How Many Lies Can Christopher Hitchens Tell?
By Anthony Wade
I approach every article as a chance to learn, unfortunately what I sometimes learn is that the writer has an agenda and the truth be damned, that is what he/she will stick with. Such is the case of a review done by Christopher Hitchens on June 21, 2004 of Michael Moores new movie, Fahrenheit911. As I was reading this alleged review I realized that Mr. Hitchens must have written it with a thesaurus handy, to throw in as many big words as possible to confuse those who may be trying to actually formulate an opinion.
The verbosity aside, please forgive me as this may be long, only because his review was exceptionally long, justifying this response. To break up the monotony, I will provide little breaks throughout to let you know what some of the ridiculously obscure words are that Mr. Hitchens used.
Since I will be trying to respond to most of the criticism in his review, here is the link to it, so you can play along at home:
Fist off, I do want to give credit for his title, Unfairenheit 911, very creative. Now lets move on. Mr. Hitchens begins with an absolutely ridiculous assertion that somehow the left has an image, even a self-image, of being too boring, solemn, and mirthless (as well as other thesaurus driven adjectives). Now, I am the first to say that Orinn Hatch must be a blast to party with, but I am not ready to claim the left as the side of the boring. I am sure that between covering up statues breasts and doing karaoke, that John Ashcroft must be the life of any pro-life party, but I am again not ready to claim the left as the party of the boring. Then unfortunately Mr. Hitchens goes right off the deep end by stating, Who will be our Rush Limbaugh? As if there are plotting Democrats somewhere trying to figure out how to craft a Democratic blowhard who not only rationalizes torture to the point of death, but makes it akin to a hazing ritual. Sorry Mr. Hitchens, but I hope I speak on behalf of the ENTIRE left, when I say that we do not ever want to be associated with a man who preaches about putting drug abusers away while slamming OxyContin like Pez, and talks about the lack of morality while filing for his third divorce. No thanks, next?
Thesaurus Break: Lugubrious = Mournful, dismal, or gloomy, especially to an exaggerated or ludicrous degree.
Eventually, Mr. Hitchens actually gets to the movie he claims to be reviewing, after just a few more lugubrious moments. He basically states that the movie is beyond dishonest and then says it is a piece of crap, with a caveat to cover himself from having called it a piece of crap. Well, I guess we see where this review is heading, right down the toilet. Lets proceed.
After telling us many things this movie can or cannot be called, he finally summarizes it this way:
Fahrenheit 9/11 is a sinister exercise in moral frivolity, crudely disguised as an exercise in seriousness.
Wow, thats a lot of words to basically say the following: I dont like the politics of this movie. Dissecting his summary we see he believes that the movie is:
Sinister exercise = threatening evil
Moral frivolity = making a mockery of what is moral
Crudely disguised = pretending to be
Exercise in seriousness = serious
Sorry, using Dictionary.com, this is the best I can come up with. Somehow, it is Mr. Hitchens conclusion that Mr. Moore has created an evil movie, which takes liberties with what can be considered moral, while pretending to be serious.
This not being enough, and quite frankly it was not; he continues to say this movie is:
a spectacle of abject political cowardice masking itself as a demonstration of "dissenting" bravery.
Ahhh, I dont need Dictionary.com for this one. Basically, he is stating that Mr. Moore is a political coward, by disguising himself as being brave by daring to dissent from the mainstream. Unfortunately for Mr. Hitchens, what he fails to recognize is that the majority of Americans do not agree with this Administration about these wars, and even 9-11. So, the notion that somehow Mr. Moore is pretending to be bravely dissenting is not supported. By the way, even having the nerve to think about going against an administration that outed Valerie Plame over the yellowcake in the Niger clearly indicates that Mr. Moore is not a coward. Anyway, lets keep going and see if he provides any proof, or if he just delves back into his thesaurus.
Thesaurus Break: Turgid = Excessively ornate or complex in style or language.
Hey! Mr. Hitchens is turgid! I get it! It is called projection Chris; check the works of Sigmund Freud.
Okay, recapping we have used hundreds of words, some of which were used for the sake of using them, to basically say that he thinks Mr. Moore is a coward and that this movie is potentially evil. I cant wait for the proof Chris.
