TCS Daily

The Coleridge Party

By Pejman Yousefzadeh - July 6, 2004 12:00 AM

"... that willing suspension of disbelief for the moment, which constitutes poetic faith."
-- Samuel Taylor Coleridge

Prominent national Democrats recently flocked to the movie theaters to indulge themselves in a bit of agreeable agitprop -- namely, Michael Moore's new documentary Fahrenheit 9/11. And, needless to say, they loved it. "This movie raises a lot of the issues that Americans are talking about, that George Bush has been asleep at the switch since he's been president," said Democratic National Committee Chairman Terry McAuliffe. "It's important for the American people to understand what has gone on before, what led us to this point, and to see it sort of in this unvarnished presentation by Michael Moore," remarked Iowa Senator Tom Harkin -- presumably with a straight face.

The use of the word "unvarnished" would imply that Moore's presentation is a factual one. But Moore's movie pays no homage to the facts, and indeed, goes out of its way to avoid them. From editing interviews to fit his preconceived propaganda line (a Moore specialty, I might add), to avoiding questions that show just how much he has airbrushed history to make his points, Moore shows that he has no respect for the facts that should find their way into any honest discussion of the war on terror in general, and the war in Iraq in particular.

It's not as if the lies in Moore's film are well-hidden. The websites and keep a running commentary on Moore's inability to coincide his facts with the truth. Slate Magazine's Christopher Hitchens penned a devastating review of Moore's latest movie, one that reveals Fahrenheit 9/11 to be a laugh-out-loud fraud. Moore is obviously frightened of the fact-checking that would reveal him to be a fabulist of amazing proportions, which is why he is hell-bent on intimidating his opponents with threats of lawsuits if they should even have the temerity to question his gospel.

And yet, despite all of the flaws and holes in Moore's film, national Democrats actually went to the theater and spoke glowingly of it. One wonders what they were thinking. Weren't any of them familiar enough with current events to have to stifle guffaws as Moore's movie rolled along with one historical misrepresentation after another? Did none of them notice that the portrayal of a relatively benign and peaceful Iraq was . . . well . . . completely out of touch with reality? Did none of them ask themselves why Moore didn't see fit to even give a mention of the human rights abuses that ran rampant in Saddam Hussein's regime, or why Fahrenheit 9/11 utterly failed to discuss Iraq's past aggression to its neighbors, its serial violations of the cease-fire resolution that ended the first Persian Gulf War, or its obstruction of weapons inspections since the end of Operation Desert Storm? The belief that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction and was colluding with terrorist groups like al Qaeda was not unique to the Bush Administration. Rather, it was shared by the Clinton Administration before it -- as Stephen Hayes points out and as this article and this one make clear. Did any of the Democrats who screened the movie think about these facts as they listened to Moore's disembodied voice proclaiming throughout the movie that only the Bush Administration made claims about Iraq-al Qaeda links -- and that they were lying when they did so? Or did they merely accept Moore's jeremiad unquestioningly because it focused on a convenient target (a Republican President) at a convenient time (an election year)?

Increasingly, it seems that prominent Democrats have themselves adopted the Moore style of vitriol and demagoguery with a complete disregard of the facts and the bounds of responsible rhetoric sprinkled in. Former Vice President Al Gore made a speech just recently where he launched a fevered attack on the Bush Administration's national security policy, and where he claimed that members of the electronic media who oppose the Democrats on political grounds are "digital Brown Shirts." Of course, as this blog entry points out, Gore was once singing the same national security tune as the administration he now excoriates.

No one believes for a moment that the cult of irresponsibility is confined to just one party, and conspiratorial whispers during the Clinton Administration that Bill Clinton had Vince Foster killed, or that the Clintons ran drugs, were just as shameful as the swallowing and parroting of Michael Moore's alternative history by prominent Democrats. And it would come as no surprise if there are other prominent Democrats who are appalled by their party's embrace of a mendacious filmmaker and his hate-filled message. But either their voices are being drowned out by other Democrats eager to grab hold of Fahrenheit 9/11 and use it as a political tool -- no matter what the cost to honest discourse -- or they are not stepping forward in the first place to try to inject some semblance of sanity in their party.

Either way, it's a sad state of affairs when a party goes from telling us that "we have nothing to fear but fear itself" to telling us that it has nothing to offer but anger itself. Samuel Taylor Coleridge's comments about "the willing suspension of disbelief" seem entirely apt when applied to the Democratic Party's seeming endorsement of Michael Moore's fiction-disguised-as-documentary. So long as the Coleridge-ethos holds and grossly misleading messages such as the one contained in Fahrenheit 9/11 are passed along to the American public with the Democrats' stamp of approval, perhaps there should be a commensurate suspension of trust in a party so willing to bamboozle the people it claims to want to lead and represent.


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