Monday, July 19, 2004

Are Congressional children less likely to serve in Iraq than children from other families? Let’s use Moore’s methodology, and ignore members of extended families (such as nephews) and also ignore service anywhere except Iraq (even though U.S. forces are currently fighting terrorists in many countries).


And like Moore, let us also ignore the fact that some families (like Rep. Castle’s) have no children, or no children of military age.
We then see that of 535 Congressional families, there are two with a child who served in Iraq. How does this compare with American families in general? In the summer of 2003, U.S. troop levels in Iraq were raised to 145,000. If we factor in troop rotation, we could estimate that about 300,000 people have served in Iraq at some point. According to the Census Bureau, there were 104,705,000 households in the United States in 2000. (See Table 1 of the Census Report.) So the ratio of ordinary U.S. households to Iraqi service personnel is 104,705,000 to 300,000. This reduces to a ratio of 349:1.
In contrast the ratio of Congressional households to Iraqi service personnel is 535:2. This reduces to a ratio of 268:1.
Stated another way, a Congressional household is about 23 percent more likely than an ordinary household to be closely related to an Iraqi serviceman or servicewoman.
Of course my statistical methodology is very simple. A more sophisticated analysis would look only at Congressional and U.S. households from which at least one child is legally eligible to enlist in the military. Moore, obviously, never attempted such a comparison; instead, he deceived viewers into believing that Congressional families were extremely different from other families in enlistment rates.

According to this study from the US Army War College's Strategic Studies Institute, deployment 'in and around Iraq' numbered 185,000 in the fall of 2003. Using Kopel's dubiously-accurate doubling trick, that gives 370,000 troops, which produces a ratio of 283:1 -- entirely comparable to the Congressional ratio. Of course statistically the whole exercise is futile, since the Congressional sample size is far too small.

After this Kopel tosses in another non-deceit deceit -- namely, Moore's oft-quoted angry newsletter is which he said, basically, that America will have to pay for its sin in supporting the invasion of Iraq with the blood of its children -- and somehow concludes that this invalidates his sympathy for Lila Lipscomb. Whatever.

Lipscomb is from Flint, Michigan, which Moore calls "my hometown." In fact, Moore grew up in Davison, Michigan, a suburb of Flint. Davison is much wealthier than Flint. According to the Census Bureau, 6 percent of children in the Davison public schools are from families living in poverty, whereas in Flint, 31 percent of children are. Calling Flint your "hometown" when you really grew up in Davison is like calling the Bronx "my hometown" when you really grew up in Westchester County.

"Flint is working class, industrial, down-at-heel, where the majority of the population is black or Latino. It's where the factories are.
Davison, where Moore grew up and attended Davison High School, is comfortable middle class, suburban, and white. Overwhelmingly white. It's where the managers and professionals live. While many of the children of Flint go on to work at the factories...the normal trajectory for the children of Davison is university. Michael Moore went to university (though didn't stick long). Unusually, he also went to Flint and tried his hand on the blue-collar front line with a job on the Buick assembly line for General Motors. He found the conditions under which the working class actually worked so appalling he quit the job after one day." -- "Less is Moore," Sydney Morning Herald, July 10, 2004.

If someone can explain to be how current demographic data is relevant to the environment in which Moore grew up I'd like to hear it. Call me crazy, but I suspect the pre-plant closing Flint of the late '60s might have been a little different than the Flint -- or Davison -- of today.

And wouldn't the correct analogy be "like calling New York City your hometown when you grew up in Westchester?"

We then get treated to a dissection of Lipscomb's casual remark describing how unemployment rates are calculated. I have no idea what the point of this is, other than to belittle Lipscomb.

Oh goodie, another bonus deceit! This is starting to feel like a game show... c'mon, big bucks, no whammies!

Washington Representative Jim McDermott appears in several segments. 

McDermott was one of three Congressmen who went on Saddam’s propaganda tour of Iraq in Fall 2002. The trip was funded by Life for Relief and Development (LRD), a “charity” which laundered money to terrorist group Hamas’ Jordanian operation. LRD is funded in part by Shakir Al-Khafaji, a man who did about $70 million in business with Saddam through his Falcon Trading Group company (based in South Africa). LRD’s Iraqi offices were raided by US troops last week, and the Detroit-area “charity” is suspected of funding uprisings, such as the one in Fallujah. Its officials bragged of doing so at a recent private US fundraiser. -- Schlussel

