Monday, Apr. 18, 2005

Michael Moore

Michael Moore just had to wait for America's anger to catch up with his. His films and books ranting against corporations (Roger & Me, Stupid White Men) and the gun lobby (Bowling for Columbine) were appreciated by Democrats the way a college protest is: they liked the intention and the amusing techniques but preferred to keep him in the political wilderness. In 2003, just after the start of the Iraq war, Moore's blunt sloppiness was still considered so declassé that his anti-Bush Oscar acceptance speech was booed. By the Hollywood élite.

Oddly, it was a film that included a complicated conspiracy theory implying links between President Bush and Osama bin Laden — stuff normally reserved for San Francisco talk radio — that made Moore more broadly popular with the left. He had to route his film, Fahrenheit 9/11, through a coalition of indie distributors because it freaked Disney out so much that the company forced its subsidiary Miramax to dump it. But it made more than $119 million at the box office in the U.S., a record for a documentary. The country, or at least the part that didn't vote for Bush, was finally as angry as Moore was.

And he ran with it. Moore, 50, unlike the other newly anointed leader of the left, John Kerry, kept pushing. He turned up at the Republican Convention, taunting the crowds by replying to their "four more years" chant with "two more months." His endorsement was accepted, with a hug, from Wesley Clark. Through endless appearances on talk shows and cable news networks, Moore never backed down from his impossible level of righteousness, even when Katie Couric referred to him as a jerk. By doing so, Moore, the Bobby Knight of the left, inspired his fellow Democrats with a workingman's toughness they have lacked for some time. He's now working on Sicko, an exposé about the health-care industry. He may finally have found a topic that all Americans are as angry about as he is.

From the Archive
The World According to Michael: Taking aim at George W., a populist agitator makes noise, news and a new kind of political entertainment