Michael Moore appeared on Piers Morgan Tonight! last tonight to talk about Occupy Wall Street, which he has already said might be the subject of his next movie. Sure! It obviously fits in with his whole thing, not only as a follow-up to Capitalism: A Love Story (which I admittedly turned off in anger after he interviewed WALLACE SHAWN for no reason) but even going back to his first movie, Roger & Me, which was basically Occupy General Motors. It’s perfect material for him! Great! But last night’s interview hit a snag during the very first question when Piers Morgan brought up a question submitted on Twitter (is this show on CNN?!) (I also have a problem with the fact that this show is taped in front of a live studio audience and that there is a camera boom doing these sweeping audience scans, because it’s counter-productive to having serious, intimate, in-depth interviewing? But that is for a post called The Piers Morgan Problem that I will almost certainly never write.) Piers said that he wanted to ask Michael Moore a tough question about his personal wealth right at the top of the interview to show that they’re impartial, which, that’s again going into my lengthy exposé on Piers Morgan, because what nonsense, BUT the unnecessary placating of false impartiality aside, it actually IS a very good question.

Since Michael Moore has benefitted so greatly from capitalism, why does he fight so hard against it?

That’s a great question! Not because it’s sticking it to Michael Moore but because more people who have benefitted from capitalism yet also have human souls and intelligent concerns about the distribution of wealth should fight against it. It’s a great question because it demands a great answer. So, just answer the question, Michael Moore. Oh, instead you are just going to hem and haw and vociferously deny that you are in the 1%? Well, that is at the heart of the Michael Moore problem. Let’s examine it. But first, let’s watch the clip:


Oh, this is so painful to watch! I just hate liars so much, and not only is it clear that Michael Moore is in the 1%, which is fine by the way, like, let’s just get that squared away right now: as a symbol, the “1%” is very powerful, but it doesn’t automatically turn every millionaire into some kind of criminal. There are a lot of people out there who have a lot of money, and some of them got it by creating intricate, opaque and secret financial instruments resulting in the collapse of the global economy while simultaneously increasing their own salaries and bonus structures, and some people made it by creating thoughtful documentaries (or Kanye West songs), it’s just not a blanket thing. But, so, if you’re in the 1% just be in the 1% and if you’re a decent human being have some respect for the rest of us, basically. You don’t have to LIE about it on TELEVISION. Even worse are the lengths he’ll go to squirm out of it. Like, you are seriously going to compare your movies to Avatar? There is actually no deeper proof that you are an out-of-touch millionaire than by comparing your income to the income of James Cameron. “You think I’m rich? Look at this fucking billionaire over here.” Right. Poor you. He also makes this weird argument that he can’t be rich because every dollar he would get he would use to make his movies. Well, that is literally the definition of capitalism, basically, right? Like, you get money (capital) from your business and you reinvest that money (capital) into your business, and as long as there is a (free) market for your business, you will get more money and so on and so forth. Whatever you choose to spend your money on, Michael Moore, doesn’t mean you don’t have that money. (I also don’t equate a well-meaning but somewhat self-aggrandizing documentary in which you regularly appear and your name gets top billing with, you know, CHARITY.) Oh, he is just so infuriating!

