Sunday, August 01, 2010

Barry's Reviews: "Stupid White Men" by Michael Moore

Stupid White Men...and Other Sorry Excuses for the State of the Nation (2002, 2004)
by Michael Moore

Reviewed by Barry Ergang

A couple who live down the street from me spend their spring and summer weekends selling a variety of items at flea markets. Among the items are books. Occasionally I’ll have the dog out for a walk when they’re loading up their car with merchandise, and will thus take a quick look at the books. I had read and enjoyed Michael Moore’s Downsize This! a number of years ago, so when I found a copy of his Stupid White Men, I asked how much my neighbors wanted for it. They graciously insisted that I take it and refused any money. (I fully intend to return it to them now that I’ve read it.)

“Why bother,” you ask, “to read a book that was originally published in 2002 and which was a commentary on the state of the nation at that time when here we are eight years and a different president later?”

“Easy,” I reply. “Much of what Moore wrote then still has relevance now. Apart from that, it’s an entertaining as well as an informative read.”

Anyone familiar with Moore’s work in film and print would expect him to skewer the Bush administration, and he does just that. He also discusses racism, religion, sexism, education, guns, the environment, the penal system, and Ralph Nader. But his criticisms aren’t directed only at Republicans. He’s passionately critical of many a Democrat, too.

After Bush was elected, many Republicans were fond of attributing anything that went wrong in the country to the Clinton administration. To them Clinton was—probably still is—the antichrist. (To me it’s Dick Cheney.) Conversely, Democrats tended to blame Bush for everything. Although I never thought he was a terrible President, I was never a huge Clinton fan, but I was unaware until I read this book that many of the policies progressives lament, and for which they castigate Bush, were initiated by Clinton. After listing about two pages of them, Moore says, “Yes, you’d have to agree, considering all of his above accomplishments, that Bill Clinton was one of the best Republican Presidents we’ve ever had.”

Stupid White Men is serious in its intent, but frequently—though not always—lighthearted in tone. Moore is passionate about the material, which is deadly serious, but knows how to make it appealing, writing in a chatty, informal, one-to-one style. For readers like me, who generally can’t abide dry academic documentary histories and political analyses, it’s a good way to get some information in an entertaining manner.

Barry Ergang (c) 2010

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