Michael Moore did not ask Ray Bradbury if he could use Fahrenheit 451 as the basis for punning title of his anti-Bush film. Quite possibly if Bradbury were to take him to court it would come in as extra publicity for notoriously shy Mike. Nevertheless if you consider the pun, and its source material, it really is rather week.

The original subtitle of Fahrenheit 9/11 was ‘the temperature at which the truth burns’. Plain nonsense, if we consider 9/11 as proper fraction then this temperature is around about -14 degrees Celsius. Now stuff will burn at that temperature, but if the truth were to spontaneously combust as such a low temperature the only place were any truth would exist for long periods time would be well within the Polar Circles.

Let us assume that he is not being literal therefore. Rather that the 9/11 is supposed to invoke the 451 of the original novel. Moore has done the oldest trick in the poor pun constructing book and just made a substitution because something sounds a bit alike (and 9/11 sounds very little like 451). Bradbury’s book is about censorship and freedom of speech. So perhaps there is an analogue between the idea of freedom of speech and Michael Moore’s own freedom of speech. Look, there’s Mike peaking naughtily over a document marked confidential. Except there is very little new in Fahrenheit 9/11 that was not in the public arena (admittedly this is from a Londoncentric news following perspective). Moore is presenting old news n an emotive fashion to an audience he believes is not aware of this information.

Bradbury?s novel was about censorship, but a censorship which stemmed from envy and feeble-mindedness. It was a deliberately elitist argument, that with the proliferation of television and a fast paced society people would lack the concentration to read. Couple with this people not liking to feel less educated next to the well read, and the seeds of Bradbury’s totalitarian society is born (it is not altogether consistent). Nevertheless it is fiction which holds the strongest place in Bradbury’s world, rather than the truth which Moore is supposedly trying to uncover. Moore’s bite-sized, argument free, scattershot news presentation seems ideally suited for Bradbury’s future.

The sad thing is that most people in the cinema with me did not even get the reference. Bradbury’s book (and Truffaut’s even more bonkers film version) is a rollicking story, whilst Moore’s patchwork piece is only aimed at an audience that, without all this associated publicity, he may not have hit. Luckily though Frank Darabont is scheduled to make a new version, something which, considering the plot of Fahrenheit 451, seems remarkably ironic.