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Sunday, August 08, 2004

Talking about politics

This week at PopMatters (a great site to read regularly, by the way), there is a great article by Audrea Lim on Fahrenheit 9/11 and how politics are finally becoming an important part of the daily life of the average citizen of this country again. The movie has been a thorn in the side of the right, but has also irritated those of the left who wish that these simplistic appeals weren't so effective.

Still, it is frustrating that this response hasn't come about until now, for Fahrenheit doesn't reveal much that wasn't known before the release of the movie. It does not expose Bush and his buddies in the way that Milli Vanilli, for instance, were suddenly exposed as fraudulent lip-synchers. There was no news of Milli Vanilli's wrongdoings circulating in independent media or through left-wing communities long before the general public decided to take notice. In contrast, the Bush/Bin Laden family connection, the oil industry/Iraq war connection, civilians being killed in Iraq: this is all old news. Critics, scholars and independent media have been tooting their horns for a long time with no one really listening. This information is and has been readily available in easily accessible formats, including through general interest books, in smaller publications, and all over the web.

Well, as I've said about a hundred times now, we need to get over it. Also, we need to lay off the search for someone to blame for the sad state of the average American's political involvement. It's not just that people are weak-minded or lazy. It's a combination of being too busy to pay more attention to politics than to watch the news on television, a desire on the part of those who foot the bill for TV news to cover only the less than controversial (who's going to side with a man who murders his pregnant wife?), and of course the unwillingness of people to speak of political issues in their ordinary life. As this article notes, though, people are incorporating politics into their daily life more than they did before, and this movie probably has a lot to do with it.

Despite whatever flaws it might have, Fahrenheit has undoubtedly stimulated much public and private discussion. Whether or not we are convinced by Moore's arguments, the expository nature of his claims urges us to pursue the truth. If we've been swayed, we hunger for more information, for if all these things have been going on before our eyes this entire time without our knowing it, what else haven't we seen?

While it's still inappropriate to sully social events by discussing politics at length, it's been well-noted that politics are sneaking into everyday discussion more often than usual lately. If nothing else, F9/11 has given people a way to speak about politics without actually stating forbidden political opinions. Nearly every time I've gone out since this movie was released it came up in conversation at some point. Certain jokes and scenes in the movie have become common currency in the culture overnight. At least here in Austin, I know if I walk into a party and make a joke about My Pet Goat, I will get a big laugh. Of course, in my social circles, people's politics can be pretty much guessed at--they may not be Democrats, but they sure as hell don't like Bush. But it's more than that. It's a movie, and while politics are off-limits for discussion, movies are not. And so politics are spoken about sideways.

And it's no longer acceptable to be apolitical. Last election, it was downright fashionable to sneer and declare all politicians to be crooks and everyone would concur and back off, all afraid to be the square who thinks that politics could actually be used as a force for good. I don't see that any longer. Oh, of course there are still those who sneeringly say that all politicians are crooks and voting is a waste of time when the topic comes up. But they are either looked on as pitiful relics, or more likely, under immediate attack by those of us who are intent on turning them into voters. It's not the 60's or anything where being political is "cool". No, being political is necessary. A number of people have told me that they are going to vote for the first time in their lives this election, and we live in a state that is sure to swing towards Bush. People are energized enough to cast a vote for a candidate that's sure to lose the state.

I'm always tooting the horn of the politics of practicality. This is a great moment in time to exert some political influence without crossing the line. If nothing else, the sheer number of outlets for liberal opinion are multiplying by the minute, and all these can be recommended to friends quickly without causing undue discomfort. If a friend says that he/she saw Fahrenheit 9/11, I immediately recommend listening to Air America Radio if they are the sort to listen to lots of internet radio. If they were shocked by the sheer amount of bullshit they were led to believe, I point them towards Media Matters. That site is also good for someone who knows alot of people who are always spouting Republican talking points learned off of Fox News but doesn't know how to respond. If your friend has Netflix, point them to the long line of documentaries that are coming out about this administration. They will be watching things like Outfoxed and The Hunting of the President right before election time.

The main thing is that this is the time when people who are not all that well-versed in politics will sometimes be sniffing around looking for answers. If you are, please let them know that their feelings of unease around this administration are more than justified and if they want more information, you're here to help. That's how things get done in a democracy.


Blogger Earnest said...

popmatters is a pretty great site. They could use a Ross Lincoln to write about comics.


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