News: Passionate White Man

Michael Moore stirs it up at Xavier appearance

Nov 5, 2003 at 2:06 pm
Jymi Bolden

Michael Moore — Academy Award winner, bestselling author — didn't get dressed up. Good thing, because the news media stayed away, although there was a Saddam Hussein sighting (below).

An exhausted but passionate Michael Moore spoke to a crowd of more than 4,000 people Oct. 30 at Xavier University. At times his lecture had the feel of a political rally.

"Stand up!" he said. "Get out of your seat!"

At other times, growling an impersonation of angry white men, he made babies cry. For more than two hours the best-selling author and independent filmmaker interacted with students, professors and parents holding frightened toddlers.

Considering his message, maybe fear was a sound response.

President Bush will not win the 2004 election, according to Moore.

"They know it, too," he said. "You can't take 3 million jobs and disappear them.

You can't turn a record surplus into a record deficit. They've made a huge mistake with their lies about weapons of mass destruction. These people are serial liars. North Korea actually has the weapons of mass destruction."

He began waving his arms at an imaginary helicopter in the sky and shouted, "Hey, America, we're over here! We've got the weapons of mass destruction. And Bush is over here saying, 'Shut the fuck up. Who let them into the Axis of Evil?' "

Cincinnati was the second-to-last stop on a book tour that took Moore to 38 cities in 23 days. His new book — Dude, Where's My Country? — was released three weeks ago. Moore said the book is already in its fourth printing, with more than a million copies in print. His previous bestseller, Stupid White Men, took eight months to reach that milestone.

Moore acknowledged coverage of his visit by CityBeat — daring the audience to dream of a world in which CityBeat owned NBC. He chastised the local media monopolists, Clear Channel and Gannett, for denying coverage.

"One paper, one TV station, one radio broadcaster — what's that sound like?" he said. "It sounds like the old Soviet Communists. Maybe we should start calling the angry old white guys who own everything 'the Commies.' It's not right. This country deserves more voices and more political parties to represent our interests."

He had clearly done his homework on the city and Xavier University, recalling his own time in a Catholic seminary after high school in Michigan. Obviously comfortable in the Jesuit setting, Moore punctuated his remarks with interludes of Catholic liturgical chanting.

But he also chastised Cincinnati, saying the failure to bring justice to the policemen who killed Timothy Thomas and other young men has left a deep stain on Cincinnati's reputation. Thomas' death in April 2001 — he was unarmed and wanted on traffic offenses — led to a sometimes violent weeklong uprising in Over-the-Rhine.

"It's shameful that this city, once known for being the first stop on the Underground Railroad, should let its police kill these young men, to beat them and shoot them to death and you don't stop them," Moore said. "We know who Timothy Thomas is. All over America and all over the world, we know what you're allowing your police to do to these young men. It's your shame, and it's even worse because your tradition is not that and you're just letting it go. You need to know that's what the rest of the country thinks about you here in Cincinnati."

His mention of Thomas led to a poignant interaction with the audience.

"Don't think we don't know who Timothy Thomas is," Moore said.

"Who he was!" replied someone in the audience. "Who he is!" another voice followed.

"He was and he is, because his name was uttered tonight," Moore said.

Near the end of his lecture, Moore invoked the memory of Sept. 11, 2001, transporting his audience to the seats of a hijacked airplane.

"Two or three men holding box cutters paralyze 100 people," he said. "How can this happen?"

There's fear, certainly, from seeing some of the first class passengers' throats sliced open. The smell of death, the blood, the rasping breath of misery. But something else had to be in play. Maybe the forbearance that comes from living comfortable lives. Surely someone would take care of this, as surely as policemen always rushed to aid them in times of need.

"Could the 100 passengers have stopped the men with box cutters?" Moore asked. "Sure, of course. Three guys with blades against a hundred unarmed fighters? The hundred win every time. Maybe not easy, maybe a few die, but the hundred win. We know it because those brave fighters on the Pennsylvania flight got up from their seats. And they beat the hijackers!"

Then Moore asked the audience to replace those passengers with 100 people from the Bronx or Over-the-Rhine or any not-so-comfortable community — the kind of neighborhood where calling 911 won't necessarily bring the police running to help you.

"And maybe when the police do show up — if the police show up — they take you away instead," he said.

Now, Moore asked, do you think 100 people from the Bronx would sit there?

"They would fight back," he said. "They would rise up out of their seats and fight."

Moore warned his audience.

"We're like those passengers on that plane, only it's still 9/11 and our plane, this country, is still headed for disaster," he said. "The question is: What will it take to get you out of your seats? You have the power to stop this plane wreck. But are you too comfortable to rise up and stop this plane that's headed for disaster?

"Stand up! Get out of your seat! It's time to rise up now! We have the power to take back our Congress, take back our White House, take back our Supreme Court. If we rise up together, we win." ©