Monday, May 24, 2004

Palme pilot

Someone who watched it on TV said it was like watching a bad wreck happen. You knew what was coming, you wanted to do something to stop it, but you just sat helpless as it happened right in front of you. And when the smoke cleared Monday in Cannes, Michael Moore held a Palme D'Or in his mitt.

Anti-war people love Michael Moore because he is make the blood boil in their enemies' veins. He does, I admit it. Moore is a "professional defiler" (this from a California film professor who is praising Moore in an AP article). He is a talented film-editor, maybe the best around, but that's a devious business, and the films he makes are a combination of Michael Moore paean and political commercials.

They do not deserve to be called "documentaries" if they twist facts. I don't mean they must include all facts or all points of views. They can talk about "X" and ignore "Y." But if they call an "X" a "G," that's lying. And he's done that in every film.

If the French wish to debase their cultural history to the point where they award their highest honor for artistic achievement in film to a bit of cleverly edited political propaganda, that's their business. Truly, though, it's a sign of the death knell of an art when the political content outweighs any other consideration.

My favorite quote about Moore, by the way, is off the "comments" section of one of the Web sites I read, paraphrasing Henry II: "Is there no chicken sandwich to rid me of this Mamma Cass?"

Do I want to see smirking Moore on the cover of "Time" and "Newsweek," proclaimed "America's kingmaker"? Do I want to endure four years of the French film industry knowing it can pick the next president of the United States?

Seriously, do I want the terrorists to believe, as they certainly will, that footage of dead civilians and dead Americans can accomplish their purpose, as it did in Spain; can defeat the greatest national power in the world at the cost of a handful of "martyrs"?

My politics this year summed up by "Anyone but Bush, any time but now." In other words, if you're John Kerry, you have to convince me to come over. Given the way the polls stand now, you'd think a vote like mine (and there are many of us) would be important to the Democrats. Someone who supports the birth of democracy in Iraq, without being at all convinced that the current administration is willing and able to accomplish it.

Given the threat of Nader to draw off the pure "bring them home now" anti-war vote, you'd think the Democrats would be even more interested in having my support.

And frankly, people like Moore just stand in the way. I feel my bile rise every time I see the bloated image of the man who boasts of the success of the Iraqi "Minutemen" and calls for them to slaughter more Americans "until enough blood has been let that maybe -- just maybe -- God and the Iraqi people will forgive us in the end." It may please the anti-Bush people to know I despise him, but do they realize how much more difficult that makes it for me to think about pulling the Kerry lever?

Disassociating himself from Moore's sleazebag filmmaking -- and from the French intellectual class at the same time -- would be a lovely move for Kerry right now. But I've just about given up on hoping for things like that from him.

Meanwhile, for all their infatuation with Moore's work, some European intellectuals have begun to realize that the man himself is not the antidote to what they hate about America; he's the embodiment of it: a powerful, wealthy, selfish, vainglorious lout.

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 assessment, from "The Spectator," is not about Moore per se but about European anti-Americanism in general. But, of course, he is the star of that show; the poor man's Chomsky.

I considered, not for the first time, the real character of this indiscriminate America bashing. It's like what Michael Moore dishes up -- comfort food for people who want to feel good about feeling bad toward America. Droves of Europeans seem to be craving this junk. A writer for the German weekly Der Spiegel told me during the Iraq debate not to take offense at the crude anti-American covers of the magazine such as the ugly, bearded, drooling Rambo figure it used to show the typical GI in Iraq. "We're just trying to please our million readers," he explained.

UPDATE: Here's another who calls Moore a slandering liar, and has cause to know of what he speaks.