The McDermott quotes are, obviously, not like the deceitful quote of Condoleezza Rice, in which her quote was twisted to mean the opposite of what she really said. McDermott is apparently quite sincere, and there is no indication that anything he said was taken out of context. So you don't have to count this as a deceit if you don't want to. On the other hand, McDermott's quotes about the alleged motivations of the Bush administration are supported by no evidence, and amount to nothing more than the speculative ravings of one of the very few pro-Saddam members of Congress--who also worries that bin Laden has already been captured, and will be brought out at an opportune time before the election. To rely on McDermott to explain the Bush administration's alleged secret intentions is akin to relying on a bitter atheist to describe an alleged secret conspiracy in the Vatican.
McDermott claims, "Well you make them afraid by creating an aura of endless threat. They played us like an organ. They raised the le[vel], the orange up to red than they they dropped it back to orange." To the contrary, the threat level has never been raised above orange (high risk). It takes a highly paranoid mind to conclude that because changes were made in the announced threat levels, the changes must have been for the purpose of psychological warfare on the American people.

Right away we have problems. The Schlussel link doesn't take you to any column about McDermott, making it impossible to verify; the link to the 'worries' about bin Laden takes you to a piece where McDermott is briefly quoted acknowledging that such rumors exist. Not exactly the strongest corraborating evidence there, Dave.

But the "Saddam lover" smears are kind of beside the point. Is Kopel denying that the mass psychology techniques McDermott describes exist? Or is Kopel denying that the Bush administration has used them deliberately? Because it's pretty clear they have used them.

See also: a little film called Bowling for Columbine, who's central theme echoes McDermott's line.

More of the bonus round! Sweet! I must be doing well:

He shows Britney Spears saying she supports the President on Iraq. [To make Moore's oft-stated point that Americans who support the President are ignorant.] As if there weren’t a host of brain-dead bimbo celebs...spouting off on the other side. -- Schlussel.

As with much of the Iraq material, the Spears quote is not an outright fraud, but is the result of perspective which is so one-sided as to be misleading.

Once again Kopel's skills as an amateur film-maker fail to shine through. The Spears bit is cathartic, a bit of comic relief after some heavy $#!+. To think that it's supposed to be taken seriously is ridiculous. To play armchair phychologist for a moment, it really says something unpleasent about a viewer who doesn't take the Spears clip as needed comic relief, who wasn't affected strongly enough by the preceding footage to need that release.

But Peter Townshend, lead guitarist for The Who, accuses Moore of lying about the creation of Fahrenheit's soundtrack. The film concludes with George Bush giving a speech in which he bumbles the adage "Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me." He recovers enough to deliver a final line: "Don't get fooled again." The segment would have been nicely complemented by The Who's song "Won't Get Fooled Again." According to Townshend:

"Michael Moore has been making some claims – mentioning me by name - which I believe distort the truth.

He says – among other things – that I refused to allow him to use my song WON’T GET FOOLED AGAIN in his latest film, because I support the war, and that at the last minute I recanted, but he turned me down...

I greatly resent being bullied and slurred by him in interviews just because he didn’t get what he wanted from me. It seems to me that this aspect of his nature is not unlike that of the powerful and wilful man at the centre of his new documentary.

Townshend says that he never asked Moore to include "Won't Get Fooled Again" in the film, that he would never have given permission without seeing the film first, and that he was never provided with a preview copy.

Kopel apparently didn't bother to read the Moore interview he linked to, since Moore makes it clear that he had no direct contact with Townshend and was making no claims about him. "We got word that Townshend...", "we heard that the Who wanted..." It's clearly a game of he-said-she-said being facilitated by the media. No wonder Kopel doesn't elevate it to the level of a full deceit.

Now I'm made it to the double- and triple-bonus rounds! Oh my! I feel like that guy on Jeopardy:

Michael Moore told Time magazine that at the Washington premiere of Fahrenheit, Tom Daschle "gave me a hug and said he felt bad and that we were all gonna fight from now on. I thanked him for being a good sport." Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle (D-S.D.) told the Rapid City Journal that he has never even met Moore.

That's it? Moore says X, Daschle says not-X, about something that's not even in the movie? I feel kinda let down.

Fahrenheit has enjoyed impressive box office success. But not as much as Moore claims. On his website, he declares that Fahrenheit's opening weekend "beat the opening weekend of Return of the Jedi." That sounds awfully impressive, since Return of the Jedi was the highly-anticipated third movie in the Star Wars series, and enjoyed a phenomenal opening. Well, actually Fahrenheit didn't beat the 1983 opening weekend of Return of the Jedi. It beat the 1997 re-release, Return of the Jedi: Special Edition. Moore might as well claim that Fahrenheit is bigger than Disney's Beauty and the Beast--which would be true for the Imax re-release of Beauty.

These bonus rounds kinda suck, Dave.

