Michael Moore is back with his latest documentary Fahrenheit 11/9, which tackles the great question on everyone’s lips: How the fuck did this happen? Yet even more importantly, Moore asks: What can be done to fix it? The National Student spoke with the legendary documentary-filmmaker about his latest work.
“There’s nothing to indicate that Trump won’t get a second term at this point. The Democratic party is an inept organisation that doesn’t know how to run campaigns or candidates, or just how to run people who are beloved by Americans. So, you can hope it won’t happen, but hope, as the movie points out, is not a method. When you’re in ninth grade in the US, you’re shown a 20-minute documentary in sex ed called ‘hope is not a method’… that’s about where we’re at.”
Despite presenting a very optimistic view of the American youth and the future they may bring for the country, Moore nonetheless states that “I haven’t felt any hope for some time… the film was made with a lot of despair that people are feeling, and the realisation that [Trump] can’t be beaten. It’s just starting to dawn on people. I’ve been trying to tell people since before he was elected that he was going to beat us, and everyone would laugh at me thinking I was making a joke, you know.”
“People are starting to realise what I’ve said from the beginning, which is that he’s outsmarted all of us. And that he’s smarter than us, and that part of his performance art is coming off as such a dumbass, and he’s anything but.”
Despite many media outlets still playing Trump off as darkly comedic relief (think of the way his Tweets are presented in the news), and many people still believing him dangerous only in his stupidity, Michael Moore emphasises that Trump is in fact dangerously brilliant.
“How he got Brett Kavanaugh through is just a piece of his genius, and smart people keep asking ‘How did that happen?’ They still haven’t figured him out yet.“And they’ve had a lot of time! He’s been around New York for forty years doing the same shtick, and the press never took him seriously; they always took him as a joke and as tabloid fodder, front-page of the Rupert Murdoch papers, that kind of stuff. That’s who Trump was, and we’ve never paid any attention to what he’s actually been doing, which is screwing people.”
Despite Moore’s clear wariness of the word ‘hope’, however, “in terms of what I hope for politically, that’s based on what happens in the election in November. I hope that people will come and vote, even in a country where the largest political party is the non-voter party.”
And what does he think will come of the midterms? “You can’t predict the midterms,” he explains. “There could be such a tsunami of women and young people that could show up to vote, that it’s going to crush them like they’ve never been crushed before – he says in the middle of a prayer – or what Steve Bannon says, that they’re (the Republicans) going to win by one or two seats, because everyone on the Democrats’ side is already popping the champagne corks and saying that this one’s in the bag, like they did with Hillary. So for the next few weeks, if everyone’s not out there knocking on doors and getting people out to vote, then Trump will remain in power.”
Though permission was not given to have the meeting filmed, and it therefore could not be included in the documentary, Michael Moore interviewed former White House Chief Strategist and former executive chairman of Breitbart News, Steve Bannon. “I asked him how he did it,” Moore recounts, “how he pulled this off, and he said that ‘The difference between our side and your side, is that we go for a head wound, and your side has pillow fights’, and I just looked at him and I thought, ‘Wow… the truth of that is immense’.”
Yet regardless of the outcome of the midterms, Moore is still of the view that “what’s going to happen between 2018 and 2020 is that Trump is going to continue to wreck the country, and then if they can do enough voter suppression and more gerrymandering, and other things to lessen the vote, so that the white male vote remains the dominant vote – even though white men are the minority in the country – then they’ll have their way.” And that despite the fact that “almost 70% of Americans now are either female, people of colour, or young people, that’s the country, not old white guys.”
Asked about the increasing polarisation of politics and parties in America, Moore vehemently replies: “Polarisation is good. I am the polar opposite to someone who believes they can tell women what to do with their reproductive organs; I am the polar opposite of that, I want the polarisation. I want them defeated, and thankfully, 60% percent of the American public agree with me on nearly all the issues, and so that gives me some comfort.
“But the people who believe climate change isn’t real, I am the polar opposite; the people who believe we should be locking up people because they’ve been caught with marijuana, I am the polar opposite. So I am all for that division, and I’m for victory on our side, if we ever get up and organise ourselves the way that we should.”
Though Fahrenheit 11/9 does not address it, Michael Moore was also happy to discuss the effects of Brexit on the UK. “I was here in the UK in the week before Brexit with my last film, and after a week here travelling, I could see that Brexit was going to win, even if the polls didn’t show it. To me, if you just talk to people – like actual people, not in the bubble that we’re in – people were not necessarily happy about the idea of leaving the European Union, but they loved the idea that the elites hated it, and that this could be their Molotov cocktail to throw into the system that has not done them well.
“So you think of all the Americans and Brits in the last twenty years whose lives haven’t gotten better, and Brexit became a way to really stick it to [those in power], and Trump was the same thing… The people where I’m from didn’t like Trump, but Trump represented the bomb that they could throw into a system that hadn’t served them well, and that’s exactly what they did!”
“I think this movie is so relevant to what you’re dealing with here, and frankly, just in the last few years here, each time I’ve come here, I go home feeling bad about the United Kingdom. First of all, it’s not much of a Kingdom anymore, let’s just be honest. And there isn’t much that’s great about Britain anymore, either.
“The way that the UK seems to constantly want to emulate the United States, and most recently with dismantling bit by bit your National Health Service, it’s just the saddest thing to see that you’re allowing capitalism to essentially run the government, and not the people. Which is so ironic, that of all places this is where it would happen… because this country provided a refuge for people who were trying to think things out a little differently, and trying to make sure that the wealthy and the uber-rich wouldn’t run the show. So many of these ideas were born here, were fought for here, percolated here. What happened?”
And to end on an even more despairing, but likely realistic note, Moore echoes Bannon’s sentiment, that “the Democrats certainly don’t have anybody that’s going to beat Trump in 2020. To win, you have to think how they think. They run popular people, they run people that people like and that they’ve seen on TV, you know. We need to run Oprah. Michelle Obama would win, people like that. But to run a politician and win, that won’t happen now.”
Fahrenheit 11/9 is out now, distributed by Vertigo Releasing.
First published on The National Student