This isn’t a new thing, obviously. Michael Moore has been ducking questions about his personal wealth for awhile. Obviously, you can understand how being rich doesn’t quite jibe with being a populist hero, but that’s basically false. There are lots of populist heroes who were rich. For example, Karl Marx. He was born into wealth and that is how he got to go to school and learn all the stuff he learned in order to become a populist hero (the most populist of heroes of all, some might say). You can have money AND be a good person, hopefully. I mean, our world as it exists is built on money, so let’s hope someone is still good somewhere. As far as Mr. Moore is concerned, we don’t have access to his ATM receipt, but the website “Celebrity Net Worths,” which is already probably the best website, does have what seems like a pretty reasonable analysis of his earnings putting him at 50 million, and even if it’s off by, oh, a statistically improbable 75%, which seems unlikely, that still puts him at MILLIONS AND MILLIONS. (Not to mention the fact that I think it’s off and it barely even takes into account his TV show and the multiple best-selling books he’s written.) He’s rich. The end. So, while I’m sure wearing a Michigan State hat and a food-flecked Hanes t-shirt does wonders for Michael Moore’s average Joe image, certainly it’s far less effective than just being HONEST and TRUTHFUL. Think, for example, of Warren Buffet’s recent op-ed in the New York Times in which he challenged congress and President Obama to raise taxes on the rich that would force them to pay their fare share. That was a good op-ed! It was well-reasoned and pretty populist in tone, and it was written by someone who was, wait for it, SO RICH. (It’s also notable that Warren Buffet, much like Michael Moore and his Michael Moore Halloween Costume that he’s always wearing, lives in a modest home and drives a Ford, but unlike Michael Moore, he very clearly does these things because he wants to, not because he’s trying to hide the fact that he’s one of the richest men in the world.) It’s fine.

Michael Moore actually has interesting and important things to say about the state of the world, and very few people in the entertainment industry have done more than he to use the powerful tools of the mainstream entertainment complex to take a momentary pause from our collective wish-fulfillment obsessions with material wealth and casual sex and actually LOOK at the broken, injurious structures we’ve built for ourselves (or in which the poorer among us find themselves inadvertently trapped). This is a good thing and he should keep doing it. But nothing does more damage to his reputation and his integrity and gets in the way of the work he’s trying to do than being dishonest about himself. It opens him up to sharper attacks from opponents, but even for those who might agree with him about a lot of things (probably not all things, the guy’s a bit histrionic, self-important, and all over the map. But still, he tries) it makes him look terrible. No one likes a liar, Michael Moore.

It’s a problem!

Comments (76)
  1. We need people in the 1% to stand WITH the 99%. Like Warren Buffet is doing. Kind of. He’s just wasting our time and standing in the way. No one is going to take away his blue collar card. Jesus.

    • This is my whole issue w/ Moore. His heart is in the right place, but his personality makes his work insufferable. I end up feeling bad for the very wealthy he assaults out of context with his microphone and camera crew and I really hate those guys. He needs a new approach bc being such a blowhard makes it too easy for right wing jerks to dismiss any good his films have done.

      • Might Magazine made fun of him one time back in the 90s in a funny article. The dude tries to ambush Moore with a bullhorn and a guy in a gorilla suit but he can’t score an interview. So he does the whole piece about wandering around New York with the bullhorn and gorilla suit guy. Its pretty funny.

  2. Someone get Michael Moore a tumblr account already jeez: http://westandwiththe99percent.tumblr.com/

  3. I want to see a reality show about him and Jay Mohr becoming roommates. It will be called “Moore And Mohr Have Problems.” Either that, or “Gary Unmarried.”

  4. I am so excited to see which as-yet-unwritten comment in this thread will be the week’s lowest rated. Maybe even… this one?

  5. “And moving up a notch from number 348 to number 347… Morgan Spurlock!”

    • at first i was all like “that isn’t morgan spurlock”…he copied the wrong image!
      and i was going to make a joke about this being Michael Moore

      but then i got it, and i was all like “ooooh”. but still, that picture of Danny Devito is always worth posting.

  6. Maybe he got confused and thought the 1% was referring to body fat.

  7. I want to start quoting A Room of One’s Own at Michael Moore so very much. I will abstain from doing it here because I suspect not everyone would find it as interesting as I do, and also I am a very lazy person.

  8. It’s weird that he’s so evasive about his wealth, since the way he got rich is a standard variation on the American dream. This is exactly the sort of thing that people respect and admire in our country, and it’s not at odds with populism.

    “Make something with integrity that people value and profit from your talent and efforts.” – the American Dream

    • Is the variation you refer to the “integrity” part?

