One of the accepted "truths" about Fahrenheit 9/11, even before it opened, really, was that it wouldn't change any minds. "Red" voters wouldn't even see the movie, the story went, and if they did see it, they would hate it. Gwen Ifill on Meet the Press last Sunday was just one voice repeating this conventional wisdom, not citing any poll numbers or data, but just a general understanding as truth, as Bob Somerby points out in the Daily Howler. "You know what?" Ifill said. "The truth is, people who made up their minds and don't like President Bush are going to come away still not liking President Bush. People who made up their minds and like President Bush think this movie is terrible -- I mean, lawsuits aside. And people in the middle, I don't know if this is going to change any minds."
That is perhaps an understandable assumption. The nation is famously split, with pollsters saying a surprisingly large percentage of Americans have made up their minds about whether they're voting for Bush or Kerry, months ahead of the election. But now that the movie is out, we're getting at least anecodotal examples of Bush voters, or undecided voters, seeing Fahrenheit, and saying it affected their opinions about the president and/or the war in Iraq, or at least made them think.
The Orlando Sentinel talked to voters in central Florida who saw the movie, and not surprisingly, both the moviegoers and their opinions, before and after the movie, were varied. Helen Dehner, 62, of Altamonte Springs, was brought to tears, the Sentinel said. "I went in prepared to disagree with it perhaps," Dehner said. "I need to process a lot of what I just saw. He did make his point, however. I'm a rational being and need to think." Ginny Reynolds, a Republican, said Fahrenheit was "a political ploy on Michael Moore's part," but she still went to see it, with her husband and her parents. Maybe Moore didn't change her mind, but Reynolds at least gave him the chance. Another Floridian interviewed by the Sentinel, Garth Weiss, has a daughter in the National Guard "who could go to Iraq." The paper said Weiss was moved by Moore's interview with Lila Lipscomb, who lost a son in Iraq. Moore "did a great job of bringing it home," Weiss said, and while he hasn't made up his mind whom to vote for in November, "I won't vote for Bush," he said.
Tonight, Michael Moore will tell Tavis Smiley on PBS that "Fahrenheit 9/11" ranked No. 1 in each state that voted for Bush in the 2000 election. Maybe every single one of those moviegoers voted for Al Gore in 2000 -- but probably not. And in an election this close, it won't take too many changed minds to make a difference.