He opens up by revisiting a debate he held with Mr. Moore, nearly two years ago, where he expressed two things. First, that Bin Laden is innocent until proven guilty. Considering that is the basis for all of our laws, I will abide by that one. Secondly, that the Afghanistan war was unjustified. Again, since we now know that this administration had actually planned to invade Afghanistan well before 9-11, that the Taliban had indeed visited Bush in Texas, and that they were promised to be buried under a carpet of bombs for not complying with the pipeline dreams of the Neocons, well I am afraid I have to give that one to Mr. Moore as well.
Mr. Hitchens then launches into his perceived points that Mr. Moore is trying to make about Bin Laden and Afghanistan. Without knowing if he is even accurate about Mr. Moores desires:
1) The relationship between the Bin-Ladens and the Bush empire, and the Carlyle Group, are not convoluted Mr. Hitchens and they should be of grave concern to any citizen. The fact that the Bin Ladens (supposedly minus Osama the black sheep) were in the country on 9-11 and had to be flown out of or around the country when there was a ban on air traffic looks, smells, and is suspicious.
2) The amount of money going both ways between the Saudis and the US is unsettling.
3) Do you honestly not find it interesting that Bush and the Neocons were trying to negotiate with the Taliban for a pipeline before they changed their minds and decided to bury them in the previously mentioned carpet of bombs?
4) I can only assume that the inference Mr. Moore is making is that Bush purposefully sent too few ground troops because he wanted Al Qaeda and the Taliban to escape.
5) If the Coalition of the Willing is a farce, Americans should know about it.
6) Mr. Hitchens, if our young people died in Afghanistan, to seal a business deal gone bad, decided months before 9-11, and then blamed for 9-11, that would mean their lives would have been wasted. Lastly, dont you dare make light of Mr. Moore wanting to dedicate the film, to those who have made the ultimate sacrifice for the most insidious of reasons. Even that is beneath you, I hope.
Mr. Hitchens then tries to point to these facts together and say that they are not cohesive, and therefore, they must be untrue. The truth of the matter is that this is a documentary film Mr. Hitchens. It doesnt have a plot that Mr. Moore can neatly tie together because it is all still unfolding day after day. The truth is, we do not know what the Saudi money connection might mean. The rest of this though makes cohesive sense. Let me walk you through it:
A) Taliban meets in GW Bush run Texas with the Neocons about a pipeline through their country. Taliban turns them down, they are promised to be buried in a carpet of bombs. B) 9-11 happens, and lo and behold the first country we invade is Afghanistan, even though they had nothing to do with 9-11. We are told it is the evil Taliban (the one we just met with folks for a business deal) that we must get. We then proceed to bury them under a carpet of bombs. C) Bush sends in enough troops to win, but not enough to actually capture anyone significant, thus leading to speculation about if he wanted to capture anyone. After all, Osama Bin Hiding is a lot scarier than Osama Bin Captured. Without fear, Bush cant get elected again. D) A liberated Afghanistan joins the Coalition of the Bribed, shocker.
That seems pretty cohesive to me. Then Mr. Hitchens apparently waxes joyfully of the immense progress made in Afghanistan since the war, as a justification of the war. Unfortunately, it is about as accurate as everything else coming out of this administration. Allow David Corn to enlighten you (from June 4, 2004 article):
Financial aid to Afghanistan has been paltry, despite Bush's earlier promises. Measured per capita, financial assistance to Afghanistan has been lower than for Kosovo, Palestine, Haiti, and Rwanda, according to the Center on International Cooperation at New York University.Opium poppy production is dramatically on the rise, and poppy harvests are estimated to account for almost half of the gross domestic product. The Washington Post recently reported that the residents of Wardak province, which is near Kabul, have become resentful of the United States and the Afghan government because of the ongoing (and not-too-successful) anti-poppy efforts. "The government has taken away our guns, and now it is destroying our livelihoods," one told the newspaper. "We have agreed to turn in our weapons in the name of peace, but we don't have enough water to grow any other crops but poppy. Why are they bringing this cruelty upon us?" The White House Office of National Drug Control Policy estimates that area of poppy cultivation in Afghanistan has grown from 1685 hectares in 2001 to 61,000 hectares in 2003.
