• Fahrenheit 11/9: Rewatching the Michael Moore Movie from 2018

    March 16, 2023 // 4 Comments »

    I rewatched Michael Moore’s Fahrenheit 11/9. The 2018 film is mainly a screed about all the bad things Trump was going to do as president. Time is a cold mistress: basically nothing Moore said four years ago about what was going to happen actually happened. Moore was wrong about Trump’s ties to Russia, Moore was wrong about Trump being the last elected president because he would seize total power, and Moore was wrong about the lasting impact of the progressive heroes of that year, the Parkland High School survivors.

    Sorry to get ahead there. You do remember the mass shooting in a Parkland, Florida high school, right? A handful of “survivors” were insta-made into media sensations. Barack Obama supposedly personally wrote the Time magazine cover story saying they had “the power to insist that America can be better” we’re lead to guess he himself did not have.

    In his film Moore portrayed the kids were examples of the anti-Trump force sent by the universe as a balancing mechanism, and that the power of activism was America’s only chance to remain a democracy. I can’t do justice to the hyperbole of Moore’s narration; you would think by listening these kids had the power to raise the dead simply by amassing RTs on Twitter. A good chunk of the movie is just Moore staring at the kids at work changing everything by being online, the filmmaker’s expression somewhere between pedophile on the playground fence and a proud dad.

    Back in his heyday, there was a meme among businesspeople “Michael Moore just walked into your office. What do you do?” The answer back when was to lawyer up, call security, etc. Today the proper response would be to tell Mike sorry, you’re not hiring, and offer him a bottle of water if he’ll leave quietly. Moore created a style of documentary journalism where facts don’t matter if the conclusion (in this case, “guns and orange man bad”) is righteous enough. He forgets that in his earlier movies this sort of worked only because his generous abuse of facts and the actual conclusion were often close enough to one another, as in Roger and Me, Bowling for Columbine, and Fahrenheit 911.

    But it is almost painful to watch him in this movie, claiming how the Parkland kids organized the massive March for Our Lives in Washington on March 24, 2018 all by themselves without asking them how a few high school kids in Florida secured marching permits from the notoriously persnickety Washington DC bureaucracy and National Parks Service, how they secured the massive security bonds and insurance needed, arranged stage construction, Porta Potties and sound reinforcement, set up security, ran an international media campaign, and so forth, all from study hall. Taking over the National Mall is not something you do by saying “Alexa, tell me how to take over the National Mall.” Moore thinks he’s fooling the rubes in ignoring such things when in fact he’s taking a dump on his subjects, setting them up to be blown over by the lightest of questions.

    Moore himself is a thing to be pitied. You see him in this movie, hunchbacked and obese, searching the country for old-school Bernie-style liberals to champion. He doesn’t realize the parade passed him by sometime during the George W. Bush era and he comes off like some 80s hair metal band playing Holiday Inns with only one original member on stage. He gets caught up in his own narratives, in this film an extended side story about how the water is still bad in Flint, Michigan which ends up inadvertently highly critical of Saint Barack. His wandering call for Bernie to re-emerge walks dangerously close to admitting Hillary Clinton engineered that political castration. Moore awakens about half way through the movie aware who he is really criticizing for the most part and quickly pivots to more familiar ground, an extended lip syncing of a Trump speech to some iconic Leni Riefenstahl Nazi propaganda footage of Hitler.

    In the case of the Parkland kids, by refusing to let them off the pedestal Moore in the end exposes them as the media-hungry fakes they are, or, to be generous, were made to be. A major scene shows kiddie activist David Hogg using Twitter to cancel a male candidate for some minor state seat in Maine and engineer his replacement with a woman. We don’t know anything about either candidate, only that Hogg did it with Twitter during fourth period (Moore assures him on camera it’s OK to fail his psych class to accomplish global-level change) and this is what the future is going to be.

    The problem is the movie was made in 2018 and we can judge Moore’s vision of the future. Nothing really happened. The Parkland kids misunderstood, and Moore celebrates, emotional manipulation, weaponized self-pity, and claims to victimhood are not action. Gun laws are pretty much the same post-Kids, and who can count the number of mass shootings since Parkland? Apart from lip service by the Democrats, there is no effective gun control legislation on the stove. Yes, yes, conversations were started and awareness was raised, but Moore falls into the same naïve hole the Parkland kids live in, mistaking noise and political stunts (like being Michael Moore) for real change.

