Hundreds hear Michael Moore in Seattle

SEATTLE – On a cloudy Monday afternoon, several hundred people packed into an auditorium here to hear author/director/activist Michael Moore. The event was co-sponsored by the Washington Alliance of Technology Workers/Communications Workers of America Local 37083 (WashTech), Washington Physicians for Social Responsibility and Elliot Bay books.

Moore opened with the question, “doesn’t anyone have a job here?” After a few responses from the crowd he jokingly continued with, “welcome Boeing workers!”

Seattle was the 44th city in a tour for his latest book, Stupid White Men tour, Moore tells us, that wasn’t supposed to happen, for a book that almost didn’t see the light of day. His book was scheduled to be released on Sept. 11, 2001.

Neither Moore nor his publisher, Harper-Collins, was thinking about the book for the first few weeks after Sept. 11. However, when they did, they were on two vastly different planes.

Harper-Collins insisted that the book must have “about a 50 percent rewrite” for it to be palatable in the post-Sept. 11 world. For instance, they told Moore the word “coup” could not be used to describe how George W. Bush became the “U.S. president.” (Moore always makes sure he uses the “quotes gesture” when referring to Bush as “president.”)

Harper-Collins argued, “couldn’t you at least acknowledge some of Bush’s accomplishments since Sept. 11?” To which Moore responded, “what country are you living in?!”

At an impasse, Harper-Collins decided to have the previously printed 50,000 books turned into pulp. Speaking at an event for New Jersey Citizen Action, Moore decided to let off some steam about his work about to be destroyed. He also decided to read a couple chapters from his book, since he was convinced no one would ever see it.

Unbeknownst to Moore, a librarian in the audience put this all over the internet. Two days later, Harper-Collins had gotten enough heat and allowed Stupid White Men to be released without any changes.

But they cautioned Moore by saying, “this book will die; you are out of touch with the feeling of unity in the country.” They also sponsored a paltry three-city tour to promote the book.

After 24 hours, it was #1 on Amazon.com. Within a week of its release, the book was in its ninth printing. As of April 22, it is in its 20th printing. It has been on numerous best-seller lists, and has sold more copies than the latest John Grisham and Tom Clancy books combined. Hundreds to thousands have come to see him at the first 44 stops on this book tour.

Moore explains the seeming paradox of having a best-seller while Bush allegedly has a 90 percent approval rating. “The approval rating is to isolate us from the truth. And the truth is we, as left-liberal progressives, are the majority.” Moore says that’s not just rhetoric, and backs it up with facts: “In the United States, fifty-eight percent of the population is pro-union, 63 percent is pro-choice and 85 percent is pro-environment.”

In looking toward future elections, Moore sees conservative politicians being their own worst enemy. “I’m sure many of the 20,000 laid-off Enron workers voted for Bush in 2000.” He asks, “do you think they’ll do that next time?”

The author can be reached at toddt@pww.org