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A timely "wakeup call" in the United States

Fahrenheit 11 / 9
Regissør: Michael Moore

Michael Moore's new documentary Fahrenheit 11 / 9 portrays the tremendous consequences of the Trump era.


"Never has an assembly looked so defeated beyond winning the presidential post," says Michael Moore with his distinctive humor in a voiceover clip that shows the historically small group of people gathered in the Trump camp on election night in November 2016. Like everyone else, they believed until the last minute that Hillary Clinton would surely become the next president of the United States.

As we now know, this did not happen. Following the election results announcement, it became an easy joke to show cascades of clips, with political experts rejecting even the slightest possibility that Donald J. Trump would ever occupy the White House – as Moore does in his latest documentary. Nevertheless, this easy point is an important memory cookie. The Democrats were so confident in the victory that they did not hesitate to wipe out the only person who might have prevented the defeat: Bernie Sanders, who locally won the electorate but whose candidacy was obstructed by the party machinery.

State Terrorism

Just like the Fahrenheit 9 / 11 employs Fahrenheit 11 / 9 deal with an unexpected event and its disastrous consequences for large sections of the population. What allegedly started as a vanity stunt for Trump, which would prove to the media world how popular he is, ended in grave seriousness.

Zigzagging between horror, reaction and smoldering rebellion, Moore takes us through the "real United States." And according to Moore, the "real United States" doesn't fit with the picture, for example, The New York Times draws. Indeed, the "real United States" is left-leaning, argues Moore – armed with opinion polls about the population's attitudes toward social security, legalization of hashish and abortion, trade union freedom and more – and ready to rebel against the hair-raising consequences of today's capitalism. The problem is that large parts of the "real United States" did not vote. More than 100 million abstained from voting at the 2016 election (a landslide victory for "did not vote"), many of them probably on the conviction that it made no difference anyway. And they were right, according to Moore. Their votes mean nothing, and the Democrats have for decades ensured that the people could feel it.

The poor Flint residents felt it very concrete when then-President Barack Obama betrayed his constituents in the midst of a politically orchestrated water crisis that poisoned an entire city. Rather than defending them against Governor Rick Snyder, who had cut them off from clean drinking water from the nearby lake and instead linked them to a lead-poisoned river alone to make money for himself and his friends, Obama asked for a glass of tap water in front a gasping group of desperate inhabitants who believed that their rescue had finally come. He wiped his lips and assured them that all was well.

Ballots in baby chests

“He was our hero, he was our president. But when he left, he was no longer my president, ”says a local black female activist disappointed by Obama's visit. What happened in Flint was nothing short of ethnic cleansing, Moore says in his voiceover. "No terror group has yet managed to poison an entire US city that needed a governor to make that number."

In front of the upcoming Uprising, according to Moore's documentary, are women, Latinos, blacks, Muslims and white low-paid workers from remote areas.

And Flint is not any American city, it is a city with a majority of blacks and one of the nation's poorest. So poor that the U.S. military decided to use it for military training in urban warfare without warning the inhabitants.

Next – or rather again – came Clinton's betrayal. While Bill Clinton was the one who pulled Democrats into a dead end full of middle politics and big-capital compromises, "he behaved like a Republican," Hillary Clinton was the one who crushed Sanders and his mass movement – not least among the working-class sections, media such as The New York Times portrays as reactionary – with elite party bureaucracy. In West Virginia, for example, the majority in all 55 regions voted for Bernie in the primary, but Democrats in the state elected Hillary as the presidential candidate.

In a voiceover clip that shows white people in suits carrying wooden boxes with ballots, Moore suggests we might as well bury "those baby chests." One cannot call it a democracy when the majority gets their vote rejected, which he reasoned. But even though representative democracy may be dead, or never really come to life, democratic aspirations fail. It is Fahrenheit 11 / 9's second message.


Flint's residents would not silently accept that they themselves and their children were being poisoned, and public servants would not silently execute orders to cover up the scandal. People were walking on the streets, forcing their way into state institutions to demand action.

So did West Virginia's teachers when the state government decided to raise the cost of their health insurance and at the same time make it dependent on individual performance in an app that measures physical activity. The teachers, who are already living at or below the poverty line, went on strike without the backing of their union leaders, who would rather make a venue agreement with the political rulers. It became one of the largest job cuts in recent American history, and it spread to other states like a steppe fire.

In front of the upcoming uprising, according to Moore's documentary, are women, Latinos, blacks, Muslims and white low-wage workers from the outlying areas. One of the latter reminisces in the documentary that the concept of "redneck" nowadays is most often used as a curse word, but nevertheless historically refers to the red scarf that organized workers wore around their necks.

"Something strange began to happen," Moore says in the film's opening, referring to the slow realization that Trump's presidential stunt had gotten serious. Maybe, he thinks, there is a sense of madness. Maybe that was exactly the wakeup call the "real United States" lacked – to stop hoping the Constitution would come to their rescue and instead start acting on its own.

Nina Trige Andersen
Nina Trige Andersen
Trige Andersen is a freelance journalist and historian.

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