Richard Schickel, Time‘s movie critic and a one-time producer of documentaries no one remembers, is seeing red at the success of Michael Moore, whose box office blockbuster documentary, Bowling for Columbine, won an Academy Award earlier this year . Schickel and other Big Media hucksters just can’t fathom or tolerate Moore’s success–it infuriates them.
Moore, famous for his provocative populist documentaries, anti-corporate broadsides, and unapologetic attacks on callous corporations, opportunistic right wing politicians, and other social wrongs, is the genuine article, a hard working, blue-collar, against-all-odds success story. Moore’s first film, Roger and Me, exposed General Motors CEO Roger Smith and confronted him about the harm he did to the people of Flint, Michigan with his massive downsizing of the automotive giant. Moore raised money to produce the film, a critical and box office success, by running neighborhood bingo games in his home. Moore’s bestseller, Stupid White Men, a word-of-mouth phenomenon that took the nation and the publishing world by surprise, was almost rejected by the publisher. Editors demanded that Moore tone down his criticisms and dumb down the book. Only after librarians who had read advance copies put pressure on the publisher was Stupid White Men published as Moore wrote it. Stupid White Men, on the bestseller list for over a year, was by far the best selling nonfiction book in America last year and won the coveted Book of the Year award in Britain. Yet Big Media has done its dead level best to ignore Moore and his book. Reporting for AlterNet in late June of 2002, Don Hazen wrote: “For the first three months of the book’s release, Moore says, ‘I did not appear on a single broadcast network (NBC, ABC, CBS, FOX) show other than one appearance on Politically Incorrect – which on that particular night did not air until 1:05 am. Since then I have appeared only on the network show The Today Show – and only if I agreed to appear with a rightwing author (as they did not want to put me on alone, even though by then my book had been number one for four weeks). The book has been completely ignored by every single show on NPR and PBS, and 95 percent of the daily papers in the country, including The New York Times, have refused to review it.'”
Moore, eloquent in his criticism of corporate and political villainy, has become a modern day hero and is widely known as a selfless humanitarian. Leave it to a corporate media shill like Schickel to slander and smear a man like Michael Moore as a bullying know-it-all with a “ravenous ego.” Schickel’s attack on Moore’s character and his blockbuster movie Bowling for Columbine is not merely gratuitous insult. Rather, the attack takes pride of place occupying the first three paragraphs of eight in an article in the current issue of Time magazine, a piece ostensibly about three documentaries currently showing in theaters, documentaries made by other film makers. Schickel launches himself at his task as only a critic jealous of another writer’s deserved success and popular acclaim could. But it’s clear, too, that Schickel is doing the bidding of his Big Media masters, and it is increasingly difficult to ignore or forgive the transparent dishonesty and unmitigated mendacity of Schickel and the well-heeled thugs for whom he plies his trade. The Big Media moguls and their flacks live off the fat of the land, promoting and profiting from an industry the chief product of which is socially destabilizing violence, mayhem as entertainment, aimed primarily at young, naive, and impressionable audiences.
The truth is that entertainment industry movers and shakers fear Michael Moore, and justifiably so. Moore communicates an increasingly popular message that is antithetical to Big Media economic and political agendas, a message that endangers the media maven’s livelihoods and the entertainment industry’s revenue streams as it challenges the economic and political status quo. Bowling for Columbine represents a challenge to the entertainment industry, a challenge Big Media is afraid to ignore. It’s no exaggeration to write that the ever-expanding ethos of violence in American life and popular culture is the entertainment industry’s chief, most pervasive, and single most socially influential by-product. And, but for Hollywood’s relentless glamorization of violence and the impact of pervasive large- and small-screen violence on American culture, most Americans would never have supported and would soon reject out of hand the peculiar self-serving, self-justifying alliance of corporate and political criminals and Armageddon-seeking doomsday cultists who now have control of our government and what is, in effect, an inordinately powerful if unofficial Ministry of Media Propaganda. It’s an unholy alliance that disparages and endangers civil liberties here at home as it glorifies violence, interventionism, notions of pre-emptive strikes, and endless war against terrorism abroad, all of which severely undermine the norms of international human rights law, driving America and, by extension, human civilization as we know it, ever closer to the abyss.
Thoughtful, knowledgeable Americans have only recently witnessed a truly remarkable Big Media extravaganza, a parade of arrogant, deceitful war-mongers demanding, promoting, conducting, explaining, and justifying the Bush administration’s war in Iraq and branding dissenters as traitors. Against that backdrop, a Big Media propagandist’s claim that Michael Moore is an ego-maniacal bully is simply ludicrous, yet another manipulative economically and politically motivated attack, one that is as much an insult to readers’ intelligence and integrity as to Moore’s character and reputation. Such an attack on such a man as Moore would be astonishing, actually, were Schickel and company not so utterly predictable in their viciousness.
Freelance Investigative Journalist and Commentator Michael Gillespie writes about Politics and Media for Media Monitors Network (MMN). His work also appears frequently in the popular Washington Report on Middle East Affairs.