Army Specialist Peter Damon sits under a shade tree and relates his war story from Iraq. As he and his best friend, Paul Bush, worked on a tire on their vehicle, an explosion went off. Bush was killed.
The camera pulls back, and you see for the first time that Damon didn’t escape the incident unharmed. The explosion that killed his friend also took his arms from the elbows down. He is a young man with a young family, all with most of their lives ahead of them. His left sleeve is empty; his right arm has been replaced by a prosthesis with a sharp metal hook on the end. Damon is angry, and his voice takes on the tones of a man who knows he has been exploited.
He is not angry at President Bush for sending him to Iraq. Specialist Damon volunteered for the Army like all of our soldiers, and he is proud of his service in Iraq. He is not even particularly angry about the explosion that killed his friend and cost him his arms. He is angry with filmmaker Michael Moore.
While lying in a hospital bed at Walter Reed Army Hospital recovering weeks after the attack, NBC’s Brian Williams interviewed the wounded soldier. Though Damon’s arms are gone, he experiences “phantom pain” as if they were still attached. Though Moore never visited the military hospital and never even met Damon, he somehow obtained that NBC footage and used it in his film Fahrenheit 9/11, taking Damon’s words out of context to make it appear that he is angry about the war and that his “phantom pain” is the pain of a soldier abandoned by his country and betrayed by his president. Nothing could be further from the truth.
At this point, Damon looks into the camera as though he is speaking directly to Michael Moore, and says, “You know you’ve lied in making this movie. You know you lied in my case, you know you lied in a whole lot of other cases.”
Indeed, Michael Moore lied throughout Fahrenheit 9/11–and not just about Specialist Damon. It’s time to set the record straight.
Damon’s story comes a little more than halfway through FahrenHYPE 9/11, the newly released documentary that means to be the antidote to Michael Moore’s more famous film. Damon’s story of exploitation at the hands of Moore is not unique: In fact, it is the norm. In Fahrenheit 9/11 Moore smears military recruiters and portrays American soldiers in Iraq as mindless monsters, then uses footage from the funerals of the fallen without even bothering to consult their families. He exploits the wounded and the dead without remorse, and smears the living with a devilish glee. He portrays President Bush as a cold-blooded, golf-club-wielding maniac, and portrays Saddam Hussein’s Iraq as an idyllic land where children flew kites instead of being tossed into pre-teen prisons. Moore’s film is an unconscionable exercise in deceit from start to finish. He obtained interviews under false pretenses, then used those interviews to insinuate things that the interview subjects neither believe nor support.
Case in point: Oregon State Trooper Andy Kenyon. Moore sent a crew to interview him under the guise of making a documentary about cutbacks in some state police programs. Moore did not attend the filming himself and his name never came up, for obvious reasons. The film crew led Kenyon to believe that the documentary was probably bound for public television, if it made broadcast at all. So Kenyon consented to the interview and answered questions related to those cutbacks. The day before Fahrenheit 9/11 opened, someone from Moore’s production company called Kenyon to tell him he was in that film. Shocked, Kenyon went to see the film, only to see his answers about state-level cutbacks blamed on the Bush administration, and twisted to insinuate that in cutting Oregon’s state police budget (something no president has the authority to do, since state-police budgets are a state matter), President Bush had left the Oregon coastline without police protection. But it was never the Oregon state-police force’s job to patrol the coast in the first place. That responsibility belongs to the Coast Guard. In researching the story of Oregon’s state-police cutbacks, it is impossible for Moore not to have learned these salient facts. Yet he left them all out to create a false impression that the Bush administration’s tax cuts directly took needed police off the streets.
Kenyon’s story is but one of several that Moore misuses to create false impressions and to willingly fool gullible or simply uninformed viewers. In exposing Moore’s rampant dishonesty, FahrenHYPE 9/11 amounts a prosecutor’s dossier against him.
While it may not be the most entertaining documentary ever made, FahrenHYPE 9/11 is a good and necessary film. In a time of war, Moore’s Fahrenheit 9/11 has convinced millions of Americans and even some of our troops that we are fighting the war for oil or to make the president’s friends rich–or for some reason other than to avenge 9/11 and make sure it never happens again. FahrenHYPE 9/11 refutes Michael Moore on his own turf.
Director Alan Peterson may seem like an unlikely person to battle one of the world’s most famous (or infamous) filmmakers. Before 9/11, Peterson was a conventional liberal. But seeing the second plane hit the World Trade Center that morning changed him forever.
“Prior to that moment, I had considered myself an intellectual liberal. One of those people who think that they are superior because they believe they are privy to some hidden knowledge that the rest of the world doesn’t understand; a knowledge that lets you belittle our government and nation because, of course, you know more than they do. In that single, horrific moment, I realized how stupid I was.”
Peterson, a long-time freelance director and producer, saw his liberalism melt away in that instant. When Moore’s antiwar film became the left-wing must-see movie this summer, Peterson decided something had to be done to counter it. Executive producers Lee Troxler and Jeff Hays agreed, and hired Peterson to direct a film that would respond directly to Fahrenheit 9/11.
Former Clinton-administration adviser Dick Morris hosts and actor Ron Silver narrates. Former New York Mayor Ed Koch, Senator Zell Miller, pundit and author Ann Coulter, New York Congressman Peter King, and bestselling authors Steven Emerson and David Frum also appear along with many who were exploited in Moore’s film and now want to refute the words he put in their mouths. Together they take down Fahrenheit 9/11 point by point and expose Moore’s twisted timelines and misapplied polemics.
In both of the Fahren– films, we may be seeing the birth of a new genre of documentary. FahrenHYPE 9/11 started production in August 2004 and was finished just 32 days later. That rapid turnaround, made possible by digital filmmaking systems like Avid XPress Pro and Unity, makes FahrenHYPE 9/11 one of the first documentaries made to refute another documentary in as close to real time as current technology and the human mind will allow. The point-counterpoint documentary cannot be made much more quickly or much better than Peterson has made FahrenHYPE 9/11.
Far from being a personal screed or political tract against a single man, FahrenHYPE 9/11 is a thoughtful and dense film full of interesting and timely content. It is well written and well developed. There are a couple of minor aesthetic and storytelling choices that I found questionable, but overall it’s a fine film. Covering the Patriot Act and the myriad terrorist attacks it has disrupted as well as the United Nations’ massive Oil-for-Food scandal, FahrenHYPE 9/11 is a great primer for anyone confused about the complex war on jihad, or how we became involved in it, or how we are fighting it. For the liberals who made Michael Moore the toast of the summer and the Democratic National Convention, FahrenHYPE 9/11 should be required viewing. America needs this film to undo the damage Moore’s movie has been doing all year.
–Bryan Preston is a writer and television producer. He is also the author of Junkyardblog.