      • No. I used that word because film making isn’t exactly a standard line of work that people associate with “regular folks”. I believe that when most people think of the American dream it tends to be something like opening a successful store or inventing a useful new product, and that commercial art is a variation on that theme.

  9. Zizek does the fat madman just so much better.

  10. Fixed that hat for you, Mike.

  11. I thought this post was about how Michael Moore farted on the show, or something, and Piers Morgan asked him if he farted, and Michael Moore being like, “No, no I did not,” but Piers Morgan is like, “You have benefitted so much from food, how can you not take responsibility for this fart?”

    Then I realized it pretty much was.

  12. But where does he stand on Keeping Up With The Kardashians?

  13. Gabe’s correct here; as an activist myself it can be painful to watch someone like Michael Moore try to explain how they can be wealthy and anti-capitalist. Historically a great number of wealthy people have been involved in the socialist movement – for instance, Marx’s friend Engels was also part owner of a textile mill, and there were examples of “red” millionaires during the late 19th and early 20th century supporting the socialist movement. During the French revolution a whole section of aristocrats were part of the revolt… wealth and power don’t mean you can’t support a just cause. In fact Marx himself, put it at his wordy best in the Manifesto:

    “Finally, in times when the class struggle nears the decisive hour, the progress of dissolution going on within the ruling class, in fact within the whole range of old society, assumes such a violent, glaring character, that a small section of the ruling class cuts itself adrift, and joins the revolutionary class, the class that holds the future in its hands. Just as, therefore, at an earlier period, a section of the nobility went over to the bourgeoisie, so now a portion of the bourgeoisie goes over to the proletariat, and in particular, a portion of the bourgeois ideologists, who have raised themselves to the level of comprehending theoretically the historical movement as a whole.”

    • To be fair, I don’t think Michael Moore is anti-capitalist and I don’t think he claimed to be. He’s against certain practices of the financial industry and he takes issue with corporate greed, but that doesn’t mean he thinks people shouldn’t be able to engage in any capitalistic behavior at all.

      I watched a few minutes of this last night, and while he has a half assed take on a lot of things, there was one example of greed he brought up that I thought was an excellent illustration of the practices which need to be curtailed. He said that in the 80s, when GM started sending jobs overseas, the company was already making a $4 billion profit. But since that apparently wasn’t enough, they tossed aside the workers and towns (he mentioned Flint, no duh) that built up the company in the first place. That’s not so much anti-capitalist as it is pro-worker. He doesn’t want to redistribute their profits, he wants them to act with a sense of social responsibility.

      • True, but the contemporary sense of capitalism has basically become equivalent to corporate greed in the sense that one is expected to maximize profit at all times. Corporate leaders, after all, have a fiduciary duty to do so. So, to cut your workers an even break because “they are your people” would be seen as something other than capitalist, i.e. socialist.

        • Someone put it to me that “in the old days” corporations were responsible to their employees, their community, and their shareholders in that order. But, now it’s shareholders and nobody else.

      • This I think needs to be the real focus of the Occupy movement.

        I think capitalism is being made into an enemy, when in reality it is just a neutral philosophy that has been used in terrible ways. As thedevilprobably said, it’s the greed of the powerful that is being seen as the working definition of capitalism. I’m not arguing that we don’t need to instate serious regulations on the system, or that it hasn’t been too easy for the 1% to establish long-standing patterns that further alienate the poor, but I don’t think the answer to our problems is to do away with ‘capitalism.’ But again, I think I’m defining capitalism in a more classical way than much of the current protesting movement, and it’s also a more textbook way than the current ‘working’ system actually acts.

        • During the interview (I don’t remember if it was during the taped portion or during a break), Moore said we should go back to capitalism “as it used to be,” when companies would reinvest profits into their own companies instead of sitting on that money in order to, as he theorized, use it as a buffer when “the other shoe drops.”

          He was really talking up this sort of Golden Age of Capitalism where a person could put in “an honest day’s work” for 8 hours and be sure he’d see that money come back to him in the form of salary and benefits rather than having benefits cut more and more until finally seeing his employer ship out overseas.

