Controversy, conspiracy, and lies are the themes of the film as Michael Moore deals with the sensitive topic of American politics in Fahrenheit 9/11. This documentary is a rhetorical film, with the goal to persuade the viewers to agree with Michael Moore’s impression on the American foreign policy. In spite of one’s political siding, the film will probably have the audience leaving with a different perspective on American politics. Fahrenheit 9/11 is an influential film that clearly gets Moore’s message across to the viewer; but what exactly is it that makes the film effective? There are several aspects of the film that should be considered in terms of its effectiveness. One is that the movie uses the rhetorical form, which means the entire focus of the film is to convince the audience of something that are supported by strong arguments, facts, and evidence. This film uses three types of arguments: from source, subject centered and viewer-centered arguments. Each of these elements explain what the film’s message is, and makes it more interesting and credible, and each of the elements will be explained on how Moore tries to connect the 9/11 attacks to the Bush administration.
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As previously stated, Fahrenheit 9/11 attempts to convince the viewers of Moore’s claim that the Bush administration was linked to the 9/11 attacks. Moore opens up the movie by giving evidence of this connection through interviews, news footage, and documents. Apparently, there is a big act of deception and negligence done by the former president that led to the terrorist attacks. With this proposition, Moore tells his intriguing and convincing story of the September 11 attacks. The movie the moves on to investigate the outcomes and effects of the 9/11 attacks from the Patriot Act being passed, to higher and complex airport security, to the questionable war in Iraq. The movie ends with Moore tying these claims together by appealing to the viewer’s emotion with scenes of the poor, soldiers, and their families. This leaves the audience with a clear idea of what the purpose of Fahrenheit 9/11 was. To connect the bush administration to the tragic terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001.
The clear goal of the film is to persuade its audience that the Bush administration’s wrongdoings led to the attacks, so we can consider this documentary to be a rhetorical film. If a viewer is a Republican, Moore wants to convince them of his treacherous actions and negligence that led to the attacks. Furthermore he wants to show that the main goal of the party is to have money, power, and control. If the viewer is a democrat, it seems as though Moore wants to spark their minds, and realize how important it is to have him removed from his presidency. This is obviously Moore’s opinion, which gives the documentary a rhetorical aspect. Although he is conveying mainly his point of view, the film does make good use of evidence to help support his point, even if the evidence seems bias or unreasonable. Another aspect of rhetorical documentaries used in the film is appealing to the audience’s emotions. This is probably the film’s strong point and most touching element since it makes the viewer think differently about what they see, most notably in the news, and takes away their naivety. Even is a viewer completely disagrees with Moore’s political views, they will be touched by the other emotional elements used, and forced to think about their idea of American politics. These emotional elements become a tool that Moore uses to express and explain his arguments more intensely.
One of the arguments made is viewer-centered, which means the film is using emotional images to persuade the viewers on a particular topic. Shown are numerous videos and pictures that are usually non existent in American media. Moore makes the war in Iraq a personal matter when he shows the viewers the dramatizing tragedies that occur everyday. Sure the U.S soldiers that have died are remembered though the media but we rarely hear about those injured. Moore allows these injured soldiers to give their point of view on the war, as well as their injuries, which range from amputated limbs to nerve damage. More importantly, Moore gives us a point of view that we are rarely given in the media. He shows us the hardships of the Iraqi people themselves. We are shown Iraqis being interviewed by Moore about how the men have to carry their dead loved ones in their arms, and we are shown graphic images of women whose faces and heads suffered severe injuries due to misuse of napalm. Images also showed dead Iraqis being thrown into a back of a truck when an Arabic male says, translated from Arabic, “What was this child’s crime? Was he going to fight against the soldiers?”. This scene strikingly resembled the atrocities of the holocaust. Interviews by Moore also involved an American mother of a soldier who was killed in Iraq. We see her weeping over the death of her son as well as we see her get into an argument with another American citizen who is pro-war. The point of all these cases being revealed by Moore, is to show the audience what was really going on, and to instill sympathy for all the people who have suffered from the war. A war which was in all reality invented by the Bush administration.
