Kopel Joins Moore's Debunkers in 'Fahrenhype'

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Kopel Joins Moore's Debunkers in 'Fahrenhype'

by Ari Armstrong, October 5, 2004

"You know you lied in this movie," a veteran of the Iraq war tells Michael Moore about Fahrenheit 9/11. The veteran, who lost his arms while in Iraq, appears in Moore's film in footage that Moore borrowed. The veteran agreed to be interviewed for a new film -- to be released today on video-- titled Fahrenhype 9/11. Bill Clinton's former adviser Dick Morris leads the charge against Moore, and he's joined by the Independence Institute's Dave Kopel, author of Fifty-nine Deceits in Fahrenheit 9/11.

Dave Kopel attends an October 4 viewing of Fahrenhype 9/11, a new critique of Michael Moore in which Kopel provides commentary.

The veteran also says his comments in Moore's film were "taken out of context." "I feel like I've been violated," the veteran says. Against Moore's one-sided discussion of America's military, the soldier adds, "I'm very proud of my service in Iraq." He is joined by other members of the service and by relatives of soldiers killed in the war. One relative laments footage of a soldier's funeral ended up in "something so vile" as Moore's film.

Kopel attended a viewing of the new film last night (October 4) in Westminster, accompanied by Jon Caldara, also of the Independence Institute, and a crowd of around 180.

Kopel called Moore's film "a malicious assault on democracy" that's "dishonest to its core." He said people can reasonably disagree about how to deal with terrorism and about who should lead the nation, but the key is "trying to convince our fellow citizens with the facts" rather than with the distortions Kopel finds in Moore's work.

Kopel said his "Fify-nine Deceits" is the "biggest thing I ever wrote," read by over a million people and translated in part or in whole into Italian, Swedish, and French. Yet Kopel almost fell into the project by accident, he said in his introductory remarks, when he agreed his daughter could see Moore's film on the condition that she also read views from the other side. Kopel started looking at existing criticisms and found "no consolidated source" of commentary. Thus, he started to build such a source, and that led to a huge readership and an invitation to participate in the "Fahrenhype" project.

Over and over we hear Moore's fans insisting that those who dare criticize Moore go watch the movie (as many have). By their own stated standards, then, the leftists who rave about Moore's film are obliged to view the critique, too. As Caldara put it, "If you must see one, see the other one as well."

"Fahrenhype" repeatedly runs a loop with Moore saying, "There is no terrorist threat." He says that, while we've been attacked and may be attacked again, there's no grand menace facing us. Moore's position is ridiculous, the commentators in "Fahrenhype" persuasively argue. Militant Islamists hate Americans and American culture. Terrorists have attacked Americans many times, and they are determined to continue attacking Americans. Democrats Zell Miller and Ed Koch (U.S. Senator and former New York Mayor, respectively) both argue the terrorists pose a very real threat and must be fought on their own turf.

"Fahrenhype" can't cover all of Moore's deceits that Kopel describes, but it hits the major ones.

Moore reformatted a letter to the editor of a newspaper to make it look like a news story. The letter claimed Bush didn't win the election in 2000. Yet every recount confirmed Bush's victory, as did reviews by major media outlets, "Fahrenhype" reminds us. The paper from which the letter was pulled was upset about Moore's use of the letter. However, "Fahrenhype" declines to take up the important issue of whether black voters were inappropriately purged from the voting lists in Florida, as Al Franken alleged in Denver during an October 3 visit. Franken joked about the possibility of "reelecting" -- no, "electing," Bush. Yet leftist critics of the 2000 election tend to conflate the Constitutionally mandated electoral college, which intentionally distributes power geographically as well as popularly, with the disputes over Florida's voter rolls. (In his article, Kopel provides evidence that "...Moore's suggestion that the purge was conducted on the basis of race was indisputably false.")

In general, "Fahrenhype's" self-imposed burden is to refute Moore's claims. The limitation of that approach, of course, is that the new film often fails to follow through on the discussion. Just because Moore is wrong, doesn't mean his critics are always right. Often I was left with the feeling, "Okay, Moore is wrong -- but now what?" "Fahrenhype" is in that sense clearing the slate -- an important task, but only a starting point.

Moore made much of Bush's handling of the classroom when he first heard about the attacks. Yet "Fahrenhype" interviews the teacher who hosted Bush that day, and she was pleased with the way Bush handled the situation. Bush wasn't holding the book upside down, as some have claimed, and he spent five minutes sitting with the book, rather than seven minutes as Moore claimed. While the number of minutes strikes me as trivial, "Fahrenhype" points out a crucial fact: Ari Fleischer showed a sign to Bush, out of view of the camera, asking him to wait a bit before commenting. (Franken also neglected to mention this key bit of context.) Then "Fahrenhype" cuts to Bush shortly thereafter eloquently informing the nation of the problem and saying he had to leave immediately for Washington.

