Observer reporter Andrew Anthony recently had a chance to interview Liberal “maverick” documentarian Michael Moore. While praise for the film flows like, well, like Michael Moore himself were writing the copy, Mr. Anthony has some rather interesting observations about the director.
What I think, after my short time in his company, is that Moore is a man you would not want as an opponent, but also one you’d think twice about calling a friend. Though a talented film-maker and a clever showman, a populist who knows how to play the maverick, he is too often both big-headed and small-minded. In his desire to be seen as the decent man telling truth to power, he is too ready to blame those less powerful than himself for his shortcomings. He was justly revered in the Palais, but out on the street no one had a kind word to say about him. At Cannes, Moore may have been the star but he was not, it seems, the man of the people.
This my favorite exchange:
It is doubtless to this mission that he refers in Stupid White Men, when he writes: ‘If you’re white, and you really want to help change things, why not start with yourself?’
With this thought in mind, I ask him why he decided to send his daughter to a private school in Manhattan.
‘Oh,’ he says brightly, ‘I went to private school. Just a genetic decision. My wife and I, we both went to Catholic schools, we’re not public-school [which in the US means state school] people.
So it’s not important.
‘No, I think it’s important and the first five years she went to public school, then we moved to New York and we went to see the local public school and we walked through a metal detector and we said, “We’re not putting our child through a metal detector.” We’ll continue our fight to see to it that our society is such that you don’t have to have a metal detector at the entrance to schools. But our daughter is not the one to be sacrificed to make things better. And so she went to a school two blocks away. She just went to the nearest other school.’
He makes it sound as if the other school was just a random choice, but private schools on the Upper West Side are all restrictively expensive, and mostly white, just as the state schools are disproportionately black.
‘Is that a bad thing?’ he asks rhetorically of his decision, ‘I don’t know. Every parent wants to do what’s best for their child. Whatever I can afford, I’m going to get my kid the best education I can get.’
I suggest that, while that may be a natural instinct, it’s hard to see why it’s any different from the Republican philosophy of each man for himself and his family.
‘I’m not a liberal. When you come from the working class and you do well enough whereby you can provide a little bit better for your family, get a decent roof over their head and send them to a good school, that’s considered a good thing. If,’ he emphasises, ‘you’re from the working class. What’s bad about it is if you get to do that and then shut the door behind you so nobody else can do that.’
Of course, it’s nobody’s business but Moore’s where he sends his child, except he makes it his business to detail the hereditary privilege of his subjects and tends to make his political arguments personal. In Fahrenheit 9/11 one of his stunts is to attempt to get Congressmen to sign their children up for the war in Iraq.