I’ve been a fan of Michael Moore’s work for several years, and so I was excited about the new movie. I applauded with the audience, at the end, and I found it an entertaining film, but I do have to note some rather glaring inconsistencies in the message.
Before I get started on that, I want to note that I was a bit distracted during the movie. I had to duck out to the bathroom as images of Alan Greenspan flashed on the screen. Not to vomit mind you, but to urinate despite my best efforts to ignore the need. Adding to this distraction, was the appearance of the unibomber who came into the theater about 15 minutes in and sat down a few seats from me. I won’t go into a whole lot of detail on it, but let’s just say this was a very creepy guy with a hood, who really resembled a troubled outcast about to go on a shooting spree. Thankfully, after making weird noises, twitching, and kicking chairs for 20 minutes, he got up and walked out. After checking under his seat for a pipebomb, I was able to relax a bit.
So, distractions aside, I did enjoy the movie, however I found myself in disagreement with very much of it. The premise of the film can sufficiently be summed up with the tagline “Capitalism is evil”. In fact, that over-simplification is essentially drilled into viewers again and again with examples that, at times, serve only to discredit Moore’s perspective. There is a unabashed promotion of both Obama and socialism in this movie. There are also several instances of outright deception from Moore, the most glaring being the omission of Obama’s support for the “banker bailout” that Moore is heavily critical of.
While Obama is not explicitly depicted as a messiah in the movie, viewers are treated to the spectacle of several shots of African Americans yelling, bouncing up and down, hooting and hollering for the first half-black president, in the context of “the people overcoming”. But don’t get the impression it’s all about race, there’s the not-so-subtle closeups of the only 2 (token) white people (both women) amongst the 30-40 black celebrants chosen for the scenes. Why use scenes that only serve to further the notion that Obama’s election was primarily a victory for “black America”? Were African Americans and a couple of women, really the only ones enthused over the election results? Were the scenes used to show support for Obama’s election at all indicative of the general demographical makeup of satisfied voters? If not, why this skewed presentation?
Viewers are paradoxically told that the government has been usurped by Goldman Sachs and other elite finance oligarchs, while reassured that Obama is a threat to their power structure rather than a direct participant in it, and then asked for help to essentially “take the power back” at the end. But, I thought we were safe now? What happened to the Obama-mania and the statement that the rich elite are nervous over his election? Michael Moore tells viewers he wants them to “join him”… Maybe he’ll explain how you can serve him better in some other forum, but the movie gives no indication of his intentions.
Much of the film comes across rather disjointed. We’re treated to scenes of evictions, and given the impression that people not paying their mortgages really had nothing to do with it… These were just “victims of circumstance” with no accountability for their financial situation. The cult of the victim thrives in Moore’s film, as we are told that housing is a “right” and illegal squatting tactics are promoted. I guess the Mexicanization of America, squatters and all, is an essential part of Moore’s plan for the future of the country. In fact, Mexico’s system seems to be supported pretty thoroughly by Moore, in particular their socialist government, socialized medicine, and disregard for private property. I remember when it was Canada that Moore seemed to hold-up as illustrative of his personal views. That Moore is now favoring the land south of the border over the one to the north, is another example of his increasing radicalization.
We’re told that the “rights” (such as the government confiscating your business on a whim), that a conquered and occupied Germany and Japan were “given” in their new constitutions, are “rights” which Americans got gypped out of by the death of a visionary president. Just ignore the fact that these “rights” and “freedoms” were literally forced upon battered, occupied nations, and don’t evaluate whose interest these new constitutions were actually serving. One just needs to look at present-day Germany, still occupied (for their own good, supposedly), to see how “free” it truly is. This is a nation where people have literally died in prison because of statements they’ve made or books they’ve written. To say there is a lack of free speech or freedom of association in a increasingly fascist Germany, is an understatement. Moore wants you to “demand” the “same rights” that the German’s got from losing a war, just as he earlier has exhorted you to demand the same medical treatment that prisoners of war have received while being tortured in American custody. Am I sensing a sort of trend here?
Perhaps the most amusing deception in Moore’s film comes in the form of reaffirming the left/right paradigm, where we are told that the rich elite are literally fearful of the masses “equal voting power”, since they are so obviously outnumbered. Yes… They must truly be disturbed by the very possibility that voters will exercise their will to elect the lone national political party whose campaigns they do not finance. Oh, wait… There isn’t one. Insert gloss-over of Obama’s funding by these same corporations, and then cue scenes of jubilation as Democrats come back in, and Republicans go back out. The game of musical chairs continues, with Michael Moore sacrificing consistency and logic in the pursuit of shilling for Democrats. I guess we’re supposed to forget that these same banking elite types have excelled under both Democrat and Republic governments. Rather than coming to the conclusion that voting is only serving to create an illusion of support from the people, and propping up a broken system, Moore encourages participation in the two party system, offering no alternative to the exact structure he decries.
Moore plays upon the emotions of viewers to demonstrate that the entire capitalist system is based on greed and exploitation. He is blunt with his radical views on the current system and his radical views on improving it. We are told that the government (the same one he says has been co-opted by the banking elite) should have the ability to confiscate private property, and that people have the “right” to a secure job. Where people will be working exactly, Moore doesn’t say. Moore claims a financial coup de’etat took place with the “bailout” , explicitly implies the government is run by corporate interests, and then ironically claims further government control is the answer. Confused? You should be.
Overall, it’s definitely a movie worth seeing, and it does indeed highlight some absolutely unethical and offensive profiteering and exploitation. The problem is, however, it’s a movie built upon generalization, over-simplification, and for a movie that hints at revolution, as is trendy these days, it sure tows the party line. Of course, expecting a movie about the evils of capitalism produced, in part, by Paramount, to be free of distortion would be a bit naive.
Capitalism may not be a flawless system, but when Michael Moore starts telling people to demand the same “rights” imposed upon nations that lose wars, it’s not unreasonable to question the motives of Moore himself. Fighting government and corporate greed by merging government and the corporate entity, and ensuring “secure jobs” by mandating citizens into government employment, is not the type of “solution” America needs. This is very much like advising someone who is concerned over the influence of the media on society, to have a lobotomy so they will have no mind left to manipulate.
Have you seen Capitalism: A Love Story? What did you think?