McLuhan & Ed on Fahrenheit 911

It is more important to understand Fahrenheit 911 for what its reception says about the media and public cognition of information, than for the content itself.

My brilliant friend Ed has gotten into some interesting on-line exchanges about Fahrenheit 911 and I asked for permission to quote the core comments he has been making because he is saying it better than I. Enjoy!

[ED RE: Fahrenheit 9/11

Normally I wouldn’t feel the urge to respond to this but since seeing the film a few weeks ago at a preview screening I’ve been very disturbed by its message and more so by it’s messenger.

Deception lies at the foundation of the film’s message. In my mind, the worst type of deception is when you intentionally mislead someone. With this film, Michael Moore does not intend to decipher truth out of facts in order to help public debate, his main goal is to kick the President out of office by obscuring real debate with myth and confusion.

“My own motivation [was the thought that] we can’t leave this up to the Democrats. It’s too serious now. I mean, this is a party that can’t even win when they win. They lose when they win, you can’t get more pathetic than that. We have to save them from themselves.”
Michael Moore Entertainment Weekly July 9, 2004

With that as his unabashed motive, the film does not take the route of a traditional documentary. It purposefully throws out any logic or semblance of reason in making its case. Instead it resorts to unsubstantiated claims of conspiracy theories, half truths, and attaches venal motives to our elected officials.

This leads serious internal contradictions in the film’s own message. The most basic being the charge that the President did not do enough right after September 11th and then later that he did too much. Which is it?

Additionally, Moore makes statements in the regular press, where he panders to rational reasonable debates that do not match his politically inflammatory film. This is duplicity at its worst. (See his editorial in the LA Times on July 4, 2004)

Be it the absolutely insane charge that Bush allowed Sept 11th to happen in order to build an oil pipeline on down the idea that most troops are opposed to the war in Iraq, are horrendous deceptions that have been repeatedly debunked.

I agree with your sentiment that we must bring God’s kingdom down to earth and that we need to be informed to do it. Fahrenheit 911 does not help in that effort. It does not inform or even pretend to. The real motive is to deceive and cloud real facts that aid legitimate debate. The only real solution it offers is the removal of the President. Unfortunately, for Moore the idea that everything will be fine once Bush is gone is the worst fallacy of all.

I don’t think I am regurgitating McLuhan. I’m telling you people don’t realize how important the idea of mediums is.

Why don’t any radio hosts have successful TV shows? Why is liberal talk radio failing? Why is Rush Limbaugh so popular? Why do people flock to movies but desert many other forms of entertainment? Why does propaganda work?

“The medium is the message,” is a truth not a theory. Every medium has requirements and demands the best artists skillfully meet those demands. Michael Moore doesn’t talk on the radio he makes movies. I know this even more from working in the media and studying it myself.

This is exactly why I hate Fahrenheit 911. Because it is a movie, it is a different medium and people treat it differently on a cognitive level. Say for instance the same basic content ran on a TV news program but did not run under the guise of “Documentary.” Because we’ve developed a natural skepticism towards News media we would see this piece and already be skeptical. But since this is a “Documentary” and it is shown in movie theaters we are not used to being skeptical the same way as when we watch news. We are used to receiving narrative in theaters and thus process the information differently. Michael Moore’s film takes purposeful advantage of this cognitive imbalance.

So from now on you can bring up real evidence that the film is completely insane and it won’t matter. People will respond, “Yeah but Bush could have done it. It’s possible isn’t it.” See it reverse the skepticism towards government away from the medium itself, when in reality the medium is the one lying to you. Since you process the information differently then how you process factual information, factual responses don’t work. The reason why, is that the film is not factual to begin with and is really an emotional work that goes after the emotional part of your brain.

He also gets you by showing you footage you’ve never seen. You react to the footage by saying, “Wow. I didn’t know that happened. What else are they not telling me?” That is garbage. It is the same reaction a debater has when someone just pulled out a fact the other has not heard before. The bulk of Moore’s factual information has been out there for years and he’s regurgitating material other people have come up with. He’s just taken that information and put it to pictures.

We live in treacherous times.


Yours for the pursuit of God in the company of friends, Dick Staub.

PS. And remember, “these are the best of times and the worst of times, but they are the only times we have.” (For Now).

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