Election Day Special- Slacker Uprising

I’m not a big fan of Michael Moore ever since Bowling for Columbine, where he went after a senile old man who marched at Selma. But he began to redeem himself with Sicko, which was more his style of prankster documentary that reminded me of his excellent “TV Nation” show. Slacker Uprising documents his attempt to get young slackers to vote during the 2004 Bush/Kerry election campaign, where the vitriol against him was at its highest.

Moore had just released Fahrenheit 9/11, one of his weakest movies in my opinion. He had gone from pranking to preaching, and while much of the movie has been redeemed by history, it still comes off as a propaganda piece. Mike is an unapologetic leftist, and I respect that. Sometimes I think his strident tone makes him his own worst enemy, but he’s out there giving the perspective the “liberal” media won’t, so I give him credit for that. The man has plenty of faults, but I don’t think he “hates America.” That’s just a ploy to make us ignore what he’s actually saying. There’s a scene in Slacker Uprising where a woman- the most un-American idiot I’ve seen recently- says that if you don’t support our leaders, you should be shot. Go back to 18th century Britain, you psychotic. America began when we decided not to support our leaders.

The mother of a soldier who died in Iraq

More begins with the Swiftboating campaign- a political ploy so despicable that it now carries that name- where you throw a bunch of monkey shit and see what sticks. John Kerry- a bland and boring politician if there ever was one- at least had the honor to serve his country overseas during the Vietnam war, when George W. Bush was serving in the Texas Air National Guard (when he wanted to show up). Kerry’s Purple Heart was belittled, since he was “only hit with shrapnel.” This is nothing new in military service. My friend Milky served in Iraq and has a chest full of “fruit salad” as they call it. Everyone gets a medal, and every injury in combat can earn a Purple Heart. If Kerry constantly talked about his service, or tried to inflate it into Audrey Murphy-style heroism, I’d understand the need to tear him down. But the simple fact is that a man who actually served in Vietnam was somehow made less honorable than a rich boy whose connected father kept him on American soil while Joe Sixpack died to the tune of 58,000 and change.

Moore’s doc recalls the despicable TV ads, and combats it with his familiar sarcasm; he makes his own fake ads for the Bush campaign stating that if Kerry was a real hero, he would have died for his country. Kerry didn’t respond to the ads for weeks, and it irreparably damaged his campaign. Moore decided to go to campuses and get out the vote to help counter it, and begins with a press conference where he berates the media for not digging up the truth, and forcing people to get a babysitter and go see a movie to get what should be on the news. He’s a bit hyperbolic but in essence he’s correct; our news is often more about fashion, entertainment and shock value than politics. From there on, he heads to college campuses to get the word out.

The rest of the documentary has a lot of fluff in it. We get to see Eddie Vedder sing a Cat Stevens song, because “he can’t sing it here anymore.” Stevens has since been allowed in the country, but it captures the vigor of paranoia of the time. The entertainers are there to lure the slackers, where Moore does stuff like offer them packages of ramen noodles and clean underwear if they’ll go out and vote. You can see the inherent humor in it- college students living on ramen, and wanting for clean undies so they can put off doing laundry- but it almost gets him in trouble, for inducing people to vote with such gifts is illegal in most states.

By the end, there are active campaigns to stop him from appearing on certain campuses. In San Diego, they have to move to a nearby convention center, where they draw an even bigger crowd. This was the era a short time ago when hateful “pundits” like Anne Coulter were given screen time, before she attacked the families of 9/11 victims when they dared criticize President Bush. In the end, all is for nought. The slackers either stayed home with their ramen and underwear, or felt the sting of the Democratic Party letting Howard Dean- who genuinely energized young voters- get thrown to the wolves. It’s brave for Moore to let us see a document of failure, and he is distributing it free on the internet.

For a free movie, it’s well made and it lacks the strident tone that made Moore go from merry prankster with a message to the man the Right loves to hate.As far as political documentaries go, it’s an interesting view of the 2004 election, and how the son of a Bush who weathered an Iraq war and an economic crisis was allowed to do it again, on a much grander scale. If you like Moore, you’ll love it; if you hate him, you’ll hate it. If you’re indifferent, it’s a return to his earlier filmmaking, and I’m looking forward to more like it.