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Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Ideology in Michael Moore’s Documentary-Fahrenheit 9/11

the following is a write up on 'Ideology in Michael Moore’s Documentary-Fahrenheit 9/11' by Farah Aleem Ghori

Fahrenheit 9/11 is a documentary by Michael Moore. It deals with the assaults of 9/11 and the subsequent invasion and occupation of Iraq. This documentary shows the world the pitfalls of American political thinking. American politics reduce every political issue to psychoanalysis of individual motives, the politics of the individual and sociological discussions of racism.

This political documentary, released in 2004, serves as a treatise against the Bush administration. It highlights what Moore sees as governmental corruption and disinformation by the former president and his staff in the wake of the September 11, 2001, terrorism attacks, and in the lead up to the American invasion of Iraq. At the time of its release, Fahrenheit 9/11 was a critical success, sparking widespread debate about the United States’ involvement in Iraq and raising public outcry against Bush administration policies.

An ideology can be understood as a set of ideas that constitutes one's goals, expectations, and actions. An ideology can be a comprehensive vision, as a way of looking at things. The main purpose behind an ideology is to offer either change in society, or adherence to a set of ideals where conformity already exists, through a normative thought process.

Fahrenheit 9/11 is a film that politically attacks the President of the United States. The film started with the 2000 U.S.Presidential Elections wherein Bush “supposedly won” against Al Gore and moved forward to the 9/11 terrorist attacks and how Bush dealt with the war in Iraq. One can simply recognize the propaganda that Moore made. In order to be able to convince people watching, he made footages that made his arguments looked more persuasive. He described Bush as a President who spent most of his time on vacation.

Moore made an attempt to convince Americans that the current President is not doing his job and thus Bush and his administration was only deceiving the people. After the attack, he let the family of Osama Bin Laden leave the country and the investigations were delayed. The documentary then shows the initial reactions of Bush when he came to know about the attack. He is seen in Florida with the local school children. Innocent lives were not spared, several US soldiers died and their families were grieving but until this time Bin Laden was not caught. In general, Moore wanted to impart in his documentary film that Bush lacks political planning, cleverness, and interest to handle seriously his position. The main purpose behind conveying this ideology is to show Bush as an irresponsible president.

The Americans were grieving as well as the world when the 9/11 happened. Bush declared war against Bin Laden and attacked Afghanistan, his reason was the Taliban were protecting Bin Laden. Bush tried to warn the American to enjoy life but be very observant, the result was fear and unsecured environment. The information that he handed were all against Bush. Moore has not shown the real essence of the existence of Bush to the Americans.

One of the most powerful statement occurred in the documentary at the end, when Moore refers to the powers that keep the masses ignorant and apathetic. It is their ignorance and consent, which keeps the hierarchal nature of our society intact.

This can be seen in relation to Gramsci's notion of ideology hegemony. Ideology is here defined as "meaning making in the service of power". So hegemony is a way of meaning making that carries with it a politics of domination. It is the theory that the rulers of society maintain their rule by winning over the normal understandings held by the masses (i.e. in Fahrenheit 9/11the woman who responds to Lila Lipscomb's grief over the death of her son by telling her to blame "al quada" illustrates this).

Gramsci used the term hegemony to denote the predominance of one social class over others. This represents not only political and economic control, but also the ability of the dominant class to project its own way of seeing the world so that those who are subordinated by it accept it as 'common sense' and 'natural'. This film is full of emotional, documentary dramatics, is still a valid and intensely powerful piece of counter-hegemony.

Counter-hegemony refers to attempts to critique or dismantle hegemonic power. In other words, it is a confrontation and/or opposition to existing status quo and its legitimacy in politics. It can also be observed in various other spheres of life, such as history, media, music, etc. Neo-Gramscian theorist Nicola Pratt has described counter-hegemony as “a creation of an alternative hegemony on the terrain of civil society in preparation for political change”

The documentary critically looks at the presidency of George W. Bush, the War on Terror, and it coverage in the news media. It encourages people to share their view against hegemony through the use of persuasion and/or propaganda whilst raising awareness. It convincingly argues that the Bush administration manipulated the terrorist threat to foster fear among the American people and build support for an invasion of Iraq. The film provides us with an alternative hegemony to Bush in preparation for political change. Bush is shown as all powerful and also irresponsible. He is shown going for a holidaying after winning the election.

In addition, Moore provides viewers with the horrific war footage of Iraqis and American soldiers that have been missing from Pentagon-manipulated media coverage of the war. The face of war is not pretty, and Moore disturbs and challenges us with these images. Moore concludes his film by asserting that we should never again risk the lives of our young people in wars that are not essential for the country’s security.

Political ideology of Moore, Fahrenheit 9/11 does raise some troubling questions which should be part of the political discourse in a democracy which values free speech and artistic freedom. The movie ends with Bush’s paraphrased quote of “fool me once…” after which Moore quips, “For once we agreed.” As the Internet culture evolves, audiences are demanding the right to participate in media culture and are pulling together to produce answers and solutions. Fahrenheit 9/11 had a lasting effect on the social consciousness and led to a convergence of politically targeted documentary films.

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