In Conversation with… Sabian Wilde

Marketing Lecturer. Writer. Music Bod. Claims to have coined 'Perthonality'

In Conversation With… Capitalism

with 10 comments

First published in X-Press Magazine


Alternate promo poster for Capitalism: A Love Story

Directed by Michael Moore
Starring: You, Me… Everybody, Everybody.

Few people could say there’s no need for a hard-hitting documentary providing insight into the people, institutions and circumstances that combined in what is now known as the GFC.  Capitalism: A Love Story has already grossed over US$13.6M at the box office, and that doco still needs to be made.

It’s been said before, but in light of the latest promotional chutzpah Moore has been spraying through Australian media channels in the last week, perhaps once more is appropriate; Michael Moore is the Johnny Knoxville of socialist (or humanist) film-making.

Moore has said he ‘tricked’ his studio backers by saying he was making a sequel to Fahrenheit 9/11, then using their  money to make his story on the GFC.  Well, it wasn’t much of a trick – Moore’s shockumentary tactics are now so well-established that future films may well use roman numerals for titles.

Importantly, given that the GFC has been the subject of more media scrutiny, financial analysis, vox pops, international policy etc – than any other event or phenomenon since 9/11, the truth is that there is very little or new or surprising in Capitalism… it’s Michael Moore weighing in with his two cents.

As a documentary film, Capitalism isn’t exactly a taut, well-executed  argument. There are sympathetic vignettes about the real struggles faced by various communities; inspirational stories of solidarity; alternate business models that empower all participants – but nothing much that hangs them together other than Moore himself.

The first half of the film is designed to connect with audiences the important idea that the economy is not an abstract entity, but the sum of the endeavour of the majority, under the control of a select few.  The failure of the system – incrementally, over decades – has a social cost, and Moore succeeds in putting ‘human faces’ to the flood of red numbers on Wall St stock tickers.

The second half of the film is, in theory, Moore’s attempt to explain the global financial crisis, and some of the self-interested parties that either (a) caused it and/or (b) found a way to profit at the public’s expense from the collapse of the free market – or ‘life as we know it’, if you’re one of those evil Republicans or their Wall St cronies/overlords (depending on how you look at it).

Moore’s attempt to explain the sub-prime market is no attempt at all — just a pretext to rail against the complexity of a scam that has been perpetrated on the American people (and countries like Australia that invest in their financial instruments and institutions) – incidentally, there’s an interesting take on it that most people can understand here:

Moore requires the bad guys to be bad, so he can be the white knight storming the gates. He names names, points the finger and then films himself being refused entry to a number of buildings. Rinse, lather, repeat.

Where Moore does succeed,  is in his look back on recent US history – in reminding the audience of Roosevelt’s ‘New Deal’ and the proposed Second Bill of Rights, of the importance of the collective will to improve life for all – in short, the promise which America made to itself, and then sold… and then hope, again, with Obama.

In Michael Moore’s latest film, we learn ‘Greed is Bad’, OK? Sure Oliver Stone made the phrase ‘Greed is good’ famous 21 years ago in Wall Street, but apparently the ironic overtones were lost on some people and now we all have to pay.

There’s a saying that goes like this: In the country of the blind, the one-eyed man is king.

In the world of American film-making, it is all too easy to imagine Michael Moore and Oliver Stone beating each other to death over who gets to have the eye. Come to think of it, that would make for pretty entertaining television. Perhaps Simon Cowell can get on that.

But until that happy day, we will get to live in a world where certain American film-makers feel that it is their duty to explain America to itself, knowing that a significant percentage of the ticket and DVD sales will come from other territories eager to hate the U.S. a little more for being… well… so gosh-darn arrogant and smug about everything, despite aggravated terrorism and a few armed conflicts around the world.

Well screw that. That is a job for film reviewers.

Written by Xab

Thursday, November 5, 2009 at 8:00 am

10 Responses

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  1. “But until that happy day, we will get to live in a world where certain American film-makers feel that it is their duty to explain America to itself…”

    Surely this is a good thing? Would anyone argue that many Americans don’t sufficiently understand both the world in general and the US’ place in it in particular?

    The problem with Moore’s style, as I see it as far as this point is concerned, is that his films are unlikely to reach the sections of American society that could most benefit from such an explanation.


