The TownhallPolitics

Superman, Where Are You Now?

Superman, Where Are You Now?

By Todd Davis

Michael Moore made an anti-war film, Fahrenheit 9/11, in 2004 a year after the United States invaded Iraq. Released in late June, Moore’s documentary detailed the controversial 2000 Florida election results, tracking of Saudi oil money within the Bush family circles, the road to war in 2003, and the results from the invasion. President George W. Bush was up for reelection in 2004 facing Democrat challenger John Kerry. Fahrenheit 9/11 was designed to influence voters in the upcoming election by raising questions about how the United States got into this war and whether or not the country wanted to remain on the path it was currently heading down. 

Moore faced tremendous backlash over the film. In many circles, he was viewed as a traitor to his country. Virtually the entire media apparatus in America not only supported the 2003 Iraq War but actively cheered it on. History shows that many of Moore’s concerns about US involvement in the Middle East were correct. Military conflict within Iraq and Afghanistan dragged on and on coining the term forever war. It was not until 2021 that the United States finally withdrew combat troops on active missions from the region. 

Fahrenheit 9/11 is the highest-grossing documentary of all time. And while it would be disingenuous to say the film stopped the war, or even had an impact on US policy, after all the conflict dragged on for 17 years after the film was released, Fahrenheit 9/11 was a loud, urgent cry from the anti-war left that the geopolitical policy of the country was off the rails and had to be stopped. 

Liberal Anti-War Activism 

The liberal left in American politics had a long history of anti-war activism beginning, in most living Americans’ minds with the mass protests against the 1965-1975 war in Vietnam. Televised images from the jungles of Vietnam brought the stark, brutal reality of war into the living rooms of American homes. A virulent anti-war movement arose in the country spawning a legacy that affected nearly every aspect of popular culture from music, to fashion, to Hollywood movies. 

Jane Fonda, one of the most popular actors of the era, made the career-altering decision to visit Hanoi, the capital of North Vietnam, while American soldiers were at war with the country. Widely vilified, “Hanoi Jane” paid a steep price for her visit to North Vietnam. The 1972 trip and how it affected Americans both on the homefront and the battlefield of Vietnam remains a complicated issue even for Jane herself. 

Nevertheless, from 1968 through 1975 when America finally withdrew from South Vietnam, the government faced intense, passionate, sometimes violent opposition to its policies from the left. Collapse of popular support for the war in Vietnam brought on by anti-war activism is one of the primary reasons for the withdrawal of US combat forces. 

American Media From Watchdog to Cheerleader

Americans would never have been aware of the futility of the war in Vietnam had the media not been beaming the images home from a country half a world away. Critical articles and editorials were constantly made about the war culminating in Walter Cronkite, the most popular and powerful newscaster in the country at a time when there were only three channels on television, telling Americans that the war could not be won. 

The Pentagon learned its lesson from Vietnam and when America went to war again in 1991 reporters did not have free reign on the battlefields of Kuwait and Iraq. Instead, they were only allowed to send home images and stories that were highly edited and sensationalized in favor of American forces. The public was awed by smart bombs that could knock out targets from above in grainy television images resembling moving X-rays. 

Changing media access to how it could report on a war was instrumental in the coverage. The more pro-war, pro-American involvement a media outlet was, the better access it got from the US Military. And war was big ratings. No one wanted to miss out. The American media became cheerleaders for the military wing of the American Empire. Media was complicit in selling war to Americans. They were so successful that when George W. Bush went to war in 2003, it would take nearly two decades to extricate the country from combat in the desert, and remarkably, this was after it was exposed that the entire reason for going to war in Iraq, weapons of mass destruction, was a lie.

Selling Stalemate

Walter Cronkite visited Vietnam in 1968 and upon his return, spoke about being mired in a stalemate.  Public perception of the war in Vietnam shifted and questions were asked. If we are stuck in a stalemate and cannot win, why do we keep sending young American teenagers to die in the jungle without the prospect of victory?

Contrast this viewpoint to that of today. The media are selling stalemate as proof that the cause is not lost and that we must only dig in a bit more, give another surge, another effort, and the stalemate can be turned into victory. The narrative about Ukraine and NATO’s war on Russia went from Ukraine is winning, to Ukraine and Russia being in a stalemate, to Ukraine cannot lose and we must fund this war to maintain a stalemate. There is no pushback from the anti-war left, no one asks that if we must send billions to continue a war that is at best a stalemate, why are we involved in this endeavor and how will it ever end? The only ones asking these hard questions now are America First Republicans representing a radical shift in American politics. The left has abandoned its principles.

Witnesses to Genocide in Gaza

Stalemate is also the status of the war in Gaza. Only this stalemate has a humanitarian crisis with genocidal overtones attached to it. Israel has bogged down in its campaign against Hamas having no more buildings to bomb after virtually destroying Gaza City. The next military action seems to be an attack on Rafah where over a million Palestinian civilians have taken shelter from Israel’s indiscriminate bombing campaign. A military incursion into Rafah will result in tens of thousands of civilian casualties. These people have nowhere to go. They will be killed by bullets and bombs supplied to Israel by the United States. 

Beyond the violent death raining down on the Palestinian people, the other horsemen of war also stalk the shattered streets of Gaza. Famine, thirst, and disease are working away at the Palestinians. A UN report states that over 70% of Palestinians are facing catastrophic hunger. Over 80% have no access to clean water. The United States conducted airdrops in Gaza delivering food and water, the equivalent of 41,400 meals and 23,000 bottles of water. This is a pittance considering there are around 2.5 million Palestinians trapped in Israel’s steel inferno. 