Attacks from the Taliban are up. Aid workers have been targeted, and nongovernmental organizations have pulled out of Afghanistan, slowing down the already slow reconstruction efforts. After five men who worked for the National Solidarity Programme, an NGO working southeast of Kabul, were killed, the group ended its work in 72 areas in the country. Ihsanullah Dileri, the organization's head of coordination, told The Independent of London, "This is a very bad, very desperate situation. We had $60,000 to spend on each of those 72 areas. Now this cannot be done. All these areas are badly deprived, with poor people lacking basic facilities. But I am afraid the security simply is not there for us to continue with our work. It is too dangerous." Barbara Stapleton of the Agency Coordinating Body for Afghan Relief, which represents 90 aid agencies in Afghanistan, said, "We are very concerned about security and deterioration of the situation. Impunity rules in the country. It's not just the NGO community, but the Afghan people at large who are exposed to these levels of insecurity."As for women's rights, Amnesty International reports, "two years after the ending of the Taliban regime, the international community and the Afghan transitional administration, led by President Karzai, have proved unable to protect women. The risk of rape and sexual violence by members of armed factions and former combatants is still high. Forced marriages, particularly of girl children, and violence against women in the family are widespread in many areas." After the war, a number of girls' schools opened (or reopened) throughout the country. But since then, Islamic extremists have used intimidation to shut down many. Recent talks between Karzai and warlords have raised the possibility of a power-sharing agreement between Karzai and these militia leaders that could undermine the democratic elections scheduled for September. Drugs, warlordism, a surge in fundamentalism--Afghanistan remains an unfinished, daunting and complicated challenge, as American GIs continue to lose their lives fighting the Taliban remnants and searching for Osama bin Laden. But Bush made it seem all is swell. What is it about him? Last fall, he declared his administration had "put the Taliban out of business forever." At that time, Taliban attacks were increasing, and US troops were being killed in pursuit of the Taliban. Now Bush tells us things are going fine in Afghanistan because there is a gleam in the eyes of Afghans. And, no doubt, they are all humming, "The Future's So Bright I Got To Wear Shades."
So before you go and criticize Moore, realize that he chose to address the realities, not the spin coming out of DC. Then, Mr. Hitchens uses the fact that Richard Clarke assumed responsibility for flying out the Bin-Ladens, as some kind of mea culpa by Moore that his logic is faulty when considering the enormous impropriety of flying them out at all. Mr. Hitchens, does it bother you at all that the Bin Laden family, who conveniently ousted Osama, was in this country the day of the attacks? Does it bother you at all that they were having meetings with this administration during this time? Does it bother you at all that this administration actually denied this for months until they were faced with the truth? If you answered no to those questions, then there was no point in even watching the movie, as your mind has already been firmly made up.
Thesaurus Break: Herbivorous = plant eating
Ahhh, ok where were we, thats right, Mr. Hitchens now begins to berate without proof, stating that Mr. Moore has based this move on a big lie, which can only sustain itself by a dizzying succession of smaller falsehoods, beefed up by wilder and (if possible) yet more-contradictory claims. Unfortunately, Mr. Hitchens does not provide us with the alleged big lie, nor the little ones that support it. A statement for the sake of making a statement does not make that statement fact. He then proceeds to talk about how the film points out that Bush spent so much time on vacation, as some kind of proof. The fact is that President bush spent approximately 48% of his first year, on vacation, while this nation was about to be attacked. That should bother you.
As for the assertion of Bush making a boilerplate response to terrorism, and then driving the golf ball, Mr. Hitchens is being disingenuous. This was not a boilerplate response when the country is hanging on every word. It is vital that we see that this President can feign sincerity and interest, while all the time, just being fake. That is what that scene was about Mr. Hitchens. Lastly, Clinton and FDR would not have done such a stupid thing.
Next up, we have the infamous non-reaction scene. The President is just told that the nation is under attack. He doesnt react at all Mr. Hitchens and that is the damning part of this footage. He reacts as if he is merely being told what he already knew was going to happen. He then proceeded to lie about that reaction, more than once. This is not paranoia. The amount of insider trading that occurred around 9-11 clearly indicates that this was a known event. Mr. Hitchens is hoping that by just saying the word paranoid, that people will associate any such theory in that light. Unfortunately, as the truth continues to come to light, we see that what was considered conspiracy theory, is becoming all too real.
I realize this is dragging on, but it is only fair to respond to all of the inanity from Mr. Hitchens. Next up, he decries the scenes from Iraq, as being somehow fake. As if there are no children who played in Iraq. As if the US has not killed thousands upon thousands of civilians, including children. We have attacked weddings and communities and then claimed they were safe houses, only to be proven wrong. These are the realities of war Mr. Hitchens, and while I guess you would prefer your war in sound bites such as bring em on, I think you need to see the dead children who had nothing to do with 9-11, and are now dead because of our policies. That is not propaganda, it is reality.
