Surprise, surprise. I actually found a leftist book heartening to read. I mean, one of my darkest fears is that the opposition is smarter than we are. But if this is the level of their intellectual leadership, we have nothing to fear. The last book I reviewed before this one was libertarian Dinesh D’Souza’s What’s So Great About America; they make an interesting contrast, particularly since the subtitle of Moore’s book is And Other Sorry Excuses for the State of the Nation, which he thinks is poor indeed. I didn’t agree with D’Souza, but he can make a coherent (if wrong) argument, and he doesn’t lie about facts. Moore, on the other hand, writes in a manner that would have gotten at D in Freshman Composition for both style and logic, and he piles on outright factual lies as if he were giving a speech and could count on nobody’s having the opportunity to check. In fact, the whole thing reads like a bunch of speaking notes from left-wing demonstrations – you know, the kind where pot-head trustafarian teenagers dressed like sea turtles nervously eye unemployed teamsters – he has spoken at over the years, stitched together by some twenty-something minion at the publisher. I feel genuinely sorry for the true believers on the other side who are shelling out $25 for this pap. I suppose I should be glad they’re rotting their minds on this stuff, but hey, I’m a compassionate conservative. And yes, I know this book is supposed to be humorous, but being funny (it isn’t) doesn’t excuse wrong arguments and untrue facts.
This book enables one to make a precise dissection of the state of the contemporary leftist mind. Start with the title: Moore has clearly cottoned onto the fact that leftism’s driving passion today is resentment. When I bought this book, I was wearing a suit and the salesclerk was a dumpy twenty-something woman with a vaguely punkish haircut. She mumbled something about "been meaning to read that one," and I thought, I’ll bet you have. Hatred of white males is the opiate of life’s losers. Moore has an entire chapter on, essentially, why he hates white men. Its charming title is "Kill Whitey." The sad thing about it is that he actually seems to think he’s going to get a racial sensitivity medal or something from the Waffen-PC. He actually expects people to be impressed with the fact that he, a white male, is running down white males. Gee! Never seen that before! I have, however, long been expecting white liberal guilt to make the jump to self-hatred, something the observant FP columnist David Yeagley has noted. Here’s Moore’s list:
"• Who gave us the black plague? A white guy. (Sorry, Mike, that would be the Asiatic Tartars.)
• Who invented PCB, PVC, PBB, and a host of chemicals that are killing us? White guys. (And penicillin.)
• Who has started every war America has been in? White men. (Hideki Tojo and Bin Laden?)
• Who is responsible for the programming on FOX? White men. (And who invented TV?)
• Who invented the punch card ballot? A white man. (And democracy?)
• Whose idea was it to pollute the world with the internal combustion engine? Whitey, that’s who (Give me the keys to your car right now.)
• The Holocaust? That guy really gave white people a bad name... (Who stopped it?)
• The genocide of Native Americans? White man. (I don’t see you moving back to Europe.)
• Slavery? Whitey? (And Blackey, Browney, Reddey, Yellowey, if such words exist.)
• So far in 2001, American companies have laid off over 700,000 people. Who ordered the layoffs? White CEOs. (Tell that to American employees of Honda, Toyota, Mitsubishi...)
• Who keeps bumping me off the Internet? Some friggin’ white guy, and if I find him, he’s a dead white guy." (p.58)
I’m not sure I understand the last one, and any reader of FrontPage will know that the slavery thing is a good bit more complicated, but you can probably come up with more examples of your own. This is not hard to do because – as I am generally discreet about saying but will say when provoked,
White males are responsible for ¾ of all significant human accomplishments.
There, I’ve said it. Now if Michael Moore wants to argue with that, I’ll gladly take him on, and his list. But I’d rather not hurt any more feelings than necessary, so let’s just leave it alone. Moore follows this chapter with a chapter entitled "the End of Men" which attacks the other half of the white male concept. He starts with some weird pseudo-scientific stuff about the declining male birthrate and then recites a litany of anti-male complaints that could have come out of one of those floppy cartoon books they sell at the front of bad mall bookstores. I won’t bore you with them.
