The Michael Moore Problem

By Gabe Delahaye / October 26, 2011

Michael Moore appeared on Piers Morgan Tonight! last tonight to talk about Occupy Wall Street, which he has already said might be the subject of his next movie. Sure! It obviously fits in with his whole thing, not only as a follow-up to Capitalism: A Love Story (which I admittedly turned off in anger after he interviewed WALLACE SHAWN for no reason) but even going back to his first movie, Roger & Me, which was basically Occupy General Motors. It’s perfect material for him! Great! But last night’s interview hit a snag during the very first question when Piers Morgan brought up a question submitted on Twitter (is this show on CNN?!) (I also have a problem with the fact that this show is taped in front of a live studio audience and that there is a camera boom doing these sweeping audience scans, because it’s counter-productive to having serious, intimate, in-depth interviewing? But that is for a post called The Piers Morgan Problem that I will almost certainly never write.) Piers said that he wanted to ask Michael Moore a tough question about his personal wealth right at the top of the interview to show that they’re impartial, which, that’s again going into my lengthy exposé on Piers Morgan, because what nonsense, BUT the unnecessary placating of false impartiality aside, it actually IS a very good question.

Since Michael Moore has benefitted so greatly from capitalism, why does he fight so hard against it?

That’s a great question! Not because it’s sticking it to Michael Moore but because more people who have benefitted from capitalism yet also have human souls and intelligent concerns about the distribution of wealth should fight against it. It’s a great question because it demands a great answer. So, just answer the question, Michael Moore. Oh, instead you are just going to hem and haw and vociferously deny that you are in the 1%? Well, that is at the heart of the Michael Moore problem. Let’s examine it. But first, let’s watch the clip:


Oh, this is so painful to watch! I just hate liars so much, and not only is it clear that Michael Moore is in the 1%, which is fine by the way, like, let’s just get that squared away right now: as a symbol, the “1%” is very powerful, but it doesn’t automatically turn every millionaire into some kind of criminal. There are a lot of people out there who have a lot of money, and some of them got it by creating intricate, opaque and secret financial instruments resulting in the collapse of the global economy while simultaneously increasing their own salaries and bonus structures, and some people made it by creating thoughtful documentaries (or Kanye West songs), it’s just not a blanket thing. But, so, if you’re in the 1% just be in the 1% and if you’re a decent human being have some respect for the rest of us, basically. You don’t have to LIE about it on TELEVISION. Even worse are the lengths he’ll go to squirm out of it. Like, you are seriously going to compare your movies to Avatar? There is actually no deeper proof that you are an out-of-touch millionaire than by comparing your income to the income of James Cameron. “You think I’m rich? Look at this fucking billionaire over here.” Right. Poor you. He also makes this weird argument that he can’t be rich because every dollar he would get he would use to make his movies. Well, that is literally the definition of capitalism, basically, right? Like, you get money (capital) from your business and you reinvest that money (capital) into your business, and as long as there is a (free) market for your business, you will get more money and so on and so forth. Whatever you choose to spend your money on, Michael Moore, doesn’t mean you don’t have that money. (I also don’t equate a well-meaning but somewhat self-aggrandizing documentary in which you regularly appear and your name gets top billing with, you know, CHARITY.) Oh, he is just so infuriating!

This isn’t a new thing, obviously. Michael Moore has been ducking questions about his personal wealth for awhile. Obviously, you can understand how being rich doesn’t quite jibe with being a populist hero, but that’s basically false. There are lots of populist heroes who were rich. For example, Karl Marx. He was born into wealth and that is how he got to go to school and learn all the stuff he learned in order to become a populist hero (the most populist of heroes of all, some might say). You can have money AND be a good person, hopefully. I mean, our world as it exists is built on money, so let’s hope someone is still good somewhere. As far as Mr. Moore is concerned, we don’t have access to his ATM receipt, but the website “Celebrity Net Worths,” which is already probably the best website, does have what seems like a pretty reasonable analysis of his earnings putting him at 50 million, and even if it’s off by, oh, a statistically improbable 75%, which seems unlikely, that still puts him at MILLIONS AND MILLIONS. (Not to mention the fact that I think it’s off and it barely even takes into account his TV show and the multiple best-selling books he’s written.) He’s rich. The end. So, while I’m sure wearing a Michigan State hat and a food-flecked Hanes t-shirt does wonders for Michael Moore’s average Joe image, certainly it’s far less effective than just being HONEST and TRUTHFUL. Think, for example, of Warren Buffet’s recent op-ed in the New York Times in which he challenged congress and President Obama to raise taxes on the rich that would force them to pay their fare share. That was a good op-ed! It was well-reasoned and pretty populist in tone, and it was written by someone who was, wait for it, SO RICH. (It’s also notable that Warren Buffet, much like Michael Moore and his Michael Moore Halloween Costume that he’s always wearing, lives in a modest home and drives a Ford, but unlike Michael Moore, he very clearly does these things because he wants to, not because he’s trying to hide the fact that he’s one of the richest men in the world.) It’s fine.

Michael Moore actually has interesting and important things to say about the state of the world, and very few people in the entertainment industry have done more than he to use the powerful tools of the mainstream entertainment complex to take a momentary pause from our collective wish-fulfillment obsessions with material wealth and casual sex and actually LOOK at the broken, injurious structures we’ve built for ourselves (or in which the poorer among us find themselves inadvertently trapped). This is a good thing and he should keep doing it. But nothing does more damage to his reputation and his integrity and gets in the way of the work he’s trying to do than being dishonest about himself. It opens him up to sharper attacks from opponents, but even for those who might agree with him about a lot of things (probably not all things, the guy’s a bit histrionic, self-important, and all over the map. But still, he tries) it makes him look terrible. No one likes a liar, Michael Moore.

It’s a problem!