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Michael Moore: Master Marketer

By Prof. Ernest Thornberry
July 6th, 2007

Michael Moore: Master Marketer

Dear Bunglehorn,

I note that your patient has been a subscriber to Michael Moore’s email newsletter for almost a decade, since his college days, when the regular missive offered thoughtful tidbits he observed on the human condition.

Around the release of his book, Stupid White Men, Moore altered his disbatch into a clever propaganda vehicle to his thousands of subscribers. It advanced his films, Bowling for Columbine and Fahrenheit 9/11 with successful pleas for support. The newsletter became an insider’s scoop, a story about his stories. Fascinating move. I marvel at his ability to use new media to drive profit. America’s most popular socialist succeeds through unbridled capitalism!

Moore takes a different tact in his latest letter of the Sicko campaign. He attaches a complete internal memo by the VP of Communication at Blue Cross. By showing his critic’s entire message, Moore appears transparent and intellectually honest. He labels the memo as secret, which would be accurate if the world had a right to Blue Cross memos. For Moore to be truly transparent, he’d show us all his internal memos, right?

You really have to admire his claim that the Bush Administration is out to confiscate his movie. Moore can confidentally muckrake because he enjoys the blind allegiance of many thousands of followers, who coincidentally mistrust authority, especially Bush branded authority. Moore offers no evidence of such a ploy other than his open letter to the Dept of the Treasury. Moore later explains his lawyers’ speculated that Treasury Secretary, Henry Paulson may go after Moore and his movie:

I was floored when our lawyers told me this. “Are you saying they might actually confiscate our movie?” “Yes,” was the answer. “These days, anything is possible. Even if there is just a 20 percent chance the government would seize our movie before Cannes, does anyone want to take that risk?”

Certainly not. So there we were last week, spiriting a duplicate master negative out of the country just so no one from the government would take it from us. (Seriously, I can’t believe I just typed those words! Did I mention that I’m an American, and this is America and NO ONE should ever have to say they had to do such a thing?)
Michael Moore in his May 17, 2007 newsletter

As with most ardent critics of Moore, the VP of BCBS is compelling, especially against the sophomoric layman’s tone that makes Michael so endearing (and a master storyteller). Why would Moore include his critic’s entire memo? Because this is his standard M.O. – insinuate his own transparency, then humbly call for a debate with the CEO (remember Roger and Me? The execs at K-Mart? Scampering politicians everywhere?). The CEOs have no option. If they ignore Moore, then he can claim further evidence of the dastardly corporate / GOP enemy. If they accept a debate, or worse, an appearance in a movie he edits, the powers that be will be made to look foolish. Moore isn’t seeking truth; this has been demonstrated over and over and over and over. Moore markets his films at the expense of his enemies.

Sicko will undoubtedly drive the American health care system to the forefront of national political debate. You and I should be concerned because these kind of public discussions inevitably require people to reflect on personal and national values. It’s only a short hop to mass softening of hearts and renewed introspection on the likes of the Beatitudes, self-sacrifice and social justice. I’d rather avoid the whole matter if possible.

We’ll be fine as long as the central point made by this VP at BCBS is buried. His central point is there is not a quick fix. A nation’s collective health care is a shared responsibility. A man cannot reasonably hope to relinquish to others his duty of proper care to his personal health and wellbeing and expect positive sweeping results. The Enemy warns of the consequences of sin. Why not diffuse responsibility of vice, as this early socialist suggests:

I want not less spooning in the Parks of Recreation and Rest, more abortion, more freedom and hilarity in every way; abstinence is not a good foundation for socialism.
Anthony Crosland

I commend you, Bunglehorn, you’re playing your patient’s sympathy card expertly. Michael wins converts when his opponents resort to ad hominem attacks and you’ve been sure to illustrate such unrequited passion negatively. Your patient has come so far as to admire Moore, despite knowing of his half-true statements (ergo false statements) and manipulative editing tactics.

It is true, when a Moore critic calls him fat, Moore wins. When people blanketly call him un-American, Moore wins. America, or at least the classic American dream, represents a good and just society with opportunities for everyone. One who follows Moore’s work can see that his underlying motivation is standing up for the little guy. The underdog theme has universal appeal. It’s American, even Christian at it’s core. Moores vision of a good and just America isn’t so radical, he merely advocates a different approach than the traditionalists with which he battles.

One quick aside…when encouraging your patient, you should refer to Moore’s critics as his critics or his traditionalist foes. Do not speak as I have here. Moore is the progressive. He is battling the status quo. Flip the sentence subject and object so that your patient will register the inverse – Moore is fending off evil-doers. Language matters!

Fortunately for Moore, his opponents do not directly take him to task for what he says in his own medium. If they were adept, they’d use the maestro’s own film strategies against him. He’s the big guy now, right? Some have tried, but they’re mere disciples in the shadow of a master.

Warmest Regards,

Michael Moore: Master Marketer

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