The Clearing, and More Moore De-bunkers.

Last night, I caught a screening of The Clearing , which stars three of my favorites: Robert Redford, Helen Mirren, and Willem Dafoe. It starts out like a thriller, but it is far from thrilling.

Pieter Jan Brugge’s directorial debut is watchable only for its talented cast, a trio of formidable actors who make you wonder what drew them to this particular script. It’s a kidnapping yarn that raises a lot of interesting questions and suggests myriad possibilities for conspiracy and surprise, only to cast off those concerns entirely. It ends by slumping into the territory of simple morality plays — you know the kind, where the captive rich man suddenly realizes that a few of his priorities are out of whack.

My review will be up at CT Movies on Friday.

Now, Newsweek is listing the lies and distortions of Fahrenheit 9/11.

Then there’s this increasing series of fact-checks: Here, and here,

But best of all, there’s Buzzmachine:

This is why I have such a problem with Michael Moore’s Fahrenheit 9/11: It seeks to divide.

It demonizes. And it picks the wrong demons. It’s us vs. them, but the them is us.

I hated it when the right wing demonized Bill Clinton. So, you know what? That pretty much makes me honor-bound to hate it when the left wing demonizes George Bush. For I do not believe that the half of America that elected the one is evil while the half that elected the other is angelic.

I can’t stand Michael Moore for looking at America as inspiration for leftist invective just as I can’t stand Rush Limbaugh for looking at America and spewing his right-wing rants.

I hate it when my colleagues in media talk about how we all hate each other when I see absolutely no reporting that backs that up; I can’t stand being turned into a one-dimensional fool by my own business.

Am I going to light a candle and ask, “Can’t we all get along?” No. The issue isn’t us. The issue is how we are portrayed by politicians, political activists, and media. They’re wrong about America.

So it’s time to turn the tables and treat them as they treat us: Let’s cut them out of one-dimensional cloth, for they truly deserve it.

It’s time to treat Michael Moore as the extremist that he is. Simple-minded, simplistic, mean, venemous, a hate-monger who does nothing to advance the debate and aims instead to divide. Add your nominees on the left.

And the same goes for Rush and Jerry Falwell and others who spew their hate and half-facts and bile and intolerance. Add your nominees on the right.

They are extremists.

We’re not.

And media are their dupes or, worse, coconspirators.

But we the people now have a medium to call our own. We need to use it to reclaim the reasonable middle.

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  • Matt

    The difference between Michael Moore and the Limbaughs and Falwells of the world is this: Limbaugh maintains a cogent philosophy. He is a conservative. He belives, from first principles, certain fundamental truths about human nature. You and I may not care for his delivery, but he has a consistent belief that he seeks to promulgate. The same cannot be said of Michael Moore. He knows what he is against (conservatism, American military strength, free market capitalism), but he cannot tell you what he is for. He cannot tell you what he believes, because he does not believe anything positive. His support for Ralph Nader in 2000 and John Kerry in 2004 is not about uplifting Nader or Kerry; it was and is about defeating Bush.

    While I am a conservative, I won’t defend every word spoken by Rush Limbaugh or Jerry Falwell. But there is no moral equivalence between Farenheit 9/11 and three hours of Rush or Jerry Falwell’s Old Time Gospel Hour. It’s just not the same.

  • Anonymous

    You are dead-on to identify the activists and demagogues as the real
    polarizers, but IMO you’re on the edge of a rhetorical trap: the word

    Most of the time, the person using it won’t deign to name the views
    that are `extreme’ (meaning offensive); it is as though `extremists’
    carry a memetic contagion, and that the person who stoops to hear them,
    to learn what they are really arguing, to see if there is reason spoken
    there to be heard, is warned (in the label `extremist’) that they too
    will be quarantined as another victim of the Extremism contagion.

