Thursday, June 24, 2004

Mooring your boat to a Hitching post

Christopher Hitchen's piece on Michael Moore's Fahrenheit 911 at Slate (which has garnered comment here and here), following his vivisection of Ronald Reagan, is the perfect attack piece. Finding some flaws in Moore's arguments and by taking those to their extremes, dismissing the rest of the film.

It is not to me to defend Moore. And if the argument is that his methods of stretching a point to bolster his case, actually gives ammo to his opponents and can weaken his argument, well, I agree. I wish Mike would stick to the facts, and nothing but the facts, because he has them on his side. But as SFGate and Salon both show this morning, some of Mike's critics are distorting his claims and using those distortions to brand him a liar.

Referring to the Michael Isikoff piece in Newsweek, Salon writes,
Isikoff also mischaracterizes what Unger says in the film about FBI interviews of the fleeing bin Ladens. This one is easy to check. In the movie, Moore sums up the Saudi evacuation process by saying: "So a little interview, check the passport, what else?" he asks. "Nothing," Unger replied.

Unger tells War Room, "I never say they were not interviewed. What I do say is this: Given that 48 hours earlier, 3,000 people had just been murdered, this was a time for a serious massive criminal investigation to begin and it didn't happen. Instead, relatively speaking, Saudis were given privileges Americans were not allowed."
I mention the Isikoff piece because Hitchens makes the same point about the interviews, but from this quote it appears that Moore indicated that the interviews were cursory, not non-existent. "...a little interview..., what else?"..."nothing".

Hitchen's states, "he makes heavy innuendoes about the flights that took members of the Bin Laden family out of the country after Sept. 11." However the SFGate and Salon pieces seem to present a more nuanced assessment of whether those innuendoes have any grounding in fact.

This is not to say that Moore doesn't draw conclusions that may not always be grounded in reality, but they are questions worth asking, and the truth is often closer to his view than not. One of the things he has been most criticized for was staging the "open a bank account, get a gun" scene in Bowling for Columbine. It is true that he gave the impression that you could walk into the bank, open an account and walk out with a gun, which was not true, and many have used that to discredit the movie and Moore. But the larger point was true. This bank was offering a gun (albeit with the normal waiting periods) to people who opened a bank account.

By all means, call Moore on his inaccuracies, and if you disagree with his argument, so be it. But, be cautious of allowing Hitchens or O'Reilly to be your standard of veracity.

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