Posted by Curt on 12 February, 2016 at 9:11 pm. 3 comments already!


Armond White:

Billed as “A New Comedy,” Michael Moore’s Where to Invade Next is ungenerous and condescending. Those unfunny characteristics typify propaganda just as they also describe the sorry state of contemporary political humor, which has declined in this millennium, and Moore is largely to blame. Since his first distorted documentary, Roger and Me, in 1989, he’s used stridency, partisanship, and snark to despoil an art form and demean political discourse.

Moore’s jovial pretense is immediately divisive. He starts with a satirical proposition about American foreign policy: “On January 2, I was quietly summoned to the Pentagon to meet with the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Each branch was represented: the Army, the Air Force, the Marines. ‘Michael,’ they said, ‘we don’t know what the fuck we’re doing.’” His casual anti-military jibe introduces the film’s premise: Moore, the bumptious American, visits global sites of bloodless social revolution: Finland, Norway, Iceland, Italy, France, Slovenia, Tunisia, Portugal. He seeks counterpoints to what the United States has repeatedly done wrong. Where to Invade Next is millionaire Moore’s goofball imitation of President Obama’s 2009 European trunk show, which has been described as an apology tour.

No matter that Moore’s anti-Americanism turns into sentimental patriotism at the film’s other end — both positions are shallow, and neither is credible. Moore’s only distinction as a maker of documentaries (mockumentaries, really — mocking the idea of journalistic fairness and thorough reporting) is that he doesn’t care to be convincing. Like his imperious TV progeny Jon Stewart, Bill Maher, Stephen Colbert, and John Oliver, Moore preaches to the choir. Contrasting European and North African social programs and protests with feckless American styles of protest is no more illuminating than a TV-studio applause sign.

Moore’s button-pushing is a sign that the polarization of American politics and media that started with the 2000 presidential election has set in so deeply — bolstered by such events as 9/11, Bush’s 2004 reelection, and Hurricane Katrina — that it goes unquestioned and has become the new New Journalism. Such chucklehead political satire operates by a different sort of “logic”; argument and proof are less important than self-righteousness and a sense of snide superiority.

Media mogul Roger Ebert’s dangerously derelict praise of Moore’s Fahrenheit 911 (“This film has a point of view, and that’s okay”) was as much an oversimplification of a documentary’s purpose as the thoughtless attitude that ad hominem derision is also okay because Moore’s ultimate goal is to mock ideas and people.

Despite his humble front, Moore’s arrogance doesn’t stop. At his most offensively patronizing, he interviews a father whose child was killed in the 2011 massacre of Norwegian schoolchildren. Moore heartlessly goads the forgiving parent. He turns the screws on the audience so that our wincing is relieved only by the father’s grace. In a specious gun-control diatribe, part of Moore’s strategy is to mislabel the Norway atrocity as “terrorism.” Moore ignores the truly remarkable mystery of the grieving father’s human nature and what it says about Scandinavian pacifism.

As scattershot as Spike Lee in Chi-Raq, Moore then idealizes how other countries build spa-like prisons, and he uses scenes of brutal American prisons and vicious guards as counterpoint. There’s no investigation into the what, how, and when of European crime. This lackadaisical, dishonest storytelling satisfies Moore’s polarized studio audience, who only want him to cheerlead their distaste for the problematic United States. Moore’s romanticizing of Europe goes unchallenged by facts or even statistics. (There’s a clip from a promotional film of Finnish prison guards singing “We Are the World.”) He never asks how these Utopias were achieved, but he’s in slack-jawed awe at the different social systems — like a naïve college student:“Gee, Ma, they don’t have to wash their hands or say grace before dinner!”

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