Why Is Michael Moore So Angry?

The divisive filmmaker talks the economy, Obama and why capitalism needs an overhaul.

Michael Moore has been redefining the documentary film genre for 20 years now, ever since he exploded on the scene in 1989 with his film Roger & Me, the most financially successful documentary of all time—a record he continued to break with 2002’s Oscar-winning Bowling for Columbine and 2004’s once-in-a-lifetime zeitgeist-making blockbuster (earning $120 million in the U.S. alone) Fahrenheit 9/11.

With 2007’s Sicko, Moore toned down the comedy and backed away from being a constant onscreen presence while stoking the intense debate over health care in America. It proved ahead of its time, earning just $26 million two years before the issues it covered became a constant front-page presence.

But now Moore is back with Capitalism: A Love Story, his whipsmart editing of old news and movie footage creating sharper contrasts than ever with his stark vision of America mired in near-deadly financial crisis. While he claimed this film would be cinematic bomb-throwing, unleashing his righteous anger at bigger targets than ever, its most shocking aspect is actually the fact that the film achieves a greater balance than he’s ever shown before. While he’s appeared to unequivocally support Barack Obama, in this film he saves some of his sternest warnings ever for the president.

Speaking before a packed house of several hundred UCLA students a week before the film’s Sept. 23 opening (limited to NYC and LA before playing everywhere on Oct. 2), Moore engaged in an impassioned Q&A (moderated by fellow liberal icon Arianna Huffington of The Huffington Post) that could make political believers of all stripes sit up and take notice. If this ability to bomb both sides of the political fence signifies a newfound maturity in his work, it’s a welcome change that bodes well for fascinating films to come.

Huffington: I want to start by asking you: what shocked you the most of all the things you've discovered?

Moore: I'm not shocked by much anymore. [But] I’m shocked to see the men in charge of our economy are in charge again so soon after they ran it with Clinton. I was shocked to see that airline pilots’ pay and work conditions could be worse than that of someone making bread in a factory. I think there's been a slow change in the last 30 years so that we barely noticed how far things were going wrong.

Nobody had a credit card when I was a kid. No one had credit card debt. But these big companies and banks wanted to know how to get more money out of people—get them charging things. Then banks gave kids 20-year loans for college. When we were in college we didn't have 20-year loans. We went to the aid office at college and got it from there, did work study and were not in the hole for the next 20 years from bank. We had pension plans, not 401(k)’s. Under Reagan came the idea of putting your pension plan in the stock market, which wasn't a guaranteed pension. Those changes come small and incrementally.

AH: You’ve said the movie has a scene made for an audience of one. Who’s that one and what’s the scene?

MM: I put a scene in for Obama, showing how much he got from Goldman Sachs and other big finance companies. I want him to know that we know, and I want him to know that I'm telling everybody else. I want to put him on notice that if he doesn't do what's in our best interests, if he takes the side of the banks and investment firms and their organized crime, if he doesn't side with us and sides with them, the next movie I do will make what I did to Bush look like a Disney movie.

AH: With Obama, he said we'd change direction but he seems to go in the same direction we were going. Businesses and government use fear to manipulate, it seems, no matter who's in power.

MM: Did anybody think last fall of taking all their money out of ATMs because it may not be there the next day? That's something about our American media - you don't find the constant scares in other countries. 

Have you ever tried to get a loan and all the personal info you have to put out and proof of what you're going to do with it? The paperwork the average person has to fill out for a measly $10,000 or $20,000 is ridiculous! Yet for banks to get billions, you had a two-page form with mostly white space on it to get a bailout loan from the Bush and Obama administrations. She's supposed to be in charge of bailout money, but the Fed has been printing trillions of dollars into the hands of banks and Chrysler.

The money to fund great things and innovations and programs is gone in our lifetime, it's all gone to debt. So we won't be able to solve global warming or have the transportation that we needed for the 21st century. We should be supporting people with great ideas but it's gone, and now it's gotta be paid back with interest to banks in China.

AH: So where do things go from here?

MM: I think the current system is going to collapse and be done away with regardless of what people with money want. 1 of 8 homes are being foreclosed. That’s one home every 7 ½ seconds. You do that to that many people, there's a tipping point because eventually people won't take anymore and when they get screwed, as we see historically, it's very easy to dupe people with fascism and get them to hate the others.

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Capitalism legalizes greed and our laws demand corporations have a fiduciary responsibility to their shareholders to maximize profits. They are legally required to make as much as possible within the code of law. Then they come up with life insurance policies and dead peasant insurance. Fine, it's not insurance companies' fault that they deny claims—the law demands that they do that!

You won't make as much money as possible if you're doling out money to the sick. You have to find how to deny, and that is a sick system. It’s been 20 years since Roger & Me and I’m just sick of it. The economic system is unfair, unjust, undemocratic. I want you and I to control this economy and to give us a say. It’s not a democracy just to vote every 2 or 4 years, because anthropologists are going to laugh at us someday the way we laugh at those who used leeches in the past.

Capitalism means it's okay for one guy to grab 9 slices of pie and leave crumbs for others. Capitalism says that's legal and correct, and we need to scrap it. It's not capitalism vs. communism. I just want us to go back to the rules created under Jefferson. I was really taught that we're supposed to share that pie and that it's harder for a rich man to get into heaven than to pass through the eye of a needle. I don’t support the evils wrought by the institution of Catholicism but I embrace those stories.

