Editor's Note: Fahrenhype 9/11 is exclusively sold at Overstock.com and is available for purchase beginning Tuesday, October 5, 2004. In no way, shape or form do I receive special perks for my review regardless of my unbiased opinion, nor do I receive any monetary benefit for providing a link to the purchase page.
Coinciding with the release of Michael Moore's controversial "Fahrenheit 9/11" on DVD this Tuesday is an 80-minute rebuttal documentary cleverly titled "Fahrenhype 9/11." Financed by veteran film producer Jeff Hays and directed by Alan Peterson, "HYPE" attempts to discredit Moore's findings by supposedly providing the facts that "Fahrenheit" either twisted or left out, and along the way provides some insightful commentary by some of today's most prominent conservatives.
So what really happened on the morning of September, 11, 2001? Both Moore and Peterson acknowledge that President Bush was in an elementary school classroom reading "My Pet Goat" with some of children when 19 terrorists crashed four planes into our homeland. Upon learning this information, Bush reacted -- well, controversially, to say the least. Moore believes Bush was uncannily nervous and didn't know how to handle the situation without his top aides at his side, while his supporters say he did the only thing a president could do at a time like that.
The principle of the school, Gwen Tose-Rigell, believes Bush did what he was supposed to do. He was calm, collective and took steps to avoid panic. "I didn't vote for President Bush but at that time I could have," she confides.
The film explains that out of the two possible scenarios -- remain calm or frantically run out the door -- he chose the right answer. But perhaps President Bush could or should have remained calm while not taking the five minutes he did to sit in that chair unable to do anything. Of course the documentary doesn't explore that option. It was either sit and wait, or -- as Ann Coulter puts it -- play superhero and yell, "let the bullets hit me first!"
I couldn't help but notice that much of the film is style over substance, just like Moore's movies. Filling space that could have been used to debunk Moore' film, the documentary turns to recognizable faces in the conservative movement. Hey, there's Ann Coulter! And sure enough she's quoted about five or six times giving her defense of Bush and attack on liberals. "I'll pay $1,000 for any liberal who mentions the Kurds. It never passes their lips. We don't have any troops in the Kurdish controlled area. They were dancing and cheering in the streets because you did have Saddam engaging in genocide against the Kurds."
Coulter's appearance may be good for her fans but is it necessary to reach the goal of this documentary? Does she help debunk any of Michael Moore's facts? Obviously not. And neither does Georgia Democratic Senator Zell Miller, a new favorite figure by conservatives used to show how even Democrats are being turned off by their own party. Miller's contribution to the film is a story he shares about killing copperhead snakes in his backyard without the approval from his wife to ensure the safety of his grandchildren. That's supposed to be the same thing as President Bush fighting terror without approval or UN resolutions for the safety of our country. Uh huh.
The most useless contributor to the film is actor Ron Silver, one of the few Hollywood celebrities left in the country who won't be voting for Kerry. Shots of him driving through New York City while defending President Bush are about as effective as Michael Moore using some random old lady in "Fahrenheit 9/11" because we care about a bingo player's opinion of the president. Or not.
There are useful appearances, however. I was greatly moved by Sgt. Peter Damon, a high school dropout who was badly maimed over in Iraq and used in Moore's film to demonstrate the soldiers' disdain for the war and the president. But Damon says he was proud to serve his country just as many of his fellow soldiers were.
Damon lost a limb in a mechanical accident that also killed a soldier he knew. In "Fahrenheit" we see him describing the pain he suffered as a result of the accident while touring in Iraq, but in "HYPE" he clears it up by saying that he was describing the pain he suffered when not on medication as a result of the accident, not the war that he still supports.
Then there's the Oregon St. Trooper who claims he too was misrepresented in "Fahrenheit" which he did not give permission to be in. Moore claims that Bush's federal budget and tax cuts resulted in only one trooper being responsible for protecting that part of America's border. Curiously, "HYPE" never disputes that point, but says it's not the federal government that funds their state police, therefore Bush had nothing to do with any of their fallbacks.
