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Monday, May 05, 2008

Manufacturing Dissent, or Just Rehashing Rhetoric?

I'm watching a bit of Manufacturing Dissent before work today, a Canadian documentary exposing Michael Moore as... wait for it... a spin-thrift manipulator with a political agenda and a tendency to selectively inform in a way that pads his argument.

Oooh, big expose, this. Woo, woo.

I was just curious what the doc had to say. I like Michael Moore's work, but I'm under few illusions of how well he stacks the deck when making an argument. Sure, his work is mainly true, but it's seldom accurate or even fair. Take his depictions of Canada when he's trying to wax romantic about the utopian world we have up here.

So not true. Sicko glosses over our medical system, for instance. I love our free medical, don't want to see it any other way, but it needs work. The system needs revamping for a new age. We need more of Britain's wait-free system and preventative care focus. We need more access. We need fewer wait times. (Granted, Britain has a fucking island to put roads on, and Canada this monstrous nation and half the population of Britain, so how can we pave all these roads yet still have the UK's incredible, envious system? Our nation's disposable income is nothing like the UK's.)

Yes, we get surgeries when they're urgent/emergency surgeries, but when it's deemed as less than life-or-death, the waits can get long and unpleasant. But I do pay for my medical separate. I get a bill monthly. It's different from province to province, so let's get real here. ($36 a month, but still.)

But that doesn't bolster Moore's claims, so why point out that, while most of us wouldn't want to be without our system, most of us do believe improvements can (and should) be made? It just doesn't help his case.

Is Moore a bad guy for making a one-sided argument with sexy legs? No, but it goes back to caveat emptor for his viewers. Just 'cause you see it don't make it true. You gotta see through the spin, whether the spin favours your POV or not. You have to find your own answers, too. You need to accept all arguments with a grain of salt, then look into unbiased, objective sources.

This film was probably the low-point of Moore's life, though. 2004-2005. His films were doing incredibly, but he managed to make himself a liability to the Democrats' campaign for control of Pennsylvania Ave. I honestly believe that, had Michael Moore just released Fahrenheit 9/11 and said, "This movie speaks for me" and walked away after three weeks of release-date press, Americans would have voted against the war.

Instead, he stuck around so long that the movie stopped being about an unjust war, and the press became about an argumentative lefty calling Republicans every name in the book. He lost his equilibrium and he lost his control of the spin. He sounded petty and venomous. Instead of tempering his argument, he amped it up.

And the Democrats lost the election. And the Americans stuck it out in Iraq.

There comes a time when some people need to shut up and take a back seat. When your voice drowns out all others and you instead become a beacon of discontent, a target for your opposition, then maybe it's time to sit down and shut up.

But Moore never understood that, maybe he never will. I worry that, now that he's come out on the record for Obama, that he may ingratiate himself into this campaign as well, which I feel might be disastrous, even if Sicko's brought him more non-partisan support than he has enjoyed in the past.

God knows Obama's taken a whuppin' of late, too, so having Moore rallying behind him might be just the last "fanatic" he needs throwing weight behind him. Farrakhan, Wright, now Moore? Good god. The guy doesn't need a new stump speech, he needs a fucking paddle and a lifejacket, 'cos he's drowning in shit!

The reports on Moore being an unrelenting employer, well, those hardly surprise me. As a guy who wears his passions on his sleeve, it wouldn't be a stretch to think he'd be one of those guys who thinks everyone's passion should similarly sustain them through difficult work and such. Insecure, controlling, liable to feel victimized? Moore? Geez, you don't say.

I worked for someone like that last year for six months. The kind who thinks you should feel privileged to have that job, that working beyond closing hours is for the good of the cause, who needs overtime? Who needs raises? Pfft! The world spins on good intentions, doesn't it?

The fucking nobility of the cause. Well, I couldn't deposit nobility for my rent payments, and I didn't like overtime being a way of life, so I fucking walked. I can't stand the person any more, even though they were always pretty honest about who they were, you know? And I feel BAD that I feel that way, 'cos they were always, always honest about who they were. I just wanted to believe something else, is all.

I get the same sense from Michael Moore. I'd like him for a week or two, but I'd probably lose my taste for him pretty quickly. Sanctimony only works on me for a short while, but then the light of day shines and I avert my eyes.

Still, he contributes important arguments. I think he's an important watchdog of politics. He just needs to watch that people don't get too wise to him, or he might fall further out of favour, and I suspect he'd hit the ground pretty hard after toppling from such a height, or maybe he'll just play his "poor me" victim card for good measure.

And, then there's the legacy of Moore, the next generation, the generation that understands the value of his work, but also understands the way the media must be played in a post-digital society, and the unending ability for the average person to now fact-check on their own. A generation being headed mostly by Morgan Spurlock, who has yet to fill me with the ambivalence I feel towards Moore post-2004 Kerry/Bush.

Ahh... documentary film-makers. God bless 'em.

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