The Arts of Michael Moore and American Soft Power

By Knutsen, Bjørn Olav; Pettersen, Elisabeth | Tamara Journal of Critical Organisation Inquiry, March 2009 | Go to article overview

The Arts of Michael Moore and American Soft Power


Knutsen, Bjørn Olav, Pettersen, Elisabeth, Tamara Journal of Critical Organisation Inquiry


Executive Summary

Michael Moore is one of the most disputed authors and filmmakers in the United States. The purpose with this article is to try to shed some new insights and understandings of Moore's political views as they are represented in his book "Dude, Where's My Country?" and film "Fahrenheit 911". By applying insights from international relations theory, we are trying to get a better understanding of Moore's political views by putting his views within the framework of "soft power". According to the soft power concept, the US' mightiest power resource as of today is not its hard power (such as military and economic strength), but its soft power such as the attractiveness of its culture, political ideals, and policies. By applying the soft power concept, the article explains how Michael Moore is advocating a new foreign policy of the United States. This is a United States, which safeguards an international system made up by norms, institutions and a collective international order. Furthermore, the article underlines that Michael Moore's popularity cannot be explained by rising anti-Americanism on a global scale, but quite the opposite. Instead, Michael Moore's films and books could be regarded as a symptom of US soft power where he represents what people around the world regards as the attractiveness of the United States.

INTRODUCTION AND RATIONALE

Michael Moore is known to the public as an author, commentator and not least, a reward winning filmmaker who became known to the world authence with his two films "Bowling for Columbine" (2002) and "Fahrenheit 911" (2004). In "Bowling for Columbine" he criticizes the American gun culture and the National Rifle Association (NRA). This film won the Anniversary Prize at the Cannes Film Festival and France's Cesar Award for the best foreign film. In the United States, it won the Academy Award for Documentary Feature. In "Fahrenheit 911" Moore examines the political life in the United States in the aftermath of the terrorist attacks on the Twin Towers and Pentagon on September 11, 2001. Furthermore, he seeks to uncover the family ties between the Bush family and the Bin Laden family. For the film, he was rewarded with the Palm d'Or, the top honour at the Cannes Film Festival. It was the first documentary to win such a prize since 1956.

Prior to these two films, his filmmaking includes "Roger & Me" (1989) which was his first film. "Roger and Me" was a critical commentary about what happened to his native town Flint, Michigan, after General Motors closed its factories and opened new ones in Mexico, where the workers were paid much less. "Canadian Bacon" (1995) is Michael Moore's only fictional film, which featured a US president played by Alan Alda who started a fake war with Canada to boost his own popularity. In his film "The Big One" (1997) he criticizes the great multinational corporations for their hunger for even more profits and their propensities to mass layoffs despite record corporate profits. His latest film "Sicko" (2007) is a documentary where he investigates the American health care system where his focus is the American health insurance system and the great influence of the pharmaceutical industry. One of the main arguments in this film is that almost fifty million Americans are uninsured and that those who are covered are often victims of insurance company fraud and red tape.

His books have also sold in millions. In his book, "Downsize This!" (1996) he analyzed politics and corporate crime in the United States. In "Stupid White Men" (2001) he scrutinized US domestic and foreign policies and in "Dude, Where's My Country?" (2003) he examined the Bush family's relationships with the Saudi royalty, the Bin Laden family and the energy industry, as well as the US response to international terrorism. The book was furthermore a call-for-action for a Democratic victory at the 2004 US presidential election. Prior to the 2008 Presidential election, he also issued an election guide where his main arguments were as follows: "After a disastrous war, the failure to catch bin Laden, millions of families who have lost their homes, the Katrina debacle, soaring gas prices feeding record oil company profits, and the largest national debt caused by the biggest spending and borrowing administration in American history, the country has had it with conservatives, right-wingers and Republicans". …

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