Having read the lengthy piece by David Kopel, Fifty-six Deceits in Fahrenheit 911, I was struck by the sheer cunningness of Moore’s film. When you read Kopel, try to detach yourself from any revulsion you may feel at a work of literal propaganda receiving such wide-spread accolades from mainstream politicos, as well as attendance by your friends and neighbors. Instead, notice the film’s meticulousness in saying only (or mostly) “true” or defensible things in support of a completely misleading impression. In this way, Kopel’s care in describing Moore’s “deceipts” is much more interesting than other critiques I have read, including that of Christopher Hitchens. Kopel’s lawyerly description of Moore’s claims shows the film to be a genuinely impressive accomplishment in a perverse sort of way (the way an ingenious crime is impressive) — a case study in how to convert elements that are mainly true into an impression that is entirely false — and this leads in turn to another thought. If this much cleverness was required to create the inchoate “conspiracy” (whatever it may be, as it is never really specified by Moore), it suggests there was no such conspiracy. With this much care and effort invested in uncovering and massaging the data, if there really was a conspiracy of the kind Moore suggests, the evidence would line up more neatly behind it, rather than being made to do cartwheels so as to be “true” but oh-so-misleading. If the facts don’t fit, shouldn’t we acquit?
That’s 100% true.
The funny thing, though, is that if I wrote “The 56 Deceits of George W. Bush” (as, indeed, many people have done) then some very intelligent Volokh Conspirator (as, indeed, many of the conspirators are) would doubtless have written a post in response (as, indeed, I’ve read at the Conspiracy) arguing that most of the alleged “lies” weren’t lies per se (and, indeed, they’re mostly misleading juxtapositions of technically true information) and that these sorts of ad hominem attacks don’t really prove that the presidents’ policies are actually wrong.
The really funny thing, though, is that while George W. Bush is president of the United States and wrecking (a) the country’s foreign policy and (b) the country’s fiscal policy, Michael Moore is a somewhat famous guy who makes movies. Get it?