I approached Stupid White Men with a certain degree of cynicism: Michael Moore doesn’t have the best track record when it comes to making fair and factually-accurate media. Bowling for Columbine, despite its success, was riddled with misguiding editing and perhaps even a few outright untruths. Fahrenheit 9/11 was, though not inaccurate, at least a little hazy in its focus. It had a lot of impact, surely, but it wasn’t going to convince anybody with the time and intelligence to do the math. But that’s really the point, isn’t it? Michael Moore isn’t a documentary filmmaker or a textbook writer. He’s an efficient, if well-intentioned, propagandist. Thus, you may understand that I began this 2002 book with a large grain of salt.
I must say that it surprised me; not because it was a balanced look at the corporate, WASP-dominated hegemon, but because the majority of the book was biting satire, only bordering on serious in that kind of “kidding on the square” that Al Franken talks about (telling a joke but sort-of-really meaning it). One entire section was a guide on how to rankle the authority figures in your high school by flaunting First Amendment rights. Another was a guide to women on how to eliminate the need for men (among other things, “buy a step ladder”).
Of course, sometimes Moore gets riled, and the book really does turn into a polemic, such as when he tells the story of a mentally-handicapped black man in California who was arrested and jailed for two years because he had the same last name and birth date as an escaped felon from New York. My comment about satire shouldn’t fool you: the book is by and large a solemn criticism of corporate white males, and Moore certainly cites enough statistics to come off as knowledgeable. Unfortunately, some of his trademark sloppiness comes through.
So, as I expected when beginning the book, it’s not something you want to cite during a serious debate about political or social issues. Is it enjoyable? Certainly: I laughed out loud during many parts, and Moore’s prose is smoth and interesting for what is largely a dry subject area. However, if you’re looking for a book that is both funny and factually accurate in its serious critique of the Right, read Al Franken’s Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them.