Michael Moore’s new film Capitalism: A Love Story was heavily promoted at the Venice Film Festival. It was virtually ignored when it came time to hand out the prizes.
Why is that? Moore used to be the critical darling of the media for standing up to what he (and many others) saw as atrocities committed by the government every day. He was one who gave the outraged liberals a voice and a medium to vent their frustrations. People responded to him in droves, driving one of his documentaries to gross over $100 million dollars. This is not about his politics. Something about his films was capturing the attention of many. He was pretty much guaranteed any award at any festival he attended.
So what happened here? Well, one need look no further than the trailer. It is not the film people have come to expect from Moore: giving a voice to national outrage. What the film is is Moore firing his anger in the completely wrong direction. He is angry at the last people he should be angry with. His stunts, which his documentaries depend upon, are weak and were guaranteed not to work. Moore is the outraged liberal who is angry at liberal actions. He wants to blame someone for the financial crisis and the bailout. But the government he supports are the ones who are really pushing for it. I am fully aware Bush is the one who did the first bailout, but so what? By that time, he was the lamest of ducks who merely wanted to please a Democratic Congress. More finds himself in a difficult position. How can he blame his political party?
The answer: he doesn’t. And in not doing so, he reveals a weakness in his technique and in his voice. He makes a film about capitalism without understanding what capitalism is. I believe Adam Smith would have some things to say about a government bailing out businesses and how that should not be the role of the government.
The trailer starts with Michael Moore wandering into the AIG headquarters looking to make a citizens arrest. Hmm…most states define citizens arrests as citizens arresting another citizen who they have personally witnessed committing a felony. Even if the CEO of AIG committed a felony, I highly doubt that Moore was there to witness it. He (and we) are meant to act surprised when he is not allowed to do so. Well, Mr Moore, imagine is some random man came into your place of business and wished to do the same to you. Would you allow that individual to do so? Of course not. It was destined to fail. Such a stunt is not biting, it is not memorable. It is merely a stupid exercise to pad out running time.
Moore also gets many congressmen on camera. One compares the bailout to an intelligence operation. She compares Wall Street to the CIA, but last I checked, it was a nation’s government that performs such operations. Maybe this was meant to illustrate that it was well orchestrated, but I highly doubt that. Would a business attempt to go under so they can buy Congress? I do not even wish to imagine how that staff meeting would have gone over. Another Congressional oversight officer is asked point blank, where our money is. He gets no response. Again, such a broad question cannot be properly answered. Everything else about the film rings hollow. Moore calls for a rebellion against the people “who have everything.” Who might those people be?
Moore gets it wrong. He is right to be outraged about the bailouts. I share his sentiment there. But he is wrong to blame Wall Street. Wall Street merely took free money. The government used it to get CEOs to step down, to demand what products can be manufactured, to help create a centralized economy. That is not capitalism in the laissez faire sense. That is barely even capitalism in the Keynesian sense. How Moore can use the incident to promote socialism while claiming capitalism is evil is beyond me.
I will do a more thorough examination of the film as soon as I can.