Mr. Hitchens then continues to compare Saddam alleged atrocities from 20 years ago, as proof of his evil nature and thus justification for the current war. Of course, the convenient truth is that back then, we actually supported Saddam, under Republican regimes and sold him most of the weapons we still cannot find. Either way, the issue is not whether Saddam housed some terrorists in the 1980s, the issue is whether he did anything NOW that justified this invasion. No WMD, means he actually had complied with the UN, and that our war is based on lies. Then Hitchens refers to the hideous invasion of Kuwait and the alleged attempt to take out Bush Senior as an actual rationale for Bush to conduct this war. Are you serious? It is ok in your mind to send American kids to die because someone may have tried to construct an assassination plot against your father? Send your own kids Mr. Hitchens; maybe then you can gain some perspective.
Next on the correction parade Mr. Hitchens, is that Iraq is not the only country to publicly celebrate the 9-11 tragedy. Palestine and Saudi Arabia did as well as most middle eastern countries. Considering our history with these countries, you cant really blame them. Then, is this inaccurate blurb about Abu Mussab al-Zarqawi moved from Afghanistan to Baghdad and began to plan his now very open and lethal design for a holy and ethnic civil war. This is apparently directly out of the Vice Presidents book of lies and half-truths. It is an established fact that Zarqawi is a loner, who does not and did not work with Saddam, nor Iraq. Stop peddling this administration lies Mr. Hitchens.
Mr. Hitchens then proceeds to make a conclusion, and apply it to Moore, by saying that he is trying to say that Saddam was no problem at all. No Mr. Hitchens, that is not what he is saying. I dont pretend to speak for Mr. Moore, but I believe what he is saying is that when you look at the fact that Saddam had NO working relationship with Bin Laden, or Al Qaeda, had no WMD, and tried his best to avoid this conflict, what exactly are we there for? Why do we see our kids die every day? President Bush stated it was because of this insidious connection that now his own Republican led commission concludes is simply not there.
On the subject of counter-terrorism, Mr. Hitchens yet again has missed the point and tries to blur the lines. If the President has still not properly funded first responders, AND issues too many vague Magenta Alerts, those are not competing prospects that cancel each other out. The fact is that every time the President needs a boost in the polls, there is another Lavender Alert to remind us that we need to remain properly scared, should be pointed out. The fact that this President talks out of both sides of his mouth and has not even finished paying New York the money promised after 9-11 needs to be told to the American people.
Now, in the next paragraph, he claims to make these elementary points is to collapse the whole pathetic edifice of the film's "theory." Unfortunately, the points he makes have nothing to do with the majority of the film. He asks questions about the Saudis again, as if their decision to not join the coalition clearly vindicates the administration from being in bed with them. Please. The fact that the Bush dynasty is in bed with the Saudis is not a fact in dispute Mr. Hitchens, and has no relevance to the edifice of this films theory. This is the kind of misdirection that Mr. Hitchens hopes no one will point out. Of course, by this time, most people who have survived this far along in his article are very confused and are wondering what sub-Brechtian could possibly mean
Thesaurus Break: Sub-Brechtian = German poet and playwright who developed epic drama, a style that relies on the audience's reflective detachment rather than the production's atmosphere and action. His works include The Threepenny Opera (1928) and The Caucasian Chalk Circle (1948). The sub part obviously means beneath this.
Sorry, I digress. Back to the nonsense. At this point, Mr. Hitchens apparently is gearing up for a big finish (God I hope so). He begins to rattle off things that Moore points out, and downplays them so people can think that they are common knowledge and thus, have no merit being discussed. Unfortunately for Mr. Hitchens, I think they warrant being discussed. I will respond to two of these lame points:
- The capitalist nature of American society again, through misdirection, Mr. Hitchens hopes you dont realize that Moore is actually talking about the capitalist nature of this administration, not the country. It is ok for companies to want to make profit in the free marketplace. It is not ok when the administration hands out billions in no-bid contracts to companies he either used to work with, or have supported his campaign. That is crony capitalism. - Poor people often volunteer to join the army, and some of them are duskier than others. using a cute word, to describe minorities, Mr. Hitchens again crosses the line. Yes, the poor are often the ones sent to die, and minorities are often the poor. The point he doesnt want you to see is that the powerful and rich make policy to send kids to die, because it is not their kids. Moore brings this point poignantly home.
