WASHINGTON, D.C. | Documentary filmmaker Michael Moore attended the Washington premiere of his latest film, “Fahrenheit 11/9,” Monday evening, but a few miles from where the subject—and object of ridicule—of his film, President Donald Trump, resides at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.
The new film, which draws parallels between the rise of the Third Reich in 1930s Germany and Trump’s bullying style of leadership, also touches on such other touchstones of Moore’s career as gun control, or lack thereof, as well as how former President Barack Obama’s 2016 visit to Moore’s hometown of Flint, Michigan, in which Obama infamously “sipped” Flint’s tainted water, effectively turned the largely-Democratic city off from voting in the 2016 election, all but assuring Trump a victory in the key state that, along with Pennsylvania and Ohio, gave Trump the necessary Electoral College votes to attain the presidency.
Moore, known for his agitprop style from films like “Bowling for Columbine” and “Roger & Me,” pulled no punches in a post-screening Q&A, sounding a note of alarm and imploring the sympathetic audience to head to the polls for America’s upcoming midterm elections.
“What I think we have now is more sinister, because we have someone down the street who doesn’t believe in democracy,” Moore said of Trump. “He outsmarted our desire to think of him as stupid. It takes an evil genius to figure out how to be president by ‘losing’ the election.”
Not precisely known for his shyness, Moore frequently yelled into his microphone during the post-screening discussion moderated by Nell Minow of RogerEbert.com. Like the timber of “Fahrenheit 11/9” itself, Moore pounded an ominous note of dark portent about where America may be headed under Trump.
“How many people stayed home as a result of the New York Times saying ‘it’s in the bag’” for Hillary Clinton, Moore asked, adding that the Democrat outspent threefold her opponent in the 2016 campaign.
“He’s always lying and he’s always telling truth [like when he said] ‘I could shoot someone on Fifth Avenue and still be elected,’” Moore said.
Moore decried what he views as a seeming failure of the American media to adequately take Trump to task. The director said this is partly due to the consolidation of American media and the fact that many local bureaus of the national media organizations have closed.
“You couldn’t get away with bombing an American city without one of them covering it,” he said, referring to a harrowing sequence in his new film in which American armed forces effectively use Flint, Michigan, as a training ground for live-fire exercises, captured by citizen-journalists.
“Where are the journalists? Capitalism has destroyed the news,” he said, adding that, though recognized the world over with his signature ballcap, he nonetheless doesn’t consider himself a journalist.
“I have a high school education and I have too many ballcaps,” he said.
The filmmaker also didn’t spare the Democrats, whom he said aren’t willing to fight hard enough against the ongoing Republican insurgency in national politics. Obama, he alleges in “Fahrenheit 11/9,” took more more from Goldman Sachs than any other politician, but was nonetheless forgiven by his fans. And Obama’s gaffe with Flint’s water turned off enough Michigan voters to turn the state red in 2016.
Moore said that while prepping his new film, he had a two-hour sit-down chat with onetime Breitbart honcho Steve Bannon, who later served in the Trump administration before being ousted from the White House by Chief of Staff John Kelly.
Moore said that, during that discussion, he referred to himself as Patton and said that Bannon was Rommel. When he apologized for the analogy, Bannon supposedly replied, “It’s OK, I am Rommel.”
What’s the difference between your side and my side, Moore asked of Bannon, with the latter responding, “We go for the head wound, and your side likes to have pillow fights.”
“This is who we are, and why we are going to lose,” Moore said. “[Bannon] explained how they’re going to outsmart us again” in the midterms and in 2020.
The Democratic machine also suffers from a seeming aversion to unorthodox strategy, Moore believes. The only way to get under Trump’s skin, he said, was to do so with effective humor, and he related how he, along with comedians Amy Schumer, Bill Maher and Chris Rock, offered the Clinton campaign a “Justice League of satire, ”writing jests she could deploy during her debates with Trump.
The offer, however, was summarily dismissed.
Moore’s current pitch is simple: Get out and vote in November. And voting for any Republican, no matter how moderate, is nonetheless a vote for Trump, he said.
“If I have one lesson for this film, it’s that Trump didn’t fall from the sky. He comes from us,” Moore said. “The more you make the public ignorant, the more you enable Donald John Trump.”
“Fahrenheit 11/9” opens nationwide Friday.