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'Fahrenheit 11/9': It's Worse Than you Think

By Michael S. GoldbergeriBerkshires Film Critic
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Walk down almost any street USA and ask 10 people if they know who Mike Pence is. You'd be surprised how few do. But I betcha bunches of them know where Miley Cyrus is playing this Friday night. Such is the complacent folly of a citizenry entirely certain that the Founding Fathers put our democracy on automatic pilot. And therefore, no amount of selfish incursion from greedy forces within should tear us away from munching Fritos and gulping mass quantities of beer while we watch today's version of the gladiators do their best to sustain brain injuries.
 
But hark, good citizen, there are, alas, true patriots in the land, and not the kind that simply wrap themselves in the flag but have no real understanding of our history and how the notion of protest is the very essence of our nation's creation. Michael Moore, the Academy Award-winning documentarian and long acknowledged defender of the disadvantaged, via his scathingly chilling "Fahrenheit 11/9," is out to prove that if our country is saved from the Philistines now banging at the gate, it will be in large part thanks to the Free Press those founders specified.
 
But while folks who know our past well are certain to give credence to Moore's caustic evaluation of how we have arrived at this ugly threat to our liberty, they are more than likely to also bemoan that the muckraker extraordinaire is preaching to the choir. And Moore knows it. So he periodically homes in on the microcosmic example of Flint, Michigan, his hometown. He hammers away at the injustices thrust upon the poor, and explains why many people, too busy just trying to survive, don't feel they have the luxury to fight for democracy. It's up to us to help.
 
Alternating between pinpointing and painting with a broad brush the factors that imperil us, the filmmaker pulls no punches and surprisingly attacks a few of the people and institutions that this bleeding-heart hypocrite has deemed sacred cows. A jab at President Obama, as well as one at The New York Times are curious, and hopefully, just exceptions that prove a rule. Yet it goes a long way in substantiating Moore's determination to objectively peel the rancid onion that is our current state of affairs. He is an equal opportunity fury -- a good Javert in service of the Republic.
 
Understood, Michael Moore is at the very least a liberal and makes no bones about it. Still, it is his assertion in an opening statement that, supported by polls, America is at heart a left-leaning nation. He goes down the laundry list of what makes us so, from our desire to institute Medicare for all to our belief that a free college education should be available to anyone who can gain entrance. In making his point, he laments that, through the numerical voodoo of the Electoral College, the three branches of government do not currently represent the will of the people.
 
Of course, this is no mystery, but a sad fact of civilization. Since even before the days of kings it behooved the wealthy and powerful to be cannier than the masses if they were to dominate them. This came in the way of philosophical propaganda that promised a smattering of crumbs for the commoners' fealty, the establishment of a security force to assure the lord of the manor's authority and, in more recent times, a political savvy skilled in union busting, gerrymandering and voter suppression.
 
It's in the scary analogies he makes that Moore really takes off the gloves. Unlike most of the historians seen on news shows of late, he compares the current administration's modus operandi not to those of past ignoble presidents, but to some of history's most reviled dictators, including Schicklgruber himself. While over the years this extreme baseline of authoritarianism has thankfully, for the most part, been deemed farfetched and unjust when invoked, here we are jaw agape. Black and white footage starkly details tactics and stratagems we wish we could dismiss.
 
The acidic, relentless deluge of ominous signs Moore points out is overwhelming, not only because it threatens nearly everything we cherish, but because we know that bury-your-head-in-the-sand apathy is the greater menace. If ever we needed proof that our vote counts, this is it. In grammar school, you listened attentively to Mrs. Popper's civic lessons. You are among the 60 percent of Americans who know that something's rotten, and not in Denmark. You also seem to remember something, maybe biblical, about trading your principles for the promise of gold.
 
Granted, while a consummate connector of facts, Moore, like the geometry student who doesn't show all his proofs but nonetheless arrives at the right answer, takes a leap of faith now and then. However, with the stakes so high, we figure 'tis better to err on the side of democracy. Our temperatures are sent boiling by the alarming presentiments of "Fahrenheit 11/9," and we want to go out and vote, and vote, and vote.
 
"Fahrenheit 11/9," rated R, is a GathrFilms release directed by Michael Moore and stars the American public. Running time: 128 minutes

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