Michael Moore isn’t a historian or a documentarian. He’s a propagandist (“The International,” the anthem for international socialism, is his new film’s theme song). But he leaves facts in ashes in his wake. Moore provides no background, basis, explanation, or context for many of his segments but simplistically blames capitalism for all his knee-jerk conclusions.
For instance, a running story in this film is a family who is losing their house. They are interviewed and they are so poignant. They tug at your heartstrings. The problem is that Moore never answers the question, what happened? How did they get in this situation? WHY are they losing their house? Does Moore explain? No. Could it be that the reason they lost it was because they were irresponsible in the way they handled this, the most important asset of their lives? But Moore just won’t explain. And the only rationale for why he doesn’t explain is that context would destroy his point.
Moore isn’t a one-way polemicist who just concentrates on Republicans and conservatives. To his credit, he goes after Democrats, too. People like Timothy Geithner, the tax cheat who is Obama’s Secretary of the Treasury. To Moore’s discredit, however, although he has mild criticism for Senator Dodd of Connecticut, who was responsible for the subprime fiasco, there is very little mention of Dodd’s co-conspirator, Barney Frank of Massachusetts. And I didn’t hear the name of Dodd-Frank buddy Harold Raines, who was head of Fannie Mae, and who made a hundred million dollars inducing people who couldn’t afford it to buy houses beyond their capability to own.
Moore shows his bias when he praises Jimmy Carter and then tries to take on Ronald Reagan and, in doing so, misstates his record. Reagan took over when we had Carter’s stagflation, 20% interest rates, and were losing the Cold War hands down. Reagan won the Cold War without a shot being fired and corrected the economy. But that means nothing to Moore; he conveniently ignores those damaging facts.
No, he wants to present extensive interviews and commentary by people like Wally Shawn. I like Wally as an actor (1981’s “My Dinner with Andre,” among others,) but as a thinker, he’s no Milton Friedman. Speaking of Milton, Moore keeps talking about greed and how bad it is. Here’s what Friedman, a Nobel Prize Laureate in Economics, had to say about greed in response to a question from left wing ideologue Phil Donahue:
“What is greed?… The world runs on individuals pursuing their separate interests. In the only cases in which the masses have escaped from the kind of grinding poverty you’re talking about, the only cases in recorded history, they have had capitalism and largely free trade. So that the record of history is absolutely crystal clear: that there is no alternative way so far discovered of improving the lot of the ordinary people that can hold a candle to the productive activities that are unleashed by a free enterprise system.”
Whom to believe: Nobel Laureate Milton Friedman, or scruffy ultracrepidarian Michael Moore?
Capitalism has a lot of problems. Unfortunately, Moore doesn’t know enough about them to really zero in. He barely mentions avaricious CEOs who bilk their companies of cash by taking huge compensation. The Los Angeles Times reported that the CEO of one Los Angeles-located NYSE listed corporation (who, as one of his first acts when he took over from his longtime predecessor as CEO in 1990 was to cut the dividend so that shareholders couldn’t participate in the profits of the corporation to the extent they had under the generous Hammer) took home approximately $460 million in compensation in 2006 alone. His compensation decreased to $60 million in 2008, poor guy. Nobody is worth that from a publicly-held corporation. Shareholders are powerless to do anything about acts like this because the members of the Board of Directors and the members of the Executive Compensation Committee are generally beholden to the Chief Executive for their lucrative positions, a situation that is rife throughout corporate America. There is much in capitalism to be constructively criticized without Moore having to create, manipulate and ignore facts to make a point. It’s unfortunate that Moore wastes his talent on phony muckraking instead of concentrating on the myriad of legitimate complaints with capitalists.
This is entertaining but because of all its folly, manipulation and misinformation, it’s a polemic that must be watched with hardy skepticism.