This book’s first chapter is "A Very American Coup," in which Moore tries to breathe life back into the dolchstosslegende of the American Left: the idea that Bush stole the election of 2000. At a time when even Gore has conceded that he lost, this is just irresponsible. He has nothing original to add, but it’s worth noting which claims the Left is trying to keep alive. He promotes a number of stories that have been thoroughly exploded by investigation, both in the conservative press and by the relevant organs of the justice system:The claim that Florida secretary of state Catherine Harris deliberately purged black voters from the rolls under the cover of removing felons. This claim, which in our PC society would result in explosive legal action if it had any basis, is based on a spurious British Broadcasting Corporation story. The claim that 680 of Bush’s overseas ballots were invalid because they were not signed or postmarked in time.
3) The claim that decrepit voting equipment was deliberately placed in black neighborhoods.
Moore also has a string of other complaints about the election. He points out that some of the Supreme Court justices who voted on the question of stopping the recount have – gasp – ties to the Republican Party! Clarence Thomas’s wife worked for the Bush transition team! (Are these Republicans a vast right wing conspiracy or what? Surely no Democrats would ever do such a thing.) He tries to dismiss the well-known fact that a recount conducted months after the election by several newspapers found that Bush would have won even if the manual recount stopped by the Supreme Court had gone ahead by pointing out that Bush would have lost the recount if the standards used had been either a) the highly restricted ones some Republicans advocated or b) as inclusive as possible. Fine, Michael, but there’s no legal basis for either of those standards. Which is why they weren’t used, duh. And he whines about those poor half-blind retirees who voted for Pat Buchanan by mistake, as if we could base a democracy on who people mean to, rather than do, vote for.
Moore resuscitates a number of other old stories, either false or wild distortions, which he clearly hopes will mutate into canards that acquire the force of truth through repetition:The claim that Dick Cheney’s old company Halliburton Industries had illegal business dealings with Iraq (p.16) It was a foreign partly-owned subsidiary, Cheney knew nothing, and nothing was illegal. The claim that W.’s grandfather, Prescott Bush, made money trading with the Nazis during WWII (p.31) A twisted interpretation of legal business relations with German companies. The claim that Laura Bush at seventeen "killed a high school friend of hers when she ran through a stop sign and collided with his car." (p.42) Yes, but no crime was committed and no charges were filed. The claim that W. has felonies in his past, over 25 years ago. (p.43) Speculation. Prove it or shut up. Global warming is a fact (p.124) Twelve million American children do not get enough to eat. (p.233)
Some of Moore’s shocked announcements will probably just fall flat on conservative ears. He lists, with the air of an investigative journalist who has just found the mayor in bed with a hooker, all the corporate boards that various members of the Bush administration serve on. Well, golly gee! He’ll be telling us our economy is run for private profit next. Still, it’s nice to catalogue the fact that the hard Left considers this a sin. We can undermine the Democratic coalition by letting them know that their own people also serve on such boards.
So what’s Moore’s real beef with our president? He has a list (p.32) Out of the 48 things he lists, 16 represent spending cuts or their equivalent. About the rest, well, if you have left-wing political preferences, then you won’t like these things. No arguments for why they are bad are given. Moore also questions whether the president is illiterate (p.37) and whether he is an alcoholic. (p.39)
So how is the state of the nation so desperate? Here’s Moore’s list:
"We’re number one in millionaires. (Because we’re the world’s greatest economy.)
We’re number one in billionaires. (Ditto.)
We’re number one in military spending. (Because we are responsible for keeping the world at peace.)
We’re number one in firearm deaths. (Because liberals let crime get out of hand.)
We’re number one in beef production. (Beef production? Since when is the Left anti-beef, of all things?)
We’re number one in per capita energy use. (Because we’re the world’s greatest economy.)
We’re number one in carbon dioxide emissions... (Ditto.)
We’re number one in total and per capita municipal waste... (Ditto.)
We’re number one in hazardous waste produced... (Ditto.)
We’re number one in oil consumption. (Ditto.)
We’re number one in natural gas consumption. (Ditto; I’m getting bored here.)
We’re number one in the least amount of tax revenue generated [per unit GNP]... (i.e. low taxes; false anyway)
We’re number one in the least amount of federal and state government expenditure [per unit GNP]... (ditto)
We’re number one in budget deficit [per unit GNP]. (We don’t like this either, but you’re wrong).
We’re number one in daily per capita consumption of calories. (Yes, and you’re a fat tub of lard yourself).
We’re number one in lowest voter turnout. (Because people are contented.)
We’re number one in number of political parties represented in the lower or single house. (You’d rather be France?)
