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Culture Change

What's missing from Fahrenheit 9/11 —  the first movie to demolish a president

by Jan Lundberg  

July 4, Berkeley — There was no better day for me to see and review the Michael Moore film Fahrenheit 9/11 than the Fourth of July.  Later I did some creek restoration — no fireworks, hotdogs or flags for me.  But on this Fourth, one can detect some popular political resistance afoot that could build toward demilitarizing U.S. society.  Such a movement for change would have to go beyond who wins the next election if the world is to have a fighting chance.

Although I literally applauded this film, it would seem that Moore can only go so far in questioning not just U.S. society but our basic way of life and our relationship with nature.  The challenge for most viewers is to keep in mind or discover that social justice is not everything, when our culture says it is okay to use up the Earth "peacefully."

I went to Fahrenheit 9/11 with the expectation of not being extremely impressed.  But the film, ranging beyond 9/11 itself, succeeds in getting  very close to the players, especially "W" and ordinary people such as folks in Flint, Michigan, the outraged, mutilated Iraqis, and U.S. invaders — all of whom pay the price for war-mongering and corporate profiteering.  Moore and his film have articulated, for the biggest opposition bloc since the Vietnam War, a compassionate and outraged stance against war, the U.S. government and society's ruling elite.

The scariest aspect of the movie may be the convincing portrayal of George W. Bush as not a very intelligent or articulate man.  The pretend-game played by compliant news-media people is shameful when they know Bush to be barely able to get across a coherent thought without a script on most occasions.  A more damning conclusion is that the people of the U.S. aren't on average much smarter than W, as proven by the state of the nation — and the War OF Terror is only one problem facing us all.

Moore looked at the bigger picture than what really happened on September 11, 2001, such that there was surprisingly little on the actual event.  But Moore put September 11 into historical context as, for example, he covered related events such as the U.S. takeover of what I now call Unocalistan.

Politics covered well

I clapped for the film at its close along with everyone else in the large, packed theatre.  The film's flaws seemed too minor to begrudge.  I didn't mind being talked down to if the movie uplifted people and maintained humor.  What I do feel compelled to bring up is what else can be said to an awakening victim of the American Ruse, as the rock group MC5 described the ruling status quo's brutality and notions of morality.  I will get to my critique after dispensing with final political concerns:

Moore may have led people to imagine that better politicians, such as honest ones against war, are the answer. 

One of my correspondents was recently hit on his bike by an SUV, shattering his ankle.  He saw Fahrenheit 9/11, and here's what he told me 

"Those responsible for this corrupt war are not only the oil companies and Bush-types, but all Americans who remain hopelessly tied to their automobiles (using oil) to move their bodies around town, creating the demand.  Everyone walked out of the theater and into their cars to get on the congested roads..."

Back to politics-as-usual:  It was instructive that the film opened with the U.S. Senate's and Al Gore's refusal to challenge the results of the Presidential election based on Florida fraud and the need for a recount.  Moore could have said more: under the Constitution the Senate ratifies the election, and the Senate could have refused to do so with the Democratic Party majority that was only enabled with Gore as the President of the Senate voting as well.  Why this did not happen suggests that the Democrats deliberately threw the election to the Bush team.  This in turn suggests that the American Ruse is built on the two-party system's being one, cynical ruling clique.  This was further exhibited by the Democrats' later pro-war and pro-Patriot Act positions.

Now that we have dismissed the Democrats as a factor for real change in a society (representing as they do, for the most part, criminal corporations), we can start to get beyond the political discussion after asking this: Do we support an opposition leader just because she or he is the only choice, or is the strongest opponent?  

In 1964 there appeared to be a clear choice between a war-like Barry Goldwater and the apparently pro-peace Lyndon Johnson.  However, Johnson gave us Goldwater's war in Vietnam.  The peace movement got fooled, but apart from finally coming up with George McGovern for President, the movement can be said to have not learned about candidates.  Perhaps the defeat of McGovern should have told the movement that real change needs to flow from the streets rather than at the ballot.

In the history of  U.S. presidential elections, there may have never been a really alternative candidate.  If that's what democracy is, it's a failure.  Either we redefine democracy or we come up with a better term for what we want.  If it's a matter of "the less government the better" as an American ideal, there is that slogan "There's no government like no government!"

The place of humans in the land, air and water

What I see in Fahrenheit 9/11 is more than anguished citizens, crooked politicians, soldiers (both of the pitiful/confused and the bloodthirsty varieties), and greedy corporados.  I see the whole U.S. population disconnected from the land, and taking for granted the real stuff of life: soil, air and water.  The ignorant ecological state of mind of our downtrodden, fukked population, however, is easily understood from watching a movie such as Moore's.

