19.7.04

Evolution of the language

I'd been calling Farenheit 9-11 "historical fiction" but I rather like "flockumentaries". This, of course, leads to the natural follow-up: what do you call books like Ann Coulter's Treason or Al Franken's Lies and the Lying Liars who Lie Them? "Flocktion"?

OpinionJournal - Taste: "The documentary form is serving a political purpose at the moment. (You might even say that a point of view is driving it.) And why not? The form, at least as it is practiced here, is perfect for the task. It favors emotion over logic, helped along by shrewd editing, manipulative music, clever graphics and gonzo stunts. For their creators, such documentaries allow for 'reporting' without the messy business of fact-checking or the checks and balances of beat journalism. For the audience, they serve as, well, echo chambers.

Of course, the documentary form doesn't always function this way. At its best--e.g., Frederick Wiseman's films on high schools and hospitals, the weird constellations of 'Crumb' and 'Capturing the Friedmans,' the Vietnam-centered 'Hearts and Minds'--it is propelled by a sense of discovery. Neither filmmaker nor viewer knows what he is getting into until he really starts busying himself with it.

Movies like 'Outfoxed,' 'Control Room' and 'Fahrenheit 911' work differently. They begin by knowing their thesis--and their audience--and operate backward. In the process, artists keen to point up the propagandistic efforts of others show themselves all too willing to take part in such efforts themselves.

Yet to call these films propaganda is also to misunderstand them. They don't seek to convince the unconvinced or herd the untamed. They aim directly at the sheep. Little wonder that the main means of distributing 'Outfoxed' is through house parties organized by MoveOn.org, the group whose Bush-bashing is at least as bald-faced as anything on Fox. Call them flockumentaries, movies people attend en masse, to nestle together in easy confirmation of their most cherished beliefs--to learn, really, what they already know."

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