Tuesday, October 27, 2009
Capitalism: A Love Story
I thought this was a great interview - I'm a huge fan of Michael Moore - and this is also a great column that Vanity Fair does weekly on their website. There's a link on the site that shows you a preview to the movie too!
The One Percent
Q&A: Michael Moore Says Being Rich Doesn't Necessarily Make You Evil
by Jamie Johnson September 30, 2009, 1:14 PM
Every week on VF.com, filmmaker Jamie Johnson offers a glimpse into the secret lives of the super-rich.
Celebrity provocateur and documentary filmmaker Michael Moore returns to movie screens this week with the release of his new film, Capitalism: A Love Story. I first met Moore at a Tribeca Film Festival screening of a documentary I directed called The One Percent, which focuses on how the very richest Americans have attempted to shape the economy around their interests. Moore’s new film covers related topics from a very different perspective, examining with his inimitable style the effect concentrated wealth and power have on the working class. Earlier this week, I spoke to Moore about the film and about his perception of American capitalism's inherent flaws. Here's how it went:
Jamie Johnson: Your new film is called Capitalism: A Love Story. But it’s clear that you don’t love capitalism, so what do you love?
Michael Moore: Who said it has anything to do with me? I called it that because it’s not whether I love it or not, it’s whether the wealthy love it, and the wealthy do. They love their money and they’re not content with loving just their money. They love our money too, and they want it.
As far as what I do love, I love birds, I love lavender.
I know a lot of rich people. I come from an affluent background. Most of the rich hate you. Why do you think that is?
Most of the rich do what?
Most of the rich hate you.
I’ve gotten that feeling over the years, and it isn’t just because of this movie. I’m one of those, those, ah, peasants who somehow found my way out of the woodwork, and I started talking about the things that I saw that were happening to people who come from the class I come from, and suddenly I had a wide audience. That really wasn’t supposed to happen, because my politics are pretty much supposed to consign me to the church of the left, and I’m supposed to be preaching to the choir. So, the fact that I have this audience that goes beyond the church of the left is somewhat disconcerting to those who have money and who know that I am here to upend the system that has benefitted them.
Are you familiar with Vanity Fair’s New Establishment list?
I’m familiar with it.
Every year the magazine ranks the 100 most powerful members of the establishment.
The media establishment or just The Establishment?
O.K., yes, I’m familiar with it.
Well, what do you feel The Establishment needs to hear right now?
What do they need to hear? Well, what will they listen to? They need to know that across the country there are millions of people with an anger that is simmering just beneath the surface, and they would be wise to address the reasons why people are feeling such angry despair because nobody wants anger to boil over. You’re seeing early signs of it, you know, the tea baggers and the town hallers and all of that.
Do you think it’s possible that the anger will lead to physical conflict?
On what level, armed rebellion?
I don’t know. I just know that you can’t throw millions of people out on the curb and not expect a reaction. You’re living in some kind of fantasy world if you think that’s just going to go without any reaction or response. There’s a foreclosure filing in this country once every 7 1/2 seconds. You know, I would hope that those people who make up The Establishment would behave in a moral way, with the values that they were raised with about how to treat people, that they are their brother’s keeper, that they’ll be judged by how they treat the least among us. And, I wish they would ask the question, is this for the common good when they make their decisions.
What questions do you think they are asking before they make decisions?
Is this good for the bottom line? How does this affect me? Can I make more money? I don’t have enough.
On any level can you relate to feelings that you don’t have enough and that you need more money?
Most documentary filmmakers say that all the important work on documentaries is done in the edit room. Can you take us into your edit room by describing the atmosphere and how decisions are made? What is it like?
You don’t want to know. First of all, it reeks of men. Over the years, I’ve put a couple of signs up in the edit room. One says, When In Doubt Cut Me Out. Another one says, Remember People Want To Go Home And Have Sex After They Watch This Movie.
That’s a good one.
Don’t bum them out to the extent that they won’t be able to enjoy the rest of the date.
Generally, people are frightened by controversy, but it’s something you seem to relish. What’s going through your mind when you’re out in the field with your camera crew and you’re marching head on into a public confrontation? Are you ever scared?
What are you frightened of?
I don’t want to be hurt. I don’t want to be arrested. I don’t want to do anything that violates my own personal code of ethics and morals.
Then what propels you to try and gain access to the headquarters of General Motors against the wishes of the company and the company security guards?
Well, in this current film, it’s because I’m a part owner of the company. I’m a citizen of this country. I have some ideas that I thought might help them survive. And I thought that, at least this time, they would call my bluff and invite me in, and I was looking forward to that.
Is there anything you can tell me about scenes that got left on the cutting room floor that you wanted to include, but ultimately couldn’t?
I had a section on how capitalism has killed our daily newspapers, and it got too large. It almost requires its own movie.
Well, thanks for your time. I enjoyed watching the film.
Thank you very much for saying that. Let me just say something about the affluence that you up grew up in. There’s nothing inherently or patently wrong with anybody who does well, works hard, earns a living, betters themselves. I’m not against any of these things. It’s about how you make that money, and then what you do with it. Did you exploit people in the making of that money? And once you made it, did you give back? Are you taxed properly? Is society better off?
I’ll give you just a quick example, when the new bankruptcy laws were being rewritten during the Bush administration to make it more difficult for working people to file for bankruptcy. It was a bill the banks really wanted passed, and it was passed. And it was interesting looking at the Democratic Senators who voted for and against it. People like Hillary Clinton voted for it, or the Senator from my state, Michigan, Debbie Stabenow, voted for it. These are women who did not grow up with money, and these are women who belong to a gender who is hurt more by this than the gender you and I belong to. If you look at the people who voted against the banks, against the new bankruptcy legislation, you see the names Rockefeller, Kennedy, Kerry, Dayton, from the Dayton Hudson family in Minnesota. Those who came from money, who were millionaires, voted on the side of the people. It was a reminder to me that just because someone has money does not in and of itself make them a bad person. And, in fact, this country was founded by a bunch of wealthy land owners, Jefferson, Adams, Washington. I’m sure at the time reporters must have said to them, “You know, you guys have done very well by the King’s system. What’s your complaint? What are you whining about?” It was actually more impressive that they were willing to risk everything they had to for this country when they could have gone the easy route, which was to control the wealth that they had.