Quantcast
Connect with us

Trump is the symptom, not the disease in Michael Moore’s terrifying ‘Fahrenheit 11/9’

Published

on

- Commentary
Michael Moore’s new film “Fahrenheit 11/9” begins in Philadelphia on November 7, 2016 — election eve. Images flash of euphoric Hillary Clinton supporters, expecting to see their candidate formally declared President. Then we see clips of various politicians and celebrities, who all smugly claim that Donald Trump is never going to win. It’s a brilliant open to a cautionary tale. Rather than start with a focus on Trump, Moore opens by focusing on a deluded public who couldn’t see what was coming.

This article was originally published at Salon

ADVERTISEMENT

Moore has always been a master at offering audiences documentaries that are provocative, insightful, revelatory and witty. But that’s never been all there is to it. Moore’s movies are not simply intellectual endeavors. This has been true since his first film “Roger and Me” (1989), which exposed the economic impact of GM’s decision to close plants in Michigan. And it remained true with films like “Bowling for Columbine” (2002), which went after the NRA and won Moore an Academy Award. Then he released “Fahrenheit 9/11” (2004), which broke box office records and offered a sharp, critical view of the George W. Bush administration’s War on Terror in the wake of the attacks of 9/11/2001.

“Fahrenheit 11/9” draws on this rich legacy to offer viewers Moore’s most powerful movie yet. The film uses the story of the rise of Trump to document the failures, weaknesses and flaws in our democracy. For Moore, the story of Trump is not a story about a momentary breakdown in a system that allowed a dangerous, narcissist to come to power; it is a story about a system that has been careening towards this outcome for decades.

In characteristic Moore style, the film offers a lot of juicy Trump insights, including the claim that Trump decided to run because he was jealous of the fact that Gwen Stefani was earning more money than him at NBC. Ultimately, though, Moore refuses to give Trump too much screen time. “Yes, I will show you some stuff about Trump that you haven’t seen,” Moore told Hollywood Reporter, “but if you’re coming to see the pee tape, you’re going to the wrong movie.”

If you were looking for an easy out of the Trump era, like impeachment, this isn’t the movie for you either. But, if you are looking for a movie that reveals the complex web of political manipulation, abuses of power and institutional failures that made Trump possible, then this film is must-see.

ADVERTISEMENT

From the opening moments of the film Moore makes it clear that Trump is the symptom, not the disease. What makes Trump especially frightening, though, as Moore makes clear, is that he is not like the rest of the ruling class. Rather than hide his abuses of power in the shadows, he takes the limelight. And, rather than try to repress his megalomania, Trump basks in it. Even more, Trump is a master at manipulating the media and controlling the narrative.

But most importantly Trump doesn’t believe that any rules apply to him and he is obsessed with holding absolute power. This is why the title of the film references Moore’s earlier work in “Fahrenheit 9/11” — the message is that if the Bush administration’s response to 9/11 distressed you, then you should be truly terrified by what a Trump administration might make of a similar event.

To make the point clear, Moore goes back to the time that he appeared alongside Trump on Roseanne Barr’s “The Roseanne Show” in 1998. Moore’s “Roger and Me” came out in 1989 not long after Trump’s “Art of the Deal” (1987).  They both clearly represented radically different views about capitalism. So when Trump saw Moore, he had good reason to think Moore might go after him and he threatened to cancel the interview. In damage control, Barr’s team asked Moore to play nice with Trump and he conceded. Looking back on that moment, Moore reflects on the fact that Trump played him that day, that he got what he wanted from him.  At the time, Moore had a reputation as someone who would bravely go after corporate corruption and abuses of power.  Yet, as they prepped Moore for the Barr show, he was convinced to roll over for Trump.  It was through that experience that Moore learned not to underestimate Trump—a lesson he repeated all through the election cycle as one of the lone voices who predicted Trump’s win.

