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Moore is More

By Eric Allen Hatch | Posted 10/23/2002

"You have to ask yourself," says documentary filmmaker Michael Moore during a press stop in Washington. D.C., "after the first 15 minutes of sniper coverage on the 6 o'clock news, 'Am I learning anything here? Does this help me or my family? And if not, why I am still watching it?' Because at a certain point it becomes pornography--sniper porn."

With his new film, Bowling for Columbine, Moore argues that our corporate news media has exploited our love of being scared to create an oppressive climate of fear that keeps us ignorant and compliant. Moore himself works tirelessly to combat these attitudes. In addition to his hit documentary Roger and Me and his best-selling books Downsize This and Stupid White Men, he maintains a Web site that offers his spin on current events, houses petitions, and links visitors to a variety of alternative media sources and activist organizations. And over the course of a 30-minute conversation, Moore packs in shout-outs to such dissident voices as British filmmaker Mike Leigh, Z magazine, the Boondocks comic strip, and the scathing new documentary The Trials of Henry Kissinger. So why is Columbine getting rave reviews from the very media outlets he attacks?

"Within all news organizations, there are subversives who use the medium the way I use it," Moore says. "I had a TV show on the General Electric network [NBC]. I had another TV show on the Rupert Murdoch network [Fox]. . . . The way art ends up affecting change is by sneaking in under the radar. I need the people in power to keep thinking, 'Oh, that's just a movie. He's just a funny guy. He'll be lucky if he gets this on cable access.' I don't want them to take it seriously. But I know the people are taking it very seriously."

Yet Moore's prolific output demands serious consideration. He already has a two new films in the works--an animated feature and a documentary about Sept. 11. He's begun work on a new book and he's performing a one-man stage show in London this November. A DVD of Roger and Me is forthcoming and will probably include as an extra its long-unavailable sequel, Pets or Meat: The Return to Flint.

Moore seems equally busy as a political activist. His Web site collected 50,000 signatures in three days to petition Democratic congresspeople to vote against the recent war resolution, and he plans to march in Washington Oct. 26th against the war on Iraq. Columbine succeeded in getting Kmart to stop selling ammunition in its stores, and he's currently petitioning Wal-Mart to follow suit. Of his ability to promote progressive causes using the mainstream media, Moore says, "It's a race. [The corporations who distribute the work] get to make a lot of money. I get to talk to a lot of people. They believe the people will do nothing, because they've done such a good job of numbing their minds. I believe the people will, eventually, do something."

One of the biggest revelations in Bowling for Columbine comes from an interview with Marilyn Manson, in which the schlock-horror rock star comes across as an exceedingly articulate disciple of Noam Chomsky. "[That scene] shocks everybody's belief system," Moore agrees. "They believe something about [Manson] going into the film, but leaving they don't believe it anymore. And then it makes them wonder, 'What else is the media lying to me about?'"

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