Wednesday, December 29, 2004

Post-Christmas Musings

The bane of my post-Christmas week.

As is my custom, I'm taking off the week between Christmas and New Year's. I consider it a week of family Saturdays with few chores, lots of movie watching, board game playing, and book reading. (My wife does not always agree with the "no chores" part, but it's a pleasant fantasy for me to indulge once a year.) As I sit here at my keyboard, trying to shut out the noise of all those leftover Christmas treats beckoning me from wherever they reside in my house, several items caught my eye.

Christmas Spirit

In this very interesting piece from The American Spectator, William Tucker asks:

By all odds, Christmas should be the most depressing time of the year. It's the solstice, it gets dark ridiculously early, it's already cold and you now the
whole winter is still on the way. Catch yourself in an early November mood and
you'll know how miserable December could be. Yet it's just the opposite. It's
the "the brightest time of the year," "that time of year when the world falls in
love," and all those other cliches that are absolutely accurate. People are the
friendliest, most relaxed, kind and generous. Why?
I'm not going to tell you his answer. Read his very interesting and short piece, which includes a brief application of game theory (of all things!) to Christmas.

Michael Moore: A Interesting Specimen

Barbara Bernstein, a Southern California writer, reports here on a December 6 speech by Michael Moore to the Los Angeles World Affairs Council. The WAC is a fairly stuffy, mainstream organization, so I was intrigued to learn Moore was an invited speaker. Further evidence of the "Moore phenomenon," I think.

What do I mean by that? Well, I majored in political science and enjoy occasionally putting aside my partisan beliefs (or trying to) and analyzing politics as scientifically as I can. For example, the Clintons evoke strong feelings in both their opponents and supporters. I tend to view Bill and Hillary in much the same way a zoologist would see a new and unusually successful species. The Clintons are truly fascinating when thus examined. George W. Bush is a similarly intriguing political "specimen."

But I'm talking about specimen Michael Moore here. Bernstein's article was striking to me in its reporting of Moore's trademark sheer audacity:

. . . first he emphasized that AMERICA LOVES HOLLYWOOD! No, the outrageous behavior of people like Whoopi Goldberg did not turn off "the people." The problem is, John Kerry wasn't Hollywood enough! In Michael's view, the Democrats have to "stop running wonks who don't have a story." If the Democrats used Hollywood more, they could hone the stories. Even get Tom Hanks to run. Who wouldn't vote for Tom Hanks? For Anything! The only tough question from the audience was voiced by an elderly man who asked Michael if his movie hadn't caused a move to Bush as a reaction. Oh, no, Michael replied. "Fahrenheit 9/11 prevented a Bush landslide..."
Moore is a multi-faceted charlatan, in my non-scientific view, but statements like those fascinate me. Why does he behave that way? Several possibilities come to mind:

  1. Moore actually believes what he says.
  2. Moore is an excellent showman and knows that the more outrageous he is, the more movie tickets and books he will sell and paid speaking engagements he will attract.
  3. Moore is simply an angry, hate-filled man. Remember, we're talking about a man who gleefully observed the following in his newsletter two days before the election:
[To President Bush:] I know it’s gotta be rough for you right now. Hey, we’ve all been there. “You’re fired” are two horrible words when put together in that order. Bin Laden surfacing this weekend to remind the American people of your total and complete failure to capture him was a cruel trick or treat. But there he was. 3,000 people were killed and he’s laughing in your face. Why did you stop our Special Forces from going after him? Why did you forget about bin Laden on the DAY AFTER 9/11 and tell your terrorism czar to concentrate on Iraq instead?

There he was, OBL, all tan and rested and on videotape (hey, did you get the feeling that he had a bootleg of my movie? Are there DVD players in those caves in Afghanistan?)
You can read the whole screed on Moore's site. Maybe I'm wrong, but that kind of rhetoric seems just a bit beyond the pale to me in a time of war.

In any case, I think Moore is a complex individual, clearly very bright, and that all three of the theories above are partly true. He's deeply and passionately motivated, with a sort of oddball Leninist worldview. He's as clever (cunning, really) as they come. And he's angry enough to be willing to make hate-filled statements that cannot stand rigorous examination and that may well not advance his position or his economic prospects. (Face it, as long as he persists in cheerleading for bin Laden and Hussein his core following will remain very small.)

Lately he has been showing up on TV, clean-shaven and wearing a coat and tie, with what sound like more moderate views. I do not think he will fade away; in fact, I think we will see much more of him over the next several years. He will take some of the edges off his positions, ever so slightly, but he'll keep making "hit piece" movies and pushing the envelope whenever he can. As Barbara Bernstein writes:

"This guy can really play the left coast . . . all the way to the bank."


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