This fairy tale of a war goes on into a different argument for rhetorical documentaries, subject-centered arguments, which are arguments based on the film’s main subject. The main argument to be established in Fahrenheit 9/11 is that the Iraq war was instigated by the Bush administration to gain power, money, control, and an alibi. Moore presents these propositions in a variety of ways. Moore states that, rather than to protect the American people from weapons of mass destruction, or the Iraqis from Saddam Hussein, the war was started because of the money that was generated for the Bush administration. Moore narrates Bush’s thoughts when he was told about the 9/11 attacks, and asked “which one of them screwed me”. Moore is setting up the possible scenarios of who exactly was responsible for the 9/11 attacks with this statement. Moore claims that when bush learned that it was Bin Laden who “screwed” him, he decided to blame Saddam Hussein by falsely accusing him of having weapons of mass destruction and connections with Al-Qaeda. By blaming Saddam Hussein, Bin Laden was no longer under the microscope, and Bush was safe form being exposed of his financial and friendly ties to the Bin Laden Family. Saddam was the ideal scapegoat, because war in Iraq allowed the Bush administration to make millions of dollars for their companies like Halliburton, and Unocal, in the midst of fighting. Moore proves this point by showing footage of numerous corporations having meetings to discuss the millions of dollars that could be made from war in Iraq. Scenes even showed Bush Sr. and Jr. courting with Saudis who had invested money in a variety of their companies. To be truly convincing though, the film showed scenes of Bush and a Saudi with the song “Shiny Happy People” by REM in the background to empathize their relationship. Saudi Arabia, not to mention happen to be where Bin Laden and his very wealthy family are from. The film also shows a percentage of U.S wealth owned by Saudi’s which is at 7 percent. If the Saudi’s withdrew their investments, it is very liking the economy could collapse. Despite the bias in this claim, it shows that Moore is very knowledgeable and well informed on the subject.
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The final argument made by Moore is from source, which means to present the film in such a way that the viewer can rely on it as a reliable source of information.Thus, the last argument is from source, which is presenting the film as a reliable source of information. Moore may be most adept in this argument because, in some cases, his opinions are confirmed by the very person he is saying them against. For instance, when Moore states that there were no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, he reinforces this statement by showing Bush and members of his party saying, pre- 9/11, that Saddam has no weapons of mass destruction. Moore also used news clips from channels like CNN and FOX networks that are considered trustworthy and credible. He also supports his opinion by interviewing people in prominent positions like congressmen. Moore is also able to present himself as a believable and educated person, even if this may not be true. As the narrator, he can talk in first person making the narration more personal. Moore’s voice and tone changes in relation to the topic at hand. If he is talking about soldiers, their families, or the Iraqi people his voice is filled with compassion. When talking about Bush and his friends his tone of voice is sometimes indifferent as if he were merely presenting facts, but at other times, depending on the subject, his tone would become sarcastic. Moore also proves himself to be researched and visionary when he talks about Bush’s National Guard record. Moore he requested a copy of this document, which proves another connection with the Bin Laden’s, in 2000 and then one in 2004, when controversy about it surfaced. In the 2004 version a name was blacked out, which was the evidence in this link between Bush and Bin Laden. This name was not marked out in the 2000 one, however. Moore is able to show that he was suspicious of Bush long before other people were.
This documentary in its rhetorical form uses different arguments to support its message, through sources, subject-centered, and viewer-centered perspectives. The film can be considered a piece of propaganda but regardless of if you agree with the opinions it expresses or believe the message trying to be conveyed, it is hard to ignore because it makes such strong accusations. Fahrenheit 9/11 is a commentary on current American life and regardless of its truth, it does send a powerful and controversial message that raises questions and does deserve discussion. Despite people’s views not being swayed after watching the film, it will surely cause all of the viewers to discuss it allowing others to receive the message as well. This ultimately may have been Michael Moore’s point.
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