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Sunday, November 01, 2009

Michael Moore turns camera to Capitalism-interviewed by ABC Lateline Business's Ali Moore

Reporter: Ali Moore

Documentary filmmaker Michael Moore - the man behind Bowling for Columbine and Fahrenheit 9/11 - has turned his attention to America's economic collapse with Capitalism: A Love Story.

ALI MOORE, PRESENTER: Documentary filmmaker Michael Moore - the man that made Bowling for Columbine and Fahrenheit 9/11 - has turned his attention to America's economic collapse in a new film, Capitalism: A Love Story. The film is, of course, anything but.

Here's a preview.

MICHAEL MOORE, FILMMAKER: We are here to get the money back for the American people.

SECURITY GUARD: I understand, sir, you can't come in.

MICHAEL MOORE: Can you take the bag; take it up, fill it up. I have more bags - 10 billion won't fit.

ALI MOORE: Michael Moore joined me from Michigan. A warning: some may find some of his language offensive.

Michael Moore, welcome to Lateline Business.

MICHAEL MOORE: Thank you - thank you for having me.

ALI MOORE: You started working on this film before the economy collapsed; filming began in the American spring of 2008. What was the story you set out to tell?

MICHAEL MOORE: Well, I wanted to ... I really wanted to tell a story I have been telling for 20 years in all my movies, which is how is it that the people at the top who have the most money in a democracy get to call all the shots, when it's supposed to be we all are supposed to have this equal say in things. It just is always - I always wondered why it is. Why the little guy doesn't really have much say considering it's a democracy. So I set out to explore that concept. I think we have always believed that capitalism and democracy go hand in hand with each other, and I guess I began to wonder, maybe, that's not true. That actually they are opposites because capitalism benefits the few, not the many. Whereas democracy is about the many.

ALI MOORE: You call capitalism a system of legalised greed; is the message that you can fix it or you have to replace it? And if you have to replace it, what do you replace it with?

MICHAEL MOORE: I think it's beyond fixing. I think it's gotten so bastardised to the point where it will be impossible now to go back to anything resembling what seemed like maybe a good idea. The old, old style of capitalism or free enterprise: I think that has gone.

I think the only way to deal with this is essentially to eliminate it and come up with a new economic system that speaks to the 21st Century, and to quit having this stupid debate of capitalism versus socialism: 15 or 16th Century philosophy versus a 19th century philosophy. We are in the 21st Century; we need to come up with something that relates to what we are going through right now.

I am not an economist but what I would ask for is that whatever we come up with have two basic things in its foundation. Number one: democracy. In other words, we the people control the economy. And number two: a moral and ethical core where no business decision gets made without first asking the question, "Is this for the common good?"

ALI MOORE: So how in practice would that work? Two things, I guess. You feature a number of businesses in your movie where workers own the business; is that practical in an era of a global economy? And, secondly, can you unscramble the egg - can you start again?

MICHAEL MOORE: You know 100 years ago we had child labour - we had 10 year olds and 12 year olds working in the factories. Some people started to say, "You know what, this isn't something really to reform – this is something to get rid of." And people said, "No, no, no, are you kidding - how can we do that? That would totally screw up the whole economy, because we depend on kids working too alongside with adults."

ALI MOORE: An entire global economic system is a little different, isn't it?

MICHAEL MOORE: It's a system like slavery or child labour, where at certain points in human history we as humans make a moral choice saying, "You know what this is not good". It may be good for the economy to have slaves, because you don't pay people - it probably helps the bottom line a bit - but you know what, it's wrong.

ALI MOORE: Specifically what does your system look like. It's a system where the people control the economy - what does that look like?

MICHAEL MOORE: I don't know. Am I supposed to know that? I can tell you that cancer is bad. Now, do I have a right to say that without having to now give you the cure for cancer? I mean, it's enough to point out, doing my job, as a documentary filmmaker that something here is really, really wrong, and it's really hurt millions of people. That's my job.

My hope is that when people see my films, that someone or someone’s out there, some people out, there are going to leave the theatre and go, "You know what, we can do better than this. We can come up with something different, because this isn't working."
So it's not really up to me to figure that out.

ALI MOORE: The fact that Robert Ruben, Timothy Geithner, Larry Summers - the fact that they are all still there, a point that you make in your movie, does that mean in your mind that Barack Obama is no better than his predecessors?

