I see on the AP wire tonight that somebody just did a Michael Moore style documentary -- about Michael Moore. And even though he's supposedly on my side, my reaction is, "It's about f--king time." (Christy Lemire, "Film questions Michael Moore's tactics," AP, 3/11/07) They've even got a great title for the movie, a Noam Chomsky in-joke, Manufacturing Dissent.
Here's my take on Michael Moore. I loved his first movie, Roger and Me. I thought at the time that some of it was a little unfair. I didn't find out until this article what apparently many people already knew, namely just how unfair it was: contrary to what he says in that move, GM CEO Roger Smith did in fact meet with Michael Moore, did give him his interview, and then gave him yet another interview at the shareholder's meeting. In other words, the whole main narrative hook for that movie, the ambush interview suspect running away in full cowardly flight, turns out to be a fraud. I wish I was more surprised than I am by that. I also loved his movie Bowling for Columbine ... right up until the last, what, 15 or 20 minutes or so where it got nasty, personal, and entirely unfair. And some of you may remember my reviews of Farenheit 9/11, both the film and the DVD, where I said that it was a movie with two really, really powerful scenes that are completely swallowed up by and buried in a ton of poorly sourced, ill thought out, and frequently unfair muck. In the former review, I agreeingly quoted one of his critics as saying that the Michael Moore school of documentary film-making is to throw as much mud as possible at the target and hope that some of it sticks.
When I go looking for a fair comparison, basically I think that Michael Moore is the Michael Savage of the left. He's very earnest, but not terribly bright. He's prone to conspiracy theory and name-calling and demonization of people who disagree with him. He seldom seems to know what he's talking about, and only in one sequence in Bowling for Columbine has he ever shown any hint that he has any ability to think through the consequences of what he's saying, or to look beyond stale dogma for explanations for why something happened. In other words, I think he shares enough of the traits that sane people criticize right wing shock jocks like Michael Savage for to fairly compare the two of them. He's not the Ann Coulter of the left, he's not that embarrassing, but he's embarrassing enough that I'm less than totally happy to have him be one of the highly visible spokespeople for my side on anything.
So if Manufacturing Dissent makes it to St. Louis, I'll very probably want to go see it.