The biggest star of the documentary is the now famed Dick Morris, former political consultant to Bill Clinton and now Fox News contributor and major Clinton enemy. Morris serves as the film's narrator, but more importantly he is present to contrast the differences between Presidents Bush and Clinton. This is when the documentary gets off track from rebutting Michael Moore and switches into Bush-defense mode. "The guy (Bush) deserves eight months of blame. Clinton deserves eight years," he charges.
And that's the biggest problem with "HYPE." Like Michael Moore's films, this one is often unfocused and forgets what it's trying to do. Is this supposed to be a counterargument to Michael Moore or an attack on Bill Clinton, or a defense of George Bush? I would say a little of all, and that's too much work for an 80-minute film.
Interviews with Morris take up a large portion of the documentary, mostly so he can say that if you can blame Bush for national security errors than you should blame Clinton equally if not more. Morris also gives a short defense of the U.S.A. Patriot Act, saying that because of it - government officials no longer need to know specific details about a possible terrorist attack in order apprehend likely suspects. The FBI can now get arrest warrants without the specifics that are otherwise required to make apprehensions.
Supporters of the Patriot Act say the additional power given to the government is worth it if we catch terrorists, while Libertarians question how long before innocent people are rounded up. "HYPE" never addresses the point Moore made - that since 9/11, government spies have infiltrated peaceful organizations simply because they disagree with President Bush and his policies.
But Morris makes some strong points. He details the plan Al Gore conceived (Algoreithm) for "fingering" terrorists trying to board planes at airports, but says it was never used…or at least never used correctly. Whenever the system identified a possible threat, the only thing airport security could do was make sure that the luggage was checked with the passenger, not stowed away. This point begs more research, but there's little doubt amongst us Independents that security was already alarmingly weak before Bush took office.
With a candid shot of a serious-faced Dick Morris staring out over the New York harbor as the sun sets, hair slightly pushed back by a cool breeze flowing through the city, you can feel his sense of satisfaction for having been in this production. He believes the image of the United States was badly tarnished by the works of Michael Moore…whom the film repeatedly shows in a clip from a performance where he expressed, "There is no threat to this country. Yes, terrorism will happen in our country, but there is no major terrorist threat to this country."
Those who haven't seen Moore's film will occasionally find themselves lost because the filmmakers couldn't include any of his footage in the documentary, and must rely on the speakers to tell us what happened. For example, co-author of Michael Moore Is A Big Fat Stupid White Man, David T. Hardy, explains how Moore's editing techniques are used to manipulate his points. If you haven't seen "Fahrenheit," then you haven't seen how lovely Moore paints Iraq before the U.S. invasion began. Kids flew kites in the streets, played on the merry-go-round, went for haircuts and laughed all the way home. But then, the bombs dropped. Moore would have you believe that those bombs landed on children when in fact they were hitting Saddam's bases. It's a strategy Moore repeatedly uses, and hardly is there an opportunity for people to see that technique exposed.
"HYPE" couldn't show that footage owned by Moore's production company, but it does show the tape Moore used of President Bush speaking to a crowd at the Al Smith dinner, an annual tradition since 1946 that raises money for Catholic hospitals. In Moore's film you hear Bush tell the crowd that while others call them elite he calls them his base. Dirty, huh? But "HYPE" shows the additional footage that Moore conveniently left out; footage of Al Gore in attendance, and others there to raise millions of dollars for charity. Hardly a speech to his rich constituents.
I've determined that "HYPE" succeeds in providing a fresh counterargument to Moore's "Fahrenheit 9/11," and I wish there was one of these for all his movies. But "HYPE" isn't a complete knockout. No Moore fans will be converted, but I guess that doesn't matter. Those folks already have their hearts set on Kerry just as Moore's opponents are ready to again vote for Bush. But the crucial Independents like myself may end up viewing "Fahrenheit 9/11" again with a different eye…a much more skeptical one. If that turns out to be the case and enough people see "Fahrenhype 9/11" before the election, then the people behind this production have succeeded.
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