Thursday, January 29, 2004
Traverse City, Mich. Michael Moore isn't the apologetic type.
He has not expressed regrets over proclaiming to millions around the world during last year's Academy Awards ceremony that George W. Bush was a "fictitious president ... sending us to war for fictitious reasons."
But the crusading author and filmmaker of "Bowling for Columbine" does want to make clear that he is normal: a regular guy.
But there's nothing ordinary about this formerly obscure, muckraking journalist becoming an international celebrity -- nor about having two best-selling books and an Oscar-winning film in the same year.
In books, films, speeches and on his Web site, the 49-year-old gadfly fires rhetorical fusillades at the National Rifle Assn., conservative politicians, corporate executives and assorted "stupid white men," grinning all the while.
Now he's working on another film, "Fahrenheit 9-11," due for release late this summer. As the title implies, the subject is terrorism.
It will feature Moore on a quest for answers to troubling questions -- a role he first assumed in "Roger & Me," the 1989 tale in his hometown, Flint, after General Motors Corp. shuttered 11 manufacturing plants and laid off 33,000 workers.
"You know the question a lot of people were asking after Sept. 11 -- 'Why do they hate us?' The question I want to ask is, 'Why DON'T they hate us?' -- and then take my camera around the world a bit and show what's done in our name," Moore said.
Terrorism is wrong, he said. But when he has finished cataloging misdeeds by the U.S. government and corporations, viewers will feel lucky their country hasn't drawn more attacks, he said.
And why, he continues, are Americans so obsessed with terrorism in the first place? Sept. 11 was horrific. But the typical citizen has almost no chance of encountering terrorists.
He accuses the Bush administration of exaggerating the danger to frighten voters into giving the president another term: "It is one of the most successful lies ever perpetrated upon a people."
Such gloves-off rhetoric is one reason why Moore's critics just don't get the joke. One of many Web sites devoted to him is labeled: "Michael Moore Hates America."
"He is beyond mean-spirited. He is hate-filled," said Brent Bozell, president of the conservative Media Research Center in Arlington, Va.
Aside from "Fahrenheit 9-11," Moore's top priority this year is campaigning against President Bush. Moore supports Democratic hopeful Wesley Clark. Moore says Clark's biggest asset is electability.
Media Research Center's Bozell shudders at the thought of voters taking advice from Moore.
"He feeds a growing vein in American society ... that sees conspiracies in everything," Bozell said.