Monday, October 5, 2009

Less is Moore

It's interesting to see how the left is sort of backing away slowly from Michael Moore. Self-proclaimed liberals have been complaining about Moore's new film Capitalism: A Love Story, and as a more-or-less liberal person, I have to agree with them.

Now I've been a long-time Moore defender. Yes, he plays fast-and-loose with the facts and yes he presents information in a way that is not strictly dishonest but somewhat misleading. I don't agree with the practice, especially if you're calling your film a documentary, but I understand that he's trying to make what is often a very honest point with cinematic flare, even if the facts seem to require some tailoring. Exactly how ethically dubious that is, well, that's a matter for another discussion.

But he's sort of isolating himself, and I'm not 100% sure why. I would cite a combination of factors: first, as the left has taken control of the middle, Moore and his ilk have become outliers and the rest of the left is trying to not be lumped into his extreme viewpoints. Another possibility--he may be losing his mind, just a little.

Take a look at C:ALS. I haven't seen it, but I'm aware of his two major themes: 1) Capitalism is evil and you can't regulate evil (that's a direct quote, by the way) and 2) Capitalism should be replaced by Democracy.


First, let's talk about this "evil" word for a minute. "Evil" is sort of like "Love" in that it doesn't really exist that way most people think it does. It is a word used to describe people's actions and perhaps their attitudes, but we tend to regard it as a causal force. "Evil" is not a thing that compels people to action, it is simply a description of horrific actions. In that sense, it can sure as hell be regulated. We regulate it all the time. We don't always do so effectively, true, but it's sort of like saying "you can't regulate murder". We should. We can. We do (to the best of our abilities).

Second, is Capitalism even a thing that is capable of being "evil"? Of course not. It doesn't make decisions, it doesn't act, but on the other hand, it does compel people to action. It is a system, so we can describe it as "flawed" rather than "evil". But if something is flawed, you treat it one of two ways: you fix the flaws, or you replace it with something better.

Moore's ideal replacement: Democracy. What does that even mean? One is a political system, one is an economic system, but the two are analogous in their own spheres. This is not an apples-to-oranges comparison, this is an apples-to-applesauce comparison. Bill Maher asked Moore that very question: "What do you mean by that?" and I think it's an important question to be able to answer if you're going to make any kind of statement about, well, anything. Moore started talking in pretty platitudes, but he never answered the damn question. Show me an implementation. Tell me how to Democratize commerce. Tell me what it is, why it's better, and give me a roadmap there.

I mean, Jesus, Mike, look at some of your own movies. Previous themes have been: Roger Smith (and by extension any CEO) doesn't care about working-class Americans, America has a bizarre and dangerous fixation with guns, the Bush administration lied about Iraq and other things as well, Americans would benefit from universal health coverage. These are all things that can be argued and discussed factually. But "Capitalism is evil"? It's too vague to be meaningful and, frankly, too childish to be discussed with a straight face.

And the beautiful irony of this is that capitalism begets democracy? You want to democratize something? Open up trade with it. And if you want to criticize capitalism, start by pointing out that what we have in America is a far cry from pure capitalism. That's an interesting subject. But "evil"?



1 comment:

Evan said...

"...what we have in America is a far cry from pure capitalism."

I'd love to hear more.