Michael Moore, from Cannes to campus

Posted: May 19, 2004 12:00 AM

 Michael Moore is at it again. The fat, fraudulent filmmaker's latest hit piece, "Fahrenheit 911," apparently focuses on how the Bush administration has botched the war on terror. According to the Hollywood Reporter, Moore's film "reduces decades of American foreign-policy failures to a black-and-white cartoon that lays the blame on one family." Naturally, the Europeans love it. Many critics say that Moore's film is the front-runner to receive the prestigious Palm d'Or at the Cannes Film Festival; Moore's smear job received the longest standing ovation of any film in festival history, clocking in at 20 minutes.
In the United States, it's unlikely Moore's film will be quite as popular. American college campuses, however, are a different story. Despite blatant manipulation and falsehood, Moore's two previous films, "Roger and Me" and "Bowling for Columbine," are hugely popular, both in the classroom and outside it.

 In a political science class I took during my first quarter at UCLA, Professor Jurgen Essletzbichler showed "Roger and Me" over the course of a few class sessions. The point: to attempt to show the "downside of globalization." It was simply one in a long chain of indoctrinating tactics used by Essletzbichler to get his anti-capitalist point across. Throughout the class, Essletzbichler posted graphics attempting to explain principles of industrial capitalism. Such graphics included a fat-cat industrialist standing atop a globe and urinating on the bottom half of the globe (this represented trickle-down economics) and a fat-cat industrialist riding in a carriage with a skeleton symbolizing death.

 "Roger and Me" has also been assigned in non-film classes at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, University of New Mexico, University of Alabama, University of Tennessee, University of California at Santa Barbara, Clarkson University (Potsdam, N.Y.), Pacific Lutheran University (Tacoma, Wash.), Massachusetts Institute of Technology, University of Georgia, University of Washington, University of Virginia, University of Arizona, and dozens of other institutions of higher learning. A quick google.com search of syllabus plus "Roger and Me" nets 398 hits.

 Amazon.com lists "Ohio Universities," "Michigan Universities" and UCLA as areas where "Roger and Me" is especially popular. All this despite the fact that Moore deliberately ignores certain pertinent information and scrambles his chronology, seriously calling into question the credibility of "Roger and Me." But let's not get too picky here. As Professor Edwin Jahiel of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign says, "the job comes with editorial slants and exaggerations -- but the underlying truth is solid."

 "Bowling for Columbine" has been an even larger hit on America's campuses. This aggregation of staged scenes, slick cuts and obvious misrepresentation has made its way into college classrooms throughout the United States. A google.com search using search terms syllabus plus "Bowling for Columbine" yields 576 hits.

 Moore's anti-gun diatribe is utilized on campuses from Purdue University (West Lafayette, Ind.) to Michigan State University, from Northern Kentucky University to Ball State University (Muncie, Ind.), from Southwest Missouri State University to University of Wisconsin at Madison. Shockingly, Amazon.com lists "Oregon Universities," "Maine Universities," "University of Minnesota," "Kent State University," "Boston College," "Oregon State University," "California State University," "City University of New York," "Columbia University," "Oberlin College," "University of Alaska" and "Arizona Universities" as areas where "Bowling for Columbine" is particularly popular.

 Moore's books also find nice, comfortable spots in student backpacks. The google.com search for syllabus plus "Stupid White Men" plus "Michael Moore" returns 134 hits. Moore cohort Al Franken receives wide play in the classroom as well, but that shouldn't come as a surprise, considering that Franken was given a Harvard academic fellowship to research his massive tome, "Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them."

 Where are the conservative books? Nowhere to be found. A google.com search of the terms syllabus plus "Slander" plus Ann Coulter returns a mere 31 hits. A search for syllabus plus David Limbaugh plus "Absolute Power" garners five hits, none of them actually class assignments. Even Bernard Goldberg's "Bias" returns only 70 hits in a similar google.com search.

 If anyone ever doubted that colleges are more similar to France than they are to mainstream America, Michael Moore's reception on campus should quell those doubts. As long as there are universities, Michael Moore and his ilk will never go out of business.