movies such as Spider-Man 2), is proof that important public issues are being vigorously debated in America. And that is a healthy thing, no matter what side you are on.

Moore's view is not the same as ours, but so what? Good debate makes for better policy.

The presidential election is four months away, and few issues in the campaign compare to the Bush administration's pursuit and conduct of the war in Iraq.

It shouldn't be surprising, then, that a filmmaker such as Moore would want to express his own opinion on the issue through the medium in which he is an expert, anymore than it is to find Rush Limbaugh commenting on the radio or Charles Krauthammer and Maureen Dowd giving their opinions through the printed word.

Moore doesn't argue against accusations that his film is biased, and that's fine by us. Opinions are not meant to be objective. Moore's film passionately argues his view, and the response and counterarguments are equally passionate. The relentless din you hear about this film is the nation talking, thinking and debating this incredibly important issue.

Regardless of your choice to see the movie or to stay far away, keep in mind that Moore is exercising the same right as anyone who writes to the op-ed section of a newspaper. Pro-Bush and anti-Moore? Go make your own movie.

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