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Slandering Michael Moore

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by Ben Cohen

The mainstream media's reaction to Michael Moore's new documentary was, to my surprise, remarkably restrained. Virtually everyone conceded he made some valid points, and most of the extreme criticism came (unsurprisingly) from the rabid Right. But there has been a concerted attempt to undermine his film and his message, although it has been a little harder to decode this time around.

Make no mistake, Moore's movie was brilliant - a powerful indictment of the casino style capitalism and greed that almost decimated the economy for good, and a call to arms for people to do something about the terrible structural flaws that exist in the American political system. Yes, it wasn't perfect, yes, Moore injected himself a little too much into the film, and yes the structure of it was somewhat confusing. But overall, it did the job.

The film directly attacked powerful corporate interests, and it was seen by millions of people. Those powerful interest are predictably striking back, but given the current economic crisis, the criticism has been far more thickly veiled. Witness this piece in 'The Big Money', that effectively argues that because Moore is rich himself, he can't talk about corporate corruption:

In a set of scenes I found creepy, Moore actually consulted his own
Catholic priest (seeking absolution?) about capitalism. They all agree
it is "evil." Moore quotes priests and the Bible passage that says that
it is easier for a rich man to pass through the eye of the needle than
get into heaven. Even Michael Moore cannot be so lacking in
self-awareness that he would fail to realize he is talking about
himself when he plays those quotes. The Wal-Mart
(WMT) wardrobe isn't fooling anybody, Michael. It could only be highest
irony when Moore, a gazillionaire, definitively interprets the Bible to
support his point, then complains, "the rich have claimed Jesus for
themselves." Yes, we got that. We just saw it in action.

This is a classic misdirection argument - avoid the topic of the movie, and focus on the movie maker. It's a bit like saying 'Eliot Spitzer can't talk about the financial crisis because he slept with a prostitute'. The two obviously have nothing to do with each other, but if said cleverly enough, can resonate enough to do damage, eg. 'Eliot Spitzer, a man who views women as commodities to be bought and sold is talking about ethics in finance?' I wasn't even really trying here, but you see my point.

Michael Moore is a messenger. For sure he is a flawed messenger, but it doesn't mean he's wrong. And that's the only real criticism we've seen from the Right -- proof that they are of course, wrong.