It's safe to say that a lot of people on both Left and Right will be irritated by Forgive Us Our Spins, Jesse Larner's biography of Michael Moore. The film maker's fans won't like seeing their hero's reputation taken to the cleaners by a writer who's every bit as left-wing as the big man himself. (I was pleasantly surprised to find that Guardian columnist George Monbiot was willing to supply a glowing blurb on the cover.) And Larner offers no end of incendiary comments about American conservatism in general and George W. Bush in particular. I don't go along with many of his observations on the American scene: for instance, we've just had an e-mail disagreement about Joe Lieberman, whose political demise has brought a smile to Jesse's face. But what I admire about his work is his willingness to face up to some of the myth-making on his own side. As he explained in our first interview last year, he generally agrees with Dave Kopel's detailed, must-read critique of Fahrenheit 9/11 and David Hardy's debunking of Bowling for Columbine.
Jesse agreed to do a follow-up Q&A by e-mail. If you haven't read our earlier - and much longer - interview, pegged to UK publication of the book, it starts here and continues here. If you feel I've missed any important questions, drop me a line by Saturday morning, and I'll see if Jesse is willing to respond.
Q: Did Moore or his spokesmen make any response after the UK edition of your book was published? I assume he never agreed to give you an interview, but did you try to speak to him at any public functions?
A: Never heard a word from them about the UK edition. I tried very hard to get an interview with him, but never did. There's really no percentage for him in talking to someone like me: I can't offer him national exposure and I won't let him control the interview.
I did speak with him very briefly at a private event at the end of 2004. He was perfectly polite as I described the project and asked for an interview; I did tell him that the book was "not uncritical." He seemed to be fine with that -- "Of course, one must be critical!" but in retrospect it was probably a mistake. He referred me to his assistant, who gave me his card, which had nothing on it but an email address, one I recognized. I said, "I've e-mailed this address about 20 times, with no response." "Oh, but now I know who you are, and I'll be SURE to respond!" said Mr. Assistant. Another 20 emails later, I was starting to get the picture.
Q: What is the most important new piece of information in the new edition?
A: I think I figured out something very important about the 2000 election (see the answer to your fourth question for why that's in the book.) I think I did a much better job on the whole problem of Moore's approach to terrorism, and on the manipulations by Right and Left of the American populist tradition. I filled in a lot of details from people who've worked with him... Oh, sorry, you said THE most important information.
Q: Do you think Moore has passed his peak as a media luminary, or will he be a king/queenmaker in the next presidential election? Who would be his choice for Democratic candidate?
A. I think Moore probably has passed his peak, unless he does something really extraordinary with his new film. He invested a lot of political capital, if you will, in getting Bush out of office in 2004. Since that didn't happen he's kept a low profile.
Who would be Moore's choice for the Democratic candidate? That's easy to answer, because he's stated his preference often: Oprah Winfrey. If not her, Tom Hanks. He insists he's serious: if Republicans can win with cowboys and killer robots from the future, so can Democrats. Which, to my mind, just shows how much Moore has sincerely conflated the show business of elections with the serious business of government. As your wonderful British writer Saki had his character Clovis put it: "There is a difference, you know, but I've forgotten what it is." (Clovis was referring to the difference between right and wrong... which may also be appropriate...)