When Michael Moore was in parochial school he started a newspaper dedicated to covering the comings-and-goings of his teachers and classmates. Initially, the nuns thought it was cute. Their attitude changed, however, after he share his iconoclastic take on a sacred topic.
“I wrote a critical article about the eighth grade football team and that was the end of it,” remembers Moore. “They shut it down.”
So began a long oppositional history, one that saw Moore clashing with the powers that be over his movies, books and journalism. In 2001, for instance, HarperCollins initially refused to release Moore’s book “Stupid White Men” because the News Corp.-owned publisher believed its blistering criticism of President George W. Bush would be seen as tone deaf in the wake of the 9/11 attacks. In 2003, Moore’s documentary “Fahrenheit 9/11” was caught up in a struggle between Miramax and its parent company Disney over whether or not the film was too provocative to be released by the family-friendly entertainment giant.
In both cases, Moore’s work eventually made it into the public square. HarperCollins eventually relented and released “Stupid White Men,” watching it go on to become a best-seller, while the Weinstein Brothers bought “Fahrenheit 9/11” back from Disney, releasing it independently. It became the highest-grossing documentary in history, a record it still holds.
“I have had to fight so many battles to have my work seen or heard or read by the public in what is supposedly a free country,” says Moore. “It’s astounding.”
Like many prominent writers and journalists, Moore is turning to Substack, the online provider of publishing, payment, and infrastructure support for subscription newsletters, as a forum for his work. The Oscar-winning filmmaker joins a wide ideological spectrum of thought leaders that includes Andrew Sullivan, Glenn Greenwald, John McWhorter and Bari Weiss, who are bypassing mainstream media outlets and using the platform to directly connect with their devoted readers.
“If I want to write something about Afghanistan, I have to go on Facebook or Twitter,” says Moore. “Frankly as much as I appreciate having that access to people, I don’t in general support what we’ve become as a culture. Facebook makes you stupid and Twitter makes you angry and feeds on your anger. It’s an angry place. And Instagram just makes you hungry because of all the food pictures.”
In addition to columns on the latest political news, Moore’s podcast, “Rumble with Michael Moore,” will be published on Substack. Both his blog posts and recordings will be free, but Moore will also offer $5 monthly subscriptions, which will allow certain users to participate in exclusive, video Q&A sessions with the filmmaker. Paying members will also get “sneak peeks” of Moore’s upcoming films and will be invited to join him for “Mike’s Movie Night,” featuring at-home viewings and live Q&A sessions with directors, writers or actors from cult movies that that Moore loves.
“To stop the trolling, if you want to comment on my posts you have to be a member because I know the trolls are never going to give me five dollars a month,” Moore says.
Moore’s first blog post was published in the wake of the United States’ recent decision to leave Afghanistan, a war that the filmmaker opposed when it started 20 years ago. The stunning takeover of the country by Taliban forces, and the scenes of desperate Afghan citizens clinging to the sides of U.S. army planes, has led to condemnation on both sides of the political aisle over the Biden administration’s handling of the situation. Moore believes that President Joe Biden is making the right decision.
“Biden will not have one more American soldier die for something that the Afghans don’t even want to die for,” he says. “Ninety five percent of people agree with what Biden did this week, but if you listen to the reporters in the White House press room, you realize that 95 percent of them seem to be opposed to it.”
Moore campaigned against Biden in the Democratic primary and was one of the most vociferous supporters of his main rival Bernie Sanders. He says he’s “pleasantly surprised” with the new president’s performance in the Oval Office, pointing to his work on the child tax credit, his support for increasing food stamps and his other progressive actions.
“I am so pleased with Biden,” says Moore.” I was one of the main people out there campaigning with Bernie. I learned during that campaign that they’re actually close. It’s not fake friends. They respect each other. As chairman of the Senate Budget Committee, Bernie has influenced a lot of the things that Biden has done. I have a sneaking suspicion that they talk to each other every night when they’re in their jammies.”
Moore also expressed concern that the Taliban would set back advances for women in Afghanistan, but argued that religious fundamentalism is prevalent in the U.S., as well.
“They’re religious nuts, but we’ve got those here too,” says Moore. “But they said yesterday in their press conference that girls’ schools are going to remain open. Okay. We’ll see. They also said they are going to operate under Islamic law. That’s exactly how a lot of Southern Baptists want it to be here too. In a lot of parts of the country, we are following dictates of conservative Christians. It’s wrong there and it’s wrong here.”