We’re number one in recorded rapes... (only if you include minority rapists).
We’re number one in injuries and deaths from road accidents... (Because we drive more; we’re a big country.)
We’re number one in births to mothers under the age of twenty... (Because of liberal sexual mores.)
We’re number one in the number of international human rights treaties not signed. (Iraq beat us; boo hoo)
We’re number one among countries in the United Nations with a legally constituted government to not ratify the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. (Which subverts parental rights).
We’re number one in number of known executions of child offenders. (I.e. murderers who deserved it.)
We’re number one in likelihood of children under the age of fifteen to die from gunfire. (Because liberals let crime get out of hand.)
We’re number one in lowest eighth-grade math scores. (Because liberals introduced New Math and teacher unions.)
We’re number one in becoming the first society in history in which the poorest group in the population are children." (p.174)
Moore makes some claims that are just weird, though they have been heard from the Left before. American bombing of Viet Cong bases in the jungles of Cambodia caused the Marxist Khemer Rouge to perpetrate the killing fields. The Nazi invasion of Russia justified the Soviet occupation of Eastern Europe. The death penalty in America is a form of ethnic cleansing. (p.203) The Christian Right has always gotten its way. (p.238) Trent Lott has guts. (p.224)
When Moore stops complaining, he makes some suggestions on how to run the world. For example, he says,
"If you own a business, pay people a living wage, provide day care, and make sure all your employees have health insurance... Make sure the amount you pay your employees is enough for them to own their own home, take a vacation, and send their kids to college." (p.73)
Naturally, he does not explain how small businesses, hard-pressed by competition, high taxes, and over-regulation, are supposed to afford all this. Like most leftists, he has never run one. He also suggests that the US should have rebuilt Russia, ala the Marshall Plan, after the collapse of communism. (p.172; I presume any reader of FrontPage will know that we probably gave them too much money, not too little, and that they stole that.) He even suggests – no kidding, it’s on p.186 (sorry about all the footnotes but this book is so nutty that you wouldn’t believe me otherwise) – that the solution to the troubles in Northern Ireland is to convert the Protestants back to Catholicism! Self-satire may be intended, but I don’t think so. If so, he should print all the satirical bits in italics, because the poor reader can’t tell. Oh, and by the way, the solution to the violence in Yugoslavia is for the people there to take a pledge to wean themselves off violence. (p.190) He advocates that the US give the PLO $6 billion a year. (p.181) He shows sublime unrealism about who he’s talking about by advocating that it adopt Gandhi tactics. (p.182) He praises Peace Now, Israel’s suicide lobby. Interestingly, however, he seems to have cottoned onto Israel’s real dirty little secret: its dependency on cheap Palestinian labor. (p.183)
Even a stopped clock, as they say, is right twice a day. I am willing to concede to Mr. Moore that it is a scandal that American insurance companies are able to avoid taxes by domiciling themselves in Bermuda (p.54) and by various other tricks. (After all, this only means more taxes for the rest of us.) And I didn’t like Bill Clinton either. Moore’s criticisms of Clinton, coming from the opposite end of the political spectrum, are a fascinating through-the-looking-glass read. His list of what was wrong with Clinton (p.210) reads like a list of the man’s systematic brushes with common sense; he calls Clinton "one of the best Republican presidents we’ve ever had." He also hates BoBo liberals, but because he thinks their liberalism isn’t real. He even hates Democrats, saying,
"So is there a difference between Democrats and Republicans? Sure. The Democrats say one thing ("Save the planet!") and then do another quietly holding hands behind the scenes with the bastards who make this world a dirtier, meaner place. The Republicans just come right out and give the bastards a corner office in the West Wing. That’s the difference." (p.216)
Hey, I have no problem with demoralizing the enemy’s troops by telling them this. Let’s give a copy of this book to every left-wing activist in the land and watch them abandon the Democratic Party.
At the end of the book, we find out what Moore’s real answer to our problems is: Ralph Nader. Ralph Nader is the real thing, unlike the Democrats. He is the man who has never sold out. He is pure. Moore is furious that Democrats hate him for throwing the election to Bush. Moore hates them back. This part is really fun to read for a Republican. I haven’t enjoyed internecine bickering this much since a Puerto Rican college acquaintance took me to see cockfights in East Harlem. And they couldn’t have been Democrats.
I never saw them cheat.