Straight talking from Michael Moore
Michael Moore, the American film-maker and political commentator,
received a tumultuous welcome when he spoke to the thousand or so
people who had crowded into the festival marquee on Saturday to hear
what the Oscar-winning director of Bowling for Columbine and author of
Stupid White Men had to say. Such was the genuine delight to see him in
West Belfast that he was given a standing ovation before he had even
begun his speech.
He was introduced by the actor Stephen Rea, who told the audience that
Moore "is already one of the great figures of the 20th century",
that because of him, moral courage "is possible again". Moore,
showed what could be done by one individual with "nothing but his
citizenhip and an obsessively inquiring mind".
Moore himself seemed rather moved by the warmth of his welcome and
explained that he had been persuaded to visit Belfast by his daughter.
She has recently graduated from college and as a gift her parents told
her that they would take her anywhere in the world she wanted to go.
She chose Belfast and Derry.
In beginning his speech, Moore acknowledged Gerry Adams, who was in the
audience, and thanked him publicly for, as he put it, "everything
His address was his customary mix of irreverent humour combined with
serious political insight. Moore also has a knack of being able to see
through the fog of detail which surrounds issues, even those with which
is may be less familiar than his usual subject matter, and of getting
straight to the core.
He began, somewhat surprisingly, by telling the audience of his recent
first experience of an English Premiership match; the classic North
London derby between Tottenham and Arsenal. He said he was "blown
by the atmosphere, with 30,000 people all "singing songs non-stop
"I'd never seen anything like this. They were all in perfect harmony.
And I thought why is anyone afraid of these guys? How did they rule the
world for so long?"
The offside rule was also a source of amazement to him. "That is
the American way," he said. "We have the right to take that
wherever we want to take it."
Who is Kevin Myers?
Moore told the audience that at a press conference earlier, he had been
criticised by a BBC journalist, who said that his view on the north of
Ireland in Stupid White Men were 'totally one-sided'. (She also quoted
Irish Times columnist Kevin Myers at him.)
Moore's response - "I don't know who he is; is he important?"
more than a few reporters present to forget their journalistic
impartiality for a moment and shout back "No" with surprising
The view in question was Moore's obviously tongue-in-cheek suggestion
to "go to Protestant neighbourhoods with hoses and spray them with
water saying 'I baptise you in the name of the Father, Son and Holy
Ghost' because once everybody's Catholic the problem is over." The
woman was upset about that?
The real purpose of his speech, he said, was to talk about the "sad,
sorry, state of affairs in America". However, he added that the good
news was that the majority of Americans did not vote for George W Bush.
The American public, he continued, are generally a "liberal and
progressive group of people" but are lacking in leadership. There
one "with the spine to stand up to the Republicans and Conservatives.
That's the problem."
The reason Bush is currently enjoying such high ratings is because of
the tendency of most nations to rally behind their leader in times of
crisis - whoever that may be. A case of, as Moore put it, "love the
"Before the war, 54% of the American public said that they were opposed
to going into this war without the support of the UN and all our
allies," he said. "The majority. But once the war started, the
said they were behind it. Who are the people whose sons and daughters
are over there but the very people who are getting a phone call from a
"You're not going to say anything against the war because it's your
child over there or your neighbour's child, and you don't want to say
anything that might risk their lives. That's the psychology behind
that. It's not because the American public supports the policy of
George W Bush.
"In fact, in the two years he's been President, we've lost 40,000
the economy is in a mess, and that should provide fertile ground for
the American public, assuming all the votes are counted, to removed
George W Bush from office. I do believe there is a chance of that
happening because at the core of American is a very good heart.
"When people hear the truth about Iraq," he continued, "that
American public was lied to, lied to over and over again, lied to about
the weapons of mass destruction, lied to about the connection between
Saddam Hussein and Al Qaeda - they will come around."
Moore said that in the days after his Oscar acceptance speech, when he
said that "we are living in fictitious times with a fictitious
President", there was a violent reaction against him in the US.
Now however, "I can't walk down the street without every other person
saying 'you were right'. Even the Bush administration had had to admit
they didn't tell the truth?.
He warned of the backlash against Bush as a result. The people, he,
said, "will not forget. As every day goes by when more American kids
are killed in Iraq - for what? For the oil that will line the pockets
of Bush and his friends? For Haliburton, Dick Cheney's company that now
has virtually all the oil contracts in Iraq?"
Dude, Where's My Country?
Moore then read a newly completed chapter from his forthcoming book,
Dude, Where's My Country?
"I wrote a chapter yesterday," he said, "so you will be
people to hear it in words."
One of the principle themes of the book is how government uses fear,
most of it irrational as a tool of social and political control. The
chapter is entitled The United States of Boo!
"They call it the War on Terror. Who said that you can conduct a
a noun? Wars are fought against countries, religions, people. They are
not fought against nouns, or problems. Any time that happens - the War
on Drugs, the War on Poverty - it fails.
"Our leaders would have us believe that this is a guerrilla war fought
by thousands of foreign terrorists on our soil. But this is not what is
taking place and it is time to do a reality check.
"About once every two years Americans are the target of an act of
terror - In 2000 and 2002 your chances of dying in a terrorist incident
in the US were zero. So far in 2003, zero. Even in 2001 you chance of
dying in an act of terrorism was 1 in 150,000. In 2001 you had a
greater chance of dying of the flu or pneumonia: 1 in 4,000; from
taking your own life: 1 in 10,000; being a homicide victim: 1 in
35,000; or riding in a car: 1 in 5,000.
"But no-one freaked out over the possibility of being killed every
you drove your car to buy a heart disease inducing doughnut from a
coughing teenager. The suicide rate alone means that YOU are a greater
danger to yourself than any terrorist."
"We forget about our own multi-millionaire corporate terrorists;
ones who rip off our old age pensions; destroy the environment, deplete
irreplaceable fossil fuels in the name of profit. What do you call the
doubling of the homeless and hungry in the last three years? Are these
not acts of terrorism?
Do they not cost lives? We have our own terrorists to deal with and we
need our entire focus returned to that."
IRA litmus test
On the situation in the Six Counties, Moore said: "I have always
at this from the point of common sense, of basic human decency; that no
group of people should be discriminated against for any reason
whatsoever. That's the bottom line."
He lambasted some members of the media who had questioned him prior to
his speech. "The litmus test questions were asked," he said.
could say anything about anything else, I had to say that the IRA was
wrong, that they have to put away their weapons first, and this whole
sorry-arsed, boring litany of bullshit. Get over it.
"What are we asking for here? An election? Oh no! What are you afraid
Moore then affected the speech of a robot, saying
All acts of violence are wrong, he said, but "individual acts of
violence or violence committed by groups who have been living in an
oppressed situation should not be compared to violence organised and
motivated by the state, a democratic, free state like the United
Kingdom which participated in and co-ordinated acts of violence and
assassination. That is the ultimate evil.
So shut the fuck up."
"You the state, representatives of the people, put down your guns,
leave this island; let the people have free, peaceful, open elections.
Let them decide their own fate."