Monday, July 23, 2007

Michael Moore at C&L

By Michael J.W. Stickings

Michael Moore was at Crooks and Liars yesterday afternoon taking questions from readers. Check it out here.

From Howie Klein's intro:

Michael is more dangerous to the entrenched Establishment than almost anyone else in America because he can focus a great many people on a pressing national issue and stimulate independent thought, emotional identification and anger. Their pathetic attempts to denigrate him and silence his message – as in the case this month of CNN’s corporate doctor Sanjay Gupta – have failed miserably.

I agree. Moore is not beyond reproach -- I have had a few problems with each of his major films (with respect more to technique than to substance) -- but he is one of America's most important and compelling public figures dealing with some of America's most important and compelling issues (corporate plutocracy, guns and violence, Iraq and terrorism, and now health care). He and his work are indispensable.

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  • I disagree. Moore and I will probably have nearly identical voting cards in every election that we will both vote in. If he and I were to disagree about policy, it would be on the level of detail rather than principle. Nonetheless, I think he does at least as much damage as he does good, if not more. Simply ask yourself: who do you know who has been persuaded by Michael Moore? I know plenty of people who have seen Moore's work and been inspired to change the status quo. I have known plenty of people who have learned things from Moore's work that they did not know before. I do not know a single person who has been persuaded to adopt a new point of view or even to see the kernel of a legitimate point of view from Moore's work.

    The reasons for this are plain as day. Moore is a sensationalist. He's a moral simpleton who sees things in black and white every bit as much as Jerry Falwell does (his spectrum is simply reversed). His films do not even attempt to engage in rational persuasion, but do all their work by insinuation and association. He presents himself as someone who knows the truth and considers anyone who disagrees with him a complete idiot or a greedy sleeze. He is the Rush Limbaugh of the Left.

    Michael Moore does damage to his causes by alienating everyone who doesn't already see things the way that he does. If all of the people who don't already agree with Michael Moore really were simply stupid, evil, or both, then I wouldn't be too bothered by this facet of his work. The trouble is that there are plenty of extremely intelligent and benevolent people who reasonably disagree. To treat those people as Moore does is not to treat them as they deserve to be treated as human beings or as fellow democratic citizens. Worst of all for his causes, it reinforces stereotypes about raving, elitist liberals and convinces people that they are right to disagree with him.

    I am tempted to say that Moore does good in two ways despite all of this: by re-inspiring people to work to solve important problems and by inspiring young people who haven't yet developed very defined views. The trouble with the second claim is that his work engages in so much cheap, non-rational persuasion that it does not help people without developed views to develop rational views. As for the first function, it's true, but increasingly irrelevant as more and more alternative media spring up to do the work.

    Perhaps I am mistaken about all of this, and there are a great number of people who have come to see the light through Michael Moore's films. I've just never met them or heard of them.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 6:00 PM  

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