Michael Moore slouches toward Chico
Michael Moore deserves a good rest.
“Now I know why rock stars do drugs,” he groaned in a low, weary voice to a small crowd at a morning benefit for the Esplanade League, Chico’s fundraising organization for liberal politics. The Oscar-winning documentarian (Bowling for Columbine) and best-selling author (Stupid White Men and the current Dude, Where’s My Country?) made his first visit to Chico last Tuesday, marking the 32nd stop of his book tour that covers 39 cities in 23 days.
Running late all day and accompanied by a fleet of security guards in expensive vehicles, the slouching, portly filmmaker followed his brief morning appearance with an entertaining, two-hour talk at the sold-out Chico State BMU auditorium that was equal parts comedy routine and populist rant against Bush and “wimpy, Democratic non-leaders.”
“I have a weird sense of optimism,” Moore said, decked out in characteristic casual garb, including a Chico State baseball cap. “People don’t like being lied to. Iraq will come back to haunt Bush.”
Throughout his talk, Moore echoed the sharp, political humor from his books and portrayed himself as more sympathetic with the average American working-class liberal than professional lefties, whom he mocked as indecisive and whining. While noting there was much work to do locally on preparing a viable third party, he urged that it was now most important to demand a Democratic candidate who is liberal and forthcoming on the issues—from a woman’s right to choose, to universal health care, to the “Orwellian” concept of free trade.
Moore also emphasized the need for instant-runoff voting, abolition of the Electoral College and proportional representation (adding “we need to vote like Canadians—with pencil and paper"). He seemed to relish the adoration and cheers from the rapt crowd, whose members blurted out random comments and questions without microphones. One woman asked Moore to comment on the “non-human, wolf blood line of the Bush administration,” prompting befuddled gazes around the room.
Although he began the event with a skit featuring life-size cardboard cutouts of Osama bin Laden and Saddam Hussein and later featured an audience participation game show called “Stump the Yank,” Moore ended on a dead-serious note: American casualties in Iraq, which he blamed primarily on corporate oil interests.
“I want to see a perp walk,” he concluded angrily. “I want to see the Bush crime family marched out of the White House in handcuffs.”
Afterwards Moore signed hundreds of books and posed for pictures as his sister Ann looked on in disbelief.
“We can’t believe the [national] response,” she said. “We don’t know how it happened. I guess a large part of it was timing. The people were ready to hear it.”
An alumna of Chico State University and a Grass Valley resident, Ann Moore was responsible for bringing her famous brother to town at the last minute. All of his lectures have drawn huge crowds in various cities, prompting Moore to dub his campaign “the first-ever stadium book tour.” Some 10,000 people showed up in Portland, 7,000 in Denver and 4,000 in Stockton.
“When you get that many people in Stockton, you know the Republicans are doomed,” he joked.
Asked how his personal life has changed since becoming the most famous progressive in the country, Moore muttered, “I get no sleep,” blinking his bleary eyes. His sister said he was pleasantly surprised by the student interest here, having heard Chico State was a party school. Moore was too tired to offer much more of an answer.
“Chico’s been nice. Very normal. Nice motel."