Naomi Klein Interviews Michael Moore on the Perils of Capitalism
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Editors Note: On Sept. 17, in the midst of the publicity blitz for his cinematic takedown of the capitalist order, filmmaker Michael Moore talked with Nation columnist Naomi Klein by phone about the film, the roots of our economic crisis and the promise and peril of the present political moment. Listen to a podcast of the full conversation here. Following is an edited transcript of their conversation.
Naomi Klein: So, the film is wonderful. Congratulations. It is, as many people have already heard, an unapologetic call for a revolt against capitalist madness. But the week it premiered, a very different kind of revolt was in the news: the so-called tea parties, seemingly a passionate defense of capitalism and against social programs.
Meanwhile, we are not seeing too many signs of the hordes storming Wall Street.
Personally, I'm hoping that your film is going to be the wake-up call and the catalyst for all of that changing. But I'm just wondering how you're coping with this odd turn of events, these revolts for capitalism led by Glenn Beck.
Michael Moore: I don't know if they're so much revolts in favor of capitalism as they are being fueled by a couple of different agendas, one being the fact that a number of Americans still haven't come to grips with the fact that there's an African American who is their leader. And I don't think they like that.
NK: Do you see that as the main driving force for the tea parties?
MM: I think it's one of the forces -- but I think there's a number of agendas at work here. The other agenda is the corporate agenda. The health care companies and other corporate concerns are helping to pull together what seems like a spontaneous outpouring of citizen anger.
But the third part of this is -- and this is what I really have always admired about the right wing -- they are organized, they are dedicated, they are up at the crack of dawn fighting their fight. And on our side, I don't really see that kind of commitment.
When they were showing up at the town-hall meetings in August -- those meetings are open to everyone. So where are the people from our side? And then I thought, wow, it's August. You ever try to organize anything on the left in August?
NK: Wasn't part of it also, though, that the left, or progressives, or whatever you want to call them, have been in something of a state of disarray with regard to the Obama administration -- that most people favor universal health care, but they couldn't rally behind it because it wasn't on the table?
MM: Yes. And that's why [President Barack] Obama keeps turning around and looking for the millions behind him, supporting him, and there's nobody even standing there, because he chose to take a half measure instead of the full measure that needed to happen. Had he taken the full measure -- true single-payer, universal health care -- I think he'd have millions out there backing him up.
NK: Now that [Montana Democrat Sen. Max] Baucus' plan is going down in flames, do you think there's another window to put universal health care on the table?
MM: Yes. And we need people to articulate the message and get out in front of this and lead it. You know, there's close to a hundred Democrats in Congress who had already signed on as co-signers to [Michigan Democratic Congressman] John Conyers' bill.
Obama, I think, realizes now that whatever he thought he was trying to do with bipartisanship or holding up the olive branch, that the other side has no interest in anything other than the total destruction of anything he has stood for or was going to try and do.