The way of life of today's consumers — largely alienated from nature and each other — is a severe challenge and an ugly mess.  An aware citizen's home, such as belonging to one of the heroes of the film in the Fresno Peace group, is just as unsustainable, we can assume, as a pro-war person's abode.  Both kinds of citizens are waging war against nature when they are using electrical appliances including cellular telephones and have water pumped to their homes via the electric power grid.  Yet, to "attack" U.S. consumption is more unpatriotic than a movie such as Fahrenheit 9/11.

Seldom noticed by the average American and perhaps Moore is that overpopulation has arrived in the U.S. and globally.  The consuming masses of struggling humanity — lacking a tribal culture of solid community support — has little clue how to take care of its own needs so as to work less, enjoy freedom and hold life sacred.  The preceding Culture Change Letter (on "separation from nature") and the following one (on fukked Americans) focus on the issue of what we are missing by accepting mainstream programming of our lives.  In still other columns, I have pointed out the folly of living as if petroleum civilization will endure, with today's plethora of technological devices and similar dependencies.

In a word, Fahrenheit 9/11 lacks consciousness of the modern American lifestyle's complete unsustainability.  Yet, with such a powerful and timely film, I cannot criticize.  I simply sense — practically every minute everywhere I go, without relief and with mounting concern — that the nation's citizenry is oblivious or in denial.  This is too serious to laugh at as an absurdity, as one can almost do with George Bush and Congress.

Michael Moore said in another powerful documentary, the recently released The Corporation, that he and his wife think of their seemingly innocuous automobile-assembly roots as part of a massively destructive global-warming practice that hardly anyone questions as yet.  This awareness by Moore may signal his dealing with the environment in another effective movie, coming to a theater near you.  He will have to deal with the reality of oil peaking globally, although the recent documentary The End of Suburbia beat him to the punch.

Here's what does Fahrenheit 9/11 makes me want to do, even more than The Corporation did as it too exposed "our" corrupt, psychopathic system:  Hit the road with my guitar and do songs such as Peace Now, which I wrote in a reggae beat immediately after the September 11, 2001 attacks:

We're on a planet
That is explodin'
In population
And global warmin'
The war of terror
Is against the Third Stone

We need some peace now
Don't need no jet planes
We need more lovin'
And understandin'
But I can't say how
The people gonna be saved
My paranoia
And desperation
May make me crazy
Or even lazy
But I don't take to
No hypocritical way

They're buildin' highways
Across the farmland
We drive to fast food
And drink a six pack
But it won't last now
So we gotta be brave
We make some changes
In daily living
We say our good-byes
To oil and violence
We get together
And make a culture that stays

Fly the Earth flag today
Is it American Way


For more reviews of Fahrenheit 9/11, see 
Although some of the reviewers are disgruntled and picky (in the face of Moore's accomplishment), there is excellent further information to chew on.

Next Culture Change Letter essay:  How fukked is the average U.S. citizen? 


 June 30, 2004

The End of Suburbia
Plastic Oceans
Bike Blogger's wisdom
Global Warming Crisis Council and the Pledge for Climate Protection

Back to Home Page

Jan Lundberg's columns are protected by copyright; however, non-commercial use of the material is permitted as long as full attribution is given with a link to this website, and he is informed of the re-publishing:


Articles of interest:
Anti-globalization protest grows, with tangible results.  WTO protests page

Tax fossil-fuel energy easily
by Peter Salonius

UK leader calls War on Terror "bogus"

Argentina bleeds toward healing by Raul Riutor

The oil industry has plans for you: blow-back by Jan Lundberg

It's not a war for oil? by Adam Khan

How to create a pedestrian mall by Michelle Wallar

The Cuban bike revolution

How GM destroyed the U.S. rail system excerpts from the film "Taken for a Ride".

"Iraqi oil not enough for US: Last days of America?"

Depaving the world by Richard Register

Roadkill: Driving animals to their graves by Mark Matthew Braunstein

The Hydrogen fuel cell technofix: Spencer Abraham's hydrogen dream.

Ancient Forest Protection in Northern California. Forest defenders climb trees to save them.

Daniel Quinn's thoughts on this website.

A case study in unsustainable development is the ongoing crisis in Palestine and Israel.

Renewable and alternative energy information.

Conserving energy at home (Calif. Title 24)



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