Michael Moore’s seat on the panel of the recent Philadelphia Film Festival was far less weighty than the chair he shared 12 years ago sitting on stage next to an ex-president.
At the 2004 Democratic National Convention, Moore was the guest of former President Jimmy Carter. During the keynote speeches, Moore and Carter were often shown side by side. Moore had just released “Fahrenheit 911” to high acclaim from the Hollywood establishment.
After years chasing General Motors for taking jobs out of his hometown of Flint, Michigan, and satirizing American foreign policy in the fictional work “Canadian Bacon,” Moore was considered a bona fide documentarian. His fiery critique of the Iraq War was built on a foundation of credibility.
The toast of the town has since been toasted. While at the Philadelphia Film Festival, promoting his new film “Where to Invade Next,” he drew the ire of Buzz Bissinger, a Pulitzer-winning journalist and author of “Friday Night Lights.” Bissinger blasted Moore for the ridiculous assertion Moore makes in the film: that Tunisia is more progressive on gay rights than the United States.
Bissinger blasted Moore for the ridiculous assertion Moore makes in the film: that Tunisia is more progressive on gay rights than the United States.
Tolerance No Moore
Bissinger, no conservative, blasted Moore for 10 minutes for lying and distorting facts.
During a phone interview with Philly.com, Bissinger ripped the director as clever, manipulative of the facts and “not a documentarian.”
These aren’t new accusations, but representative of Moore’s waning influence: His audience has dwindled in synchronicity with the anti-war fervor that originally catapulted his status to celeb du jour. In 2006, Democrats swept both the House and Senate. In 2008, Barack Obama was elected president and continued the War on Terror. Suddenly, Moore’s charged rhetoric didn’t have an audience, and even expected allies like Bissinger expressed intolerance for his antics.
Moore tried to deflect criticism of “Invade” by explaining its confusing and ironically hawkish title. The Internet Movie Database shows a film poster of a boardroom full of military brass, but the synopsis states Moore visits and “pretends” to “invade” countries in order to find better ideas that could be put to use in the United States.
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Moore’s Perfect Storm
When the rage against the Iraq War was in full scale, MSNBC hadn’t made its turn to become the Fox of the Left. Stephen Colbert didn’t have a show, and Jon Stewart was in the infancy of his Comedy Central program.
The late Christopher Hitchens, who commenced verbal combat with Moore on many occasions, said the progressive Left always lamented not having their own “Firing Line” or Rush Limbaugh. There was “Air America,” which ran on a handful of stations, but no one expressed the invective the anti-war crowd desired until Moore gave it to them with “Fahrenheit 911.” It was a perfect storm of events.
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That his facts didn’t align, that some of the reporting ranged from unoriginal to simply ridiculous (the scenes of happy Iraqi children flying kites, as if that was the state of Saddam Hussein), that it tried to neatly tie everything into easy conspiracy – from the Sept. 11 attacks, to Saudi Arabia, to the Iraq War – this was vintage Moore.
The rage of his audience was enough to make it a hit, but his later works had diminishing returns as the Democrats gained control in Washington. With the high emotion of the 2004 election gone, Moore’s disdain for facts grew more critics.
“Sicko” in 2007 was a takedown of the American health care system, with Moore showing Cuba as a kind of health-care paradise, with one particularly hilarious scene of government health care in the country that not even his staunchest fans could defend.
On the heels of the 2007 Great Recession came “Capitalism: A Love Story,” where Moore tried to throw punches both ways at times, even at Democrats. Moore used an old clip of a Reagan donor correcting the president during a few-second blip during a speech as a sign of the Gipper’s servitude to Wall Street. But, his twisted distortions didn’t sit well when targeted at the Left.
Remember “Slacker Uprising?” Moore toured college campuses and vowed the younger generation was fed up and would show up to vote in droves. Obama won the vote, but college students voted in the same numbers they have historically.
No Moore Muse
It’s impossible to say Moore had a fall from grace, since he’s never shown any (he would likely admit that), but the premise of his documentaries alone reveal that his star is fading as a political figure and moviemaker. “Fahrenheit 911” was a frontal assault on a presidency, administration and history. Now he’s relegated to “Invade.” The faux-controversial title and the goofy premise belong on a grad student’s fellowship-vacation film on YouTube, not a serious movie by someone once considered a serious director.
When Moore’s cherished audience became the target of his own ridiculous distortions, he lost his ultimate muse.
Moore is talented at humor, narrative, and splicing together film with music to take audiences on a wave of emotion, comedy and rage, but his films amount to manipulative propaganda at the end of the day. It’s no wonder his popularity dwindled as the political tables turned. When Moore’s cherished audience became the target of his own ridiculous distortions, he lost his ultimate muse.