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Monday, April 21, 2008


I understand this impulse. McCain is really scarey and Hillary's behavior has been grotesque. Throw in the way the corporate media has been piling on Obama and it starts to make the guy look pretty good.

I'm not saying I am on board. I'm just saying I understand the impulse.

I agree with Moore's trading in his "Backbone" ?Nader- oh please- for a brain.

What did voting Nader get those voters? Well, for one thing, it got them W.

No, Fade. A miserable drone of a politican running an abysmal campaign-a politician who couldn't even carry his own State, got us W. A Democratic Party and populace so torpid that they allowed the Supreme Court's unconstitutional theft of the election to stand got us W. Another dead eyed, passionless, DLC middle of the road Republican-light candidate got us Bush again in 2004.

Don't blame Nader. You can stuff your Thanksralphing.

(Besides, as our host's link illustrates, what did voting for the Clintons or any recent Democrat get us, anyway). Heck...in my bleaker moods I thinkg W has been great, because his idiocy has exacerbated and illustrated the creaking rotten mess that the imperial system is. All Democrats do is paper over the cracks a little more cleverly.

Hm, very interesting. I think I have mentioned here before that I've been encountering liberals who think that Bush is running for re-election this year. Moore turns out to be one of them:

"Just as long as their name ain't 'Bush'..." But Bush's name won't be on the ballot this year. That's an elementary fact about the upcoming election.

Yes, it has been a hard 7-8 years. But one clear effect those years have evidently had has been to fry whatever remaining brain cells liberal Democrats had to start with.

cemmcs: I'd agree if you're saying you understand the impulse to prefer Obama over Hillary (over McCain goes without saying); Hillary's a vile human being, and Obama at least seems to have a hint of integrity. And I can also understand people who've never become fully disillusioned with the Democrats saying that they'd vote for either of the current crop.

But we're talking about a full-bore "I don't care as long as it's a Democrat!" declaration from a major progressive icon and former Green party/Nader backer. Moore's saying there is practically no candidate too awful for him to support, as long as it's a Democrat. That'd be irresponsible no matter who said it, but coming from Moore it's inexcusable. Which is why I was so harsh.

Duncan: Maybe you haven't heard Obama's laugh line that McCain is running for Bush's third term...? Seriously, though, I think Moore was consciously pandering with that. He knows it makes no sense to mention Bush, but he also knows it'll resonate with people, and he's never let the truth get in the way of a good sound bite—especially if it'll help build his following.

Well, John, your comment above expresses why I don't like this one particular post of yours:

1) he's never let the truth get in the way of a good sound bite—especially if it'll help build his following;
2) a full-bore "I don't care as long as it's a Democrat!" declaration from a major progressive icon and former Green party/Nader backer

So if we already know that we can't take his every pronouncement literally -- an argument I've used many times in defending the substance of his films to my conservative relatives; he makes a misstatement, usually hyperbole, here and there, but the thrust of his arguments are usually quite correct...

Moore is a pundit, he's neither a factual journalist nor a politician, both of which we [should but often don't] hold to a higher factual standard. Since we aren't meant to take his every word as literal truth, and we've known this already for years, then why fly off the handle at this one example of hyperbole?

I believe Moore's record of speaking truth to power is long and reasonably consistent. He was, after all, very helpful in brining many of the atrocities on your excellent "Doesn't Matter!" list, linked above, into mainstream discourse, during the Clinton years. The nonaggressive nature of the Sudan pharmaceutical plant, for example -- many of my Dem friends learned about that from him.

His consistent point for many years has been, no matter who is in office, it's the duty of all the citizens to pester them, make demands, demand justice and fairness, increase those demands, lampoon and satirize them, and publicize their failings. When most people say that it's necessary to keep bird-dogging the next Democrat in the White House, I don't take them very seriously. Given examples like, say, the Sierra Club, who completely sold out their principles in exchange for meaningless "access". By contrast I do, in fact, trust Michael Moore to continue haraunging the Democrats in office -- his entire career depends on haraunging those in office, regardless which party it is. Had Nader been elected, I really don't think Moore would have made any puff-piece movie about him; Moore would have investigated the Nader Administration's failings, and I think Ralph would have thanked him for it.

For that reason, I think you are treating Moore unfairly, by comparing him to a prostitute, then snippeting out the quote you used above, without even a token nod towards the caveats contained in his very same letter: caveats that would be perfectly at home on this blog, such as "In November of '06, the country loudly sent a message that we wanted the war to end. Yet the Democrats have done nothing" and "It's foolish to see the Democrats as anything but a nicer version of a party that exists to do the bidding of the corporate elite in this country. Any endorsement of a Democrat must be done with this acknowledgement and a hope that one day we will have a party that'll represent the people first, and laws that allow that party an equal voice.".

