Michael Moore: on the Couch and in the Spotlight

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Michael Moore is obnoxious. Stupid White Men contained a good deal of nonsense. Bowling for Columbine made me cringe at the vicious and despicable way he personally approached and treated Charlton Heston.

But OK, nobody’s perfect. Libertarians should be grateful that Michael Moore has learned some lessons from past mistakes and, for his movie Fahrenheit 911, which opens in the US on June 25, has apparently taken extra care to check and double-check his facts.

"Moore has done a wonderful thing" wrote Llewellyn H. Rockwell, commenting on Fahrenheit 911 in his article on May 22 entitled "Training Wheels and Fighting Words," and the anonymous author of a June 2 article entitled "Michael Moore gets distribution deal: just the ego-boost he needs" writes in similar vein:

"Let’s be clear, Michael Moore is undertaking a glorious assault on the Bush administration and the neo-conservative establishment — and the world owes him a huge debt of gratitude for working so hard to such a noble end…"

"And yet…" the same author goes on:

"And yet, the more one sees of him, the more one suspects that Moore’s primary obsession isn’t politics or war or truth or injustice, and the more one wonders whether his primary obsession might not actually be himself.

A more precise diagnosis might be that Michael Moore is suffering from Narcissistic Personality Disorder."

And he gracefully concludes:

…whether or not one accepts the diagnosis of Moore as someone suffering from acute Narcissistic Personality Disorder, one can certainly be glad that he is aiming the force of his personality in the right direction. Whyever he does what he does, let’s be glad that he does it."

There are dissenters in the ranks of liberty.

"I don’t care for Moore’s infantile version of liberalism, so I don’t read his books or watch his movies. … In the meantime, Moore is becoming what I so despise about many professional athletes — a multimillionaire whiner."

Thus Charley Reese in "Lots of Mistakes," on LewRockwell.com on May 11. A week later Thomas DiLorenzo’s May 19 piece "Moore-onomics" lambasted Moore’s leftist notions of responsibility:

"In the end, after misdiagnosing nearly every social and economic problem that he writes about, incorrectly blaming them on capitalism, Moore proposes bigger and bigger government and higher and higher taxation — socialism — as a sure-fire cure-all for America’s ills. Talk about Stupid White Men."

Turning yet again to the supposed cures for America’ ills, I agree with James Ostrowski when he writes in his article "Laughing With/At Michael Moore" of August 8 last year:

"In Bowling for Columbine, Michael Moore tries and fails to explain why America is so violent. I give Bowling for Columbine one thumb down and the other thumb up. (Can I do that?) I knew the movie’s flaws going in and discounted them. I had heard Moore exploited a frail Charleton Heston so when he did so, I was prepared. It was despicable, but on the plus side Michael Moore illustrates once again the mindset of the leftist. They love humanity but treat individual human beings badly."

Just so, and there are no excuses for treating individual human beings badly, however much you believe the outcomes of their upbringings and beliefs to be undesirable or wicked.

I leave the last words to Andrew Anthony in his long interview for the Observer just a month ago, well worth reading in full, which is entitled "Michael and me"

"Moore, the king-sized millionaire, walking testament to American consumption, is a master of making himself appear the little guy.

"I ask if he worked out how to be a better employer.

"’I just think I’m a better person,’ he says, his head bowed in theatrically solemn contemplation, ‘because I’m always struggling to be a better person. I’m a highly flawed individual, as we all are, and because I was raised by Jesuits, I’m constantly, “What is it about me and what I can do to be better?’

"It is doubtless to this mission that he refers in Stupid White Men, when he writes: ‘If you’re white, and you really want to help change things, why not start with yourself?’

"What I think, after my short time in his company, is that Moore is a man you would not want as an opponent, but also one you’d think twice about calling a friend. Though a talented film-maker and a clever showman, a populist who knows how to play the maverick, he is too often both big-headed and small-minded. In his desire to be seen as the decent man telling truth to power, he is too ready to blame those less powerful than himself for his shortcomings. He was justly revered in the Palais, but out on the street no one had a kind word to say about him. At Cannes, Moore may have been the star but he was not, it seems, the man of the people."

The moral of all this? Don’t miss Fahrenheit 911, take on board all that is good and right and timely about it, but resist the temptation, in the inevitable flood of celebrity adulation which will follow, to abandon all trace of critical discernment regarding its author. He is rightly acclaimed now, but that gives him no monopoly of wisdom.

Richard Wall (send him mail) has a Master’s degree in International Relations from the London School of Economics & Political Science, and lives in Estoril, Portugal, where he currently works as a freelance writer and translator.

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