    Moore of course will never make a follow-up film, but here’s what it would contain if someone else ever did.

    Emma González is famous for standing in silence at a lectern for a little over six minutes to commemorate how long it took for 17 people to be killed during the shooting. In 2018, Madonna, the Michael Moore of the pop industry, even sampled Emma’s voice for an album. González later advocated for Joe Biden, thoughtfully tweeting “a vote for Donald Trump is a vote for fascism.” Today she has become a hollow woke caricature. She’s changed her first name to “X” because “I don’t want people thinking that they’re my friends just because they know my name.” X is pursuing a degree in activism, with classes such as Manifestos, Alternatives to Capitalism and Socialism, Post-Colonial Literature; and Theory, Black Social and Political Thought, and Global Politics/Radical Comics at the prestigious New College of Florida in Sarasota. How do we know all this? X is back in the media for the first time in almost four years, pimping a movie on the Jimmy Fallon show about the her of almost four years ago.

    David Hogg was the skinny white Parkland kid with the Brylcream hair and oddly triangular face. He was raptured out of the swamps of Florida to attend Harvard after the shooting. In addition to promoting the same film as X, Hogg also started a semi-defunct pillow company in 2021 to challenge Donald Trump ally Mike Lindell and his My Pillow company. The Hogg pillow company quickly amassed more than 80,000 Twitter followers but not so many sales. The whole thing was so egregiously awful that Cameron Kasky, a fellow Parkland survivor, attacked Hogg, saying “To those of you who marched, donated, lobbied, and called for change… I’m so sorry this is what it turned into. This is embarrassing. Welcome to America, everything ends up a grift.”

    And right, be sure to check out the merch on the March for Ours Lives website. The #MarchForOurLives “Stop Gun Violence” T-shirt is about as likely to help stop gun violence as it is likely to stop a bullet for the wearer. And for the record, Colin Kaepernick, who makes a cameo in Moore’s movie, has seen his own net worth grow to some $20 million via paid endorsements for McDonald’s, Jaguar, Electronic Arts, and MusclePharm. Moore’s film was originally funded by everyone’s favorite carnivore, Harvey Weinstein. Michael Moore himself owns nine homes and is worth $30 million, a helluva way to help redistribute wealth, to himself.

    Michael Moore should take his inspiration for his next film from that Parkland Kid statement, “Welcome to America, everything ends up a grift.” It’s the only true statement in this whole mess. It was never about actually doing something about guns, it never is. It’s about getting a free ride into Harvard, pimping a documentary, starting an odd pillow business. It is all always about profiting personally from victimhood, the retirement strategy of most Americans under 40 today, and of Michael Moore.

    What was intended by Moore in 2018 as a rallying point, a radical film to drive young people into the streets to defeat National Socialism, looks just a few years later like another contribution to a generation’s cynicism. How many heroes pumped by the media — Robert Mueller, James Comey, Michael Avennati, and Michael Moore come to mind — need to implode before young people figure out the grift and turn away. Now that might be the start of the movement Michael Moore imagines he’d be the guy to lead.

    Fahrenheit 11/9 is irregularly available on Netflix. Scroll past the Pride section, Black Stories, and Marginalized Voices down to the part that might be labeled “Stuff You Can At Least Tolerate When Your Friends Come Over and No One is Talking to Each Other.”




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    Copyright © 2020. All rights reserved. The views expressed here are solely those of the author(s) in their private capacity.

    Posted in Democracy

    Appearance of Action is Not Action

    November 23, 2021 // 1 Comment »

    It’s bad enough when someone actually thinks reposting a “I Stand With…” meme is an act of woke resistance. But when the problem is enlarged to societal-scale, it hurts us all. Nothing actually broken actually gets fixed, and a deep sense of cynicism is injected into the souls of once-believers when they realize they’ve been conned. We live in an age where the appearance of action is mistaken for action.

    So we are left to wonder about the point, other than setting the stage for more future cynicism, of the Google “doodle” this past Veteran’s Day. The illustration showed various vets, all appropriately racially ratioed, drawn half in uniform and half in civilian garb. One’s a painter, one’s a baker, and the Marine is shown as trans. The figure has a man’s face but half his body is in dress blue and half in a civvie dress. We’re left to wonder what the point is. Are Americans more sensitive now to the needs of male Marines who wear women’s clothing? Or is the illustration just a naughty stunt like a gay kiss on The Simpsons, a way of angering some made-up version of a conservative who was never invited to the barbeque in the first place?