          I don’t know enough about economics or business to know if there’s any truth in that, but it gave me the impression that he’s not “anti-capitalist,” just feels the system needs reform and increased regulation.

          (Although, then again, he’s also talked about “redistributing wealth,” in the past, so. Shrug.)

          • I think Moore envisions the “Golden Age of Capitalism” as being the mid-20th Century, when the economy was in a boom, regulations and taxes were high, and organized labor was powerful. This meant that there was plenty of work to go around, labor and corporations were at a more level playing field, the middle class was actually growing as a result of making comfortable wages, and regulations/taxes were such that the robber barons of the past weren’t as prominent, meaning there wasn’t as vast a chasm in wealth between the middle class and the rich. That was a pretty good time for America! (Unless, of course, you were black, hispanic, gay, or a woman, but let’s forget that for now!)

            That’s a long-winded way of saying that Michael Moore needs to figure out how to stay out of his own way when conveying a really legitimate message.

      • I think his current rhetoric is more closely aligned with the people in the movement decrying Capitalism, not just specific examples of its excesses. It seems like extremist rhetoric, but, after all, it makes little sense to separate the excesses from the whole economic system. As other commenters have pointed out, they are its result; they aren’t things that lie outside of the economic system we practice but inhere in it.

  14. Excellent job deflecting to James Cameron. I’m glad someone is finally taking a stand against the .01%.

  15. President Obama, before you address the nation, we’d like you to comment on twitter response “@CalvinJRnB #DONTHOLLAATME if u got kids.” Thoughts?

  16. I also didn’t watch this on the plane bc Michael Moore’s “aww shucks” persona makes me very upset considering its juxtaposition to his field of filmmaking.
    And I cant watch either of these men w/out yelling at the TV and I really didn’t want the air martials to kick my ass.
    That in-flight map channel was killing it last night… Until I found Accused at 17, which was very Lifetime. (Very Tanya?)

  17. He should have stopped at Bowling for Columbine. He just makes us look bad now.

    • Eh, Fahrenheit 9/11 was also on point and quite ahead the curve, actually. Remember when he got booed at the Oscars for saying what everybody now believes is true?

    • All of his films have really valid points and are generally done really well. He just needs to learn how to rest his case before he injects himself into the narrative.

      • All the upvotes in the world for this. Tell the story, Mike. Don’t be part of it. I absolutely loved Sicko (by “loved” I mean “was repulsed by the facts portrayed in”). Until he took people down to Cuba and got them medicine and put on that weird sanctimonious-grandma face that he does sometimes that makes me want to make my dad proud and become a Republican. (Kidding of course, but the point remains. I hate that weird face he makes when he’s getting all righteously indignant.)

  18. I’m glad to see he came on the show in his finest threads.

  19. Side question, but still totally relevant: how come the conservative pundits on TV are always attractive and dressed to the nines and the liberals are bearded shlumps in tweed jackets and/or Michael Moore?

    The liberals need better spokespeople.

  20. I was at this taping last night! Luckily, I’m too tiny to properly show up on camera.

    I am noooot exactly a fan of Michael Moore’s and really dislike his tendency to paint complex issues as black and white with no sense of nuance, but appreciated that he made the effort to try and ask questions or bring up issues during the televised broadcast that people in the audience voiced during the commercial breaks. So, that was nice, I guess.

    The big issue I have with Moore, though, is that he’s co-opting a movement and this sort of nebulous sense of frustration among The Average American ™ to suit his own purposes (because, as Gabe pointed out, it’s PUHRETTY likely that he’ll use OWS as fodder for another non-Avatar documentary). And by doing that, he’s providing American viewers at home with an incomplete if not totally inaccurate picture of what “the 99 percent” is about.

