While I did sleep through a certain amount of the movie due to being extremely tired, I did see enough to see that it contained many of the standard Moore elements: the guerrilla stunts that usually involve him; the roads that lead inevitably back to Flint, Michigan; the moral clarity that divides the world into good and evil; the capturing of poignant moments from ordinary people; and the dubious use of history.
The last was most prominently on display in his call for revolution-a call that he said was based on Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s World War II proposal of a Second Bill of Rights. These rights, which he offered as part of democracy-a system that he erroneously called the opposite of capitalism, include the right to education, health care, and a decent job, among others.
Roosevelt as revolutionary is a theory that does not square well with the historical record. I have written before about James MacGregor Burns‘ The Lion and the Fox, which is one of the earlier biographies about the Hyde Park aristocrat who is the only man to have been elected to the presidency four times.
While many would agree that Roosevelt was a transcendent figure, perhaps one of the two or three most important presidents in our nation’s history, they also would argue convincingly that the New Deal was designed in part to ward off a truly radical assault on the democracy’s, yes, capitalist underpinnings.
Moore also draws hope for the impending revolution from the Republic Window and Doors strike that seized the nation’s attention in December 2008. The strike took place during one of the top news weeks in Chicago history. It included President-elect Obama’s pre-inauguration actions, the federal indictment against then-Gov. and future reality show contestant Rod Blagojevich, and the strike.
I have also written before about friend Kari Lydersen’s Revolt on Goose Island, which was a thorough look at the strike, its background and possible meaning. As impressive as the victory was, it led to fired workers’ being given a severance package that complied with the law, rather than, at least thus far, a changed sea tide in labor’s power and membership numbers.
Moore also lays the lion’s share of the blame for the nation’s social decay during the 80s at the feet of Ronald Reagan and his pro-business cronies, most notably Treasury Secretary Don Regan. Based on my reading of The Man Who Sold The World, William Kleinknecht might be inclined to agree with him.
Agree with him or not, one must give Moore his due as a provocateur. Twenty years after Roger and Me, his debut film, his commitment to justice remained undimmed, even if his use of history is often inaccurate.