Michael Moore has won the Palme d'Or at the Cannes Film Festival, and may win an Oscar for the kind of work that got Stephen Glass, Jayson Blair, and Jack Kelly fired.
Trying to track the unproven innuendoes and conspiracies in a Michael Moore film or book is as futile as trying to count the flatulence jokes in one by Adam Sandler. Some journalists and critics have acted as if his wrenching of facts is no more serious than a movie continuity problem, like showing a 1963 Chevy in 1956 Santa Monica.
A documentary film doesn't have to be fair and balanced, to coin a phrase. But it ought to make an attempt to be accurate. It can certainly be pointed and opinionated. But it should not knowingly misrepresent the truth. Much of Michael Moore's films and books, however entertaining to his fans and enraging to his critics, seems to regard facts as mere nuisances to the story he wants to tell.
In the New York Times, Paul Krugman wrote that, "Viewers may come away from Moore's movie believing some things that probably aren't true," and that he "uses association and innuendo to create false impressions." Try to imagine those phrases on a marquee. But that is his rave review! He lauds "Fahrenheit 9/11" for its "appeal to working-class Americans." Do we really want to believe that only innuendo, untruths, and conspiracy theories can reach working-class Americans?
Governments of both parties have assuaged Saudi interests for more than 50 years. (I wonder if Mr. Moore grasps how much the jobs of auto workers in Flint depended on cheap oil.) Sound questions about the course, costs, and grounds for the war in Iraq have been raised by voices across the political spectrum.
But when 9/11 Commission Chairman Kean has to take a minute at a press conference, as he did last Thursday, to knock down a proven falsehood like the secret flights of the bin Laden family, you wonder if those who urge people to see Moore's film are informing or contaminating the debate. I see more McCarthy than Murrow in the work of Michael Moore. No matter how hot a blowtorch burns, it doesn't shed much light.