Those caveats are his way of balancing the hyperbolic quasi-endorsement which you and he both find repellent; if you take away his caveats, you're not really dealing with his whole argument. Those caveats are his way of signalling that he doesn't accept Democratic promises and intends to continue publicly agitating for justice which he knows is not forthcoming from the Democrats. Of course that is not the solution you personally would prefer, but it's at least as realistic as any other that I've read on the Internets.

Thomas: I appreciate the criticism, but I'm not just speaking out of turn here. About Moore's cavalier attitude toward the truth, I'd recommend Manufacturing Dissent, a documentary about Moore that was made by two lefties (Debbie Melnyk and Rick Caine). It's not the best documentary but it does have a lot of damning information, like this in particular:

In Roger & Me, one memorable TV news clip indicated that a town hall meeting in Flint, Michigan, organised by the ABC News programme Nightline, had to be shut down after their satellite truck was stolen by an unemployed resident. The problem? "This never happened," contends Caine. "Nightline never planned a programme there, and a truck was not stolen. The clip was fabricated."
Moore actually got a local reporter to do a fake stand-up about this, if you can believe that. I saw the film at a festival that Caine and Melnyk attended, and in the Q&A afterwards they gave much more detail about this; there's just no doubt that Moore invented it out of whole cloth. That's probably the worst, but there other examples of him stretching the truth as well. And the film also covers his efforts to build himself up at the expense of the people he's working with and the people he's ostensibly fighting for.

Regarding his caveats, he said "I don't give a rat's ass" (nearly unconditional) and "I'm almost at the point" (mildly conditional), whereas I called his declaration "full-bore" (nearly unconditional) and said that he'd said there was "practically no candidate" (mildly conditional). I think that's fair. The passages you mention just seemed pro forma to me, to try to salvage his street cred with people who know he should know better. And it's crucial to keep in mind what he's saying and how strongly he's saying it: he'll vote for almost any Democrat, regardless of how bad they are.

About prostituting himself, take a look at this pathetic appeal from 2004 about Kerry ("We’re the ones always being asked to make the huge compromises and to always vote holding our noses. No nose holding this time. This #1 liberal is not the tweedledee to Bush’s tweedledum."). I don't believe that he didn't know what a load of crap that was when he wrote it; I think he'd just made up his mind about who he was going to support, and so he lied his ass off. Because Moore seems to believe that lying in a good cause is ok.

So yeah, his heart is in the right place and he's done some good over the years, but I have little or no respect for his integrity or his methods, and I don't trust him. By doing what he does in the way he does it, he undermines the left as much as he helps it. And by pushing the "I don't care as long as it's a DEMOCRAT!" meme so hard, I think he's doing tremendous damage to any hope for progressive change in this country.

Fair 'nuff; good defense of what you wrote. I never meant to imply that you were speaking "out of turn", just that I disagreed.

I still think Moore is likely to do more good than harm by exposing failings of the next Democratic President; even if he manhandles the truth to fit his agenda, his work in the past has often served as a great starting point to bring important issues into public discussion. The discussion often starts with a list of his mistakes, but it continues from there, and in this stifling corporate-monopoly-owned media climate, many progressive issues wouldn't get one-tenth that amount of coverage otherwise.

The satellite truck incident, which I hadn't heard about, is a bit disturbing -- but once again, he's not a journalist, he calls himself an entertainer, he admits it, everyone knows it by now, so I'm willing to grant some degree of poetic license, which non-thespians on the other hand can view as "lying in a good cause". His work is clearly meant to be viewed with a hefty grain of salt on your popcorn, as well as a healthy sense of humor. Lighten up! Facts are crucial, but I don't think anyone ever won a political battle without employing satire or burlesque at some point. And hey, it's not like Michael Moore is the only mogul in Hollywood or Washington who ever promotes his own career at the expense of his integrity or the the people he's working with or fighting for. In fact, several people have made similar credible arguments about Ralph Nader, yet even knowing that, I did and still do trust Ralph with my vote anyway. In this competitive Capitalist culture, you are simply not going to find somebody who's never done that, and in moderation I don't believe it's a mortal sin.

'nuther minor comment -- please believe, I'm not trying to pick a fight with you, I'd just like to know your answer, like you answered my original objection...

You say: The passages you mention just seemed pro forma to me, to try to salvage his street cred with people who know he should know better.

May I ask: Who exactly are these people who know he should know better? Surely you must realize that, as Leftists who truly don't trust the Democrats, we are part of a tiny, tiny, microscopic minority in this country, and nobody who thinks like us is in any kind of position to be a power broker for him in the political arena. I doubt that people like us even comprise 20% of his movie ticket sales; probably 30% or more of his sales come from right-wingers who are taking notes in order to attack his work. So, in this one particular letter at least, if he had already decided to lie and pump out cheeze-whiz boiler-plate pro-forma arguments -- like you suggest -- it seems to me he'd be smarter to regurgitate a couple of minor right-wing talking points (the way Obama does) rather than put out boiler-plate that maybe 10% of the country really agrees with. Who exactly in this country intimidated this notably rich, contrarian movie mogul into lying with pro-forma boilerplate?

