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To read more about Episode 235, visit the main episode page

Michael Moore [00:00:32] Hello, this is Rumble with Michael Moore, and I’m Michael Moore. Welcome, everyone. Thank you. It’s been about a week and a half here since we last spoke. So we didn’t get a chance to talk right after the Oscars. One thing in specific that I want to acknowledge, address and applaud is the movie that won Best Picture, CODA. It was the picture that was the least seen by all of you, by the public, unless you have Apple TV+. It got some kind of qualifying run in the theaters, maybe back in the early fall, I can’t remember, but it didn’t play Boise, okay? But starting tomorrow in a lot of theaters across the country, Apple has graciously and smartly decided to let people sit in a movie theater because it is a movie. It is a great movie. It is and was my favorite film of the 10 films that were on the best picture list last year. I’m not really supposed to say that, I guess. You’re not supposed to say it before the voting is done and, of course, I’m a voter and I used to sit on the big board of the Academy, the board of directors, and then also the documentary branch. So, you know, I play by the rules, but I needed to tell all of you and I want you not only to see this film, but to get friends and family and others to watch. You will be moved, seriously moved if you watch this movie. It is powerful. It is moving. It’s unexpected. And if you’ve heard of it, you probably know it as, you know, that movie about the deaf family. Mm hmm. Right. Well, let me tell you something. If that’s all you know about CODA, well, just wait until you see it, because it is much, much more than that. It’s the kind of movie — and I don’t say this about a lot of movies — but it’s the kind of movie that can change the way you see the very world and the society that we live in. 

Michael Moore [00:02:32] And even though I had Apple for months leading up to this, and I could have watched it on Apple, I didn’t. And I think I know why I hadn’t watched it yet. Because I know, and you know, Hollywood loves to make movies with disabled characters because they know that’s an easy way to pull at the audience’s heartstrings, to create intense drama, to inspire pity and sadness, and I think deep down, a fake sort of empathy that narcissistically lets the viewer say softly to themselves, “Thank God that’s not me.” And I think a lot of disabled and physically challenged people hate this because they don’t want our pity. They want to be treated just the way you are treated and I am treated — with all of our greatness and all of our flaws. If you have someone in your family, if you’re listening to this, someone who’s in a wheelchair, or who’s blind, or maybe has had some awful lifelong pain, you know exactly what I’m talking about. So, let me simply describe to you how I saw CODA, and what I think CODA is about. It is about a family trying to make ends meet in this difficult time. That’s what CODA is about. A family trying to make ends meet in this difficult time. It’s about a father who fears he can no longer support his family. It’s about a mother who keeps the books, the family books, you know, because they have a little fishing boat. That’s their job off the coast of Massachusetts to go out and try and catch fish. Very difficult job. Doesn’t make a lot of money. The fish industry doesn’t want to pay them what they’re actually worth. And this mother, she is, you know, trying to keep things together financially. But she also sees the ugly writing that’s on the financial wall of this era that we live in. But CODA is also about the one child in the deaf family who not only can hear, but who also has the most beautiful singing voice. And it’s a voice that no one in the rest of the family, her parents, her brother, none of them have ever heard it because they’re deaf, so they’ve never heard her sing. Their family and the house they live in, the life they have, it’s full of humor. It’s full of humanity. And even though they are laughed at and dismissed by fellow classmates, by townspeople and coworkers, they forge ahead. And they don’t care that their Macy’s is Goodwill. That that’s where they have to shop. And because they work so hard, they don’t always have the time to do laundry every day. So there’s the smell of the fish from their boat in their clothes that causes them a shame — which they never really feel, because only their daughter can hear the comments that people make at school or at work. They are the working class. A working class family that just happens to be deaf. Not the other way around. Not a movie about a deaf family who happens to fish for a living. No. That would be the patronizing way to do it, the spot-on way to do it, so the audience doesn’t really have to think, they could just feel. And I’m sorry to say it with such disrespect, but I don’t like that kind of manipulation — whether it’s in a film or a play or a book or whatever. 

