Michael Moore, Stupid White Men...and Other Sorry Excuses for the State of the Nation
Book Review by Marc Becker
This is possibly the most significant book of 2001, a fact that is underscored by the delay of its publication until this year.
Michael Moore, the author of Stupid White Men (not to be confused with Michael Moore, the head of the World Trade Organization), describes himself as "a writer, filmmaker, and voter." He is best known for his film Roger & Me in which he criticizes General Motors for moving its auto plants to Mexico in search of cheaper labor, destroying the economy of his home town of Flint, Michigan in the process. His previous book Downsize This is a biting critique of corporate control over the United States.
Moore finished Stupid White Men last summer and on September 11 HarperCollins was in the process of printing the book and preparing for its October 2 release. With our illiterate and unelected "President" (Moore always puts the title in quotes) suddenly a national hero, the publisher decided to "pulp" the book and force Moore to rewrite it.
Such pre-publication censorship is, of course, a violation of our first amendment freedom of speech. Even before 9/11, Moore was warning of Bush and Ashcroft's plans to crack down on precisely these types of freedoms. A group of librarians found out about the plans to destroy the book, and forced HarperCollins to release it as is, without changing or censoring anything (more information is available on Moore's website at http://www.michaelmoore.com/).
Stupid White Men finally hit bookstores last week, and it immediately shot to the top of bestseller lists (it is currently #1 on Amazon.com). Because HarperCollins released it exactly as Moore had written it before 9/11 there are no references to subsequent events, but the book remains as relevant today as it was before then. Bush is still "a trespasser on federal land, a squatter in the Oval Office" and he should resign.
Moore makes it clear that no matter how one looks at it, Bush lost the presidential election and that his illegitimate presidency is nothing short of a coup. Final recounts of the Florida vote last fall bore out the statements he makes in this book. Some blame Ralph Nader for this outcome, but Moore makes it clear that Al Gore has no one to blame but himself for his loss.
Furthermore, it is unlikely that the world would be any better of a place today were Gore sitting in the White House, since the Democrats are in the pockets of Corporate America as much as the Republicans. Moore analyzes Clinton's policies and deems him to be one of the best Republican presidents we have ever had. Bush has largely continued Clinton's policies; he has only been more blatant about it. Moore asks us if we want to be screwed over by people who say that they are going to do this to us, or if we want to be screwed by people who lie to us and then screw us over anyway?
Moore lays out Bush's compromises with the corporate world in a compelling fashion. Before the Enron scandal broke last fall, Moore was criticizing Kenny Boy Lay, Shadow Adviser to the "President," and the undue influence that Enron had on energy policies. Moore explains how Arthur Andersen moved its business to Bermuda to avoid paying taxes, thereby shifting a proportionally larger share of the tax burden to the rest of us. The result is skyrocketing salaries for the richest people, while adjusted for inflation the rest of us are actually making less than we did 20 years ago.
Moore also attacks U.S. foreign policies, particularly those that have led to a lot of bloodshed in the Middle East. He notes that the U.S. needs "to help set some things right in the world" if "we don't want to end up with a Bin Laden lurking in every airport" (remember he wrote this before 9/11). If the U.S. would stop sending Israel a blank check; support democracy, self-determination, and development in Palestine; and rely on the United Nations to end hostile attacks, one can not help but think that awful events like those of September 11 would not happen.
As with his policy suggestions for the Middle East, Moore is never content simply to criticize what he does not like but he also provides concrete suggestions for improving the world in which we live. Moore is always hilarious and thought provoking, and this book is Moore at his best. Unless you want to be a stupid white man, you should read this book.