ADVERTISEMENT

As Moore looks back on Trump’s rise to power he offers his audience lots of sharp, witty, satirical irony, but ultimately Moore’s point is that Trump may be a joke, but there’s nothing funny about him. As if to drive home the point, this is Moore’s most chilling, least-lighthearted film yet. Sure, he breaks up the tension with scenes like the one where he posits that Stefani is the reason Trump decided to run, but these moments are flashes in a film that draws serious and detailed comparisons between the Trump administration and Nazi Germany.

At the heart of the film is the message that abusive systems of power depend on a public that is complacent, compromising, passive and distracted. In order to draw out how we came to be a nation where so few people vote and even fewer feel like their voices matter, Moore takes aim across the political spectrum. One of the most powerful aspects of the film is the way that Moore pulls no punches as he outs the establishment left and faults them for their complicity with corporate capital. Nancy Pelosi, Bill Clinton and Barack Obama all come under fire as Moore reveals how they sold out the ideals of the Democratic Party to corporate backers.

He even implicates himself, not only for his soft peddling of Trump during the Barr interview, but also for the various times that his own career has brushed up against the corrupt power elite in ways that feel altogether too chummy to him in hindsight. He even reveals that Jared Kushner hosted the after-party for the premiere of “Sicko” (2007), his documentary about the failures in our healthcare system.

ADVERTISEMENT

One of the most moving elements of the film is the way that Moore tells the story of the water crisis in his hometown of Flint, Michigan and turns this personal and local tragedy into a warning for the nation as a whole. Moore documents how Michigan’s Governor Rick Snyder put profit over the people of Flint when he replaced their clean water source with one that was contaminated with lead. The film offers chilling details of how the Snyder administration knowingly poisoned an entire city.

Moore makes the case that the story of Flint is not one of isolated corruption and greed; it is a story of a nation that has allowed this sort of criminal behavior to be more than acceptable, but routine. With scenes that connect Snyder and Trump, Moore shows how a willful disregard for human life and total abandonment of any moral code are now common political practice. Moore works hard to drive home the point that the story of Flint is not an isolated incident or a tragic accident, but proof of the triumph of corporate capitalism over democratic ideals.

As Moore moves across the country covering stories of families that have been left behind by a system designed to benefit the oligarchy, Moore also documents a rising resistance. From the teachers’ strike in West Virginia to the teenage students of Parkland, Florida, who organized the “March for Our Lives,” to various young, progressive politicians, like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Rashida Tlaib, and Michael Hepburn, Moore reminds us that what we need isn’t hope; it’s action.  Never one to leave his audience in despair, Moore offers his viewers a path to resistance. He makes it clear, though, that the only way that resistance will make a difference is if everyone who is frustrated with the system gets involved.

ADVERTISEMENT

It’s not unusual to describe a creative triumph as a “tour de force.” But in this case the phrase, which stems from the French for “feat of strength”, is especially apt. This film really is Moore’s tour de force — a forceful, moving, and compelling call to action.   A number of Michael Moore’s films have made history. This time he’s asking his audience to be the ones to do it.

“Fahrenheit 11/9” premiered on September 6 at the Toronto Film Festival. It opens nationwide on September 21.

Enjoy this piece?

… then let us make a small request. Like you, we here at Raw Story believe in the power of progressive journalism — and we’re investing in investigative reporting as other publications give it the ax. Raw Story readers power David Cay Johnston’s DCReport, which we've expanded to keep watch in Washington. We’ve exposed billionaire tax evasion and uncovered White House efforts to poison our water. We’ve revealed financial scams that prey on veterans, and legal efforts to harm workers exploited by abusive bosses. We’ve launched a weekly podcast, “We’ve Got Issues,” focused on issues, not tweets. And unlike other news outlets, we’ve decided to make our original content free. But we need your support to do what we do.

