I just got back from seeing Michael Moore’s new movie, Fahrenheit 9/11. In case you live under a rock, the movie turns a critical eye to the Bush administration, accusing them of lying to the American public about White House’s reasons for invading Iraq.
There’s a lot I want to say about the documentary beyond the fact that I thought it was an excellent flick everyone should see. But lingering just below the surface of the movie is its most important lesson, a lesson we continuingly have to relearn.
Nothing better captures this lesson than Crossfire’s Tucker Carlson’s interview last September with pop singer Britney Spears. In response to a question about if she supports the war in Iraq, Britney said, “Honestly I think we should just trust our president in every decision he makes and should just support that, you know, and be faithful in what happens.” I was able to bear a gruesome fifteen minutes of today’s Crossfire, long enough to hear Carlson completely agree with her.
What Spears and Carlson are telling us is that we should never question our leadership, which is precisely what the documentary does. There’s a growing consensus in our government that questioning the establishment is evil. The very fact that Moore had trouble finding a distributor for such a controversial film is reminiscent of his accusations that both the media and the Democrats weren’t asking enough questions. Far too many were either too lazy or too cowardly to challenge the Man.
Being able to face the status quo is the cornerstone of creating a better world. Just as firms challenge each other to create a better industry, ideas need to be able to challenge each other to create a better society. When institutions, like the American government, insist that the nonconformists are unpatriotic (a claim that I’m sure the authors of the Declaration of Independence would disagree with), and we accept those claims, we start down the road to oppression. When Spears and Carlson promote passive complacency, they miss everything this country stands for.
Moore fittingly ended his documentary with a quote from 1984. In it, we are reminded of the connection between powerlessness and ignorance, between the rulers and the silencers, between absolute power and its maintenance through war. Even if you don’t like Michael Moore, you should see this documentary just to remind yourself of your right—no, your duty—to question everything.