Sizing Up the Opposition

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Review of 'Stupid White Men', Michael Moore, Harper Collins £18.99

This book almost didn't make the shops. It was being printed when the planes crashed into the World Trade Centre. Any criticism of the US and the people who run it, the 'stupid white men' like Bush and Cheney, was deemed unpatriotic and unacceptable. So the publisher, Harper Collins (which is owned by Murdoch), refused to release the books for sale and at one point said it was going to pulp the 50,000 copies that had been printed.

A few weeks ago it eventually released the book, although it thought no one would buy a book attacking a president who had 88 percent approval ratings. The good news is that the book has gone to number one on the New York Times bestseller list, as well as a host of others. It has been reprinted at least 15 times, and everywhere Michael Moore goes to do a book signing thousands turn up to hear him speak.

Michael Moore, who made the film Roger and Me and is the author of Downsize This!, has long been a critic of inequality in the US. This book continues that tradition--it exposes the inequality between rich and poor, the racism and the power of the corporations, the collapse of the education system, the destruction of the environment, and how right wing George Bush and his cronies are.

The book begins with the presidential election result in Florida and looks at how Republican election officials, put in place by George Bush's brother, systematically excluded voters. Any voter who had ever committed a felony in their life was excluded. This meant that some 31 percent of black males were ineligible to vote. But the scandal did not stop there. Anyone who had a similar name, date of birth or social security number to a felon was excluded. In fact, if 80 percent of your personal details matched a felon you were removed from the voting list. Some 173,000 mainly black people were removed from the electoral list, and in some cases were prevented from even going to the polling booths by police set to ensure the 'felons' could not vote. The book also shows that if, you count the presidential votes, Bush actually lost.

The book is relentless in its criticism of Bush and the Republicans, but it is equally harsh on the Democrats. Moore argues, 'Bush is only the uglier and somewhat meaner version of what we already had throughout the 1990s.' He shows that Clinton and Gore's record was every bit as bad as Bush's. The only difference, he argues, was that they were cleverer about it. They pretended to be doing one thing while doing the opposite. Clinton said he was pro-choice while restricting abortion rights. He said he was pro-environmentalist while letting the oil companies exploit more areas.

The book finishes with a very strong defence of Ralph Nader's campaign for president, of which Moore was a prominent supporter. Not only does he argue that Nader was right to stand, but says that he and others should stand again against the Democrats: 'It was not us who abandoned the Democratic Party, but you who abandoned us,' he says. The focus on elections as a strategy for change has huge weaknesses that Moore does not address. However, it is clear that breaking the idea that the Democrats are a party that workers and activists should support would be a huge step forward.

The most important thing about the book is the huge enthusiasm with which it has been received. The fact it is so popular shows that the anger that gave us Seattle is still very much there.

Moore concludes by saying, 'I want us all to face our fears and stop behaving like our goal in life is merely to survive. Surviving is for wimps and a gameshow contestant stranded in the jungle or on a desert island. You are not stranded. You own the store. The bad guys are just a bunch of silly, stupid white men. And there's a helluva lot more of us than there are of them. Use your power. You deserve better.'