Moore blames Bush for not taking warnings of attacks seriously enough. But Morris points out that, if Bush deserves eight months of blame, "Clinton deserves eight years of blame." Morris describes several major mistakes he believes Clinton made.

Kopel and others completely destroy Moore's attempt to connect an oil pipeline in Afghanistan to the war effort. "Fahrenhype" also refutes Moore's conspiracy theories about the Carlyle Group, with which, by the way, George Soros and prominent Democrats are also involved. Kopel also counters Moore's grossly exaggerated claim about the size of Saudi investments in the U.S.

"Fahrenhype" effectively counters Moore's claim that Bush is lazy. Showing a day-by-day schedule during a week of Bush's supposed "vacation," the new film makes clear Bush kept busy indeed with official business.

One particular segment of "Fahrenhype" made me particularly angry at Moore, even though Moore's deception here is petty. Moore shows Bush saying, "I call you the haves and the have-mores. Some call you the elite; I call you my base." But, as Kopel points out, Bush was speaking at a fundraiser for hospital charities. Traditionally speakers roast themselves, all in good fun and for a good cause. Al Gore joked about himself at the same event. "Fahrenhype" shows Bush telling another joke at the event that goes something like this. Somebody meets Bush on an elevator and asks him if a lot of people think he's George W. Bush. Bush replies that's indeed the case. Well, that must really make you angry, the other man says. I guess what makes me so mad at Moore is that here is Bush, obviously joking about himself, for the purpose of raising money for sick people, and Moore takes a few lines completely out of context and completely distorts their meaning. Besides being a liar, Moore is a complete asshole. And all of you who squealed with glee during Moore's movie are morally obligated to watch "Fahrenhype," if only for penance.

Morris took on the notion that the war in Iraq was about oil. First, the U.S. supports Israel, which doesn't have any oil. Second, the U.S. boycotts Iran's oil. Third, for many years the U.S. opposed Iraq's drilling of oil. But "Fahrenhype" takes the case further. The French, Russians, and Germans, the film argues, opposed the war against Iraq precisely so that they could get Iraq's oil. "These votes [against war] were bought and paid for," claims the film.

The film covers many more points, all of which make it a must-see for left and right alike. Now when somebody invites you over to watch Moore's film on DVD, you can agree, but add, "And after we watch 'Fahrenheit,' we're going to follow up with 'Fahrenhype'."

"Fahrenhype" comes with serious risk, though. Just because Moore is wrong, doesn't mean Bush is right. Just because Moore lies about Bush, doesn't mean no criticism of Bush is warranted. Just because some of John Kerry's supporters are despicable, doesn't mean Kerry shouldn't become the next President. The danger, then, is that (parts of) the right will cheer on "Hype" as dogmatically as (parts of) the left has cheered on "Heit."

The film warns against this, as did Kopel before the local viewing. Yet, with Zell Miller and Ann Coulter as stars, can we really doubt whom the movie is rooting for? Indeed, I got the feeling the film's creators included comments from Coulter merely to attract her fans. She adds little to the substantive discussion. Coulter, who is mostly annoying, is listed on the front cover of the film's package, while Kopel, who has conducted exhaustive research about Moore's film, is subsumed under "many more." Unfortunately, there's plenty of "hype" to go around.

"Fahrenhype" does an excellent job making the case that invading Iraq was morally justifiable. As Kopel says, Saddam was a murderous brute who tortured and killed even children. Saddam called for terrorist attacks against Americans, and he paid money to the families of terrorists who killed people in Israel.

What "Fahrenhype" does not do is discuss the flawed intelligence the Bush administration invoked leading up to the war. Just because the U.S. was morally justified in invading Iraq, doesn't mean an invasion was strategically prudent. Nor does "Fahrenhype" discuss the severe problems of "winning the peace" in Iraq. While "Fahrenhype" mentions such countries as Iran and Saudi Arabia, it doesn't mention Bush's current policy with respect to terrorists in those nations -- because Bush's policy is atrocious, as it is with respect to North Korea (not that Kerry's policy is any better).

Moore's movie obviously should not persuade anyone to vote for Kerry over Bush. However, "Fahrenhype" should not persuade anyone to vote for Bush over Kerry. While "Fahrenhype" contains many facts relevant to the debate, and Moore's film contains a few important facts despite its many flaws, neither movie, by itself, makes the case for either man or for any particular policy with respect to Iraq. "Fahrenhype's" main value is reminding us that, if we hope to make wise decisions, we must before all else cherish and seek the truth.

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