It’s a truism that the right wing owns talk radio and TV, and the left wing has documentaries — those film essays designed to convince liberal audiences of what they already believe. Michael Moore is a doctrinaire Leftie, and his movies hammer home familiar points: Iraq war, bad; U.S. medical care, dangerous to your health; capitalism, the curse of the working class. But Moore’s propagandistic brio and his central place in his films’ limelight assure that many people who agree with his policies condemn his methods. That said, Fahrenheit 9/11, his screed against the U.S. invasion of Iraq, is rare among documentaries for being crucial to a U.S. Presidential election. Not that it earned the Democrats any close states, or many votes. On the contrary: the film’s popularity — $119 million at the domestic box office, or more than three times the take of any documentaries not starring penguins — indicated that antiwar sentiment was broad and strong enough that year that John Kerry might have won if he’d articulated his opposition to the occupation as forcefully as Moore did. Then again, Kerry was never the passionate orator, showman-entertainer or, for that matter, savvy politician that Moore is.
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