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Michael Moore, Filmmaker and Activist

Rust Belt TourThe repercussions of the whole WikiLeaks affair will not end any time soon, and it seems like every day a new person or organization shows up in the headlines with some kind of WikiLeaks connection. One of these is filmmaker Michael Moore, who has put up a portion of Julian Assange’s bail and thereby has angered a lot of people. Moore recently appeared on Rachel Maddow’s political talk show, as we are reminded by Free Press staff writer B. J. Hammerstein.

Assange is charged with rape and molestation, two things of which Moore in no way approves. (The specific charges, even if true, would show Assange as more of a typical jerk than a savage beast.)

So, on the one hand, nobody approves of non-consensual sex. On the other hand, everybody is entitled to a defense, and on the third hand, there is a kind of selective-enforcement thing going on here that points to a political motivation. Ask yourself this: If Assange were not the founder of WikiLeaks, would these charges have ever been made?

Before that, Michael Moore was in the news for being on the hit list of the insurance industry’s public relations outfit, which strongly resents the things he said about it in another film. As he describes it,

When someone talks about pushing you off a cliff, it’s just human nature to be curious about them. Who are these people, you wonder, and why would they want to do such a thing? That’s what I was thinking when corporate whistleblower Wendell Potter revealed that, when ‘Sicko’ was being released in 2007, the health insurance industry’s PR firm, APCO Worldwide, discussed their Plan B: ‘Pushing Michael Moore off a cliff.’

Last year, many unemployed workers and people experiencing homelessness were invited to free screenings of Moore’s film, Capitalism, A Love Story. From the Venice Film Festival, Mike Collett-White of Reuters said,

The film follows… a group of citizens [who occupy] a home that has been repossessed and boarded up by the lending company, forcing the police who come to evict them to back down… And he interviews an employee of a firm which buys up re-possessed, or ‘distressed’ properties at a fraction of their original value and which is called Condo Vultures.

Then, I remembered, there is something about Moore in Looking Up at the Bottom Line. Richard is talking about the aftermath of the 1973 Energy Crisis in Flint, Michigan, when 28,000 people became homeless:

Michael Moore documented this time and events in the movie Roger and Me. The movie depicts the closing of entire auto factories… as businesses abandoned entire worker communities and closed their doors overnight.

In the book, the run-up to that is a great story about poverty-stricken Philadelphia, where Max Weiner decided to get consumer justice for one woman, and organized a demonstration to embarrass a retail store that was cheating people. Garland Dempsey showed up to address the crowd. A wide-ranging scam was uncovered, the victims got full refunds and, as Richard says, “It was victory of the poorest of the poor.” Plus, it led to the founding of the Consumers Education and Protective Association (CEPA) by Weiner and Dempsey. Richard says,

Max always spoke of ‘people power.’ He would always say that ‘we already had the power; we just needed to realize it and then learn how to use it.’

The CEPA strategy was one still followed today by activist groups: First, investigate. Then, negotiate and, if necessary, demonstrate. Within that simple framework, the organization used a lot of skills to get things done, which we learn about in detail. Renters, of course, are the ultimate consumers, in terms of needing a product they cannot do without. Learn how rent and the Universal Living Wage are related. Fixing the rent situation by, for instance, bringing it to the level where people can afford it, would go a long way toward alleviating the plague of homelessness.

Reactions?

Source: “Filmmaker Michael Moore defends WikiLeaks work,” Freep.com, 12/23/10
Source: “How Corporate America Is Pushing Us All Off a Cliff,” MichaelMoore.com, 11/19/10
Source: “Capitalism is evil,’ says new Michael Moore film,” Reuters.com, 09/06/09
Source: “Looking Up at the Bottom Line,” Amazon.com
Image by joguldi (Jo Guldi), used under its Creative Commons license.