Yesterday afternoon, Michael Moore sent out an email blast to his subscribers. The subject line read “Life Among the 1% …a letter from Michael Moore.” Oh, OK! Good! He is going to fess up to the fact that he is rich but then also explain how that doesn’t stop him from caring deeply about social and economic issues and we can all move on with our lives. Except, whoops, that’s not what he does in the email at all. The email is a continuation of his weird deflections about his personal wealth. MICHAEL MOORE! COME ON, BUDDY! He explains how he used most of the three million dollars he got for Roger & Me to pay his taxes and pay off his debts, and the rest was spent on a bunch of charitable donations and to set up a philanthropic foundation. Sure! That is super nice of you! But also Roger & Me was 22 years ago and you’ve made a lot more money since then? Why are we even talking about the three million dollars you got for Roger & Me at this point?! (He also sneaks in this part: “got myself a new American-made Honda, and took out a mortgage on an apartment above a Baby Gap in New York City.” Right. OK. So you bought yourself an apartment in one of the most expensive cities in the world? That’s totally fine! Many of us would do the same thing. But it’s not like living above a Baby Gap means anything. Lenny Kravitz probably lives above a Baby Gap. Don’t really think buying a New York City apartment that is above a Baby Gap is in any way indicative of a special kind of class consciousness. If anything, this is a pretty weird deflection that suggests that you have a lot less respect for the intelligence of the people who read your emails than you pretend that you have with all of your “we’re in this together” rhetoric.) And then there is this paragraph:
I do very well — and for a documentary filmmaker, I do extremely well. That, too, drives conservatives bonkers. “You’re rich because of capitalism!” they scream at me. Um, no. Didn’t you take Econ 101? Capitalism is a system, a pyramid scheme of sorts, that exploits the vast majority so that the few at the top can enrich themselves more. I make my money the old school, honest way by making things. Some years I earn a boatload of cash. Other years, like last year, I don’t have a job (no movie, no book) and so I make a lot less. “How can you claim to be for the poor when you are the opposite of poor?!” It’s like asking: “You’ve never had sex with another man — how can you be for gay marriage?!” I guess the same way that an all-male Congress voted to give women the vote, or scores of white people marched with Martin Luther Ling, Jr. (I can hear these righties yelling back through history: “Hey! You’re not black! You’re not being lynched! Why are you with the blacks?!”). It is precisely this disconnect that prevents Republicans from understanding why anyone would give of their time or money to help out those less fortunate. It is simply something their brain cannot process. “Kanye West makes millions! What’s he doing at Occupy Wall Street?!” Exactly — he’s down there demanding that his taxes be raised. That, to a right-winger, is the definition of insanity. To everyone else, we are grateful that people like him stand up, even if and especially because it is against his own personal financial interest. It is specifically what that Bible those conservatives wave around demands of those who are well off.
Ugh. Where to even begin? Let’s just take it in order. First of all, YOU DO MAKE YOUR MONEY FROM CAPITALISM, YOU WEIRDO! All of us do? We live in a capitalist society. I mean, later you will get closer to a reasonable argument by explaining how it is possible to be rich and still fight against the injustices for the poor, but you have in no way extricated yourself from the capitalist system and to suggest that you have is, to use your words, bonkers. I mean, did YOU take Econ 101? Because your moralistic and completely reductive explanation of what capitalism is is both wrong and also, again, insulting to everyone’s intelligence. This is an email to your supporters! We’re on your side, pal! Why are you treating everyone, even the people who ostensibly subscribed to this email because they agree with you, like they’re morons? And the argument that you make your money the old fashioned way by making things is such self-aggrandizing bullshit. The only way that one can make money by making things the way YOU make things (movies) is because of free market capitalism. There is no functional, utilitarian purpose to movies. You can’t feed your family by growing movies. And in countries without capitalism, the film-making is largely propagandistic (which, admittedly, is not THAT different from your film-making). You “make things.” Oof. MY BUTT YOU MAKE THINGS! This guy “makes things.”
And the balls on you, the straight up GALL, to say that some years you don’t have a job. AT A TIME LIKE THIS? WHEN THERE ARE MILLIONS OF PEOPLE WHO FOR REAL DO NOT HAVE JOBS? And you are going to glibly point out that since you didn’t have a best-selling book or Academy Award-nominated documentary in theaters you make less than your usual “boatloads of cash,” I mean, THE FUUUUUCK?!
The part about straight-people being for gay marriage and men supporting women and white people supporting black people is fine, although I am not sure it’s actually an explanation for why the right would oppose Occupy Wall Street. It seems to me that their fundamental argument is always that people should pull themselves up by their bootstraps, even if the system has been rigged so that people don’t have bootstraps anymore and probably not even any boots. But the opposition to capitalist exploitation, to them, reeks of interference and telling people how to live, and that’s the part that worries them, because they are confused and think that we live in a country built entirely of free will and sheer strength of character. That’s untrue, but it doesn’t have anything to do with a disconnect about rich people helping poor people. And then you bring up Kanye West, which is a little left of field, because it wasn’t just the right that was curious about his visit to Occupy Wall Street, it was EVERYONE. It was weird and silly. And to claim that he was down there demanding that his taxes be raised when we all know for a fact that he was down there not saying shit, it’s just a lie? Why would you lie about Kanye West? What?
Look, Michael Moore, you are a good person! I believe that. You do good work. I’m sorry that this Occupy Wall Street thing has stirred up so much psychic dust in the eternal conflict between your outsized political views and your personal life. The fact of the matter is those things aren’t in nearly as much conflict as you seem to think they are. You’re acting as if conservative arguments against your ability to stand up for the poor due to your wealth are in any way rational or even possible to defuse or debunk. They’re just nonsense, and you should know that, and it’s surprising that you don’t seem to. The choir to which you are always preaching isn’t mad at you about your money, and the ones who would be aren’t going to be convinced otherwise just because you talk about the Baby Gap and are condescending about how capitalism works. ENJOY YOUR LIFE! That is all any of us can hope to do. Relax, man!
I rest my case.