‘There’s more of us than there are of them’
Review by Paul Feldman
Stupid White Men is the number one bestseller on both sides of the Atlantic and the story of how this happened is as riveting as Michael Moore’s book itself.
Moore, who is best known for his documentary on US big business, Roger and Me, wrote this book in early 2001. It was due for release on September 11. You can guess what happened next.
HarperCollins, the publishing house owned by Rupert Murdoch, decided that in the wake of the terror attacks on the World Trade Centre, the time was not right for a book that attacked the US economic and political system.
In fact, HarperCollins demanded Moore rewrote 50% of the book, dropped some chapters altogether and pay them $100,000 for the 50,000 books already printed that they planned to pulp!
All this Moore refused to do, which is not surprising. His contract prevented him from revealing what had happened. In December, Moore spoke to a citizens action council annual meeting in New Jersey. Asked to sign copies of an earlier book, he bemoaned the fact that his new work was effectively censored/banned.
The rest, as they say, is history. A librarian at the meeting set a few emails around the country about HarperCollins blocking publication. Within a few weeks, the publisher was inundated with demands from librarians all over America. A trade magazine picked up the story and the cat was out of the bag.
HarperCollins decided to cut their losses and publish “Stupid White Men” – but in secret, without any publicity. Nevertheless, the 50,000 copies sold out in one day and 24 reprints followed.
The book is a savage and typically humorous indictment of what passes for democracy in America. In ruthless fashion, Moore exposes how Bush stole the presidency in 2000, in what he calls “a very American coup”. He shows how the US ruling class impoverishes its workers, denies them decent state education and has a “justice” system that is a mockery of fairness.
An important theme is how the corporations have moved into politics in a big way through the Bush regime, effectively having their own office space in the White House. This, Moore argues, was made possible through the actions of the previous Democratic administration under Clinton.
“Bush is only the uglier and somewhat meaner version of what we already had throughout the nineties – except that back then it came dressed in a charming smile from a guy who played soul tunes on a sax and told us what kind of underwear he (and his interns) wore,” says Moore.
He tells how Clinton’s government supported executions, prevented abortion funding, threw the poor out on to the streets, doubled the prison population, bombed four different countries, blocked key provisions of the Kyoto agreement on the environment and abandoned pledges on healthcare.
Moore adds: “Democrats have become nothing more than Republican wannabees. And so I propose a course of action: the Democrats must merge with the Republican Party. That way, they can keep doing what they both do very well – representing the rich – and save a lot of money by consolidating staff and headquarters into one tight, fit fighting machine for the top 10 per cent.”
The crisis of the American political system that Moore describes is mirrored in Britain, in the growing disenchantment with New Labour and the dramatic decline in voter turn-out. As to the way forward, Moore does not put forward an alternative. He himself campaigned for Ralph Nader’s “green coalition” in 2000.
One thing Moore is sure of, however: the potential power that ordinary people have. He ends his books with a rousing call: “I want us all to face our fears and stop behaving like our goal in life is merely to survive. ‘Surviving’ is for wimps and game show contestants stranded in the jungle or on a desert island. You are not stranded. You own the store. The bad guys are just a bunch of silly, stupid white men. And there’s a helluva lot more of us than there are of them. Use your power. You deserve better.”
Buy this book and keep it at number one! For more information about Moore you can visit www.michaelmoore.com
Stupid White Men Michael Moore Penguin at £7.99