Monday, July 05, 2004

Thoughts on Michael Moore and F9/11

What is it with establishment liberals when it comes to Michael Moore? Even some hardcore liberal bloggers feel it necessary to try to point out all of the short comings of Michael Moore's work. The neocons, paleocons, and neandercons can sit back and enjoy while the liberals beat themselves up.

As far as I can tell, there are three types of criticisms being leveled at F-9/11. The first criticism is that Moore does not present "both sides" of the story. This is just stupid. He is not pretending to present the Bush Administration side of the story. How come that criticism is never leveled at Ann Coulter, Rush Limbaugh, David Limbaugh, Charles Krauthammer, Sean Hannity, Bill O'Reilly, Fox News in general, and on, and on, and on.

The second criticism that is leveled at Moore is that he is playing fast and loose with facts. However, what some people call facts are really opinions - like the following from a friend of mine:

"like Moore's silly statement ... that Saddam had pretty much been neutralized, but "never" threatened the U.S.? C'mon.... "

Moreover, the stuff I have read by some of Moore's biggest critics (Newsweek's Michael Isikoff and Mark Hosenball) show that they are not very good at getting their facts straight.

The third type comes from people who just can't believe that the koolaid that the government has been serving us for years has been spiked with thorazine and we have been led to believe propaganda that is far removed from the real truth. Consequently, they insist Michael Moore is wrong and invent many arguments supporting their position that he is wrong. This is because Michael Moore's view is so contrary to their view of the world that it is unacceptable. Their criticisms of Mr. Moore's work verges on the emotional and ranges all over the field: charging bias, factual error, mean spiritedness etc. I put Christopher Hitchens in this category.

To address Mr. Hitchen's complaints, we have to realize that he has been drinking a lot of koolaid for a long time. His view of the world is skewed, as is all of ours, by the constant propaganda that we are being forced to drink out of the end of a firehose by the government/media machine. Chomsky addresses this issue much more eloquently than I ever could:

The mass media serve as a system for communicating messages and symbols to the general populace. It is their function to amuse, entertain, and inform, and to inculcate individuals with the values, beliefs, and codes of behavior that will integrate them into the institutional structures of the larger society. In a world of concentrated wealth and major conflicts of class interest, to fulfill this role requires systematic propaganda.

In countries where the levers of power are in the hands of a state bureaucracy, the monopolistic control over the media, often supplemented by official censorship, makes it clear that the media serve the ends of a dominant elite. It is much more difficult to see a propaganda system at work where the media are private and formal censorship is absent. This is especially true where the media actively compete, periodically attack and expose corporate and governmental malfeasance, and aggressively portray themselves as spokesmen for free speech and the general community interest. What is not evident (and remains undiscussed in the media) is the limited nature of such critiques, as well as the huge inequality in command of resources, and its effect both on access to a private media system and on its behavior and performance.


The essential ingredients of our propaganda model, or set of news "filters," fall under the following headings: (I) the size, concentrated ownership, owner wealth, and profit orientation of the dominant mass-media firms; (~) advertising as the primary income source of the mass media; (3) the reliance of the media on information provided by government, business, and "experts" funded and approved by these primary sources and agents of power; (4) "flak" as a means of disciplining the media; and (5) "anticommunism (now antiterrorism)" as a national religion and control mechanism. These elements interact with and reinforce one another. The raw material of news must pass through successive filters, leaving only the cleansed residue fit to print. They fix the premises of discourse and interpretation, and the definition of what is newsworthy in the first place, and they explain the basis and operations of what amount to propaganda campaigns.

My own view of Michael Moore's film is that it is 99% factually correct, but it is spun hard to make the Bush Admin. look as bad as possible. Of course, it does not take a lot of work to put these yahoos in a bad light. I guess my opinion is pretty close to Ted Rall's on this issue.