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Dude, Where's My Country?
By Steven Martinovich
For as long as Michael Moore has been on the scene there have been questions about his credibility. Long accused of manipulating timelines, distorting facts or simply getting them wrong, Moore typically responds to the questions with another question: "How can there be inaccuracy in comedy?" as he remarked to Lou Dobbs on CNN. Unfortunately for Moore, the key to successful comedy is that it must be based on the truth -- not to mention funny.
Dude, Where's My Country? is the latest example that Moore has never learned those lessons. Rife with errors -- whether deliberate or otherwise -- Moore's latest effort justifies the numerous web sites that have sprung up to fact-check his books and movies. One alone has identified 17 separate factual errors and misrepresentations in this book that cover everything from an alleged attempt by News Corp. to bury his previous bestseller to the effect the Bush administration's tax cut had on Oregon schools. It's an amazing list considering that Moore bragged earlier this year that he had three teams of fact-checkers and two lawyers vet the material.
They must have been extraordinarily sloppy given how easy it was to spot the errors that Moore made. At one point he writes that Wesley Clark stated he received numerous phone calls on and after September 11, 2001 from people in and outside of the White House asking him to use his position as an expert on CNN to proclaim a link between Saddam Hussein and the terrorist attacks. The reality? Clark himself has repeatedly stated that he only received one phone call and it was from a Middle Eastern think tank based in Montreal.
When Moore isn't undercutting his own case with factual errors, his juvenile tone is more than capable of doing the same. A perfect example is a chapter he devotes to decrying the paranoia caused by the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 and the government's constant warnings of future attacks. As Moore quite rightly points out, the threat of terrorism has been exaggerated considering that no one has died on American soil in the past two years. Why are Americans a people on edge? For Moore, the answer is obvious.
"Why has our government gone to such absurd lengths to convince us our lives are in danger? The answer is nothing short of their feverish desire to rule the world, first by controlling us, and then, in turn, getting us to support their efforts to dominate the rest of the planet. Sounds crazy, huh? It reads more like a movie script, doesn't it? Bush Bush/Cheney/Ashcroft/Wall Street/Fortune 500 see this post-September-11-America-in-fear as their moment -- a moment handed to them by fate, via the terrorists -- to seize the reins and ram the USA down the throats of any people in the world who dare question who is number one. Who is number one? I SAID, WHO IS NUMBER ONE? That's right. Say it loud! Say it for George and Dick and Johnny and Condi: WE ARE NUMBER ONE! USA! USA! USA!"
There's little that one can take seriously whether it's a sophomoric chapter written by "God" denouncing Bush or an attack on people who believe in the American dream -- surprising from someone who is living it. At its best the book is merely an unfunny polemic that fails to effectively hit its targets. At its worst, it is an objectionable screed that is insulting to the intelligence of anyone expecting a humorous and insightful treatment of important subject matter.
Regardless of your political persuasion there are plenty of reasons for principled opposition to some aspects of the conduct of the Bush Administration. Now more than ever it is important for Americans to be watchful of their government to ensure that excesses committed in the name of combating terrorist activity are rectified as soon as possible. Those efforts, however, deserve far better than to have people like Moore to be one of their spokesmen. Every time he speaks, his own cause -- whatever its merits -- loses all credibility. Dude, Where's My Country? may play well with his constituency but it does little more than reveal Moore for being a bad comedian and an even worse commentator.
Steven Martinovich is a freelance writer in Sudbury, Ontario, Canada.
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