He chooses at this point to belabor the racial overtone his article has now taken. By brilliantly comparing black Americans who wanted the right to fight in the Civil War, to the socioeconomic point that Moore is trying to make. Good job Chris, so because black Americans wanted to fight in the Civil War, they now get what they deserve? Once again, trying to dodge the point, it is a statement that Moore is seeking to make. If there was an equal draft, meaning that the rich couldnt get deferred, than a lot of these chickenhawks would be changing their minds if it was their children going off to die for Halliburton.
Unfortunately, Hitchens was not done. He now switches to blaming Moore for not discussing the bravery aboard the aircraft that crashed in Pennsylvania. While I guess you can blame Moore for not including what you want to see in this movie, he then goes further, to call Moore a silly and shady man who does not recognize courage of any sort even when he sees it because he cannot summon it in himself. What has led our effusive reviewer to make such an attack? Well, he states The Pennsylvania drama also reminds one of the self-evident fact that this war is not fought only "overseas" or in uniform, but is being brought to our cities. Bravo Mr. Hitchens, you have successfully supported Mr. Moores effort. You see that is exactly the point. If we are to believe the entire story from this administration then we are to believe that 19 men, mostly from Saudi Arabia, hijacked four airplanes and led them off course for over an hour and a half with no response from Norad or this administration. During this time, the President thought the best course of action would be to continue reading a book about a pet goat. Then, after our crack intelligence community that couldnt prevent the attacks, now knows exactly who the 19 people are, 9 of them are proven to still be alive. After all of this, this administration decides the prudent thing to do is start wars with two countries that HAD NOTHING TO DO WITH THE ATTACKS, while handing out billions of dollars in no-bid contracts to political friends. The point is Mr. Hitchens that this war was brought to our shores, but not by the people we are currently killing.
Not satisfied with the attempted hatchet job thus far, Mr. Hitchens proceeds to slam Moore for hiring people to protect him from attacks well, such as this one. He correctly points out that Mr. Moore has threatened to sue, but lies by saying if anyone insults him or his pet. This is patently false. He has threatened to sue if they make slanderous statements, as is his right. As for the response team, you cant blame him when the Republican PR machine that managed the recall Gray Davis efforts and the strong-arming to get CBS to cancel the miniseries, The Reagans, started to target Moore with their ridiculous moveamericabackwards website. He at least recognizes that this right-wing, anti-bill of rights group is thuggish, but then states that Moores response, which is simply to protect himself, not to be an aggressor, is equally thuggish in return. Please.
Hitchens then makes the most telling statement of this whole dissertation. I think we can agree that the film is so flat-out phony that "fact-checking" is beside the point. We can agree? Based on what? The fact that you have not bothered to mention the facts in this article? This sums up his point perfectly. In his attack of Moore, he absolutely has not bothered to check those annoying little facts.
It appears at this point that Mr. Hitchens has approached the end of his thesaurus and needs to start wrapping it up (please, I pray). He waxes prophetically about how Moore has betrayed his craft because he has no objectivity and has lied, blah blah blah. Of course the problem with this premise is that he hasnt proven that Moore has said anything untrue. Thus I have made this elementary point, collapsing the whole pathetic edifice of this articles "theory.
He then concludes by trying to make Moore seem foolish by quoting Orwell toward the end of the movie. His point is again a last ditch effort to utilize his new thesaurus and leaves the reader going, what? He wraps up that train of thought by derailing with his opinion that Moore has engaged in a sophomoric celluloid rewriting of recent history. Unfortunately, as has been highlighted at many points in this article, Mr. Hitchens has not proven anything other than his own pomposity and verbosity. Concluding with more drivel that Moore would prefer that Milosevic would still be in power, and Saddam would still own Kuwait, yada yada yada. To respond to this by saying it is a piece of crap would be to run the risk of a discourse that would never again rise above the excremental, to use his own words against him. Unfortunately, Mr. Hitchens has proven beyond a doubt that he is a lugubrious, turgid, herbivorous writer, who desperately needs to put his thesaurus down, and back slowly away from his madness.
Anthony Wade is an independent writer from New York. Email to email@example.com