Michael Moore, Ugly American
Filmmaker Taken to Task for Arrogance, Ignoring Israel
By Jefferson Morley
washingtonpost.com Staff Writer
Tuesday, July 13, 2004; 10:30 AM
Michael Moore can handle verbal abuse from the conservative pundits in America, but harsh words from Pete Townshend, lead guitarist for The Who, may hit closer to his liberal heart.
"I greatly resent being bullied and slurred by him just because he didn't get what we wanted from me," Townshend told Ireland Online.
Moore wanted Townshend's rock anthem "Won't Get Fooled Again" for use on the soundtrack of his anti-Bush documentary film, "Fahrenheit 9/11." Townshend refused, saying he thought Moore's previous movies amounted to "bullying." In response, Townshend said that Moore accused him of being a war supporter. Townshend says Moore's attitude was evocative of President Bush's war on terrorism credo: if you're not with me, you're against me.
"It seems to me that this aspect of his nature is not unlike that of the powerful and willful man at the centre of his documentary," Townshend observed.
Ouch. As "Fahrenheit 9/11" is released into theaters around the world, Moore is beginning to face a new kind of criticism. On American talk radio, Moore may be denounced as practically anti-American. In the international online media, the pudgy filmmaker from Flint, Michigan, is often seen as all too American. He is more than occasionally described as a stereotypical "ugly American" -- overbearing to people of different cultures, oblivious to nuance, unsophisticated in politics and arrogant in temperament.
The most common substantive criticism is that he scants the role of Israel in the politics of the Iraq war.
But the criticism hasn't kept people from lining up at the box office. The opening day box office receipts broke the British record for a documentary, according to the Daily Telegraph of London.
The French attitude was evident in a droll dispatch in Le Monde about Moore's press conference for foreign reporters in New York last week. In front of 150 reporters, Moore dispensed political advice to the people of many nations.
He urged the British to vote out Prime Minister Tony Blair. He wished the Australians would dump Prime Minister John Howard.
"The chief of the Italian government, Silvio Berlusconi, was not forgotten by the filmmaker," the Parisian daily observed dryly.
"If I were an Italian citizen, I would have left the movie theater asking myself what in the world Berlusconi was doing by always hanging on to George W. Bush's coattails," Moore was quoted as saying. "It is embarrassing for Italy and the earlier there is regime change in Rome, the better."
Moore also had advice for the people of South Korea, according to the Seoul daily Chosun Ilbo.
"I hope Korean viewers start a social campaign against the dispatch of additional troops to Iraq," he said.
Moore was apparently unaware that South Koreans opposed to the U.S.-led war had started such a campaign more than a year ago and that it already enjoys substantial public support.
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