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30.6.04

The Cult of Michael Moore

This was just too funny not to mention. In an article (La secte Moore [The Moore cult], June 24) for Le Point, Patrick Besson tries to puncture the myth of Michael Moore for the French. In light of the recent knock-down, drag-out fights over Moore's latest opus here, this seems appropriate.

Michael Moore: a genetically altered José Bové. The next time that José blows up a McDonalds, he will first have to check that Michael is not inside! Moore is the first obese revolutionary in the whole history of the worldwide labor movement. It has to be said that Bowling for Columbine, his last film, brought in $120 million, which makes 120 million hamburgers. More or less.

Since communism disappeared, communists are everywhere. The problem is that they are no longer really communists. So, what are they? A group without an opposition. It's like an apartment without a toilet: you end up pissing in the sink. This is what Moore has just done with Fahrenheit 9/11: peepee in George W. Bush's sink. "Cinema is the most important art," said Lenin, who was anything but an artist. Michael Moore is not an artist either, but he has retained the lesson of the Russian ideologue and fights the war with his camera. He makes films that are a little heavy, like he is. He wants to steal from the rich to give to the poor: the problem is that the rich give him nothing and that he takes from the poor the cost of a movie ticket. Robin Hood is a funny guy: one wonders if he may not prefer vengeance to the truth. As his adversary lies, Moore takes advantage of it to distort what he says. In order to keep his scruples quiet for his cause's success, Michael in effect has no more scruples. It's obvious that he gets off each day even more on the terror that he inspires in his enemies. He says that he wants them to give America back, but I think that he would actually prefer that they give it to him. He thinks of himself, as I see it, as a charismatic American leader, Lincoln reflected in a funny mirror of the Foire du Trône. Having no party, he has founded a cult: the cult of Moore. He has followers all over the world, who commune in front of screens. The masses of spectators are not really masses but just tickets. People are also buying millions of his books. Four million for Stupid White Men.

I bought Michael Moore's last book—Tous aux abris! (Everyone Take Cover!) [in English, Dude, Where's My Country?] (La Découverte, €20)—at the Virgin Megastore on the Grands Boulevards. It's an excellent store: it has almost all of my novels. Moore has written a preface expressly for the French translation. At the root of all cults, there is devilishly good marketing. Michael complains that Americans don't travel abroad—87% of them supposedly don't even have a passport—and speak no other language than English. It's somewhat dumb: when you have a country that big, it's hardly worth the trouble of leaving it—and now the whole world speaks English. Two years ago, I read George W. Bush's book: it was better written, doubtless because the President of the United States, simply the governor of Texas at the moment the book was published in the U.S., had had the intelligence to take on a servant [un nègre]. Michael Moore writes all by himself. It's as if he hopes to change the world: all by himself. In my opinion, he will not be able to do it.

Everyone Take Cover! was a leftist pamphlet. The style is part Cavanna in the 70s, part Philippe Val in the 90s, with a taste of Jean-Luc Hees let go from Radio France. The left has been absent for far too long from American political life: this has created an ideological void which Michael Moore's sympathetic 150 kilos [330.7 pounds] have filled. His champion for the next American presidential election was nevertheless Wesley Clark, the man who wanted to unleash World War III in 1999 because Russian tanks had gone into Kosovo with NATO authorization. Move to the left, lefty!
I guess the French embrace of Michael Moore was not universal. If you want to know something about Patrick Besson, you can read his answers to the famous Questionnaire de Proust, as recorded by Roland Mihaïl and Antoine Silber on January 30, 2003, for L'Express. He published his first novel at the age of 17 and won the Grand prix du roman de l'Académie française less than 10 years after that. According to his interviewers, he is known for fierce and unpredictable opinions, "capable of writing for L'Humanité and Le Figaro in the same week." In response to the question, "What is the principal character of your personality?" he replied, "Intellectual brutality." The article includes a list of the other cultural and political stars who have answered the Proust Questionnaire for the magazine.

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