You're also completely wrong on this one:

Fahrenheit's performance harkens back to the days when big movies wouldn't play in every nook and cranny of the country, but would bow at around 700 or 1,000 theaters to sell out crowds. Perhaps the greatest example of this, Return of the Jedi debuted to $23 million at 1,002 theaters in 1983, which would adjust to $45 million by today's ticket prices. In terms of raw dollars, Fahrenheit is actually the biggest opening ever for a movie playing at less than 1,000 theaters, topping Rocky III's $12.4 million at 939 venues.

Last time I checked, $23.9 million (F9/11's opening weekend take) was greater than $23 million. Not that this has anything to do with the contents of the movie, of course.

In Fahrenheit  9/11, Moore claims to support our troops. But in fact, he supports the enemy in Iraq—the coalition of Saddam loyalists, al Qaeda operatives, and terrorists controlled by Iran or Syria—who are united in their desire to murder Iraqis, and to destroy any possibility of democracy in Iraq. Here is what Moore says about the forces who are killing Americans and trying to impose totalitarian rule on Iraq:

The Iraqis who have risen up against the occupation are not "insurgents" or "terrorists" or "The Enemy." They are the REVOLUTION, the Minutemen, and their numbers will grow -- and they will win. -- Michael Moore, “Heads Up... from Michael Moore,” MichaelMoore.com, April 14, 2004. Of course if you believe that the people who are perpetrating suicide bombings against Iraqi civilians and American soldiers for the purpose of forcing a totalitarian boot onto Iraq are the moral equivalent of the American Founders, then Moore's claim about the Iraqi insurgents could be valid. But even if that claim were valid (and I do not believe that any reasonable person can equate people fighting for totalitarianism with people fighting for constitutional democracy), then Moore is still being dishonest in Fahrenheit when he pronounces his concern for American troops. To the contrary, he is cheering for the forces which are killing our troops, as he equates the killers with freedom-fighters. And if you think that the people who are slaughtering American soldiers, American civilians, Iraqi soldiers, and Iraqi civilians are terrorists rather than "minutemen," then it is true that Moore supports terrorists. By the way, the number of Iraqi victims of Moore's "minutemen" outnumbers American victims by about 10:1.

This claim -- that Moore supports the enemy in Iraq -- burst out the moment Moore wrote that original newsletter screed, and it hasn't gone away since. It makes me physically ill every time it rears its ugly head.

Try to understand this, you imbecilic troglodytes. When Moore compares the Iraqi insurgency to the Minutemen, he's not expressing his undying love for them. He's speaking a prophesy. The American Revolution didn't succeed because God was on their side, it succeeded because the social and historical forces at play made it almost inevitable -- the very same forces that are stacking the deck in favor of the Iraqi insurgents.

When little Iraqi children decades hence learn about Muqtada al-Sadr, are they going to be told he was a bloodthirsty bastard? Or is he going to be described in the same terms that our children are taught about, say, Thomas Paine?

The utter, complete inability of wingers -- dare I say wingnuts -- like Kopel, or Paul Wolfowitz for that matter, to put themselves in someone else's shoes and empathize with their position is one of the prime reasons why we're in this mess in the first place. And the more bile like this the wingers spew up, the more obvious it should be to sane(r) Americans how deeply the wingers' heads are embedded up their own asses.

And here it is, finally: deceit #59.

As reported in the trade journal Screen Daily, affiliates of the Iranian and Syrian-backed terrorist group Hezbollah are promoting Fahrenheit  9/11, and Moore’s Middle East distributor, Front Row, is accepting the terrorist assistance: 

In terms of marketing the film, Front Row is getting a boost from organizations related to Hezbollah which have rung up from Lebanon to ask if there is anything they can do to support the film. And although [Front Row’s Managing Director Giancarlo] Chacra says he and his company feel strongly that Fahrenheit is not anti-American, but anti-Bush, "we can’t go against these organizations as they could strongly boycott the film in Lebanon and Syria." -- Nancy Tartaglione, "Fahrenheit to be first doc released theatrically in Middle East," Screen Daily.com, June 9, 2004 (website requires registration). The story is discussed in Samantha Ellis, “Fahrenheit 9/11 gets help offer from Hezbollah," The Guardian, June 17, 2004; and "Moore film distributor OK with terror support: Exec says firm doesn’t want to risk boycott of 'Fahrenheit 9/11' in Mideast," WorldNetDaily.com, June 22, 2004.
Slate.com followed up on the story, and reported:

Gianluca Chacra, the managing director of Front Row Entertainment, the movie’s distributor in the United Arab Emirates, confirms that Lebanese student members of Hezbollah "have asked us if there's any way they could support the film." While Hezbollah is considered a legitimate political party in many parts of the world, the U.S. State Department classifies the group as a terrorist organization. Chacra was unfazed, even excited, about their offer. "Having the support of such an entity in Lebanon is quite significant for that market and not at all controversial. I think it’s quite natural." (Lions Gate did not return calls asking for comment.) -- John Gorenfeld,  "Michael Moore Terrorizes The Bushies!" Salon.com, June 24, 2004.

