Academy Award-winning documentarian and best-selling author Michael Moore was born on April 23 in Flint, Michigan, and raised in Davison, Michigan by his parents, a secretary, and an automotive line worker. Moore has been both criticized and lauded for his confrontational style, combining prankster methods with sincere social goals. His work addresses issues like health care, government and corporate corruption, gun violence, war, and capitalism.
Moore seeks to make audiences laugh and squirm. He creates outrageous situations that use humor to draw his audiences into revelations about injustice, hypocrisy, and all-American shibboleths. For example, in his documentary Bowling for Columbine, the first major feature to seriously investigate America’s obsession with guns, Moore enters a bank that is provocatively offering a firearm to new customers. "I want the account where I can get the free gun," he deadpans to the clerk. "You do a CD, and we’ll get you a gun," the clerk assures him.
America is a fear-based culture, says Moore, and it has been that way since the inception of the nation; gun violence is a product of a culture of fear. By conducting interviews with gun lobbyists, defense contractors, and private citizens; incorporating footage from popular media; and turning the camera on himself for his trademark pranksterism, Moore illustrates the tendency of Americans to view others as possible enemies and to miss the connections between gun culture and state violence.
In all of his work, Moore emerges as an artist who will not go gently into the night of corruption, cynicism, and conspiracy.
To Name This Day:
Connect the Local to the Global: In Bowling for Columbine, Moore makes powerful connections between interpersonal violence and state violence. In one scene in Littleton, Colorado, Moore interviews a spokesperson from Lockheed, a major employer in the town that manufactures missiles and other arms for the defense department. Moore asks him if he can see the connection between a young person whose parent makes missiles and a young person who uses guns to solve problems. The spokesperson is unable to see the connection. In another scene, Moore observes that on the same day as the shooting at a Columbine school, American planes dropped more bombs on Kosovo than on any other day in the war.
Like violence, peace is also a process that emanates from the individual outward. Bring this awareness to one interaction today. How can an instance of kindness, compassion, and community help to create a new norm in which we rely on peace, not violence, for a sense of security?
Prank for Peace: Moore’s films and TV shows draw their energy from his audacious satire. He continually invents outrageous scenarios that ridicule dangerous realities. Take a look at the following clips and imagine an “action” you could perform in your own community that would use satire to shed light on an injustice.