The Oughts have been good to Michael Moore. The decade following his hit 1989 documentary Roger and Me was one of middling achievement, but the election of George W. Bush changed all that. Moore’s Bowling for Columbine (2002), Fahrenheit 9/11 (2004), and Sicko (2007) rank as the sixth-, first-, and fourth-highest-grossing documentaries of all time. Columbine won the 2002 Academy Award for Documentary Feature. Fahrenheit took home the Palme d’Or, the top honor at the Cannes Film Festival. Sicko got Moore investigated by the U.S. government for possible violations of the trade embargo against Cuba — what higher honor could you bestow upon a wannabe proletarian revolutionary?
Since then, the party in power has changed again, but Moore’s movies have not. His latest, Capitalism: A Love Story, features the same belligerent barrage of one-sided stories, sloppy statistics, ironic stock footage, ominous music, exploitative interviews, awkward confrontations, and flaccid pranks that we’ve come to know and love. Moore attacks capitalism with the ignorant fury of King Kong, flinging angry accusations at corporate drones, clinging to a romanticized version of the American past, grunting “What the f — happened?” and “Capitalism is an evil.”
The audience bears the brunt of this assault. For over two hours, Moore grabs any stick near to hand to beat up on his intended target, and the result is disjointed and disorienting. The movie starts with a cheesy 1950s-style disclaimer urging those with weak hearts or young children to leave the theater, as if anyone who came to see one of Moore’s films would be shocked by what comes next. The opening credits roll over security-camera footage of bank robberies in progress. Moore associates the taking of property at gunpoint with free markets, not with taxation. Are you shocked yet?
Actually, no one who has spent even a minimal amount of time listening to the far Left’s whingeing will be surprised by what Moore serves up: America is Rome, too distracted by chariot races (NASCAR) and gladiators (ultimate fighting) to notice that we’re being exploited by a corrupt, moneyed elite in the service of a ruthless emperor (Dick Cheney). The people who are losing their homes because of the collapse of home prices didn’t do anything to deserve it — if they treated their houses like ATMs, it’s because infinitely greedy Wall Street CEOs and their minions tricked them into doing it.
Moore’s explanation of the financial crisis is just as trite and familiar. Back in the day, unions and high taxes made America awesome (with the exceptions of racism and Vietnam), until the voters decided that Jimmy Carter was a buzz-kill and replaced him with a B-movie actor. The actor turned out to be a puppet of corporate America who oversaw the “wholesale dismantling” of the country’s industrial infrastructure in the pursuit of “short-term profits,” and also because he hated unions and feminists. The result? “Millions thrown out of work,” which led to stagnant wages, which led to an explosion of consumer debt, which, combined with banking deregulation, created — bingo! — the current financial crisis.
There is nothing new about this narrative, which conveniently absolves Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, and the affordable-housing lobby of any blame for the meltdown. These institutions must be let off the hook because, according to Moore, every American has the right to a home, per FDR’s Second Bill of Rights. This concept of positive rights colors every one of Moore’s stories of foreclosures. The families facing eviction aren’t borrowers who failed to live up to their end of a contract. They’re Americans whose right to own a home is being violated.