Raging Bull

Kerry's a wuss. Dubya's a doof. How can anybody vote for either of these clowns?

The fact is that Best Of guides, when executed with integrity, act as a practical guide to a bewildering urban landscape. Yes, you identify your favorite Mexican food joint, and the owner of that establishment feels kindly toward the newspaper. Certainly. But the other 200 restaurants that sell burritos and that didn't get selected bear a grudge. And no matter what advertisers might think, it is the single most popular issue of the year with readers and represents less a sellout than a break from the other 51 issues of doom and gloom.

But Moore's simple-minded, clenched-fist rhetoric isn't what bothered me.

This clown had just folded his newspaper in Flint, Michigan. All of his writers, editors, salespeople, circulation staff and business support were left to fend for themselves without so much as a severance package to see them through while he dashed off to the job at Mother Jones in San Francisco (Mother Jones would show him the door before his cup of coffee had a chance to cool). Perhaps if he'd paid attention to the needs of his staff, took care of business and published the occasional Best Of, his paper would still be alive.

The characters of the 2004 election: a liar, a wuss, and a doof.
illustration by Daniel May
The characters of the 2004 election: a liar, a wuss, and a doof.
Anti-war, anti-Bush ASU professor John Jota Lea–os 
reviews artwork with student Brigitte Ochoa.
Jackie Mercandetti
Anti-war, anti-Bush ASU professor John Jota Lea–os reviews artwork with student Brigitte Ochoa.

Instead, he begged money off liberals. He had musicians like Harry Chapin do fund-raising concerts. The problem was, his rag was never good enough journalistically to sustain the charity.

When he wore out his welcome in publishing, he turned to movies and proved himself a natural.

Every single fact that I state in Fahrenheit 9/11 is the absolute and irrefutable truth," claims Moore. "Do not let anyone say this or that isn't true. If they say that, they are lying."

In fact, Moore's movie begins with a forgery that would shame even Dan Rather. The film is so filled with lies, distortions and half-truths that sorting out the truth is a cottage industry on the Web.

At the start of the movie, Moore trots out the conspiracy theory that Bush stole the election in Florida. Never mind that a six-month-long probe by a consortium of media that included the New York Times, the Washington Post and CNN contradict Moore.

As the film opens, a newspaper from Bloomington, Illinois, the Pantagraph, is flashed on the screen. Dated December 19, 2000, the headline over the story reads: "Latest Florida Recount Shows Gore Won Election."

But there was no such story in the Pantagraph on December 19. There was no such story ever in the Pantagraph.

On December 5, there was a letter from a reader alleging that Gore won, and that letter had a headline, "Latest Florida Recount Shows Gore Won Election."

So Moore cut and pasted a headline on a letter to the editor. He blew up the letter's headline, then ran that headline under the newspaper's logo to make it appear as if it were the headline on a news story.

At least Dan Rather was duped by forged documents; he didn't create forged documents.

Moore's distortions are more clever than his lies.

Bush is infamously captured at a dinner of elegant swells telling the obviously idle rich, "I call you the haves and the have-mores. Some call you the elite; I call you my base."

One cannot help but think of Bush, what a smug puissant.

But this is just Moore's class warfare meant to seduce an audience whose members suspect that they have not been invited to the country club.

The film footage is, in fact, from a charity dinner with a tradition of having speakers mock themselves and the audience. Rather than breaking bread with robber barons, Bush was helping to raise more than a million dollars for the medically indigent. Al Gore attended the same dinner on October 19, 2000, and he also lampooned himself: "The Al Smith Dinner represents a hallowed and important tradition, which I actually did invent."

Instead of actually looking at the president's foolish tax policies, which purport to create jobs by giving refunds to the rich, Moore prefers to fuel the fantasies of the bobbleheads who thrill to his documentaries.

I think playing to the prejudices of boobs coarsens the discussion.

Arizona author David Hardy is a Tucson attorney who spent a decade with the Department of the Interior, all the time longing to leave Washington, D.C., and return to desert sunsets. His work Michael Moore Is a Big Fat Stupid White Man challenges the lies and distortions of Moore's movies and books.

Hardy's book was published before Fahrenheit 9/11, but the author believes he recognizes Moore's core audience.

"Moore is maybe the most brilliant propagandist ever," said Hardy. "But the movie [only] energizes those tending to vote Democratic. I think everybody likes to hear confirmed what they believe."

Hardy was on both the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal best-seller lists. At one point, he was getting 40 e-mails and letters a day.

"Moore's fans are vitriolic," said the soft-spoken attorney.

"I managed to find one of your books at a local bookstore and I destroyed it, tore pages out, stuck gum between the pages. . . . I will stop by other local bookstores and destroy those books, as well," one Moore backer wrote to Hardy.

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