How many of you know we pay no FICA taxes if you make over $160,000? We pay 7 percent on all our income. If we ALL had to pay 7 percent we'd have enough money to last ‘til 2087 for Social Security, not 2017, but they don't tell us the rich don't pay at all. All we need to do is regulate. Make sure the factories stay open and the kids go to school. But society used to say you can't regulate child labor, you can't regulate slavery. But I say we need to regulate capitalism into a form of economy that goes back to democracy and moral ethics. I don't have a blueprint for what it is but I hope to stimulate others into thinking about it.




Kristina commented…

Do any of you understand the separation of church and state? Christianity is not democracy. It is not socialism. Religion and government are different, and they cannot be thought of as one and they same. Christ exemplified this in his life. He didn't go around talking to elected officials and trying to overthrow them. He didn't try to change the policies of the Roman government. He said "Give to Caesar what is Caesar's and give to God what is God's." He PERSONALLY reached out to the poor, and he didn't expect his government to do it for him. Furthermore, he said "Everyone who works will eat." He never said "Everyone who begs will eat, or everyone who I have pity on will eat."

Have we forgotten what the real problem is? Have we forgotten why we are broken? Why our government is broken? Why our world is broken? It is because people don't have Jesus in their lives. Not because they are hungry. Not because they are thirsty. Not because they have no clothes. BECAUSE THEY NEED JESUS. Changing our government policy won't fix the world. Leading people to Christ, the source of Living Water, will change the world.

Talk about socialism, democracy, and government policy all you want, but please PLEASE don't use "CHRISTIANITY" as a scapegoat to validate your opinions. Because socialism, democracy, and government policy are NOT what Christ is about.


C-Rad commented…

Uhhhh...last time I checked greed was an Equal Opportunity Employer...there are the fatcats of Communism and Socialism as well as Capitalism.

Some Reminders: No system is perfect and "God-like"; homeless people/the poor can be in their situation because they lost their jobs/experienced financial hardship OR were victimized by family/friends/society OR mentally ill OR in sin (lazy/unrepentant/proud/irresponsible)...to focus ONLY on one factor without the possibility of something being true AGAINST your prejudices can be either unproductive or worse, so self-serving that you want your opinion worshiped more than TRULY helping the needy.

About Michael Moore: as much as I disagree with some of his so-called "documentary" style ( NOT objective ) and proud-judgmental approach and most of his opinions, I very much want his questions and challenges included in the national debate....for I worry that a nation dominated by shouting down the other OR controlling the people either through the excesses of capitalism or socialism will in the end be a very shallow nation indeed. The U.S. is NOT that kind of nation, and for Michael Moore to enjoy the freedom of getting his message out and even benefiting us all if we are too calloused or short-sided in some issues, well.....I thank God for that!



Viktor commented…

seems like you don't know what spiritual discernment means... Where in the bible do you find a call for us to distribute charity according to some moral compass? Jesus served the poor and the sinners and did not question their morality but served all. Think about his love for us, did he love me and give me charity because I worked hard for it, or was it when I was his enemy in-spite of me? The have stolen your mind brother, capitalism is not biblical, might is right is not biblical, bur the right wingers attach this lie to social issues like abortion and make you think it's part of the package. I do not think laziness is ok, but that is something that a person needs to work out between them and God, who are you to demand morality from a fellow sinner?


Mikko from Finland commented…

I know this is old thread... I just watched "love story" and I can't help thinking that you didn't before this comment.

I think Michael Moore wanted to say that it's perfectly ok to get rich - as long as you don't scam people, throw them out of their homes or play with their lives and health. I doubt anyone lost a home or job just by watching Michael Moore documents.

Frederick Johnsen


Frederick Johnsen commented…

Michael Moore and I are for the most part on totally opposite ends of the political and social spectrum. Though I have agreed with a few things he has said I find him to be unethical, sometimes cruel and often hypocritical. Case in point was his treatment of Charlton Heston during an interview in "Bowling for Columbine." Heston was obviously suffering from the onset of Alzheimer's Disease and Moore used the interview to humiliate and shame an obviously not-well man, all for his political agenda. Moore likes to practice "ambush journalism" (if you can call what he does journalism) but becomes upset when people do it to him. For the most part Moore is a highly immature person with the mentality and personality of a snarky 15-year-old who thinks he's sharp and witty (my apology to 15-year-olds who actually are sharp and witty). As for Moore's take on Capitalism, it is like most of his views: shallow lacking any sort of complexity. His work does not look at deeper issues but seeks to play on emotions. He does not seek to inform or sway opinion with well-made arguments. Instead, Moore seeks to preach to the choir who already sing his song or to dupe the ill-informed. That is propaganda, nothing less. Will "Capitialism: A Love Story" be any different...probably not. We will have to see. While I too am sick of seeing greed as our national ethos, watching profits soar while wages drop, and see more jobs leave this country and more foreign goods pouring in I am not sure Moore is the person to make a cogent argument against Capitalism as we now know it. Even if he makes good point I think his reputation of bias will drown out much of what he has to say.

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