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Michael Moore Turns Up the Heat in Fahrenheit 11/9

The cinematic son of America’s industrial proletariat launches a blistering broadside

In Fahrenheit 11/9, Moore takes aim at the Trump presidency—and others. (Photo: Screenshot)

In Fahrenheit 11/9, Moore takes aim at the Trump presidency—and others. (Photo: Screenshot)

ince 1989’s anti-globalization Roger & Me, Michael Moore’s films have helped frame national debates on critical issues, from 2002’s anti-gun Bowling for Columbine to 2007’s rallying cry for universal healthcare, Sicko. Moore’s arguments about wealth inequality in 2009’s Capitalism: A Love Story helped fuel the Occupy Wall Street movement.

In his brand new Fahrenheit 11/9, the cinematic son of America’s industrial proletariat launches a blistering broadside against the increasingly beleaguered Trump regime. The title reverses the numbers in the name of his big hit, 2004’s Fahrenheit 9/11, arguably the most widely seen theatrically-released documentary ever, earning over $220 million. The new film references November 9, 2016—the date Trump secured the Electoral College votes he needed to become President.

“Was it all a dream?” Moore ponders, as 11/9 opens with a media montage pronouncing the inevitability of Hillary Clinton’s ascension to the presidency. “What the fuck happened?”

Moore claims Trump tossed his hat into the presidential race after learning that singer Gwen Stefani was paid more by NBC than he was.

Moore, one of the few national commentators to predict the viability of Trump’s candidacy, now claims that Trump tossed his hat into the presidential race after learning that singer Gwen Stefani was paid more for coaching on the network’s The Voice than he was for his appearances on The Apprentice. The miffed celebrity staged his infamous June 16, 2015 campaign announcement at Trump Tower—where he denounced Mexicans as criminals and “rapists”—as a ploy to prove his popularity to NBC. The network, which ran both shows, recoiled and cut ties, but Trump had suddenly captured headlines along with an enthusiastic audience for spouting anti-immigrant, racist propaganda.

Alas, for the rest of us, things snowballed from there.

Unsurprisingly, the mainstream press, one of Moore’s recurring bugaboos, is critiqued in 11/9. As CBS president, the just-ousted Les Moonves is shown gushing that Trump’s candidacy, “may not be good for America, but it’s damn good for CBS.”

Moore notes that after Trump left The Apprentice, television could cover Trump without having to pay him to do so. The continuing obsessive coverage by cable news of the ex-reality TV star—with his celebrity status and freak show persona—is an exploitative business model. Disgraced “reporters” such as Today Show anchor Matt Lauer, are denounced onscreen by titles as “sexual predators.” (The 11/9 private screening I viewed didn’t include end credits—as of this writing, it remains to be seen whether Moonves will be so labeled in the final version.)

The Democratic Party establishment likewise comes in for a drubbing, in particular for being too cozy with Wall Street. Moore maintains that Senator Bernie Sanders won at the polls in numerous primaries, including West Virginia’s, only to lose those states due to superdelegate and other backroom deal-type shenanigans at the Democratic National Convention. Bill Clinton’s presidency is excoriated, including for trade deals that undercut the Democrats’ industrial base by massively outsourcing jobs overseas, leading to the collapse of unions, a bastion of Democratic power and funding since the New Deal.

Even Moore’s beloved Barack Obama is raked over the coals, especially for flying in Air Force One to Flint in May 2016 during the water crisis and publicly drinking purportedly lead-poisoned tap water twice in embattled Michigan (which Hillary would lose in November). Moore supplies a possible explanation for Obama’s vacillating, contending he’s the biggest recipient of Goldman Sachs donations ever.

Michigan Governor Rick Snyder is a special target for Flint-born Moore’s ire because of the state government’s money-saving decision to provide water for Flint’s mostly black population from the purportedly polluted Flint River, instead of from the city’s traditional source of fresh water, Lake Huron. This led to widespread health problems, including deaths, in Flint, particularly for children, as well as to protests.

These include some of Moore’s trademark screen stunts: After the handcuff-toting filmmaker fails to make a citizen's arrest of Snyder at the governor’s office, he rides in a water truck to the Republican’s home and sprays the grounds of his mansion with supposedly tainted Flint water. Onscreen, Moore derides Snyder as a “murderer.”

11/9’s most chilling and potentially controversial sequence shows archival footage of Hitler addressing a Nazi rally while Trump’s voice is heard making a speech. Moore notes that Hitler was elected by a minority of Germans and that, since the 1988 election, Republicans have only won the popular vote in a presidential race once.

But Moore’s most dire warning is that Trump may stage a “false flag” covert operation, as the Nazis did in 1933 with the Reichstag fire. Berlin’s parliament building burned; Hitler blamed it on Communists and used it to demand emergency powers. The prophetic Moore cautions us against falling for such a ruse that would give Trump more power, or keep him in office. The filmmaker cites the erroneous alert of an incoming ballistic missile attack in Hawaii last January.

Moore mostly stays away from Trump’s purported extramarital hanky-panky, as Stormy Daniels’ upcoming book is sure to do—with one notable exception. In an outrageously creepy segment, Trump is repeatedly shown inappropriately touching Ivanka and heard sexually lusting after his own daughter.

In the end, Moore, the son of an assembly line worker and union member, remains hopeful.

In the end, though, Moore, the son of an assembly line worker and union member, remains hopeful, pointing to a resurgence of teachers’ strikes, spearheaded by educators in West Virginia. In a flashback to red bandana-wearing coal miners during 1921’s Battle of Blair Mountain, Moore reminds us of the militant strike wherein one million bullets were fired. He similarly referenced Flint’s heroic 1937 sit-down strikers in Roger & Me.

Moore also hails survivors of the Parkland school shooting and includes footage of the massive rallies organized by young activists against gun violence. Moore finds cause for optimism in the resurgence of insurgent, anti-corporate, left-leaning Democratic candidates, many of them women. He covers the Democratic Socialists New Yorker Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Detroiter Rashida Tlaib, who may be elected the House of Representatives’ youngest woman and first female Muslim members of Congress.

In 2004, Moore hoped Fahrenheit 9/11 would cause Bush’s downfall. With Fahrenheit 11/9, Moore once again takes a shot at influencing an election’s outcome and limiting the reign of a Republican selected by the Electoral College.

Whether or not his new documentary helps usher in a “Blue Wave”—including its more liberal wing surfing the surge—Michael Moore remains cinema’s saint. To paraphrase the great Soviet documentarian Dziga Vertov, he is a Man of the People armed with a movie camera.

Fahrenheit 11/9 opens September 21.

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Ed Rampell

L.A.-based film historian/reviewer Ed Rampell co-authored the third edition of “The Hawaii Movie and Television Book”.

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