Sunday, February 3, 2019

Weekend Roundup

We watched Michael Moore's Fahrenheit 11/9 last night. Here's a review by Owen Gleiberman, which hits most of the key points. Seems to me he should have cut it into two separate movies: one on Trump (with more coverage of what he did after taking office), the other on the Flint water crisis (rather than just using his home town as his pet way of contextualizing world events). The Flint story winds up turning Obama into the goat (if not the villain, still Rick Snyder), which would have been more effective without Trump all over the map.

The Trump parts are more interesting. Moore treats Trump's presidential run as a publicity stunt -- as he's done before, but this time he went through with it only because NBC fired him for racist comments, only to find his fan's adoration in his early rallies. His decimation of his Republican opponents, then of Hillary Clinton, is a piece of story that Moore could open some eyes on, in large part because Moore doesn't flinch when Trump's absurdity and cruelty come simultaneously into focus. Indeed, his whole sequence of Trump and Ivanka is extremely creepy. However, after the election, instead of delving into the profound corruption and malign neglect that has been so evident, he settles for a long lament on the end of democracy and the rise of fascism. He can be creepy there, too, as with the Trump voiceover of stock Hitler/Third Reich newsreel footage, with side glances at Putin and Duterte and commentary by Timothy Snyder. I don't see that as necessarily unfair -- in fact, when I first noticed the Nazi rallies I expected a segue to Fred Trump in the 1930s at Madison Square Garden -- but it's far from the most important or enlightening thing a filmmaker like Moore could come up with.

One story I don't delve into below is the flap over Virginia Governor Ralph Northam, something involving racist photos in his college yearbook, which has elicited howls of indignation and calls for his resignation from many Democrats and leftists -- Elizabeth Warren and Barbara Ehrenreich are two names that popped up in my twitter feed (full disclosure: I follow Ehrenreich but not Warren or any other office-holders). I suppose if I knew more details I might think differently, but my first reaction is that I find these calls deeply troubling, both on practical grounds and because they display an arrogant self-righteousness I find unbecoming. Sooner or later, Democrats need to learn to forgive themselves -- especially those who show some capacity to learn from their mistakes. I understand that Northam is no great shakes as a Democrat, but I'd rather see him become a better one (if that's possible).

On the other hand, I don't want to turn this into a diatribe against "purism" -- if real leftists (like Ehrenreich) insist on holding folks to higher standards, God bless them.

Some scattered links this week:

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