Kopel goes on. And on and on, using this 'Moore accepts help from terrorists' meme to launch into a big summing up explaining how Moore is the anti-Christ and a big fat hypocrite, or something. This is the statement that really caught my eye though:

Fahrenheit presents the fighters as noble resistance, and the American presence as entirely evil. It's not that the content of Fahrenheit is all that different from the propaganda which pervades the state-controlled Arab media, or on al Jazeera. But Fahrenheit's may be more persuasive, to at least some of its Arab audience, because its denunciations of American and praise for the Iraqi insurgents comes from an American. It is reasonable to expect that such a film, when shown in Syria and Lebanon, will aid in the recruiting of additional fighters to kill Americans and Iraqis. In effect, the presentation of Fahrenheit in Syria and Lebanon--especially with explicit endorsement from a terrorist organization--amounts to a recruiting film for terrorists (or, in Moore's terms, "minutemen") to go to Iraq and kill Americans., and the American presence as entirely evil. It's not that the content of Fahrenheit is all that different from the propaganda which pervades the state-controlled Arab media, or on al Jazeera. But Fahrenheit's may be more persuasive, to at least some of its Arab audience, because its denunciations of American and praise for the Iraqi insurgents comes from an American. It is reasonable to expect that such a film, when shown in Syria and Lebanon, will aid in the recruiting of additional fighters to kill Americans and Iraqis. In effect, the presentation of Fahrenheit in Syria and Lebanon--especially with explicit endorsement from a terrorist organization--amounts to a recruiting film for terrorists (or, in Moore's terms, "minutemen") to go to Iraq and kill Americans.

It's all so purely logical, isn't it? Criticism of Bush = hatred of America. Make a film slamming the ineptness of Bush's foreign policy, and you de facto have made a terrorist recruiting film.  Quod erat dumbonstratum.

It's also crap.

Kopel says "Fahrenheit presents the fighters as noble resistance", that it offers "praise for the Iraqi insurgents". Really? That's a neat trick, considering the only shots of Iraqis insurgents in the movie show them holding American hostages. (I guess Kopel sees an inherent nobility in hostage-taking.) Moore must be a better propagandist than I thought.

Kopel does one great service: he makes it clear that the case against Moore is hermetically sealed. 'Moore hates America, therefore his film is anti-American, thus proving that he hates America.' Reality gets almost no chance to intrude upon this worldview.

As for this final, specific claim, the Slate piece says it all:  "While Hezbollah is considered a legitimate political party in many parts of the world, the U.S. State Department classifies the group as a terrorist organization." In many respects, Hezbollah is the Lebanese equivalent of the IRA. It was founded as a terrorist organization, but it has evolved to fill other functions in Lebanese society simply because nobody else could fill them (as the Council of Foreign Relations itself says, "Does Hezbollah do other things besides terrorism? Yes. Experts say Hezbollah is also an important player in Lebanon's politics, a key vehicle of Lebanese Shiite empowerment, and a major provider of social services to thousands of Lebanese Shiites.") So when students members of Hezbollah offer to help get the film out, which branch of the organization are they acting on behalf of? Or are they even acting on behalf of the organization at all?

Kopel doesn't know. Kopel doesn't care. In his oh-so-simple world anyone associated with Hezbollah is a terrorist, and incapable of independant thought -- which, inevitably, includes that monster Michael Moore, now personally responsible for so many American deaths.

After all, someone has to be responsible, and it can't be the Bush administration, can it?


Kopel continues to add to this piece, obviously, so a follow-up may someday be necessary. Already since I started, Kopel has added a 'Moore response' feature to the deceits, which essentially offer Kopel's spin on the response of Moore's 'war room'. Clearly Kopel has given up any pretense that this is supposed to be a criticism of the film itself; the 59+ Deceits are an attempt to discredit Moore the person, not F9/11 the movie.

For a different take on Kopel's opus, check out Robert Martin's work at opensecrets.org. He offers a handy grading system for Kopel's individual points (or, in most cases, lack of a point.)

The debate over this film is bigger than me, or Kopel even. The more voices there are critiquing and counter-critiquing the film -- the more dialogue that it generates -- the better. And I think that, in part, was one of the reasons Moore made the film in the first place.

For too long American political discourse has degenerated into the squealings of surrogates. Ann Coulter says this; Al Franken says that; and 'debate' became a war of talking points. If Fahrenheit 9/11 can jolt us out of that vicious cycle, then for that alone Moore should be hailed as a great American.

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