Michael Moore’s latest motion picture, which I saw last Friday, is nothing if not a reminder of the utter bankruptcy of the mainstream news media.
The factlets you will not get on America’s network and cable blabfests? Iraqi civilians needlessly killed by the dozens; Mr. Bush actually saying to the camera “He tried to kill my daddy”; interviews with disillusioned U.S. solders on the frontlines; the terrorism hoax that keeps Americans panicky; Bush’s limo being pelted with eggs during his inauguration; the $1.5 billion in profits the Bush family has made from Saudi oil interests; the White House allowing 142 Saudis out of the country after all aircraft in the U.S. were “grounded”; Mr. Bush dining with the Saudi ambassador while the Pentagon burns in the background; the president welcoming the Taliban to the State Department; a six-man U.S. police detail protecting the Saudi ambassador in DC; the Patriot Act passing without anyone in Congress reading it; the ineptitude of a president bereft of his handlers; and much, much more.
Is Fahrenheit 9/11 devoid of stereotypes? Of course not. But neither is CBS, NBC, ABC, or Fox. The vignettes in Moore’s film serve only to even the odds and balance the perceptions. Those who work in mass media consider themselves objective reporters who make no value judgments. This is, of course, a total fiction. In my book Why I Stopped Listening to Rush I have written about the “myth of neutrality,” that way of thinking by which New Right conservatives deceive themselves and others about the nature of their own beliefs. Their “my country right or wrong” perspective is often a red herring, a convenient excuse for muzzling undesirable opinion rather than a real concern to advance truly conservative (i.e., constitutional) causes.
I came away from the movie thinking that the greatest danger we Christians face in this era is from ourselves, not the opposition – liberal or conservative. We have abandoned our constitutional savvy and, by default, have lost our ability to be the salt of the earth in terms of politics. Michael Moore is no more biased than any other film-maker. He has the right, as does every citizen, to engage in political and other human activities. He also has the right to agitate for change like everyone else. The sad thing is, Christians should be the ones exposing fraud and deception wherever it is to be found, and yet it takes a Bush-whacking left-winger to do it when it comes to our warmongering.
This must change. But it won’t, and the reason is because we know we will be rhetorically drawn and quartered if we speak out against the media and their cherished views. The fact is that the press can both stimulate public opinion and miseducate it. But as long as superficiality remains the psychic disease of the twenty-first century, an in-depth and truly balanced analysis of any problem will remain anathema to the mainstream media.
Two cheers, then, to Mr. Moore for exposing the cynicism, the greed, the ineptitude of the U.S. government. The truth always hurts, even when it comes from Balaam’s donkey.
July 19, 2004
David Alan Black is the editor of www.daveblackonline.com. His latest book is Why I Stopped Listening to Rush: Confessions of a Recovering Neocon.