    Thursday, November 5, 2009 at 12:38 pm

    • My point here is that they *know* they aren’t reaching the target market…. which means those that most need to hear the message aren’t being targeted at all… they know its the bleeding heart lefties that will watch this crap… it’s a shell game and the joke is on the middle-class, educated people who fork over the moolah to laugh at America’s ‘stupidity’.

      I also take offense to Moore framing the failing of the US economy as if it vindicates his personal belief system and more importantly, his decision to cast himself as the hero in this journey, with absurd statements such as, “I tried to warn GM about this 20 years ago….” or his exhortation at the end of the film for America to ‘rise up’ with him.

      He’s mad as hell and he ain’t gonna take it anymore? (Now *THAT* was a film).

      And I ask you this — How many Americans have you actually met that were as dumb and disinterested as the lefty media likes to make out?

      Let’s remember these are the same people that voted for Obama — we can’t have it both ways.


      Thursday, November 5, 2009 at 1:46 pm

      • Hey Xab,
        Nice read. I think MM is a shameless Snake Oil Salesman, peddling his ever elusive Elixr of Truth. Aside from Columbine, his work is sensationalism at best.
        Something in your reply to Rewi prompted me to ask..
        Is it really “lefty media” painting an image of mainsteram America?
        Or is it just mainstream American media continuing to work overtime to subvert its own people’s intelligence?
        Ignorance and fear continue to be great tools in mass control of populations.
        CNN CBS NBC FOX remain potent icons of mass manipulation?
        Or am I just being OTT now…?


        Thursday, November 5, 2009 at 3:21 pm

      • In response to Davespen:

        I hear what you’re saying, and yes, it is easy to see how a docile, unquestioning population might better serve the evil overlords of capitalism…. except… Who hires a cow to do a human’s job? Where do the new ideas come from? Who will run these companies? What is the future for these money-making machines if they actually achieve their goal of dumbing everyone down?

        A bunch of burger-munching behemoths too fat to leave the house to work, too stupid to be remote-work-from-home IT experts (or day-traders).

        Seriously, who wins from that scenario? These hypothetical fat zombies don’t EARN enugh to buy the goods the ‘media’ needs to sell them.

        I don’t think its as simple as suggesting its a class issue either… there is simply too much new money and nouveau riche for this to be the case.

        True, most of the Americans we meet have passports, so they’re already in the minority (then again, a lot of Americans got into the US without a passport — or even a leaky boat). But the fact remains, to suggest that there is a conspiracy, one that we can see so ‘clearly’, that ‘they’ cannot — well, it’s just bloody condescending.

        As I said… elitism should be left to those best suited to it.

        Film reviewers…. or just the good ones. or… fuck it, just me.


        Thursday, November 5, 2009 at 3:43 pm

      • “…to suggest that there is a conspiracy, one that we can see so ‘clearly’, that ‘they’ cannot — well, it’s just bloody condescending.”

        The spectator sees more of the sport, they say.


        Friday, November 6, 2009 at 9:34 am

      • I stand corrected. It is a conspiracy. It’s just that it’s not engineered by Corporate America — its a religious plot to put the fat back into fatwa.


        Friday, November 6, 2009 at 10:48 am

  2. Mike Moore is an ignorant capitalist pig who is yet to make a documentary that doesn’t delve into fiction.

    peter p

    Thursday, November 5, 2009 at 1:53 pm

    • And how many documentaties have you made that don’t delve into fiction, “peter p” (if that is your real name)?

      Snerky McSnerk

      Friday, December 10, 2010 at 3:27 pm

      • Hilarious. I know Peter P and it is indeed his name. Incidentally, Ye of the ‘bigmac’ email address and the parents who lovingly called you Snerky McSnerk, what’s your claim to integrity, that ‘everyone lies’?

        Well bully for you.

        Jesus wept… Which is fair enough given the circumstances…


        Friday, December 10, 2010 at 3:40 pm

      • Hmmm… I always thought the phrase was “Jesu Swept”.

        My heartiest thanks for rectifying my misconceptions on the expression.

        Snerky McSnerk

        Monday, December 13, 2010 at 4:03 pm

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