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The Rhetoric of the New Political Documentary

Edited by Thomas W. Benson and Brian J. Snee

Publication Year: 2008

The Rhetoric of the New Political Documentary explores the most visible and volatile element in the 2004 presidential campaign—the partisan documentary film. This collection of original critical essays by leading scholars and critics—including Shawn J. and Trevor Parry-Giles, Jennifer L. Borda, and Martin J. Medhurst—analyzes a selection of political documentaries that appeared during the 2004 election season. The editors examine the new political documentary with the tools of rhetorical criticism, combining close textual analysis with a consideration of the historical context and the production and reception of the films.

The essays address the distinctive rhetoric of the new political documentary, with the films typically having been shot with relatively low budgets, in video, and using interviews and stock footage rather than observation of uncontrolled behavior. The quality was often good enough and interest was sufficiently intense that the films were shown in theaters and on television, which provided legitimacy and visibility before they were released soon afterwards on DVD and VHS and marketed on the Internet.

The volume reviews such films as Michael Moore’s Fahrenheit 9/11; two refutations of Moore’s film, Fahrenhype 9/11 and Celsius 41.11; Unprecedented: The 2000 Presidential Election; and George W. Bush: Faith in the White House—films that experimented with a variety of angles and rhetorics, from a mix of comic disparagement and earnest confrontation to various emulations of traditional news and documentary voices.

The Rhetoric of the New Political Documentary represents the continued transformation of American political discourse in a partisan and contentious time and showcases the independent voices and the political power brokers that struggled to find new ways to debate the status quo and employ surrogate “independents” to create a counterrhetoric.

 

 

 

 

 

Published by: Southern Illinois University Press

Cover

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pp. 1-3

Title Page

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p. 4-4

Copyright

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p. 5-5

Contents

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pp. v-vi

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1. New Political Documentary: Rhetoric, Propaganda, and the Civic Prospect

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pp. 1-23

The Rhetoric of the New Political Documentary explores the most visible and volatile element in the 2004 presidential campaign—the partisan documentary film. This collection of original critical essays by leading scholars and critics analyzes a selection of political documentaries that appeared during the 2004 election season, when President George W. Bush ran as the Republican...

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2. Virtual Realism and the Limits of Commodified Dissent in Fahrenheit 9/11

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pp. 24-53

The U.S. Constitution sought to “provide for the general welfare” and to “secure the blessings of liberty” for a new nation in 1789, even as it created a delicately balanced and at times inherently contradictory governmental scheme. The Constitution simultaneously grants war powers to both the Congress, with its exclusive power to declare war, and to the executive, in his or her capacity ...

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3. Documentary Dialectics or Dogmatism? Fahrenhype 9/11, Celsius 41.11, and the New Politics of Documentary Film

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pp. 54-77

Sir Isaac Newton’s third law of motion states that for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. This observation also may be used to describe the landscape of political documentaries during the 2004 presidential election season. The initial action was the release of Michael Moore’s much anticipated, much hyped award-winning and unapologetically outspoken film...

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4. Vietnam Flashbacks: Dueling Memories of Dissent in the 2004 Presidential Election

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pp. 78-104

If war is another means of waging politics, 2004 was a year of nested battles. The political air was still thick with the dust of September 11, 2001, and President George W. Bush’s subsequent christening of a “war on terror.” Within this war, the nation was sharply divided regarding the wisdom of the 2003 Iraq invasion and the ongoing occupation. National security remained a central ...

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5. Theology, Politics, and the Evangelical Base: George W. Bush: Faith in the White House

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pp. 105-130

To say that George W. Bush: Faith in the White House is controversial would be an understatement. It has been attacked in the pages of the New York Times, lambasted by the New Republic, and excoriated by on-line pundits and has provided fodder for bloggers of all stripes.1 Indeed, the responses to the film...

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6. Mimesis and Miscarriage in Unprecedented

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pp. 131-152

The project that resulted in Unprecedented: The 2000 Presidential Election began when documentary filmmakers Joan Sekler and Richard Ray Perez watched George W. Bush take the oath of office to become the forty-third president of the United States in January 2001. They “saw more people pro-testing the legitimacy of what had happened than supporting him” but noted ...

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7. Talking Heads Rock the House: Robert Greenwald’s Uncovered: The War on Iraq

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pp. 153-172

Robert Greenwald’s documentary Uncovered: The War on Iraq, released into theaters in October 2004, is one of a number of recent films about the 2003Iraq war that critically deconstructs the Bush administration’s rationale for fighting it. Greenwald’s film is joined, most notably, by Michael Moore’s film Fahrenheit 9/11, which grossed over $119 million in domestic box office; ...

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8. Outfoxing the Myth of the Liberal Media

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pp. 173-204

Outfoxed: Rupert Murdoch’s War on Journalism is a fiercely independent, unapologetically partisan documentary produced and directed by Robert Greenwald in 2004. Like Unprecedented: The 2000 Presidential Election (2002), Uncovered: The War on Iraq (2004), and Unconstitutional: The War on Our Civil Liberties (2004), which Greenwald also produced, Outfoxed was made ...

Selected Bibliography

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pp. 205-214

Contributors

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pp. 215-216

Index

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pp. 217-226

Back Cover

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p. 234-234


E-ISBN-13: 9780809387274
E-ISBN-10: 0809387271
Print-ISBN-13: 9780809328369
Print-ISBN-10: 0809387271

Page Count: 232
Publication Year: 2008