Conspiracy Nation -- Vol. 12  Num. 17
                     ("Quid coniuratio est?")


A Film By Michael Moore

Michael Moore is best known for a previous movie he did, "Roger and Me." That film documented how GM plant closings had devastated the town of Flint, Michigan.

One of movie-maker Moore's major assets is his sense of humor. It comes in handy in "The Big One," his latest documentary dealing with the agonies being suffered by American workers. Moore shows how the "good economy" is not so good for millions of Americans, yet softens the bitter news with a counter-balance of laughter. With corporate profits at record levels, Moore hammers on the point, "Why aren't most workers sharing in the economic bonanza?" Moore goes even further: "Why are so many workers not only not getting a piece of the pie, but are even being thrown out of work -- 'downsized' -- at the same time corporate profits are booming?"

The film's title, "The Big One," comes from Moore's jocular suggestion that the United States ought to be renamed "The Big One" and that our national anthem should be changed to the hit song, "We Will Rock You." The film follows Moore as he travels to various cities on a promotional tour for his book, "Downsize This!" "The Big One" is at least equally entertaining as "Roger and Me." But unlike in his previous film, which focused primarily on Flint, Michigan, Moore's latest covers the late 1990s labor situation throughout the U.S. We see the employees of the Payday candybar plant in Centralia, Illinois on their last day at work. We see "top secret" footage from the Detroit newspaper strike -- "top secret" insofar as the bitter labor dispute was ignored by mainstream "news" outlets. We hear the bitter voices of "downsized" workers, "rewarded" for their years of work by seeing their jobs relocated to Mexico.

Moore opens the film by gibing at politicians who will take money from anyone. He had set up misleading checking accounts for non-existent groups like "Satanists for Bob Dole" and "Pedophiles for Perot," then mailed $100 checks to the various candidates. Would Bill Clinton's campaign cash a $100 contribution from "The Hemp Growers of America"? It turns out, yes. Notwithstanding the questionable source of funds, all four candidates tested by Moore -- Dole, Clinton, Perot and Buchanan -- had no qualms about accepting the money.

Moore manages to do what most on the so-called "left" are unable to do: he connects hard with his audience in a practical way rather than, as many "leftists," bore them to tears with endless semantics. Moore keeps you laughing, even though the subject is so dismal. His humor, like that of the late Lenny Bruce, has a hard edge; there's nothing escapist about it. Moore, throughout the film, delivers knock-out punches made palatable by humor.

In my town, "The Big One" was only being shown in an independent, avant-garde theater. Why weren't the big corporate chains carrying this film? After all, they are (supposedly) "in it for the profit." The movie, "The Big One," a BBC production, is much better than the pitiful "X-Files" movie -- yet X-Files was widely distributed and "The Big One," at least in my town, like Joseph and Mary, had to "sleep in the stable."

You say you're fed up watching lies on television? Then go out tonight and treat yourself to a great antidote, "The Big One" -- if you can find somewhere that it's being shown.

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