    During the interview, he said he blamed corporations “100%” for this country’s current economic issues, including lack of available jobs, and felt it was unfair to fault the American people for a lack of personal responsibility. I’m not sure who elected him to be the face and voice of OWS or of, like, America’s woes in general, but I don’t think many (most?) people in the audience agreed with his take on who or what is exactly to blame for the trouble we’re in.

    The impression I’ve gotten from People-Who-Are-Not-Michael-Moore is that 1) this isn’t entirely a partisan issue, 2) corporations are to blame and should be held accountable for this, yes, but so is government and Americans themselves for, say, purchasing things they cannot afford.

    As a self-appointed mouthpiece, it seems Moore isn’t interested in standing up for views that don’t really match his own thesis. Then again, maybe someone who is on the more extreme end of something needs to be loud and heard and put on TV so that people who are more moderate will look and say “Ok, problem o’clock! This guy is onto something! Let’s take a look but maybe reel it in a bit.”

    • Part of the problem is that some of those people at the extreme end are already on TV every day. The problem is that they’re on channels like CNBC and are given insta-credibility, even when they chose to deride the OWS people and pander to corporate interests.

  21. Its easy to forgot how big of a number 1% is, like when comparing it to 99% for instance, but 1% is still a REALLY big slice, at least when talking about a population sized statistical pool. So like, according to Michael Moore’s reasoning, if it were him and 99 other randomly selected U.S. citizens all in the same room, he would be SHOCKED if he were to find out he were the wealthiest among them. That is patently absurd and I really hope he is aware of that.

  22. “I got 99% problems but me rich ain’t one.”
    Ha ha I made you think of Michael Moore rapping

  23. As Micheal Moore said, he is a documentary film maker, not James Cameron making billions from Avitar and Titanic. He likely makes an income than many of us don’t but I doubt he is anywhere near the 1%. The fact that you don’t even know the difference proves his point as to the way the whole system has been rigged starting with Reagen. The 1% would consider Moore to be a pauper. People are just finally starting to realize how far out of wack deregulation and shipping all the jobs off to 3rd world hell holes, has destoyed the whole country. Micheal Moore is not against capitalism. That was the system that allowed the middle class to arise, lead to decent jobs, standards of living, decent public education and allowed families to send their kids to college and perhaps get a little further up the economic ladder than they did. Then the 1% decided they wanted it all. And they got it. Capitalism was replaced by corpratism. It may take a few years you see it but I garentee it, there will be blood.

    • I’m pretty sure he’d have no problem drinking your milkshake. He drinks it up.

    • Well by the technical definition (as of 2008, the top 1% of earners made over $380,000 a year), Michael Moore is definitely in the 1% category. Granted I got that definition from Wikipedia but it seems like it is unlikely for it to be off by over $49 million. He is nowhere near the middle class regardless of whether or not he uses his money to make more movies. I understand the point you are trying to make about what the 1% actually represents but lets not pretend that Michael Moore is not rich as hell due at least in part to the current capitalist atmosphere.

    • Well put!! Michael is against corrupt capitalism not capitalism!!

  24. karl marx? looks like someone is showing his true colors (which is red)

  25. This is absolutely the best comment thread on this website I think I’ve ever read. I literally LOL-ed about seven times.

  26. Lets again distract from the work he’s doing by writing a lame blog entry about whether or not he’s in the 1% or not. He’s able to produce and distribute great works regardless of his economic status.

  27. “No one likes a liar, Michael Moore.”

    More importantly, his lying about such a obvious truth will discredit his documentary work in a lot of people’s eyes. This man can’t admit that he is rich, yet we’re expected to believe the truth-telling in his films. Nope ^__^

  28. Just as a point of clarification, Marx may have come from wealth but he struggled with money his whole life. He had trouble finding work and sacrificed much of his potential earnings to his writings. Engels basically bankrolled him. Engels money came from his father’s factory so it is ultimately ironic that the money that enabled Marx to criticize capitalism came from exploiting the workers. The elite can advocate and push against the system that allowed them to succeed but they should be upfront about it.

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