Meet, if you haven't already, one of America's best-known professional gadflies, Michael Moore. Moore's been mad as hell and publicly refusing to take it anymore ever since he first leveled a movie camera at the chairman of General Motors, Roger Smith. Moore, whose hometown is Flint, Michigan, tracked Smith down to ask him how he could turn Flint into "a ghost town" by closing a factory and terminating thousands of jobs. The resulting documentary film, Roger and Me (1989), became "the largest-grossing nonfiction film of all time" and freed Moore creatively.
Three more films followed: Pets or Meat, The Return to Flint (1992), Canadian Bacon, with John Candy and Alan Alda (1995), and The Big One (1998). (A fourth film, Bowling for Columbine, is in production.) Moore is also creator and host of the television series TV Nation, which won an Emmy Award in 1994, and of the Emmy-nominated The Awful Truth. His books include Downsize This: Random Threats from an Unarmed American (1997), which tackles the Nike Corporation over its use of child labor in Indonesia; Adventures in a TV Nation (1998; coauthored with Kathleen Glynn), and now the wild and crazy-like-a-fox Stupid White Men with its juicy subtitle: "...and Other Sorry Excuses for the State of the Nation!"
Passionate, outraged, straight-shooting and witty, Moore's voice in Stupid White Men is the shout from across the border that many Canadians have been longing to hear. This is a Yank who genuinely wants a decent life for ordinary people, honesty in business and government, democracy thriving. But what he sees around him and boldly proceeds to nail to the wall are corruption, greed, bigotry, arrogance and worst of all, stupidity run rampant:
...[I]f you live in a country where forty-four million can't read¨and perhaps close to another two hundred million can read but usually don't¨well, friends, you and I are living in one very scary place. A nation that not only churns out illiterate students BUT GOES OUT OF ITS WAY TO REMAIN IGNORANT AND STUPID is a nation that should not be running the world¨at least not until a majority of its citizens can locate Kosovo (or any other country it has bombed) on the map.
How appropriate, then, that such a country is led by George W. Bush! In a chapter titled "Dear George", Moore lays his opinion of Bush on the line with an open letter: "Please don't take this as prying or moralizing. It is simply an honest attempt at intervention....I would like you to give me, and the American people, three honest answers." This is followed by three blunt questions, with a supporting rationale for each one:
1. George, are you able to read and write on an adult
2. Are you an alchoholic, and if so, how is this affecting your performance as Commander-in-Chief?....
3. Are you a felon?
Small wonder that Moore's publisher nearly shredded his book. Scheduled for release on October 2, 2001, it was put on hold while Moore and HarperCollins attempted to negotiate new terms following the events of September 11th. At first, they agreed new material was necessary, then hit a roadblock when HarperCollins decided large sections of the original book were too politically offensive and Moore balked at rewriting them. Two months later, after Moore read from his book at a private function, telling his audience: "It may be the only time it's ever heard by anybody," a librarian who had been in attendance posted the story on the Internet. ("Librarians see themselves as guardians of the First Amendment," Moore has said. "You got a thousand Mother Joneses at the barricades! I love the librarians, and I am grateful for them!") Finally, in March of 2002, HarperCollins issued the book as is. Though virtually ignored by the mainstream media, by April 15th it was in its fourth week at the top of the New York Times' best-seller list, into its 19th printing, Number 1 on best-seller lists in Canada, Britain and Ireland, and the excitement continues to date.
So what, exactly, is the secret of Stupid White Men's resounding success? Frankly, it's a terrific read. The subjects it tackles, other than the personal foibles of George W.. Bush, include:
˛ How Bush became "The Thief-in-Chief" while receiving 539,898 votes less than Al Gore
˛ The myth that black people are the ones to fear ("No, my friends, it's always the white guy")
˛ The decline of public education, corporate infiltration of America's schools and¨worth the price of the book alone¨Moore's description of his own school career
˛ The environment and other disasters
˛ Why men are finished, unless........
˛ "The country everyone loves to hate"
˛ The so-called "justice" system
˛ Democrats as Republican wannabes
˛ A prayer "to afflict the comfortable"
˛ The Ralph Nader factor.
Some details of Moore's research may be open to criticism but the importance of his material, which he treats with boundless energy, awesome fearlessness and bouts of hilarity, cannot be denied. Positive suggestions for remedial action are featured in each chapter, and notes and sources are supplied. Here are Moore's closing words:
I want us all to face our fears and stop behaving like our goal in life is to merely survive. "Surviving" is for wimps and game show contestants....You are not stranded. You own the store. The bad guys are just a bunch of silly, stupid white men. And there's a helluva lot more of us than there are of them. Use your power.
You deserve better.
Readers who wish they knew what Moore might have written about the events of "9/11" and since, may visit his website at www.michaelmoore.com. There they'll find a free chapter addition to Stupid White Men and an invitation to "join the forum," with its over 250,000 messages. In today's uncertain world, one thing at least seems sure: Michael Moore is one very intelligent white man who will never just take the money and run. ˛