Michael Moore’s story of capitalism: the only one?

Speaking, as I was in a recent column, about stories of our nations’ meaning, stories we can—or cannot–imagine being taught in the schools, or without embarrassment telling our children. In 2009 I did a column about Michael Moore’s movie with the ironic title, “Capitalism: a Love story.”

This movie is the most powerful and inspirational statement I’ve seen of what many, probably most, Americans are feeling about the truth about capitalism revealed in the financial crisis: that the bailout was a ripoff, that the money that went to failed corporations (including the notorious bonus money) should have gone to alleviate the tragedy of foreclosures; that it was strange logic to put those who profited by creating the money mess in charge of cleaning it up. That the emperors of Wall Street are wearing no clothes.

The movie includes outrageous little items like corporations taking out life insurance policies on employees so they can cash in on employee deaths.

In short the irrepressible MM pretty much blows capitalism in our time out of the water.

The phrase “speaking truth to power” comes to mind. Watching that movie I felt (naively of course): Wow, how can Power survive this bashing by Truth? At the very least you’d think Power would be screaming: “Can’t someone stop him from saying these outrageous things about us? Here, you, here’s a billion dollars. Make another movie telling our side.”

But of course it won’t happen, any more than it has for any of his other outrageous exposes. Because Power doesn’t have a story. This is class struggle and the majority are losing it most of the time. Power could spin it differently, making deft use of such phrases as “free enterprise” and the “American way.” But they probably sense most of us wouldn’t go for it, any more than we would go for a draft in support of the war in Afghanistan.

No, Power takes comfort in the old saying, “sticks and stones will break my bones but words—even the words, and images of Michael Moore– will never hurt me.”And indeed, capitalism seems to have survived Moore’s latest assault.

I never received any response to that column from conservatives suggesting that there is a whole other story to be told about contemporary capitalism.

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