Interview: October 10, 2003
Michael Moore's most recent documentary, "Bowling for Columbine," won an Academy Awared. His most recent book, STUPID WHITE MEN, was the biggest-selling hardcover non-fiction title of 2002. Jesse Kornbluth, of Bookreporter.com, interviewed him on the eve of the publication of his new book, DUDE, WHERE'S MY COUNTRY?
Bookreporter: What's more effective in dealing with the right-wing --- humor or matching them, attack for attack?
Moore: Oh, clearly I think humor is the wrong way to go. Humor is just so... funny. Who wants to laugh these days? I think most Americans agree what the country needs is more sullenness and depression. Seriously (no, funnily!), Al Franken has done more to bring discredit to the Fox News Channel and Rush Limbaugh than all the carping from the Left. By ridiculing them, and, in the latest instance, baiting them into a crazy lawsuit, he has got the whole country laughing at them. Once they start laughing AT you, you're finished.
Bookreporter: We've found no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, and no missiles poised to launch. So the Administration has taken to touting one undeniable achievement: We got rid of a dictator who treated his people terribly. In your new book, you write: "We never care about that stuff. In fact, we like dictators! They help us get what we want." Do you think our real achievement is....the oil fields?
Moore: Yes, and they're OUR oil fields! Yippee! And someday we'll have all that oil, just for ourselves, once half the country stops shooting at us. As for now, we are sending nearly $900 million dollars worth of oil TO Iraq just to keep the occupation going and to try to get things up and running.
Bookreporter: Your picture is on some right wing playing cards that echo the "Iraq most wanted" deck. How does that make you feel?
Moore: Wanted. Special. You know, all warm and gooey inside.
Bookreporter: You write that America's in the grips of "a mass psychosis" --- a fear of terrorism fueled by the White House. Your home town of Flint, Michigan: does it have anything to fear from terrorists? '
Moore: Right now, nearly 70% of the children in Flint live below the official Federal poverty line. The only thing they fear is four more years of Bush (or four more years of anyone like Clinton, who ignored Flint worse than the first Bush did.)
Bookreporter: In your book, you write that "a 19 percent increase in the homeless and the hungry from 2001 to 2002" is "terrorism." Who do you think is more dangerous to America, Osama bin Laden or George Bush?
Moore: Osama bin Laden is laid up in a cave somewhere hooked up to a dialysis machine -- he ain't gonna kill no one. I hope someday he is brought to justice for the murders he did help plan. In the meantime, more Americans will die from lack of health care, dirty air and water, and unsafe working conditions than from the actions of foreign terrorists. I think if we want to keep Americans safe, we could start by trying to get our infant mortality rate lower than Cuba's.
Bookreporter: Does the right really share the "message du jour," so its media and political operatives all deliver the same sound bite on any given day?
Moore: They don't have to operate by any conspiracy. The angry white guys who run these right wing shows all spawn from the same defective gene that is thousands of years old. That gene tells them what to think. It is a very small gene.
Bookreporter: Do you think Bill O'Reilly, Ann Coulter and the rest of that media tribe should take polygraph tests? If they would, would you?
Moore: I'd be happy if they just took a rabies test. I've already had mine, and I can assure America there is no need to fear being in my presence.
Bookreporter: The Web has become a community of fact-checkers, eager to play "gotcha." You've come under attack before here. Did you take extra care to fact-check the new book? How so? If not, how much do attacks on specifics in the book damage your credibility?
Moore: None, because the attacks on me only come from wackos no one pays attention to. In fact, as a public service, I'm going to give them their own website, WackoAttacko.com, where I will post all the crazy attacks on me and respond to them with something as obvious as the truth. All my work goes through a thorough fact-checking process. I hire three teams of people to go through the book and then two separate lawyers vet it. There is a reason that I have never been sued over anything in my three books --- that's because everything in them is true.
Bookreporter: What's more satisfying: writing or filmmaking?
Moore: The actual work of writing is more satisfying, but I would rather watch the movie.
Bookreporter: Mike's 25-word plan to defeat Bush in '04?
Moore: Run a candidate who is socially liberal but has some guts. (Bush is so poised to be defeated that my plan only requires 11 words.)
Bookreporter: In the book, you wonder where "basic common sense" went. Have you found out yet? Any signs it's coming back?
Moore: Yes. Mine has come back. I'm thinking of voting for a General, for heaven's sake! Nothing like getting kicked in the head by a stubborn mule!
Bookreporter: When Nixon was president and I was a college kid, we knew everything he said was a lie, so we used to watch him on TV with the sound off and rock music playing loudly. If you did that to Bush, what CD would you recommend?
Moore: "Cocaine," followed by the "Looney Tunes" theme.
Bookreporter: The Academy Awards: If you had a do-over, would you do anything differently?
Moore: Yes. I would have pulled out a huge flag with a hammer and sickle on it and started waving it madly, or perhaps I should have leapt into the orchestra pit and slain every one of them in the name of the Lord. Nah, I probably should have just kissed Diane Lane when she handed me the Oscar and got the hell outta there.
Bookreporter: That action figure of President Bush in the flight suit on the deck of the aircraft character --- do you want one?
Moore: No, but every time they announce the death of another American kid in Iraq, I want the news media to run that footage of Bush landing on the boat in his crotch-enhanced fly-boy costume, smiling and waving and declaring the war over and won.
Bookreporter: If there were a Michael Moore action figure, what would it be doing?
Moore: The Michael Moore action figure would be crushing a mid-level executive from Haliburton. The instructions would read: "For every child lost in Iraq, the evil Haliburton --- the only winner[$] in this war --- must give up one of its managers. Fair is fair!"