MICHAEL MOORE’S new film Fahrenheit 9/11, released in Britain on Friday of this week, has got right up the nose of the establishment. First they tried to stop us seeing this anti-Bush documentary and when that failed they attacked it by saying its facts were questionable.
But for everyone who hates how the system works or opposes the occupation of Iraq, it is a film of raw power.
It is aggressive and, in an election year, polemical. It is a wonderful documentary not just for what it shows us—but what it tells us about the US today.
The opening week of the film in the US tells its own story. It is taking more money than Hollywood blockbusters.
It is a hit not just in the liberal areas but also in the so called heartlands of Republicanism.
As Moore says, “We sold out in Fayetteville, home of Fort Bragg. We sold out in army-base towns. We set house records in some of these places. We set single-day records in a number of theatres.”
How many films end with the audience rising up and chanting, “Bush out, Bush out”?
The reason is simple. Far from being a land of patriotic zealots, the US is a place of cuts and pain, disillusion and division. There are two sides to this nation.
The rich bask in the apparent triumph of neo-liberalism. In the film we see Bush boasting at a fundraising dinner that it is nice to talk to the “haves and have mores”.
But we also see the economic wastelands of places like Flint, Michigan, prime recruiting grounds for poverty and the US army.
There are already echoes of the Vietnam War era. When US soldiers in Iraq are interviewed in the film and start saying things like “you cannot kill someone without killing part of yourself” they sound like soldiers coming out of the Vietnam War.
Today’s casualties in the hospitals, limbs and lives shattered, are bitter because they know George W wants to cut combat pay by 30 percent and veteran aid by 60 percent.
It is not pretty or politically correct, but it is part of the same process of change that brought the US military to its knees in the early 1970s.
In the film we meet Lila Lipscomb, a women typical of many US workers. She has learnt more in a few months than any graduate of Oxford or Harvard could achieve in a hundred years.
She is white and working class. She lives in Flint, where there is 50 percent unemployment.
She says that with two kids in the armed forces (she encouraged them to join up) at first she hated anti-war protesters. When she realised that they were against the “concept of the war” and not the soldiers she stopped hating them.
Now she is against the war. She is still patriotic, but it is people like Lila, warts and all, who can effect real change in the US.
Out of 592 members of Congress only one has children serving in Iraq. The US army is a force made up primarily from the poor, just like Vietnam.
Since the Seattle demonstration in 1999 the US has seen a new culture of dissent.
Writers like Naomi Klein and Noam Chomsky have risen in popularity. Books like Fast Food Nation have become bestsellers. The internet is studded with sites like ZNet and Bring Them Home Now.
Growing numbers of Americans are joining groups opposed to Bush’s US. What they increasingly can’t be bothered to do—just like Europe—is roll out at elections and vote for the same bunch of corrupt politicians.
How do Americans politically organise and express this dissent?
At the moment it is under a “Get Bush out” banner. Everybody in their right minds wants the world’s number one terrorist thrown out of office. But who will replace him?
A Democrat president will betray people like Lila Lipscomb.
This is hard to swallow when you have someone like Bush in office, but it will happen.
John Kerry, Bush’s opponent in November, does not even mention Iraq in his campaign. At a time like this it takes real courage to break from the US’s “two party, same party” system, but now is the moment to do it.
It is disastrous that the Greens won’t back Ralph Nader as an independent candidate.
What the US needs now is to rekindle the spirit of people like Tom Paine or Malcolm X. Hey, there is an ideal independent candidate who would get millions of votes—Michael Moore.
For more information about the film go to www.fahrenheit911.com