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Michael Moore and Emotionalism
In Dissent, Number Ninety-Six
by Brian S. Wise
25 March 2003

There is cool-headed, informed opposition.  And then there is Michael Moore.

After reading several accounts of last weekend's peace marches -- and the arrest totals, here and there initiated by the same sort of civil disobedience that lends illegitimacy to the idea of the peace march -- it finally occurred to me why the whole mess has proven so personally bothersome. It's not so much that the protests have existed, thick as some of them have been with anti-Americanism, or even the ignorance so often put on grand display there. Anti-Americanism and ignorance cross this desk every day; in news, in correspondence, in everything. It's quite a bit of nonsense, all in all, and if left unchecked to do it's damage, I'd have suffered a heart attack long ago.

No, what has proven annoying is the emotionalism so often employed above, and often instead of, logic. (Somewhere, Ayn Rand is smiling.) Protest is one of those things we are lucky enough to claim as a right, the condition being we are to assemble peaceably; that is, without blocking traffic on Lakeshore Drive, or hurling things at police. These are reactions to a swelling tide, to be sure, but emotionally driven, and invalid in relation to any legitimate cause. It is possible, I suppose, to faithfully examine both sides of the Iraqi matter and honestly decide a forced regime change is not the answer. If intellect and ideology are both properly served, paint your signs and exercise your right to assemble, peaceably.

To see high school and college kids abandon their classes at a scheduled time to take to the streets and protest seems, well, all at once wonderful and premature, to be perfectly honest. Wonderful because the students have finally found something that rouses their sense of civic responsibility. Premature because they are vastly underdeveloped as intellects and thinkers, and therefore prone to fits of unrestrained emotionalism in wisdom's stead. But you expect the youth to be uninformed, that's their bit, the hope being that with maturity a proper consideration of the world around them will develop.

Not to be outdone in the annals of childish emotional fits and self-congratulatory back slapping, the Academy Awards. Actually, with each winner given just forty-five seconds to bask in their own wonderfulness, there wasn't a whole lot of dissent beyond "Hey gang, let's have peace and all that jazz." (No problem there; I want peace, too.) Celebrities opposing the war and speaking of peace isn't the problem, the strident elitism employed in the course of their opposition is the problem. Knowing that they are not more informed than the Pentagon would serve all of them well.

Michael Moore was the exception; he is often the exception when the mood of the moment is quiet civility. I should say I have rather enjoyed pockets of Moore's work in the past, but I have not read Stupid White Men (a topic so vast you could have sworn the book would have been much, much longer), and I have not seen the film for which he won his first Oscar, Bowling for Columbine. Moore garnered a partial standing ovation before taking the stage and getting to the point: "We like nonfiction and we live in fictitious times. [Huzzah!] We live in the time where we have fictitious election results that elects [sic] a fictitious president. We live in a time where we have a man sending us to war for fictitious reasons. Whether it's the fictition of duct tape or fictition of orange alerts [sic], we are against this war, Mr. Bush. Shame on you, Mr. Bush, shame on you! And any time you got the Pope and the Dixie Chicks against you, your time is up."

It just so happens I agree with Moore on the color-coded warning system: it's the silliest idea Republicanism has managed in quite some time. As to the rest we are left to wonder if Moore 1) believes John Kennedy's election results to be fictitious, given the bought-and-paid-for irregularities in Chicago, 2) was aware that the duct tape and plastic sheeting thing was a bad ad-lib suggestion and not official policy, 3) the Dixie Chick (her name eludes me, but all women have names, that doesn't mean I'm obligated to know them) is no different from any other celebrity protest, in that it's irrelevant to policy, and 4) dropping precision guided bombs and driving tanks are decidedly secular experiences.

Even mtv.com (not a Republican vehicle, it should be said) got the right idea, noting Moore's act ("spittle-flecked ululations") was "so over-the-top, that even the Oscar crowd -- his natural constituency, you might think -- erupted in a storm of boos." The point is that one does not engage in spittle expulsion in casual conversation, unless he's had a stroke. Unchecked and blind rage takes you there; within blind rage there is no reason, no chance to consider, only react. Goddammit Moore, if there can be such a thing as a conspiracy to put George W. Bush into office and a conspiracy to get Bill Clinton out of office, there can be a conspiracy among outlaw Arab States and terrorist organizations to one day attack and cripple the United States. The war proceeds in hopes of avoiding such a thing, and to restore freedom to Iraq. The sooner we at least acknowledge these, the better. 

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