TCS Daily

Michel et Moi

By Allan A. Guldberg - June 4, 2004 12:00 AM

Recently the annual film festival in Cannes, Europe's answer to Hollywood's Oscars, closed with the awarding of its prestigious Palme d'Or to Michael Moore for his movie Fahrenheit 9/11. From the front-page, top-of-the-fold coverage this received in many European newspapers, you would have thought Moore had discovered the cure for cancer. But if I were to have written an article about Moore's Cannes triumph, it might have gone something like this:

Moore, of Bowling for Columbine and Roger and Me (and, oh yes, Canadian Bacon) fame, got the reward for years of carping about American society and its many failures. Europe's intellectuals gave him a 19-minute standing ovation. Moore is considered a hero among people who call themselves critical thinkers -- a man who speaks truth to power and exposes the ills of Western society. But Europeans love him because they are anti-America, anti-globalization and particularly anti-Bush.

How wonderful it is that a lone voice, that of Michael Moore, has the guts to speak out about this horrible empire that is America. A land that styles itself as the world's oldest democracy, the land of the free, and of opportunities. Ha. In Old Europe we know better. Moore does us the service of confirming what we already know, in terms we already use and accept. His latest masterpiece just gives us a new perspective on how screwed up America is. This new and amazing perspective is that the President of the United States is evil and possibly stupid. Sure we have heard that before, but it is still refreshing to hear it again. And how brave, and kind of Moore to confirm our knowledge by repeating what we already hold to be true.

The thing about prejudice like ours is also that we do not need something as petty as documentation and facts to convince us. These have the annoying tendency of putting things into perspective. Sure, everybody knows that there are only screwed up regimes in the Middle East, and that Saddam's was probably the worst. Just like everybody knew what was going on the other side of the Iron Curtain during the Cold War. Or at present in Belarus. So why waste time on something so commonplace? Why spend your energy criticizing these regimes? No, pointing your rhetorical guns at the West, and especially America, is so much braver, and a true example of critical thinking. Critical thinking, mind you, that conforms to our way of thinking.

Michael Moore does this. That is why we love him. He comforts us in our smug feeling that we, as Europeans, are better than America. We do not topple terrible regimes, we talk with them. We believe in dialogue and arms deals -- not gun-slinging. Moore as just shown us how bad we know Bush is, so he deserves this award.

Had I written something like this, I would have been accepted into the good society of European intellectuals. I too would have been slapped on the back, as critical, brave and an idealist by people who think exactly the same way. You see, I would have been using standard language to reiterate standard themes, with little basis in reality. But I am not narrow-minded and do not conform with a desperate need to howl with the pack. Palme d'Or or not, Moore is not worth even a second of the attention he is getting.

The writer is a Dane who lives in Tel Aviv, and is a Fellow at the Markedscentret think tank, Denmark.


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