Regan Books, 2001
Michael Moore was described on NPR as being blunt and as subtle as a jackhammer and his book Stupid White Men is certainly nothing he could hold up in his defense. The book, which faced suppression at the hands of his publisher following September 11, 2001, is Moore at his most blunt and least subtle. It stands as a brutal assault on an America infected with what Moore calls "the stupid white virus."
Moore is quick to tell his readers that he is not a self-loathing white man, but he also details how it has been white men in his life, not blacks, that have caused him the most harm. After describing how the "most wanted" suspect on the evening news is almost always a "black male" who is of uniform height, weight and age, Moore goes on to detail how it is white men who have robbed him, ruined his hometown, refused to renew his TV series, and even caused him pain in the form of an alcohol-related car accident.
And Moore takes this incident, almost thirty years past, very personally - especially how it relates to "The Thief in Chief," one of his less-than-reverent terms for President George W. Bush. The early chapters of the book detail how the election was stolen from Al Gore, not by Florida recounts and Supreme Court decisions, but by the manueverings of Katherine Harris and Jeb Bush months before the election that resulted in thousands of minority voters being purged from the rolls of eligible voters. Moore insists that the United Nations needs to monitor further elections in the US, stating that not even in the most blatantly rigged elections in the Third World can the shenanigans of Election Year 2000 in the United States be matched.
His treatment of Bush is the primary reason his book was held up for publication. With Bush's approval ratings soaring as a result of his post-terrorist attacks activity, Moore's publishers felt that a book that insinuates that the President is not only an alcoholic, but illiterate and dangerous to boot would be inappropriate. On his website, Moore cites letters received from all over the US, including Bush supporters, telling him that - whatever they think of his viewpoints - they are pleased the book saw print.
And Moore's viewpoints are still strident. Perhaps, if guilty of anything, he is guilty of saying the same things over and over. Gun control, living wages, environmental damage, and similar issues have been Moore's stock in trade for over a decade now, and he is fluent in making his points. It is only his data that changes, updated and more depressing every few years. And it is not the Republicans alone that Moore singles out as victims of "stupid white disease," but also the Clinton Administration, which Moore claims was the most successful Republican Presidency of the last half-century.
This is not to say that he has lost his sense of humor. Much of the book is humorous, if only darkly, and it certainly isn't as dry as other political tomes to come out over the years. But, as Moore is to the left of, say, Al Franken, his humor is darker and more necessarily so. Moore is of the opinion that the system is hopelessly corrupt and that there is little one can do but "put down this book, right now, and do something." He suggests "taking over the Democratic Party" from the bottom up, claiming that in most localities it would require as few as ten people showing up at meetings armed with the by-laws and election statutes in hand to secure the leadership of local Democratic politics. And, while this may run counter to Moore's continued support of friend Ralph Nader and the ubiquitous Green Party, taking over an established party in this day and age seems much easier than establishing a new one. Moore knows the value of a brand name.
Still, for all the humor and political commentary, parts of this book will be hard for some people to swallow. The notion that recycling is a scam foisted on the public to make us "feel good" about "doing something" when in fact large amounts of recycled waste ends up simple waste in a foreign country might shock and surprise some. Moore's revelation that he no longer recycles is perhaps more shocking than his admission of driving a less-than-fuel-efficient mini-van, but neither should come as a great surprise. Moore is a provocateur, and is a master of a sort of propaganda by deed that can shock, offend and humor but - and most importantly - can also make one stop and think about the world in which one lives.
One brief note: The copy of Stupid White Men that I was reading was afflicted with the most serious set of printing errors I have ever seen in a mass market book. Beginning around page 200, there were numerous pages simply missing, replaced with extra copies of certain pages. Naturally, this made the book impossible to finish although I am told I will be getting first call when a replacement copy is located. Perhaps it was an honest mistake, or a individual occurrence (I couldn't find any reference to an "accident" of this magnitude anywhere online), but at any rate it hasn't stopped Moore's book from recently becoming a top-seller at amazon.com. So much for the "not-a-good-time-to-insult-the-president" line of thinking.