I’ve seen almost every Michael Moore documentary. I like his movies and I like his persona (he seems like he’d be a lively guest at a dinner party). I certainly don’t agree with all his politics (but, then, I can’t think of anyone I *do* agree with all their politics). Recently Preet did an interview with the man himself (which was quite exciting) and it reminded me to watch this.
I tend to assume that it’s easy to tell when I’m joking (although I realize, intellectually, that it’s not), and I think Michael Moore has an element of this. Often he portrays himself as a dumb hick from Flint, Michigan who just wants someone to explain all this to him. After he’s sucked them into a discussion, he punches them when they aren’t looking. It’s an amusing way to get some reality TV footage, but it comes at the expense of the people who never signed up to look foolish. Sacha Baron Cohen and Brian Flemming also use a similar style, and in many ways on the opposite side of the spectrum Glenn Beck and Bill O’Reilly use the same sort of tactics. In each case it can be hard to tell when someone is being serious and when they’re being facetious (and trying to draw their victim into making a fool of themselves). Regardless of who does it, it’s amusing but pretty intellectually dishonest.
Early in the move Michael Moore asks people to explain derivatives and collateralized debt obligations (CDOs), which leads to humming, hawing, and incoherent explanations. The first paragraph of the Wikipedia entry on the history of future exchanges explains what a derivative is, Moore could have easily whipped up a cartoon (set in ancient Greece) that would have explained it, but it’s better for his narrative if it’s presented as an incoherent evil.
On the face of it the movie sets out to show how the subprime meltdown proves that capitalism doesn’t work. At the end of the movie, Michael Moore presents his views as honestly as I think he ever has when he sums it up as “Capitalism is an evil. And you cannot regulate evil. You have to eliminate it and replace it with something that is good for all people. And that something is called democracy.”
I guess if capitalism is evil, that makes the Canadian Capitalist Canadian Evil (which is kind of cool!).
This conclusion comes from one piece of anecdotal evidence after another through the film. There’s the poor farm couple whose house has been foreclosed on, the union shop that fires all its employees and closes it’s doors without paying them their final pay check, a few priests talking about how capitalism is unchristian, and the awful corporate special interest groups who have bought the presidency since Regan, manipulate congress and are going to be exorcised by the great Obama.
I share a number of Moore’s concerns (part of why I enjoy his movies I guess). I think the level of corporate involvement at all levels of government is very troubling, but it’s strange to me that his solution is bigger government (which seems to just pass more money and power into their control). I feel bad for people losing their houses or jobs, but I’m not convinced capitalism is to blame.
I found the Catholic priests kind of bizarre. One of them says:
“The system has built into it what we call propaganda. I’m in awe of propaganda — the ability to convince people who are victimized by this very system to support the system and see it as good.”
He’s talking, of course, about capitalism (huh?). His statements would make A LOT more sense to me if he was talking about organized religion.
An important part of every Michael Moore film is when he heads out and makes a dick of himself with some poor security guards (who are earning their pay that day, let me tell you). In this one he tried to make a citizen’s arrest of the entire board of directors at a number of banks, and then he wraps “crime scene” tape around some corporate headquarters. Moore has even admitted that he feels bad for the people doing their jobs that he harasses, but feels the points he makes are worth putting them through it (“I do feel bad for them on one level. On another level, they’re the good Germans.“).
If you’ve enjoyed previous Michael Moore movies, you’ll like this one as well! He’s getting a bit more extreme in his politics, but the choir he preaches to will be saying “hallelujah” and his critics will be frothing at the mouth (which is always amusing too).
Have you seen many Michael Moore movies? Did you like them? Do you find his rhetorical style persuasive?