Michael Moore and Left cultural figures

Stuart Munckton stuartmunckton at yahoo.com.au
Wed Sep 17 21:41:56 MDT 2003


I can not for the life of me understand why any
leftist would complain that Michael Moore is too loud
when makes use of every opportunity in public to
condemn injustices like the war on Iraq. I woulnd't
have thought it possible for a cultural figure to be
too loud in using their position to condemn injustice.
It was not long ago that either Tim Robbins or Sean
Penn, I can't recall, said that there were a lot more
Hollywood figures opposed to the war who didn't speak
out because they were concerned for their careers.

Moore should be congratulated for not giving an Oscars
speech thanking God and his family and his manager and
his distribution company and let us all know how much
the award means to him (as if people were likley to
think that some one would be indifferent to an Oscars
victory). We need more people being that loud.

Sure Moore has his contradictions, I don't know of a
high profile Left cultural figure who doesn't. One of
the best things about him, though, is his very real
sense of class which prevades his work. True, he has
left the ranks of the working class economically and
perhaps, over time, this will change his politics but
there is no point jumping the gun and condemning him
for this before it happens (if it happens).

I remember when I was a teenager I was very much into
the British comedian Ben Elton, who back in the 80's
and early 90's made politics a central part of his
comedy and writing - earning him the moniker from the
Right of 'Bolshie Ben'. He definately had
contradictions, being completely trapped in a social
democratic framework and has moved to the right over
the last decade at least. 

But his impassioned, humourours and savage critique of
sexism, envorinmental destruction and the insanity and
injustice of capitalism had a huge impact on me as I
was developing politically. True, I was already
pre-disposed to those ideas but he gave them
expression and deepened my understanding of them, even
if he wasn't able to give any clear cut solution or
what forward to struggle against it. I am certain this
is the case for a large number of young people who are
getting into Michael Moore. 

I remember Ben Elton's very funny and sharp attack on
the privatisations carried out by Margaret Thatcher.
He said he was disturbed by the number of things he
was seeing being advertised on the telly that,
frankly, he thought he already owned. The electricity,
the gas, the water...he expected to see his sofa next.
'Ben's sofa sale, get your shares now'. He pointed to
the utter insanity of electricity and gas companies
advertising their essential services on TV. 'what do
they want us to do' he asked 'turn on another
light???' He suggested they should have to put the
expense of the advertisements on the gas bills. 15
pounds for the gas and 5 pounds for the adsd that piss
you off when you are trying to watch your favourite
show.

His first three novels, Gridlock, Stark and This Other
Eden were essentially anti-capitalist - even if the
corporate bad guys were usually foiled in an
action/adventure sort of a way by a small band of
heroes. But they made sone very telling points that
openned my eyes and deepened my understanding of how
things worked. Gridlock exposed the car and oil
industries, and the way capitalist system functions
for profit above people. Not the specific conspiracy
in the plot but the general points he makes on the way
about the functioning of the system.

Stark is about the top capitalists who know the
environmentalists are right (if anything too
moderate)and their system is destroying the world, but
won't stop because it is just how the system functions
and it is their divine right to make a profit, and
instead conspire to set up a colony on the moon when
they have finally destroyed the Earth. It makes some
great points about the insantiy of so much wealth in
so few hands that struck me at the time and points I
still use when talking to people about socialism.
Pointing out that the mega rich have more money than
they can dream of using, he pointed to the finite
nature of luxury. $1000 meals are stupid, because
while a $100 meal might be 10 times better than a $10
meal, a $1000 meal is  not likely to be any better at
all than the $100 one. There is only so good a meal
can be. He said one swimming pool is a luxury, 20
pools is an abstraction. Obvious points, but some
points are so obvious they need the insanity of them
pointed out. It was his points like this in his comedy
and writing that struck me at the  time and played a
big role in begining to educate me about the system.

Michale Moore, like Elton, can to get to the core of
the issue and make people see things for what they
are, like when in the Big One he says if it is only
about making a profit, why don't General Motors sell
crack? In response to the objection that you can't
stop people making a profit he says, yes you can! He
says shareholder doesn't appear in the constitution,
and according to the system of democracy, you can pass
what ever law you want. The funny lines in that
routine always get the biggest laughs at screenings,
partly I think because they are so sharp.

In terms of the contradictions in people like Michael
Moore (or an earlier Ben Elton), we should be open
with people where we disagree with them, such as being
susecptible to to caving into the Democrats at
different times or what ever, whilst making it clear
we agree with Moore's general criticisisms  of the
system and his deeply felt anger at the injustices it
creates. Any other approach is sectarian lunacy to
some one who is able to communcate with people and
uses this ability to expose injustice and campaign for
a better world - even if their political consciousness
is not perfect.

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