The temperature’s rising

Michael Moore launches another polemic against business as usual in the United States

Gabriel Shapiro

Rocky Balboa has nothing on Michael Moore. Rocky was an underdog against a champion fighter, but Moore was up against the White House, Disney, conservative media, conservative people and the powerful spin campaigns aimed at discrediting him and his work (one right-wing Web site focused on the fact that Moore is fat to illustrate some kind of bias).

Like the Italian Stallion, Moore came out swinging and the better man won.

Politics aside for a moment, Moore’s film was the box office king in its opening weekend, breaking in three days the record for highest-grossing documentary, which Moore already held for “Bowling for Columbine.”

There is a chorus of angry voices protesting Moore’s tactics, his politics and everything else about this film.

They hope to obscure the fact that no documentary can ever show the capital-T “Truth.” Choices are made, editing is done, sound and music are added. That’s how films are made.

And Moore does have a political agenda. He’s shouting it every chance he gets. His goal is to unseat President George W. Bush, and as far as he’s concerned, the sooner, the better.

Mel Gibson had an agenda, too, the chief difference between “Fahrenheit 9/11” and “The Passion of the Christ” being that Moore is a competent filmmaker.

With this outing, Moore moves slightly out of his role of executioner, becoming more of a witness to a suicide.

The damnation of the Bush administration isn’t based on commentary or conjecture so much as showing the key players in situations that raise questions. There are questions about the Bush family’s relationship with the Saudis and the Bin Laden family, about the corporations benefiting from war, and most importantly about the rush to war in Iraq.

Moore offers photos of different members of the Bush family with the Saudi royalty and piles upon piles of evidence linking Bush, Cheney and a number of high-profile Republicans to Bin Laden.

The film is humorously book-ended by images of Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Ashcroft and the rest being made-up and coiffed for television, and then removing their microphones and relaxing as the lights go out and cameras shut off.

During an interview with Conan O’Brien, Moore said he included these scenes to show the staged dishonesty of the administration.

There are also a number of moving moments of real suffering. Lila Lipscomb from Moore’s hometown of Flint, Mich., tells her heartrending story of losing a son in the war after proclaiming herself a proud American from a family with a tradition of military service.

Moore should be applauded for his bravery. He opened himself up to great criticism by the right to become a brilliant example of what freedom of speech does for us all. We can follow his lead and use our freedoms to work for the world we want to live in.

Moore’s vision may be controversial, but the attempts to prevent him from speaking are downright un-American. Whatever our politics, we must always defend freedom and our right to speak our minds.

“Fahrenheit 9/11” is an important movie for a critical period in American history, and the more people who see it, the better for letting the great debate continue.