March 31, 2003

HERE’S A DELIGHTFUL dissection of Michael Moore — who, come to think of it, directed the System of a Down video that nobody likes, didn’t he? Anyway, here’s an excerpt:

A memorable performance, to be sure. It’s just that Moore gave the impression of having been somewhat miscast. He deserved an Oscar for alienation – a phenomenon best explained as dislike for, or hatred of, an individual’s society and its leaders. Alienated types tend to be relatively well-off and well-educated men and women who enjoy the freedoms and riches provided by Western societies and use their status to dump on politicians and, by implication, those who elected them.

Moore’s entertaining Bowling for Columbine makes some telling, if unoriginal, criticisms of the gun culture prevalent in parts of the United States. Above all, this is an exercise in alienation and, at times, self-hatred. The documentary says the US is responsible for most – if not all – of the world’s problems. Moreover, it kicks down most of Moore’s fellow citizens who appear – many of whom are of modest means and scant education. Action, as Moore mocks a black policeman. Laugh now, as he attempts to make a white, female clerical worker look foolish. What (alienated) fun. Only to be enjoyed by those who can afford to pay cash at the cinema door and/or who buy the book.

Michael Moore’s Stupid White Men (Penguin, first edition 2001, new edition 2002) is perhaps the alienated tract of our time. He refers to “the evils of America”, maintains that “we are now in a budding police state formerly known as the USofA” and describes Americans as “stupid and oppressed”. All this in the introduction. Later on Bush is depicted as both a “functional illiterate” and an “alcoholic” and the US is bagged as a nation which “goes out of its way to remain ignorant and stupid”. This last assertion is made in capitals for effect. How helpful.

Some members of the intelligentsia – and the super rich (like Moore) – enjoy wallowing in such self-hatred. Stupid White Men includes a chapter called “Kill Whitey”. This is from an author who expresses understandable concern at the high homicide rates in the US. Sounds bizarre. But not so to the American heartland, as the Oscars demonstrated. Moore’s alienated rage was applauded by a few members of the Hollywood tinsel town audience, although not by Oscar nominees and their guests who chose to remain silent. Not so those of lesser means, and status, who occupied what are termed the “cheap seats” who exhibited their disgust at such alienation – at a time when US forces are at war – by booing loudly.

To Moore I’d say — just try and lay your hand on a Pittsburgh Steelers fan. Then maybe you’ll finally understand. . . . Hey, didn’t somebody already say that?