The Blanket

The Blanket - A Journal of Protest & Dissent
Stupid White Men

Michael Moore in Belfast

Anthony McIntyre • August 19, 2003

When Tommy Gorman phoned me on a Saturday evening and asked if I would like to accompany him to the Michael Moore talk - a roar would be a more apt description - at the West Belfast Feile, I was delighted to get the chance. Previous to his call I had assumed no tickets were available due to such a high early demand. The Feile's Carol Jackson later explained that within an hour of release the tickets were gone. Not that surprising given that they went gratis and few would have survived the opening rush once made available to a hungry public.

Moore has assumed something of iconographic status for many on the left seeking alternatives to the less than inspirational clowns that the left have been wont to worship over the years. Breezy and irreverent he has made a reputation for ridiculing the sacred cows of the right. Amongst the issues he has tackled, according to one report in Dissent magazine, are the increased use of prison labour; botched urban renewal schemes; the temping of the workforce; and problems of welfare, violence and racism. The prospect of hearing him thunder live was not to be turned down.

Yet, almost immediately on taking our seats in the Feile marquee, I sensed that this was not going to be the earth moving once in a lifetime event that it was being billed as in some quarters. And when I left I was more impressed by the introduction performed by Stephen Rea than I was by the performance of the big man himself.

It was no minor feather in the hat of the Feile management to host Moore. He is an Oscar winner, successful author, filmmaker and prime time TV commentator. His reputation for acerbic but witty social commentary travels before him so he could easily pull crowds anywhere. While 1200 took up their seats in West Belfast, Danny Morrison of the Feile management committee was hardly exaggerating when he said 5000 tickets would easily have been snapped up. Health and safety requirements meant that 1200 was the upper limit. Yet watching Moore’s performance I was struck by the visibility of the awkward joints that incongruity throws up. Moore came to the citadel of conformity and the capital of censorship in Ireland and spoke about truth. Fine in so far as it goes but all his utterances seemed premised on an assumption that truth is something West Belfast places a premium on. It seemed bizarre that he would single out one of the leading liars of Irish political life for praise. And despite his pejorative dismissal of the ‘stupid’ George Bush and his war on Iraq, there was not one word of opprobrium for those politicians, some of whom were in the audience, who undermined the Irish anti-war movement by galloping into Hillsborough to meet with the US president during his war summit while school children were being battered by the RUC outside Belfast City Hall for stating their opposition to the US-UK summit being held in Ireland.

Observing this, I was instantly reminded of the writer Albert Camus who, if he could have cast an eye from the silence of his grave, might just have found in Moore’s exaltation of the truth evidence of its absurdity. Looking around the hall we could see the local Stazi monitoring the audience. They were hardly there to promote the values expounded by Michael Moore. And the word ‘dissent’ would have sent electric-like shocks through them. Their view of a critical thought is that it is equivalent to a contagious disease - something to be quarantined at the first hint of its emergence. These people's capacity to absorb nonsense maybe only hours or days after dismissing as fools others for even hinting at it would have provided a most interesting and revealing target for Moore's ire.

Moore gave me the clear impression that he was good on American domestic affairs but very vague when it came to Iraq and Israel, and utterly hopeless when addressing the conflict in Ireland. His lack of insight he conceals well with humour, but at the heel of the hunt it remained none the more insightful for that. Did we really need him to come here and play to our prejudices? He pretended to his audience that decommissioning of IRA weaponry had not yet taken place. And the audience in turn pretended to believe him.

His admonishment to the unionists to get real on the grounds that those who were formerly oppressed, themselves never resorted to oppression was amazing. It merely confirmed for me that he really did not know a lot about the Israeli experience. I wanted to ask him how he rated Orwell’s Animal Farm but time was up. Was he not aware of Napoleon’s acerbic observation that amongst those who are oppressed are many who like to oppress?

Michael Moore is more a humorist-cum-polemicist than an analyst. As Michael Mattson writes in Dissent he has made political criticism entertaining. But because he seeks to politicise through entertainment he exposes himself to the charge of ‘junking accuracy’. That much was evident in his Feile debut. Nevertheless, his voice is one that is raised in protest against much that is unjust and is therefore welcome. He is the fulcrum upon which swathes of dissenting opinion can position themselves much more effectively. Without him the intellectual armoury which fires salvo upon salvo into the fortress of the powerful would be seriously depleted. As Stephen Rea said sanguinely America will never succumb to fascism because Michael Moore will not shut up.

Leaving to make our way back to the car I commented to Tommy Gorman that West Belfast made Michael Moore welcome because he does not live here. If he did and continued to dissent or probe for truth behind the line that is handed down from on high he would find his house surrounded by a lot of very stupid white men eager to throw their copies of his books on the pyre.



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The Blanket - A Journal of Protest & Dissent



All censorships exist to prevent any one from challenging current conceptions and existing institutions. All progress is initiated by challenging current conceptions, and executed by supplanting existing institutions. Consequently the first condition of progress is the removal of censorships.
- George Bernard Shaw

Index: Current Articles

22 August 2003


Other Articles From This Issue:


A Pathological Political Disorder
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Letter to the Blanket

Michael McKevitt


Deeply Flawed

Douglas Hamilton


The Prison Population Binge
Daniel S. Murphy


Going Native
Kathleen O Halloran


The Hall and State of Illusions
Davy Carlin


Liam O Ruairc


Mazen Dana
Sean Noonan


Michael Moore in Belfast: Stupid White Men
Anthony McIntyre


11 August 2003


Revenge, Not Justice
Anthony McIntyre


Statement of Michael McKevitt


Brutality in Maghaberry Extends to Visitors

Martin Mulholland, IRPWA


Federal Prisoner Becomes University Professor
Stephen C. Richards


What is the New School of Convict Criminology?
Jeffery Ian Ross and Stephen C. Richards


Intellectuals and the Cold War
John Harrington


Kevin Lynch Commemoration Speech
Jimmy Bradley


Neo-Liberal Nicaragua: Neo Banana Republic
Toni Solo




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