    The same question begs with TV commercials, seemingly all of which now feature either black actors alone, or as part of interracial LGBTQBLT couples. Just like white folks used to, they suffer from bloating and tsk tsk over which paper towel picks up better. Google and Apple don’t seem to even let old people use their products anymore. It’s all very hip youngers with I-didn’t-comb-it hair skateboarding or creating or influencing. Movies and streaming series’ are exclusively about people struggling with coming out, going out, or staying in. Every POC who has ever suffered has had his/her/their story made into a mini-series with the tag line “Against all odds…” As time goes by, perhaps more older movies can be remade with black actors digitally replacing white performers, like colorizing old B&W movies.

    All the bad statues have been torn down. All the bad high schools have been renamed. Most Americans now know Thomas Jefferson was little more than a rapist, albeit with a way with words we will not longer talk about. All the bad companies we were asked to boycott on Twitter for donating to the wrong candidates or promoting transphobia are out of business. No one ever shops at the Home Depot or Chik-a-Filet or purchases racist bed pillows. And Dems, kudos. You got more women, like Kristen Smyrna, into office. In each election the media tally the faux progress telling us how many whites were replaced with POC, how many female Asians bested men, and so forth towards a mythical Übermensch trans black disabled left-hander who refuses to speak English, the language of the patriarchy.

    But what happens when an entire generation realizes one day it is full of baloney, that none of that changes anything? What happens when people realize after a summer of BLM violence Minnesota did not defund its police, and rising crime in New York lead to bringing back an anti-gun task force once disbanded as a racist tool? When people realize the Glasgow climate conference wrapped up with no real plan to reduce fossil fuels?

    Yet people still too deep into the con to see the con cheer openly for awareness being raised, conversations being started, dialogues opened, and all that as it it mattered. Black Lives Matter took over the hivemind of American media and academia. Major corporate institutions fell over themselves to “go black,” assuring Colin Kaepernick will never have to work a day again in his life. BLM became a third rail — criticize it and lose your platform, your job, maybe your freedom. But not much changed for the good and if you’re counting black-on-black gun violence things got a whole lot worse. Black men are systemically shot and killed in, for example, New York City, and no one seems to care because the triggers aren’t pulled by cops. New York saw its bloodiest week in late April, with a 300 percent surge in shooting incidents from the same week in 2020. About the only thing left for the movement is to arrange the lynching of white supremacy poster child Kyle Rittenhouse.

    Same with climate change. Delegates from around the world, including President George H.W. Bush, met in Rio de Janeiro in 1992 for a first “Earth Summit,” promising to stop wrecking the planet. A new global treaty was made, the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. And yet… And yet Glasgow is the 26th time delegates from around the world met to again discuss change, without change. About the only thing left in the movement is to arrange the symbolic coronation of climate change poster child Greta Thunberg.

    It is important to understand these movements did not fail. They were never intended to succeed in the sense of actually ending racism or changing the climate. They were designed as political stunts, fund raising slams, a way to promote some person into celebrity status with the help of a compliant media. That’s the flim flam being pulled.

    We live ever deeper in a fantasy world where progressives convince themselves destroying old symbols, or creating new ones like Greta, will change real life. They have convinced themselves maintaining white supremacy requires having a statue of Teddy Roosevelt in front of the courthouse and expect somehow with the statue gone so are all the problems. Way back when an old girlfriend did me wrong I threw out all the photos I had of us together. I felt better in the moment but learned a hard lesson: symbols are not real life. Getting rid of them does not fix things.

    The failure of peace, love, drugs, and rock and roll to change the world in the 1960s eventually gave us the cynical and self-centered “Me Generation” of the 1980s. That era’s deeply embedded sense of greed and bland acceptance scarred us as a society. It is no surprise then mired in cynicism pretending to be resistance a generation today defines people like AOC and her squad as a success. In their terms of office they have passed no legislation or done much of anything but self-promotion and fund-raising; AOC voted against her party’s infrastructure bill to make some vague political feel good point instead of helping her constituents. Attention is treated as political currency when it’s just narcissism. Welcome to America, where everything ends up a grift.


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    Copyright © 2020. All rights reserved. The views expressed here are solely those of the author(s) in their private capacity.

    Posted in Democracy