Published Sep 19, 2018Though touted as documentary filmmaker Michael Moore's repudiation of Donald Trump and all that he and his ilk represent, one of Fahrenheit 11/9's most disgusting villains is actually President Barack Obama.
Moore weaves the infuriatingly heartbreaking criminal activity that led to the still-unresolved water crisis in his hometown of Flint, Michigan throughout this remarkably bleak but affecting film. As told by Moore, polluted water from the Flint River was delivered in place of the formerly clean water that overwhelmingly black and poor residents once received via Lake Huron and the Detroit River. Though he asserts that this horrid act was hatched in a shady business scam by a Republican, Michigan Governor Rick Snyder, Moore's greatest contempt is for Obama, a Democrat.
The President arrived in Flint to heroic fanfare from a constituency in crisis. The water was killing the elderly and permanently damaging small children, filling all who encountered it with deadly toxins and high levels of lead. The city was getting no relief from a transparently indifferent local government, who inaccurately and publicly claimed there was no cause for alarm, while also forcing test administrators to falsify the results. At some point, thanks in no small part due to rallying by Moore in the media, protests and cries for help finally reached the White House.
But when Obama showed up for a speech decrying the situation, he also engaged in a stunt with a glass of local water that left supporters shocked, angered and permanently altered.
And herein lies the crux of Moore's argument in Fahrenheit 11/9: the reason we have the likes of Donald Trump isn't simply because evil is on the rise, it's because progressives have been overly civil in the face of conservatism, intellectually dismissing its far-right denizens to the point of complacency, which has led to a horribly cynical pit of contempt for the entire political system from all sides.
Moore rightly and accurately assails media outlets like the New York Times and Washington Post for downplaying or misrepresenting gains made by protestors and left-wing groups. When not highlighting how often right-wing hypocrites like Trump, Jared Kushner and Steve Bannon have been filmed praising his work over the years, Moore attacks the Democratic National Committee and its leadership for undermining Senator Bernie Sanders' shot at running for president and denouncing the vision he and his followers had for their country as unrealistic, in order to maintain a corporate politics status quo.
Far from conspiratorial, Moore does an effective job outlining the facts of why Hillary Clinton was propelled along to run instead of Sanders, even though very few actual young people, with a vested interest in the future of the planet, wanted her and her centre-left platform to succeed.
With agit-prop zeal, Moore depicts the efficacy of the Parkland students protesting for gun control and the teachers' strikes, which began in West Virginia for humane wages and basic necessities, plus the new national prominence of young left-of-Democrats like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, as a sign that conventional conservatism is in trouble. This is his call for the 88 million or so non-voting Americans, scared off by distrust of every politician, to engage with their country and he's beginning to see some of them come around. There is hope in the anger that has been stirred by all of this institutional neglect and chicanery, hiding in plain sight.
That's a good thing, because toward the end of Fahrenheit 11/9, Moore elucidates exactly how close the current state of affairs in America is to how the Nazis rose to power in Germany. It's deftly done and hair-raisingly eerie. The brazenness of the tiki torch crew isn't a coincidence; they have been signalled by the President and are following a historical pattern, step by step.
When Moore gets to the segment where Flint, still under the watch of President Barack Obama, was once attacked by the U.S. Army, all of your shit will be lost. How is this real life? How can America be at a place where it's cool to not only poison a citizenry's drinking water, it's also fine to storm it with missile-bearing helicopters? You can head back and check if you like but it's not a typo; President Barack Obama — yeah, the guy from Between Two Ferns — attacked Flint, Michigan, not President Donald Trump. What the fuck.
A harrowing masterwork by Moore, Fahrenheit 11/9 is a rallying cry for young progressives to stand up and wrestle their country back from all of the partisan hacks and business-interested fucks of various stripes who are somehow thriving and crippling basic mores of humanity. As he depicts, if America is as progressive a country as polls regarding hardline issues suggest (i.e. gun control, LGBTQ rights, abortion rights, etc.), a just and honest society is its destiny. And it may well get there. They just need to get rid of all kinds of fascism first.
(Dog Eat Dog)