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Volatile Politics: A Tale Of Two Michaels

STUPID WHITE MEN MICHAEL MOORE (REGAN BOOKS)

THE SAVAGE NATION MICHAEL SAVAGE (THOMAS NELSON)

Where else but in an American bookstore can one find nestled in the bestseller racks two books that—while strikingly similar in so many ways—couldn’t be more different when it comes to politics, culture, society and the sources of (and solutions to) the problems that America faces in these troubling times?

On the surface, the commonalities are incredible: The authors are both scruffy, husky, middle-aged white entertainers with gigantic egos—and hey, who can blame them since they’ve both owned the top spot on the New York Times bestseller list? Plus, they both boast hilarious, outrageous and compelling points of view. (And, of course, they’re both named after the same archangel.)

But once you get below the surface, these popular pundits redefine the term “polar opposite.”

On the extreme left end of the spectrum is Michael Moore’s Stupid White Men … and Other Sorry Excuses for the State of the Nation (Regan Books). Most of us know Moore as the guerilla documentary filmmaker whose unconventional-yet-brilliant debut, Roger & Me, called attention to the unconscionable plight of the American autoworker, specifically in his hometown of Flint, Mich. Moore won an Academy Award for a Best Documentary based on his stinging critique of the American gun lobby in his latest film, Bowling for Columbine.

In Stupid White Men, Moore sustains a gigantic rant against President Bush (and the disputed election he won in 2000), Bush’s cabinet, Republicans, conservative politics, the economy, white men (and men in general) and the prison system, as well as what he sees as a lack of concern for the environment, the educational system, foreign policy, prisons and even wimpy Democrats.

And he does it with outrageous humor. In a diatribe about global warming, he suggests identifying common household items that “could serve as floatation devices” if the polar ice caps melt; he notes that one of the ways women can survive without men is by purchasing stepladders; and if black drivers want to reduce their chances of being stopped by police, Moore believes they should place life-size inflatable white dolls in their passenger seats. Just about every page is filled with some kind of chuckle-worthy quip.

Stupid White Men is also filled with hard-core reporting, and it’s extensively documented. One major problem, however, is that all of Moore’s radical substantiations are backed up by newspaper, magazine and web articles. And while no editorial policy compels Moore to present the fabled “other side” in Stupid White Men, the standard in periodical journalism is to at least attempt to obtain all perspectives on a given issue—and who knows if Moore simply plucked from those articles only what suited his beliefs while ignoring other facts or perspectives?

On the extreme right end of the spectrum is Michael Savage’s The Savage Nation: Saving America from the Liberal Assault on Our Borders, Language, and Culture (WND Books). Savage is a relatively new figure on the public stage, but he’s risen quickly through the ranks. His blustery Bronx accent can be heard every weekday afternoon on his top-rated syndicated AM radio talk show, also called The Savage Nation. At press time, it’s been syndicated to more than 300 stations around the country. In addition, Savage was signed by MSNBC to host a one-hour opinion-oriented talk show (also called The Savage Nation) on Saturday afternoons. The show began airing in March.

In The Savage Nation, Savage, with a Ph.D. in epidemiology and nutrition science from (gasp!) Berkeley, revs up the gusto and attacks liberals, Democrats, Bill Clinton, Hilary Clinton, Al Gore, the fascination with the 1960s, multiculturalism, terrorists, political correctness, feminism, Kwanzaa, gays and lesbians, abortion, the ACLU, biased media moguls, academia and PETA, as well as what he sees as out-of-control immigration, a diminished concern with keeping the English language the top dog in America and a leftist assault on Christianity.

Savage’s humor is literally that: savage. This streetwise intellectual is really angry, and while he tempers it with humor, it’s surprisingly not nearly as witty as Moore’s. Savage simply goes for the jugular: Believe it or not, his code name for what’s now his new TV home, MSNBC, is “More Snotty Nonsense by Creeps”; he calls liberals “red diaper doper babies”; and his section on “How to Pick up Liberal Women” is based on his theory that you can find liberal women at bookstore magazine racks. (Is Savage saying that conservative women don’t bother with activities like reading?)

Savage’s tone is often a distraction on some brave, brilliant commentary. Unlike Moore, the vast majority of Savage’s opinions are based on historical events and his interpretation of classical literature and philosophy, including works by Plato, Dickens, Emerson, Gibbon and many others. This actually gives The Savage Nation a much farther reach in terms of commentary than Moore’s Stupid White Men, since it mines wisdom from many ages and cultures. And even though The Savage Nation’s humor doesn’t have Stupid White Men’s bite, it offers the reader crucial entrée into Savage’s mind and heart–something Moore’s effort lacks in comparison.

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And you think either of these authors would let you get through their pages without hearing their views on God and faith? Not a chance!

Moore is a lifelong churchgoing Catholic, although his hilarious “Prayer to Afflict the Comfortable” calls on “Lord (God/Yahweh/Buddha/Bob/Nobody)” … now what’s that supposed to mean? Maybe he’s just pulling our leg again. The fact is, while Moore’s politics likely run counter to the vast majority of those in the church, it’s not hard to imagine Jesus attacking many of the same hypocrisies Moore takes to task in Stupid White Men. So while God isn’t a visible figure on his public platform, it’s quite likely that Moore’s take on God informs many of his views.

In The Savage Nation, the author is much more direct about his faith: In the entire chapter he devotes to “Christophobia: In Praise of Christianity,” Savage—citing Albert Einstein’s late-in-life turn to God—says, “I would say that if God was good enough for Albert Einstein, he’s good enough for Michael Savage.” Beyond that, Savage smartly champions school prayer, morality and the church as a major influence on public policy. Obviously, many of Savage’s views are colored by his belief in God, but no doubt many others are influenced by his read of the classics and philosophy.

Two killer books. Two wildly divergent views. Two very similar and very different authors named Michael.

Now if we can only get these guys to agree to a debate …

[REPRINTED FROM THE MAY/JUNE ISSUE RELEVANT MAGAZINE, AVAILABLE NOW.]

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