MAKING ELLEN MAD (PART 2)! Goodman listed Moores cheap shots. We puzzled at what makes her mad:
WEDNESDAY, JULY 7, 2004
MAKING ELLEN MAD (PART 2): It can really be an education when we see what riles our liberal pundits. According to Ellen Goodmans column last week, George Bush misled the nation into war—a war in which almost a thousand U.S. soldiers have died. And Bush played around with those terrorist warnings, treating the alerts as a toy (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 7/6/04). But that isnt what has the liberal scribe mad! No, Ellen Goodman got upset when a bunch of young movie-goers seemed to be rooting for Fahrenheit 9/11, the Michael Moore film. By the way: Why wouldnt people root for a film which correctly attacks such astounding misconduct? Goodman didnt bother explaining. She was too busy wringing her hands at the cheap shots Moores film aimed at Bush.
But what exactly were those cheap shots? Just what were the ad hominem attacks that had poor Goodman deeply distressed? Surprisingly, the scribe made little effort to say (although she takes the prize for cheap shots herself—more on this tomorrow). Despite calling Moore every name in the book, Goodmans specific criticisms of Fahrenheit 9/11 are stated in one lonely paragraph. Heres the only part of her piece which details Moores shots against Bush:
GOODMAN: I agreed with the filmmaker that Bush didn't exactly win the 2000 election, that we were misled into Iraq, and that the White House has used the terrorism alerts as a political toy. So add my review to the marquee: I laughed! I cried!According to Goodman, Moore maintains that the Iraq war was brought to us courtesy of the Bush-Saudi oil-money connection. And he says that prewar Iraq [was] a happy valley where little children flew kites. These are the two sins she lays off on Moore—the only specific complaints she makes. But given Goodmans concern about cheap shots, these charges strike us as odd.
Does Fahrenheit 9/11 really claim that the Iraq war was brought to us courtesy of the Bush-Saudi oil-money connection? To tell you the truth, we cant find it. Moore does seem to suggest that Saudis were allowed to leave the U.S. post-9/11 because of Bush ties to the House of Saud. But does he say or suggest what Goodman alleges? Sorry—we cant really find it in the text. Granted, much of Moores text is jumbled and hard to parse. But Goodman, ever-helpful, reinvents it.
But the liberal scribes second complaint seems odder. Yes, scripted pseudo-cons have rushed to complain about the part of the film to which she refers—a short segment in which Moore shows children playing in Baghdad just before the war started. Moores attackers have routinely hammered the film-maker for showing this vile, corrupt footage. Goodman recycles this tedious complaint. But, aside from standard copy-cat scripting, were not all that sure why she does.
After all, what does this footage actually mean? Are we really supposed to think that pre-war Iraq was some sort of happy valley where all was clean and shiny? In our view, it would take a real cinematic illiterate to draw this conclusion from the short segment in question. (Moore says the scene lasts twenty seconds. See below.) But Pundit World is full of such people, so its lucky that Moore has had several chances to answer questions on this topic. In a June 26 interview with Moore, for example, ABCs Jake Tapper questioned this footage. Heres the first of three questions on the topic:
TAPPER: Discussing pre-war Iraq, your films shows many tranquil scenes of the country, kids flying kites, smiling Iraqis, but knowing what we do know about the brutality of Saddams regime, which you do mention at one point in the film, are those pictures a fair representation of pre-war Iraq?In fact, the film does not show many such scenes; as noted, Tapper (and Goodman) seem to refer to one short segment of Moores film. At any rate, here was Moores explanation of what this scene represents:
MOORE (continuing directly): Theyre a fair representation of the civilians that were killed by our bombs. And I wanted to spend just 20 seconds so that the people in the United States could see what human beings look like in Iraq. Children flying kites, a kid getting his hair cut in a barber shop, a couple getting married—these were human beings.These were human beings, Moore said. Indeed, youd almost think Goodman might see it this way, given her well-known liberal outlook. After all, she herself says, in this very same column, that Bush misled us into this war. That would suggest that the war was unnecessary—and everyone knows that innocent people died in the bombing of Iraq. Given her liberal bleeding heart, youd almost think she might want to know what happened to the people seen in those fleeting scenes—to that beautiful boy in that barber chair, for example. Is that boy alive today? Or did he possibly die in the bombing—the bombing which Bush misled us into, Goodman says? Youd almost think a good liberal scribe might want to know how this turned out. But Goodman is too busy reciting silly claptrap—claptrap which started with pseudo-con hacks. Instead, when Moore devotes twenty seconds to human faces, Goodman says that hes taking cheap shots—cheap shots at the poor, abused man who misled us into this war in the first place! Go ahead, readers—spend a few moments wondering at the scribes puzzling outlook.
In our view, the footage to which Goodman refers is one of the films most interesting segments. As Moore notes, it only lasts about twenty seconds—twenty seconds in which we visit a city few of us have ever seen. Did Moore mean to say, in that short twenty seconds, that Saddams Iraq was a happy valley? To us, his answer to Tapper seemed fairly obvious. Everyone knows that Saddam was a brutal dictator, he said. But he wanted us to see the face of a nine-year-old boy—and wonder about what happened next.
Was the U.S. wrong to bomb Iraq? That, of course, is a matter of judgment. But Goodman has an odd reaction to this twenty seconds of film. She says we were misled into this war, by George Bush. Then she has a major cow when Moore spends a tiny bit of time on those who might have died in the bombing. What makes Ellen Goodman mad? Not the fact that we were misled. Weirdly, Goodman gets mad at a cheap shot aimed at the man who misled us! Goodman gets mad when shes asked to gaze in the face of a 9-year-old boy.
But then, todays liberals get mad at the darnedest things! Last week, Richard Cohen had a cow because Moores film includes a single sentence about Bushs cousin—a single sentence which is perfectly accurate! And Ellen Goodman is very upset because we were shown the face of a boy. Do these strike you as troubling cheap shots—indecent attacks on the man who misled us? No, they dont strike us that way either. Which leaves us marveling, day after day, at the things which make liberal scribes mad.
KATY DID: Who else asked Moore about that footage? On the June 21 Today show, Katy Couric did! Moores explanation of that short scene was hardly unknown or mysterious:
COURIC: You use images of Iraq before the invasion. And if I recall, you have pictures of, film of children playing in playgrounds. You sort of hear the sounds of children laughing.Moores explanation was quite well known—if anyone wanted to bother knowing it. But out in the leafy suburbs of Boston, Ellen Goodman was very disturbed. Surrounded by proles who were rooting for Moore, shed been forced to look at a boy in Iraq. Why would that make a liberal scribe mad? Well continue to ponder all week.
THE PHANTOM STRIKES AGAIN: In Gotham, The Phantom has struck once again! Heres the front-page lead headline in todays New York Times. It concerns Kerrys choice of John Edwards: