I admit to not having ever seen a Michael Moore movie, though from what I understand his film Roger and Me was probably his defining film, one that predated the Bush era and thus was more balanced in its critiques. Of course his latest effort, a rant against the horrors of unrestrained capitalism, is not going to make any converts. Still, I was intrigued by the positive review of Capitalism: A Love Story at AICN by their resident conservative critic Massawyrm (he lambasted the animated film Happy Feet for being a propaganda film against religion, intended to indoctrinate children, and proclaimed The Ant Bully to be a storybook version of The Communist Manifesto. I have to agree with the former, and haven’t seen the latter.).
Massawyrm speaks of his admiration for the “old” Michael Moore, invoking Roger and Me, and then makes the claim that this new movie is the closest Moore has come to returning to those genuine speak-truth-to-power roots. And he puts it in context of conservative ideals, even though it’s basically an argument for socialism:
Now, it is important to understand that I wholeheartedly disagree with Moore’s final conclusions. I do not believe that the framework of a “second bill of rights” – as FDR referred to it – is the solution to the problem. BUT, Moore’s argument is compelling and very, very important. He makes a solid, virtually unassailable case against deregulation and fiscal anarchy, showcasing how it has profoundly crushed the backbone of the country and left many of our citizenry looted, helpless and worst of all, holding the bag. And what frustrates me most about all this is that it is an argument those of us on the republican side of the aisle really need to hear right now.
You see, while it is easy to point at the crazed evangelical ultra-conservatives as the source of the Republican party’s problems, the truth is they’re just the easy target; the loud distraction while the crew cuts in three piece suits repeat over and over that we are a party about freedom (that’s good) and freedom means keeping the government out of our daily life (that’s really good) and keeping the government out of our daily life means letting the financial industry do what they want without oversight (that’s BAD.) In truth, the fundamental core of what a large majority of Republicans believe in is very much rooted in what Moore is talking about. After all, I can name three guys off the top of my head that hated banking, speculation and usury. Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin and Jesus. Not exactly the thinkers most often quoted at liberal cocktail parties. Here Moore refers to them all.
If that segment of the population would see this film and hear Moore’s arguments – while they won’t throw up their arms and embrace socialism – the argument could become just how to go about fixing [capitalism] again, rather than screaming SOCIALIST! FASCIST! at one another. But Moore commits one, serious, fatal error.
Emphasis mine. This is a remarkable argument and one that in many ways captures my own fascination with conservatism, a movement whose core principles are in many ways complementary to liberalism, not opposed.
The error to which he refers is that Moore doesn’t level the same critique at Obama. He puts this in context of marketing, ie that the film will be seen as critical of GOP Presidents but deferential to The One, and thus dismissed by the very people he argues most need to see it. Thats probably a fair assessment, since Obama is a pro-Establishment politician and not a revolutionary. However the bulk of the bank bailouts were indeed the previous Administration, and the Obama stimulus was a much broader package that in no way was limited only to “fat cats”. Also, it should be noted that Banks accepting stimulus money were forced to accept exactly the type of rigorous, anti-capitalist intrusive regulation that Moore is probably advocating for, which is why the Banks are trying to give the money back now that they are out of the woods.
At any rate, it’s likely that the relevance of Moore’s critique to Obama is going to fall along the usual partrisan lines. I don’t think omission of the Obama era invalidates the thesis for the preceding Administrations, however.