Downsize This (Pan paperback) Paperback – 29 Nov 2002
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Who says the left wing doesn't have a sense of humour? Maybe it doesn't, but in Downsize This! documentarian Michael Moore certainly does. Moore's politics are rabidly liberal, populist and anti-big business--about what you'd expect from the former editor of Mother Jones. While this restricts his audience to those on the left side of the aisle, Downsize This! will be a chance to point and laugh hysterically (if ruefully) at the clique of rich white guys who run everything.
Moore is at his best as a prankster, whether it's trying to see if Pat Buchanan will take a campaign donation from the John Wayne Gacy Fan Club (yes) or whether he can have Bob Dornan committed to an insane asylum because of his bizarre behaviour (no, but it was close). Moore is one of America's sharpest satirists, and Downsize This! makes one wish he would write a "Sorry State of the Union" every year. But only if it doesn't cut into his moviemaking--that's too big a price to pay. --Michael Gerber, Amazon.com
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Here's an example. There are two pictures on the first page. The first is the federal building in Oklahoma City destroyed by Timothy McVeigh's bomb in 1995. The second is an extremely similar picture, in fact it could be the same building a few moments later, what used to be a General Motors office building in Flint, Michigan. A single question above the pictures: "What is terrorism?".
Many of us have been asking ourselves this question lately. As Moore points out, terrorism can be of a corporate nature. When corporations across the US were making record profits they were downsizing millions of people, effectively moving their jobs elsewhere, usually to either Mexico (courtesy of NAFTA) or the Far East, where labour is much cheaper. However, this policy causes many problems to the society, much more than 'simple' unemployment.
These days corporations merrily take all public subsidies they are offered and don't give a flying rat about giving anything back to the community. In fact, many make a point of not minding that at all. Moore names many companies that keep the money and still leave the place where they had promised to stay. Others get so much money that the overall cost of each direct job is a small fortune. That's the case of the Mercedes-Benz plant in Alabama, where each job was subsidised by about US$175,000. I could understand such a level of subsidies to a company making small and environmentally friendly cars, for poorer people. What I can't understand is how such a poor state (in comparison with others) is paying for people to have their luxury cars, that pollute like there's no tomorrow. This smells bad - literally.
Another example. In the following two pages Moore compiled a list of 17 steps of an "Etiquette of Downsizing". "Have kleenex ready" and "remain calm and try not to display any emotion" are only two of the most hypocritical ones.
The rest of the book follows only too easily. From making you feel like you wanna blow up something (I resisted!), to exposing how stupid some obscure congressmen are, to direct attacks on Orange County (yes, all of the Republican voters there), Pat Buchanan, Bob Dole, the US two-party (two twins) political system, bigots (read Pat Buchanan and Newt Gringrich), zealots, you name it.
Two low points on this book. First, Michael Moore said it was great having Madeleine Albright, a citizen from former Czechoslovakia, in the US. She was the same person who said 500.000 dead Iraqi children were 'worth it'. Beast of a woman, she would have made a wonderful toilet attendant, if her colleagues could tolerate her. Second, Mikhail Gorbachev did NOT pull down the Berlin wall. If anything, he was overtaken by events.
Still, this book is a breath of fresh air, mixing humour and american politics. It's only a shame he is not as mainstream as he deserves.
I'm not sure that even Moore believes everything he writes but he always has a point. The result is an enjoyable, interesting, often stimulating but most importantly funny book.
Moore does attempt to be humorous with his staple subjects: corporate greed and accountability, right to freedom/life and social and environmental responsibility. Like Stupid White Men the book makes subjects accessible that are often not covered by mainstream media.
If Stupid White Men has made you think about reading more then this is a good start if you're happy to have many more American examples as the main topic. If you're looking for something a little more British then this is not the book for you.
It can be seen from this mighty tome that Moore's main strength is being the new, less funny and far more wealthy Bill Hicks. The really sad thing is that what Bill saw fit to comment on hasn't changed much with Moore. A chapter stating comedically that the Democrats are no different to the Republicans still rings true today nearly a decade after it was written.
Sometimes, though, Moore's humour adds little genuine weight to his arguments. His ironic defence of abortion, A Sperm's Right To Life, attempts to make light out of a serious subject and falls short of its target.
This is a minor problem and I feel that a book with thirty-five chapters of American satirical content has much to offer all readers, not just us evil lefties.
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Michael Moore must be the only American who stands up for the working man back in his homeland.Read more
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