March 16, 2010

Michael Moore's doing a media blitz to mark the DVD release of "Capitalism: A Love Story" and after a couple of delays, I finally get to talk briefly to him Tuesday afternoon.

I first note he's a Crooks and Liars fan. "Oh yeah, it's great. I try to post whatever I can to lead to your site. It's bold and brave," he says. ("Bold and brave." I like it. Sounds like a movie review, right?)

"When you first started making movies, people were saying, 'Oh, that far-left Michael Moore'," I say. "It seems to me that with each movie, you were a little bit ahead of the curve and then people catch up with you. Has that been your experience?"

"That's exactly what happened," he says. "I haven't changed but the country has changed. People are not only catching onto the lies they've been told, they've become more progressive themselves. Now I'm not just that guy in the baseball cap."

When he first started appearing on television, that class bias in the media worked against him. "It was almost like, okay, we had this blue-collar working class guy on, and now we don't have to have another one for a year," I say.

"Oh yeah, absolutely. Let me give you an example of class bias in the media. Yesterday there were all these really serious things going on: the banking regulation proposal, what happened with Biden in Israel. And the story on NBC evening news and CBS news was ... the runaway Prius! That, and the rainstorm in New York. The announcer says, 'Let's go to the hardest hit city,' and it's Greenwich, Connecticut! Oh, the humanity!" he says, letting loose his trademark belly laugh.

Then he's serious again.

"The mainstream media is a huge distraction, and I have no doubt this is purposely done," he says. "It's a system of enforced ignorance to keep people dumb."

If liberal bloggers worked 24/7, 365 days a year, they couldn't begin to catch all the media distortions, I say - and people probably wouldn't want to hear it. Maybe our efforts would be better spent telling people not to watch television.

"If you're talking about a 50-year-old white guy, yeah," he agrees.

"Young people don't even watch the news anymore. They watch Stephen Colbert and Jon Stewart," I say.

"But young people, by watching less news, are becoming more informed. Something new and good will come out of that. It was young people who put the first African-American president in the White House," he says.

I mention my pet peeve: the right-wing viral emails that go unanswered, pushing erroneous info into the less-informed voting public. "I try to talk to other liberals about it, and their attitude is, well, 'here's a white paper, these are the facts, now they'll agree with us'. Too much emphasis on the facts, not enough on the emotions."

"That was one of the criticisms people made about me from the beginning," he says. "But I'm only honoring what any good storyteller tries to do: convey the truth through emotion."

I end by asking him what's next. "Your movie kind of ended on a down note..."

"Not for me!" he interrupts, chortling. (At the end of "Capitalism" he says that if people don't take action, he won't be making another film.)

Then he becomes serious. "I want to see if people see the movie and say, 'What are we gonna do tomorrow?' You can't go home and say 'yay Mike, great film' You have to do something.

"I'm waiting to see if people will rise up, and if so, I'll rise with them."

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