Michael Moore - Multi-media Polemicist Content from the guide to life, the universe and everything

Michael Moore - Multi-media Polemicist

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Towards the end of 2002, Michael Moore hit the best-seller lists on both sides of the Atlantic with Stupid White Men - a book his American publishers were reluctant to release, fearing that its scathing attacks on President George W. Bush would cause angry reactions at a time of international tension.

At the same time, Moore had an international hit film on his hands with Bowling For Columbine, a documentary about the astonishing levels of gun-related violence in the USA. It was Moore's second smash-hit documentary movie, following the film that made his name: 1989's Roger & Me.

Moore has also been a highly successful television performer and producer, with two hit series - TV Nation and The Awful Truth - to his credit. In every medium he's conquered, Moore's mission has been the same: to ask awkward questions about the state of America and the state of the world, while at the same time remaining highly entertaining. He has won a huge international following. In late 2002, BBCi users voted him Newsmaker of the Year.

Unsurprisingly, given the controversial nature of his work, Moore has also made some enemies. His detractors accuse him of being a privileged, hypocritical 'limousine liberal', and Moore doesn't deny that he's made a lot of money from his multi-media success. He also gets accused of being unpatriotic, since he criticises his homeland so strongly.

But to his many fans, Michael Moore is a hero: a witty, eloquent spokesman for the underdog, and a scourge of callous corporations and corrupt politicians.

The Man from the Motor Town

Michael Moore was born in Flint, Michigan, USA on 23 April, 1954. His political radicalism first came to public notice when, at the age of 18, he successfully stood for election to the Davison area board of education on a platform calling for drastic changes in local education policies.

The cornerstone of the local economy in Flint was the General Motors factory at which Buick cars were produced, and Michael Moore became a worker at the factory after leaving school. However, it took him less than a day to decide that the life of a car worker was not for him. Finding working conditions at the factory intolerable, he walked out of the job.

Instead, he pursued a career in journalism, founding a local alternative journal called The Flint Voice. Initially dealing with events in Moore's home town, it later grew into a state-wide operation and became The Michigan Voice.

In the mid-1980s, Moore was invited to move to San Francisco and become the editor of the liberal-left news magazine Mother Jones1. However, Moore's uncompromising style soon led to conflict with the magazine's owners, and he was fired after editing three issues.

So, in 1986, Moore found himself back in Flint and unemployed, just as a great many other residents of his home town also lost their jobs. General Motors suddenly closed the Buick factory, with devastating consequences for Flint.

It was this sad event that prompted Michael Moore to take up film-making...

Michael Moore Miscellany

In late 2002 Moore launched another new career. He became a stand-up comedian, with a series of performances at the Roundhouse theatre in north London that he described as 'one-and-a-half man shows' - the 'half a man' being George W. Bush. Moore's subject matter ranged from football to the Middle East conflict, and his style was typically confrontational. He caused some controversy with his observations about the behaviour of the passengers on the doomed aeroplanes involved in the events of September 11, 2001, but the shows received generally enthusiastic reviews.

Moore has made rock videos for two of America's leading political rock bands of recent years, Rage Against The Machine and System Of A Down.

The Moore-directed video for Rage Against The Machine's song 'Sleep Now In The Fire' depicted the band playing opposite the New York Stock Exchange. The lively crowd attracted by the video shoot on 26 January, 2000 made Stock Exchange staff so nervous that the doors to the Exchange were locked in the middle of a working day. Police were called to stop the video shoot, and Moore was detained.

However, contrary to some reports, he was not formally arrested. Reporting the incident on his official website, Moore referred to '...the police detaining yours truly for an hour until I persuaded them to keep my 100 per cent no-arrest record intact.'

Further Reading on h2g2

More Moore on bbc.co.uk

1The magazine was named in honour of Mary Harris 'Mother' Jones, the pioneering American trade union organiser.

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