MICHAEL MOORE: Oh, absolutely not, I don't believe that. Are you kidding? The predecessor, as you refer to him, Mr Bush, he will go down in history as the worst president in the history of the this country, and if we don't pull ourselves out of the mess that we are all globally in right now, he will be seen as the Nero who burned Rome. That's how this man will be remembered.

Barack Obama: this is who he is. He's a guy that's inherited a huge mess. Not just one mess; we are in two wars; we have got an economy that's collapsed; we have got $50 million with no health care. I can go on and on ... and now he's supposed to fix this.

You know, it's like, "Let's send the black guy in to clean up the mess." I love it when he said that the other week. “Don't criticise me for holding the mop. You made the mess - I was willing to come in and pick up the mop, so I'm trying to mop up your mess now. So shut the fuck up.”

ALI MOORE: But I guess if it's going to be successful in mopping up the mess, why the need for the people to rise up as you put it?

MICHAEL MOORE: Well, because of what you said. He's got Summers and Geithner and Ruben there. In other words, he may have hired the wrong people. That's my take on it. I don't think it's because he's up to anything bad or evil. I just think Democrats hadn't been in power so long; he just went to the last guys that were around. Well those guys actually helped to create the mess we're in.

So maybe his master plan is, “you know what, they made the mess - I'm going to make them help me mop it up.” Throwing them a mop saying, "We have to find out how to fix this thing you guys helped to break."

ALI MOORE: There's a number of scenes where you try to get into the headquarters of the Goldman Sachs, the AIGs, the big financial institutions, but ultimately there's no contact with the villains of your story, if you like. Did you try and make contact with the CEOs of the company beyond what we saw in the movie.

MICHAEL MOORE: We put in requests for months to talk to them. And we were turned down consistently over and over and over again. I don't believe in going to their homes - I don't think that's right. They have families there - the families are not the ones involved in this. So generally that's not my way of doing things.

So I went to where they work, in the hopes that I could talk to them. My feeling has been, because I have been doing this for so many years, one of these days, one of these corporate chairman are going to call my bluff and invite me upstairs. And I was hoping during this film one of these guys would do that, you know - who would be bold enough, like Charlton Heston was in Bowling for Columbine to say, "Yeah come on in - I'll take you on”. But they weren't as brave as Moses was.

ALI MOORE: When you talk about what the system is that could possibly replace the one that we have, do you see capitalism and democracy as mutually exclusive? Because a number of your critics have made much of the fact that the movie is presented by Paramount Vantage in association with the Weinstein Company. And Weinstein was funded with a $490 million placement advised by Goldman Sachs, and Paramount is owned by Viacom, where the former Bear Stearns executive Alan Greenberg sits on the board. That's capitalism and democracy at work isn't it? You got your money, you got to make your film, and you were free to bite the hand that feeds you, and bite it very hard.

MICHAEL MOORE: I have gone to them to take their money from them, so I can make my movie in the hopes that the American people, and the people in Australia and other countries around the world will create a system where these large media companies don't own and control as much as they own and control.

Now the irony there is why would they give me the money to do that? Well, they do it because I make them money - because my films are so popular and people will go to it, and it makes them money. So they think it's safe to let me say these things because they know - they hope - at least they there seen - that the people, the masses, will not rise up, will not do anything after they leave the theatre. So it's OK to put me out there because, hey, we can make money off the guy and he can say all he wants about wanting to bring our system down, because nothing's going to happen. The people aren't going to revolt.

My hope is that when people see this, they will get involved in their democracy: they will say, "That's enough, I have had it," and they will go and fight these companies including these media companies that gave me the money for this film and create a more fair and democratic system. So that's the tug-o-war here.

ALI MOORE: But isn't that democracy and capitalism nicely at work?

MICHAEL MOORE: No, this is capitalism hoping that democracy doesn't work. Capitalism of these movie companies: these large media companies are hoping that democracy, in other words, people rising up and getting involved in their democracy to stop these monopolies, they are hoping that that doesn't happen and that capitalism will prevail because democracy is the enemy of capitalism.

ALI MOORE: Michael Moore, many thanks for talking to Lateline Business.

MICHAEL MOORE: Hey, thanks so much for having me - I really appreciate it.

Broadcast: 29/10/2009

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