Where is the outrage in the anti-war left? There have been mass protests among students and Muslim-Americans over US policy enabling this Israeli genocide. And yet, considering the level of crisis playing out before our eyes, the powerful voices in the Democratic Party will not take a political stand and say this is wrong. I have not yet seen a Michael Moore documentary detailing the largest genocide of our time playing out in real-time. He, like the rest of the anti-war left, is a mute witness. 

Fahrenheit Only Applies to Republicans

One wonders, would Michael Moore and others stand mostly silent about what is transpiring in Ukraine and Gaza if the White House was held by a Republican? Is political opposition to the ravages of war now a partisan issue in the United States? Moore includes a video clip of President George W. Bush in Fahrenheit 9/11 saying,

They’re not happy they are occupied. I wouldn’t be happy if I were occupied either. 

Bush is referring to the Iraqi people and the insurrection sweeping the country after official combat operations against the state had ceased. Twenty years later the language could also be applied to the Palestinians. Millions of people occupied and detained in open-air prisons for years. How can this be acceptable? Is Israeli lobby money and the perks of turning a blind eye to that condition so lucrative?

Moore in a voice-over goes on to say,

Immoral behavior breeds immoral behavior. 

Israel is engaged in despicable, immoral behavior and our political and social leaders do not have the moral courage to stand up and say no, enough is enough, we are not going to allow this to happen anymore. America has blocked numerous UN Security Council resolutions calling for a ceasefire. For the most part, the only pushback on Israel from the Biden administration is a political calculus on whether or not his position will lose him votes among Muslim Americans in the November election. 

The Business of War

War is big business in the United States. We wouldn’t keep doing something for three decades if it wasn’t beneficial to someone. And while the Middle Class and working poor in America never benefit from forever war, the oligarchs pulling the strings do. The difference today is that most American oligarchs no longer are Republicans who look like Uncle Pennybags, they are Democrats in hoodies and limited-edition sneakers. 

Michael Moore in Fahrenheit 9/11 has another video from President Bush dressed up in a tuxedo like Cal from Titanic saying,

Some people call you elite. I call you my base. 

The tech and corporate elites are now the Democratic base. They direct policy within the Democratic Party. The Democrats have become a pro-war, pro-corporate party. America cannot afford to have two war parties. The only thing stopping this at the moment is a splintered Republican Party fueled by populism that is pushing hard for isolationism. How the civil war unfolds within the Republican Party is uncertain, much will depend on whether or not Trump wins reelection in November. Does the moral compass of America depend on Donald Trump? The irony must alarm Michael Moore, if he is self-aware enough, to see it. 

Democracy in Peril (but not how you think)

Since 2020 the slogan for Democrats and therefore the media has been; if we do not win this election our entire democracy is in peril. Aside from the human nature of crying wolf too many times before people tune you out, this message both underlines the media obsession with Trump and their willful blindness to the tangible threats that imperil our way of life. Trump is an FDR Democrat. Trump’s position on most social and economic issues would have been considered liberal two decades ago. Most importantly, Trump’s term came and went without American interventionism and war-mongering. There were no invasions of Iraq, Libya, Ukraine, or Gaza, a hallmark of Republican and Democrat presidential administrations before and after Trump. 

Movies like Lions for Lambs, The Green Zone, Official Secrets, Shock and Awe, and many others featuring brave, resourceful reporter protagonists defying government officials and the military in search of the truth were common in Hollywood. Almost all of these dealt with retroactive opposition to Bush’s war in Iraq. These films represent a type of absolution for Hollywood who, like the rest of liberal America, went along wholeheartedly with the Iraq War. Much of the assembled glitterati in Hollywood booed and shouted Moore off the stage at the 2003 Academy Awards when he vehemently criticized Bush and the march to War after accepting the Oscar for Bowling for Columbine. 

The same people who supported the Iraq War then changed their minds when it was politically safe now support the Ukraine War. Repetition and swallowing the same lies this time have far greater consequences because the United States isn’t dealing with Saddam Hussein and a third-rate military and economic regional state. Now, we are entangled with Russia, a global superpower with enough nuclear weapons to end our democracy, and not in the form of sending rude tweets. 

Truth, Justice, and the American Way

One of the most influential political films in the 1980s was The Day After available to stream now for free on YouTube. The movie depicted a nuclear exchange between the United States and the Soviet Union and what the country and survivors would face afterward. Bleak and harrowing, the movie was so powerful that it supposedly led to a phone call between American President Ronald Reagan and the Premier of the Soviet Union Mikail Gorbachev who agreed that whatever their differences things could not come to that. 

1983 was a long time ago. Three decades later, deeply unserious, dangerous people like Estonian Prime Minister Kaja Kallas say the world should not be afraid of nuclear war when confronting Russia. She is wrong. The world should. We all should. We have forgotten that there are no do-overs in a nuclear exchange. There is no going back and saying, well, I wish we would have sat down and negotiated because destroying our planet wasn’t worth NATO pride and some land around the Dnieper. Why do we have to wait for a Hotel Rwanda movie about the genocide in Gaza before we do something about it? 

Micheal Moore, Kristen Welker, or Megyn Kelly can’t stop World War III. They aren’t Superman. There is no Superman who can reverse time and bring us back to the decision point of the Day of Days if nuclear missiles fly. Collectively, though, choices can be made. No one person changed the public perception of the war in Iraq overnight. It took moments, brave moments like Moore’s Oscar acceptance speech, moments that required personal courage and standing against the wake of war. 

America, Europe, and the World need these moments right now from people in the media more than ever. We have never been this close to nuclear war. Michael Moore should act before it’s too late because this time, there will be no chances a decade later for absolution. 


Todd Davis

Tags: , , , , ,
Previous Post
Can Senegal return to being African’s beacon of democracy?
Next Post
Understanding Spot Bitcoin ETFs: A Comprehensive Guide for Beginners

Related Articles

Tags: , , , , ,