In a sane world, nobody would bother to take Michael Moore seriously. Unfortunately, lots of people still do. In the apartment I rented in Berlin last week the bookshelves were lined with some impressive-looking German novels and, nestling in one corner, an English-language copy of Stupid White Men. (Moore seems to be even more popular in Germany than he is in France.)
One reason for welcoming Jesse Larner’s new book Moore & Us (published by the British imprint, Sanctuary) is that it addresses the bizarre distortions from a left-wing point of view. Until now, much of the heavy lifting (if you'll pardon the pun) has been done by conservatives, which has given the media a convenient excuse not to take the charges too seriously. I wrote about Bowling for Columbine in The Times two years ago, but most of the press still prefers to tip-toe around the issue. If Moore is criticised, it tends to be over his passion for five-star hotels.
I wasn’t expecting an awful lot from Larner's book, since his politics are so far to the Left. As you'll see from the Q&A below, he hates George W. Bush almost as much as Moore does, and this leads him into some laboured rants against the forces of darkness. But to his credit, he refuses to ignore uncomfortable facts about the Left's favourite all-round polemicist. His verdict is detailed and damning. Moore’s admirers have long had a habit of shrugging off attacks as the work of the grand right-wing conspiracy. It won’t be so easy this time.
Larner, who lives in New York, agreed to take e-mail questions from me. While I think he has a point about Ann Coulter, I disagree with almost everything he has to say about Bush, American conservatism and the right-wing media in general. If you want to know how wide a gulf separates Democrats and Republicans, there's no end of evidence here. But Larner is a fair-minded guy in lots of ways. And after all, it should still be possible to have a dialogue, shouldn't it? Or am I simply being naive?
[Click here to go to the Q&A]