Granted, Moore is confused and something of a sell-out to the Democrats. In this regard John is right. But let us not forget, he's never pretended to be an intellectual leader of the Left. He's rather a leftie provocateur, a man who generates support for the left. He doesn't have a particularly consistent political perspective and he probably doesn't think very much about what he's saying; he runs on his gut.

I don't think we should attack him unduly. And, by the way, I think that MANUFACTURING DISSENT was a classic example of the circular firing-squad in action.

...he's not a journalist, he calls himself an entertainer, he admits it, everyone knows it by now...

Nope, no way, not by a longshot. Moore won an Oscar for making documentaries. He presents himself as a documentary filmmaker. And above all: he angrily, vehemently defends his honesty, saying over and over that the facts in his films are all facts, and attacking anyone who says otherwise. E.g.:

When you see me going in to the bank and walking out with my new gun in "Bowling for Columbine" – that is exactly as it happened. Nothing was done out of the ordinary other than to phone ahead and ask permission to let me bring a camera in to film me opening up my account. I walked into that bank in northern Michigan for the first time ever on that day in June 2001, and, with cameras rolling, gave the bank teller $1,000 – and opened up a 20-year CD account.
True on the surface. What he doesn't tell you, but what Manufacturing Dissent will, is that he arranged the gun giveaway with the bank ahead of time. They do not normally give out guns immediately after you open an account; he wheedled them into doing it, as a special favor to him. They had no idea he was going to use it the way he did, and felt like they'd been set up when they finally found out. And then he has the chutzpah to lie about it as he did above (and note that it's not actually an out-and-out lie—he's careful to say "that is exactly as it happened," not "that is exactly as it would happen for anybody, and not just me because I talked them into doing it for me").

This isn't about "lightening up"; I like Moore's sense of humor. I've seen him speak several times and I've seen most of his films (and I'll probably continue seeing them). He's a very funny guy. But there's a huge difference between using showmanship and humor in a documentary, and outright fabricating reality. It's not just "satire and burlesque"; in the Nightline case, Moore actually staged a fake local news segment about the event he was already cobbling up out of thin air. There's just no way I'll give him a pass for things like this.

May I ask: Who exactly are these people who know he should know better?

His entire old base, and the people he spent so much time trying to talk into voting for Nader in 2000. The large number of people who'd think he'd gone entirely off the rails if he didn't throw something in there to show that he doesn't trust the Democrats 100%.

...if he had already decided to lie and pump out cheeze-whiz boiler-plate pro-forma arguments -- like you suggest ...

I didn't mean to suggest that; I think you're confusing what I said about his 2004 Kerry article with what I think about this one. By "pro forma", I meant that his caveats about having lost his rose-colored glasses years ago (for example) struck me as perfunctory—true, no doubt, but also empty, overshadowed as they were by his much stronger "vote Democrat at any cost" message.

MFB: Caine and Melnyk actually set out to debunk some of these things and make a documentary that was supportive of Moore, and they were surprised and dismayed at what they found. I don't blame them for going through with the film anyway. Moore doesn't do the left any favors by cementing the notion that we think it's ok to twist (or shatter) the truth to get our points across.

I think it's a close call as to whether Moore is doing more good than harm these days, especially with his backing of Kerry in 2004 and the unconditional support of Democrats he's pushing here.

But as long as we're the good guys, it's okay for us to shade the truth! The important thing is, we're the good guys! ... I can't remember now whether it was an article or a letter to the editor, but about twenty years ago after I'd published a negative review of an AIDS-conspiracy novel, another gay man argued in print that we already know that AIDS is a CIA plot, so now we just need to find some evidence. Meanwhile, we can go on saying whatever we like.

Maybe Moore was making a funny with the Bush reference, I don't know. But I've run into other liberals who are obsessed with beating Bush this year, so I won't take for granted that he was joking.

Just to be clear, I didn't mean to say that Moore was joking when he mentioned Bush. I think he knew it made no sense, but he threw it in anyway because he also knows it's red meat to those "liberals who are obsessed with beating Bush this year."

I think there was a motion to extend the two-term limit at some point, for what little it's worth.

StO, you are aware that the two-term limit is a relatively recent development? I always heard that the Republicans pushed it through right after World War II, to make sure that there'd never be another FDR with his four terms. And then they got Eisenhower, and wished they hadn't.

I'm dumb, but not that dumb. While I was aware the term limit was inspired by FDR's four terms, I hadn't known of the Republicans' great sorrow. But I heard someone suggested extending the limit—I'm not sure how seriously—within the last three years or so.

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