    And so `extremist’ becomes a codeword for `one of those lowlifes who
    dares to think anything The Right People (that are My People!) Don’t

    Which is not to say that some people do not hold to extremes. But some
    of them have been respected, and other who were reviled are respected
    by history. For example, Harriet Beecher Stowe.

    Nor do I mean that you have fallen into this trap; you haven’t. But
    your use of the word may lead others into it.

    IMHO and YMMV, of course.

  • crimsonline

    P.S. – thanks, Jeffrey, for consistently providing these fact-checking links. And your blog is a must-read for me every day. Please don’t take my comments above as in any way a rant about you…

  • crimsonline

    Can I just say that I’m sick to death of the term “extremist”? It’s become another buzzword people use to try to avoid thinking about issues.

    We used to use the label “fundamentalist” to throw people and their ideas into a barrel out of our sight and mind. We had no answer for the questions they were asking, and didn’t want to take the time to think about them. There was (and is) an actual group that called themselves “fundamentalists” and the things we disliked about this whole class of people overlapped with things we disliked about fundamentalists, so we started calling them all fundamentalists. Now, we didn’t have to deal with any of them. (Think about it: “fundamentalism” is a movement within Protestant Christianity that is characterized by (among other things) a literalistic interpretation of scripture, a separation from all those who hold different views on things, and a dispensationalist eschatology. Where does the term “Islamic fundamentalist” come from? It makes no sense. It’s a label, slapped on Muslims who reminded the media of the Christian fundamentalists that they had come to hate)

    And now, we call folks “extremists” to get rid of them. And being “in the middle” is the acceptable place to be. This is ludicrous even on its face! I disagree with Jerry Fallwell on some issues because I believe he is wrong, not because he is extreme. I disagree with Michael Moore on some issues because I believe he is wrong, not because he is extreme.

    I am fully opposed to the murder of innocent people. It is wrong. There is a spectrum of beliefs about killing. Once one has drawn the spectrum, can we automatically say that the middle of the spectrum is the place to be, morally? No! Perhaps being opposed to all wanton killing of innocents is the moral place to be, even if it winds up on one end of the spectrum.

    Because where is the middle, anyway? Who is drawing the spectrum? Haven’t you ever noticed that whenever anyone presents a spectrum of beliefs, their position is ALWAYS in the middle? Isn’t that the least bit suspicious to you? In Lake Wobegon, all the children may be above average, but in America it seems everyone is a self-described moderate. Notice what Jarvis says above: “They are extremists. We are not.” Can it really be otherwise?

    I believe the real questions are questions of right and wrong. I hold to my opinions because I believe they are right, not because I believe they are “moderate”. I recognize my own fallibility, I am open to changing my mind if I can be shown that I am in error, but until that time arrives, I will hold to my beliefs securely, believing them to be right. I oppose contrary opinions because I believe they are in error, not because they are “extreme”. I treat my opponents with love and respect, seeking to attribute to them the motives for holding their opinions that I would hope they attribute to me. I believe they are rational beings, created in the image of God and dearly loved, and so I listen to them and respectfully consider their arguments. If I then change my mind, I will hold to my new opinion securely. But if I maintain that my original opinion is still correct, and thus reject my opponent’s position, it will not be because it is “extreme”, it will be because I believe it is wrong. Not that they are evil people, who should be exterminated, but that they are incorrect in the opinions they hold. Can anyone reasonably do otherwise?

    But the “extreme” vs. “moderate” labelling is ridiculous, sloppy, and has ceased having any useful value. It has become a shibboleth, a password to enter into polite society and exclude others from consideration. It is a tool to disrespect others, to dehumanize them and depersonalize them. That is wrong. Not just extreme.

  • Jim

    This has nothing to do with your post, but I just watched Mike Leigh’s Naked and I remember that you’ve namechecked it in reviews before, and quite positively. So I was kind of disappointed that there wasn’t a review of the film at the Looking Closer site. Have you written anything specifically on that film? I’d love to read your analysis of it, so if there is something, please let me know. Thanks.