Moore Banging on Corporate Doors Again
|Sept. 2, 1996|
|By Patricia Holt||Copyright 1996 San Fransisco Chronicle|
It seems only fitting on this Labor Day to hear from
America's favorite unemployed factory worker, Michael
Moore is best known for the 1989 sleeper "Roger & Me," a hilarious and provocative low-budget film in which he showed "how the world's richest corporation, General Motors, destroyed my hometown of Flint, Michigan, by firing 30,000 workers during a time when the company was making record profits," as he recalls in his furious and funny book, "Downsize This!"
Chronicling Moore's grimly amusing
efforts to find GM's chairman, Roger Smith, and persuade
him "to come to Flint so he could see what he had
done to the people there," the movie hit a nerve
with America's similarly disenfranchised and became the
highest-grossing documentary of all time.
To show us how sophisticated corporations have become at this process, Moore paraphrases advice from "termination guidelines" issued by such companies as Chemical Bank and Times Mirror in which managers are told what to do if, say, a fired employee displays anger: "The louder the downsized employee talks, the softer the manger should talk. The idea is to diffuse confrontation, since the employee cannot have a one-sided argument."
Thus in a familiar, revenge motivated stance, Moore figuratively places his hand firmly on his favorite body part and tells greedy corporations and the unions that he believes do their dirty work: "Downsize This!"
Such sledgehammer tactics have their appeal. Moore shows two photographs under the headline, "What Is Terrorism?"--the bombed-out federal building in Oklahoma City and, below it, a factory in Flint looking similarly gutted in 1996. What's the difference, Moore asks, between political terrorists and economic terrorists, both of whom may decide you're expendable?
Such questions are clearly on the mind of people who strike up conversations with Moore everyday, he says. "Why is it," an outraged taxi driver asks, "that Al D'Amato and the rest of the congress have spent TWO YEARS and TEN MILLION DOLLARS investigating why seven--seven, mind you--SEVEN people lost their jobs in the White House travel office and not a single dime or day has spent investigating why THIRTY MILLION other Americans have lost their jobs?" Before Moore responds, the cabbie offers his own answer: Because the Big Guys who threw us out of work are the same ones paying the politicians to keep the country distracted with some phony Whitewater issue. Any fool can see that."
Right says Moore, the CEOs making millions are in collusion with the politicians holding office, and both want you to blame your financial problems on immigrants, welfare mothers, gun laws, Whitewater, or whatever has replaced the Evil Empire these days.
Moore sends real donations to politicians via checks from real organizations such as "Pedophiles for Free Trade," "Hemp Growers of America" and "Abortionists for Buchanan" and finds that while some candidates send checks back, one who accepts them all is Pat Buchanan, "the most strident ideologue of all."
He also creates "Corporate Crook Trading Cards" to show us how "'White Collar Crime' causes more deaths and costs you more money each year than all the street criminals combined."
Moore's subtitle is "Random Threats From an Unarmed American," but it's not true: This book, like his films, is a lethal weapon.