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A review of Michael Moore's book Downsize THIS!
By Eric Oppen

Eric Oppen describes himself as "...a freelance writer based in North Central Iowa, whose discovery of Ayn Rand's writings, in Capitalism, the Unknown Ideal, crystallized inchoate convictions that had floated through my mind all my life."

I have been reading since I was three years old; I can't remember not knowing how to read. In all that time, I must have read tens of thousands of books. Even so, I can remember no book that managed to rub my fur the wrong way as thoroughly as Michael Moore's latest outspewing, a piece of trash titled Downsize This! Random Threats from an Unarmed American. The amount of praise this rubbish has garnered proves, yet again, that Mencken was right. He said that you could never go wrong by underestimating the taste and intelligence of the average American.

Where to begin? Well, how about with the title? I do not react well to threats; my usual response is to point out very mildly that we paranoids tend to be heavily armed (unlike the ever-so-righteous Michael Moore), and to have NO sense of humour about threats. Also, since when is being unarmed something to brag about? Particularly for someone who believes, as he does, that...but that'll come later.

Then, he contrasts two similar photographs just inside the book: One of the Murrah Building, in Oklahoma City just after the bombing, and the other, a factory building in Flint, Michigan, in the process of demolition.

The obvious intent is to make you associate corporate "downsizing" with the sort of terrorists that would blow up a building full of non-combatants.

This contrast gives us a clue to the thinking processes of this strange little man. He is angry. No, he is seething mad, nay, furious, about downsizing.

How dare employers get rid of workers, or move their operations out of towns that have come to be heavily economically dependent on them, in favor of locations in warmer, more business-friendly parts of the world? What do they think they are, twentieth-century businesses or something?

In Michael Moore's world, corporations owe their workers jobs, whether or not they are actually useful to the company. Moreover, they owe the towns where they've had factories their continued support, even in cases where the political or social climate has become very user-hostile to their operations. Moore apparently has never heard of economics; his mind is bogged in the feudal ages. For some reason, the obligations in this strange relationship, according to Moore, all flow one way: from the employer to the employee, never the other way around. How ignorant I feel, when I remember that I thought that the "iron rice bowl" of lifetime employment was a Chinese Communist concept!

Moore is about as neutral on the subject of labour unions as a Klansman on the subject of the white race. To him, labour unions are shining paladins of collective action, the heroic defenders of helpless workers. Without unions, it seems, workers would be helpless automatons, so dazzled by the glorious majesty of the BOSS that they'd throw themselves into live volcanoes if asked to. Although he waxes incredibly indignant over the people whose lives have been disrupted and the towns whose economies have been damaged by downsizing, not a word does he say against unions' strikes, even when those strikes have led to actual loss of life and damage to property, as in the coal strikes or the Greyhound strike of some years back, His syllogism runs roughly as follows:

  1. Unions can, by their nature, do no wrong.
  2. These actions were taken by unions.
  3. Therefore, these actions were not wrong.

Of course, he takes on other targets as well, with all the fairness and intellectual acumen of a British yobbo out for a happy evening of Paki-bashing. He proclaims, ex cathedra, that O.J. Simpson could not have committed the murder of his ex-wife and her friend Ron Goldman. DNA? Previous pattern of wife-battering and stalking? Footprints? Bloodstains? "Ugly-ass" shoes? None of those things matter. It was all a conspiracy by them racist cops. To support this preposterous idea, he cites cases of malfeasance and oppression...almost all committed by the Los Angeles County Sheriff's deputies, an entirely different organization from the LAPD!

He also displays invincible ignorance when he says that OJ wouldn't have needed to commit the murder, because "there are so many unemployed, desperate individuals who are ready to off almost anybody for two hundred dollars." How incredibly insulting, on several different levels! Does he really think this? If someone I didn't know offered me two hundred dollars to go kill someone else I didn't know, I'd play along precisely as long as it took to get myself fitted with a wire by the police so I could help nail the creep! Does he really think that the fact of unemployment necessarily makes people willing to risk capital punishment or life in prison for two hundred lousy dollars, when the going rate for a hit in the early 1970s was twenty thousand?

Of course, he spends a lot of time bashing the NRA. Not bashing the NRA would put his "guilty white liberal" credentials at serious risk. He admits that he admires the Chinese Communist "show trials," and fantasizes about "show trials" that he'd like to put on. One of them is "The People vs. the NRA" and ends up with the NRA's leadership running, only to be gunned down by some "youths" with automatic weapons. He also waxes mightily indignant over the evil Bob Dole's opposition to the "assault weapons" ban.

The wrongheaded, asinine proposals go on and on (and on, and on, and on...sorry, a bit of book-reviewer angst crept in there). In all ways, Michael Moore shows himself to be a true New Deal/Great Society liberal. He encourages blacks to hold the "Rodney King commemorative riots" and this time, attack Beverly Hills. To facilitate this, he helpfully includes maps showing the routes from Compton and Watts to Beverly Hills; like most "pro-black" liberals, he seems to believe, down deep inside, that the very people he pretends to like are about as thick as an asphalt sandwich. He also ignores the fact that, should a black mob be seen moving toward Beverly Hills, the police and National Guard would respond. For a wealth-hater, this is an odd lapse.

This book is the biggest waste of time and trees' lives I've ever seen. Against my public school textbooks, Chick Comics, and the collected writings of Nikita Khrushchev, it's up against some pretty stiff competiton, let me tell you! Actually, I would probably prefer Khrushchev's works; I read his memoirs, and judging by them, he occasionally had something interesting to say. As an essayist and solver of our current problems, Michael Moore is about as useful as a man who solves the problem of low ceilings by cutting off the inhabitant's head.

The Peter Principle of rising to one's level of incompetence is vindicated yet again; although, with this offering, Michael Moore shows that it is possible to rise far above one's level.

© Eric Oppen.

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29 January, 1998