Raw Story is independent. You won’t find mainstream media bias here. We’re not part of a conglomerate, or a project of venture capital bros. From unflinching coverage of racism, to revealing efforts to erode our rights, Raw Story will continue to expose hypocrisy and harm. Unhinged from billionaires and corporate overlords, we fight to ensure no one is forgotten.

We need your support to keep producing quality journalism and deepen our investigative reporting. Every reader contribution, whatever the amount, makes a tremendous difference. Invest with us in the future. Make a one-time contribution to Raw Story Investigates, or click here to become a subscriber. Thank you. Click to donate by check.

Enjoy this piece?

… then let us make a small request. Like you, we here at Raw Story believe in the power of progressive journalism — and we’re investing in investigative reporting as other publications give it the ax. Raw Story readers power David Cay Johnston’s DCReport, which we've expanded to keep watch in Washington. We’ve exposed billionaire tax evasion and uncovered White House efforts to poison our water. We’ve revealed financial scams that prey on veterans, and efforts to harm workers exploited by abusive bosses. We’ve launched a weekly podcast, “We’ve Got Issues,” focused on issues, not tweets. Unlike other news sites, we’ve decided to make our original content free. But we need your support to do what we do.

Raw Story is independent. You won’t find mainstream media bias here. We’re not part of a conglomerate, or a project of venture capital bros. From unflinching coverage of racism, to revealing efforts to erode our rights, Raw Story will continue to expose hypocrisy and harm. Unhinged from corporate overlords, we fight to ensure no one is forgotten.

We need your support to keep producing quality journalism and deepen our investigative reporting. Every reader contribution, whatever the amount, makes a tremendous difference. Invest with us in the future. Make a one-time contribution to Raw Story Investigates, or click here to become a subscriber. Thank you.



Report typos and corrections to: [email protected]. Send news tips to: [email protected].
READ COMMENTS - JOIN THE DISCUSSION
Continue Reading

Breaking Banner

ICE and Homeland Security busted pushing right-wing propaganda and conspiracy theories

Published

on

Donald Trump in Oval Office

Multiple federal departments have been pushing far-right propaganda to federal employees.

"An arm of the Justice Department regularly sent summaries and links to articles from an online white nationalist publication over the last year, a BuzzFeed News investigation has found. In addition, similar newsletters sent to the Labor Department, ICE, HUD and the Department of Homeland Security, included links and content from hyperpartisan and conspiracy-oriented publishers," BuzzFeed News reported Friday.

Continue Reading

Breaking Banner

Trump claimed North Korea missile testing ‘would stop’ — but they just launched again: report

Published

on

The upcoming G7 summit meeting in Bairritz, France will have one more issue to grapple with after North Korea reportedly conducted missile tests.

"South Korea's military confirms that North Korea has launched a projectile this morning. From South Hamgyong Province. Japan's government reported it first," Voice of America Seoul bureau chief William Gallo Tweeted Friday.

"North Korea has now conducted nine rounds of launches since early May. But this one's notable because it comes after Trump says Kim promised "this testing would stop when the exercises end." They did end Tuesday. And yet..." he noted.

Continue Reading
 

Breaking Banner

Trump is ‘having a full-blown mental breakdown’ and needs to resign: Ex-Trump staffer

Published

on

Leading Republican elected officials should work with President Donald Trump's family to negotiate him resigning from office, a former top White House official suggested on MSNBC on Friday.

Former White House press secretary Anthony Scaramucci blasted his former boss during an interview with Chuck Todd on MSNBC's "Meet the Press Daily."

"He has totally and completely lost it. There is nobody that can look at the situation, read the tweets, look at the press sprays, and say he hasn’t lost it," Scaramucci argued.

"What does that mean, lost it?" Todd asked. "Define that."

Continue Reading
 
 

Thank you for whitelisting Raw Story!

As a special thank you, from now until August 31st, we're offering you a discounted rate of $5.99/month to subscribe and get ad-free access. We're honored to have you as a reader. Thank you. :) —Elias, Membership Coordinator
LEARN MORE
close-link
close-image