Michael Moore [00:06:33] And I’ll tell you why this sort of hits close to home to me. Because this is the way I grew up. This is the way we in the working class grew up. And this movie is that rare film about the working class that seldom gets made. And let me tell you, my friends, if you grew up like this — like in the factory family I grew up in, or maybe you grew up on a farm, or whatever part of the working class — here’s one thing you know: you never see true depictions of our lives on the silver screen. It’s rare. We don’t see the images of those who work the backbreaking jobs. The smelly, grimy cogs in the wheels of capital that we are. Those who truly built this country. Those who grow and pick our food. Those who stock the shelves at Wal-Mart at 3:00 in the morning. And when stories of the working stiffs are told in the movies or on TV, they are often done so with condescension and are patronizing, or they hold us up. You know, they hold us up as the noble blue collar man of down river. Even though the majority of the working class in 2022 is female, under 40, and often of color. That’s the true working class. CODA, this is what’s so great about this film, it provides us, the audience, with authenticity so rarely seen in a scripted drama. Friends, this is a beautiful film, and I truly beg you not to miss it. Your spirits will be lifted. You’ll laugh. You’ll get mad. And when you leave at the end, whether you’re just leaving your couch or if you get to see it in a theater right now, you may just want to go and find your own voice. 

Michael Moore [00:08:36] You know, many of us who are hearing people haven’t really been listening. Right? You know what I’m talking about. We can hear, but we don’t always listen. And maybe the only reason the deaf are “disabled,” and we call them “disabled,” is that they have to live in our world. Right there. Talk about being a disability — of having to live amongst the hearing who really, you know I mean, sure, we all care, but we don’t live our lives worrying about whether there’s somebody there in the room that can’t hear what’s being said. “I can hear. Isn’t that what counts?” Well, what if we had to live in their world? Actually, we do. So let me put it this way. What if, in fact, we all share a common disability, both the hearing and the non hearing. A disability that forces most of us to live in a society where you need three weeks pay to afford the rent. A society where you have to cut your prescription pills in half because you can’t afford what the doctor has ordered you to take. So you’re taking half of what you should be taking. The disability that we all share because we live in an America where the words “weekend” and “vacation” really don’t exist anymore because they’re just names of more days on the calendar when you have to work that second job to get by. Or you have to find tutoring that you really can’t afford to help your child. Where you yourself just can’t cope because your own personal mental health resembles a giant fog machine at a Whitesnake concert at Cobo Hall back in the ’80s. You know what I’m talking about, right? The way our heads are right now. And back in the ’80s, back when you were sure life would never be this hard. Where our lives and our children’s lives would not end up like this. Seriously, my friends, I loved this film, CODA. And I honor those who made it. I’m grateful that they won the awards they won not just for Best Picture, but Best Supporting Actor, Best Adapted Screenplay. And I’m grateful to Apple for bringing it to us. And now for putting it up on the big screen so that more people can see it that way because really, that’s the way to see a movie. With 50, 100, 200 other people in the dark, laughing together, crying together. Getting so silent that you can hear a pin drop. Don’t drop a pin in the movie theater, it’s dangerous. Don’t do that. But you know what I’m saying. And I’m so lucky to have a theater that I and others helped to restore. We have two of them there in Traverse City and we’re showing it now. And I’ve tried to encourage everybody in northern Michigan if you’re within driving distance to come. Come see this movie with the other, the working class, the barely working class in some cases, in Michigan. We rebuilt this theater. It was 105 years old, and we restored it to somewhat of its original glory. We did that over a six week period back in 2007. I, and people I organized, roughly, let’s just call it 200 working class women and men in Traverse City, Michigan, and a few good souls also who weren’t working class, who had some money and shared their blessings with their neighbors. 

Michael Moore [00:12:15] I want you to enjoy this brilliant movie, whether you see it in a theater or whether on Apple TV+. If you don’t have Apple TV+, you know, I think you can get a one month trial. Give it a try. If you don’t want to stay with it, you can’t afford it, I get it. This isn’t a commercial for them. They didn’t ask me to do this. Maybe they don’t even like me telling you to just sign up for 30 days. But this thing CODA, it is the best picture of the year. It’s one of those years where the thing that got elected, that got voted on by the Academy members, it really is the best picture of the year, and I just want to make sure everybody has a chance to see it. If you do see it write to me, let me know what you think. The other films are great too, so check them out if you haven’t had a chance to. 

Michael Moore [00:13:17] But then there was the assault. And so I can’t leave talking about the Oscars without sharing my feelings about what happened. Let me just say in the interest of transparency, I’ve known Chris Rock for quite some time. Good guy. A real good person. His humor is so great. I mean, he was in Bowling for Columbine if you remember, the scene on the stage where he says, “We don’t need to outlaw guns, we need to outlaw bullets. Or we need to make them so expensive, like $5000 a bullet.” You remember the routine? Where he said nobody would ever waste $5000 to shoot somebody, no matter how much they didn’t like the person. To see him assaulted was… I was just distraught. I could not get it out of my head for days. I couldn’t really talk about it because I just… you know, when you see this happen to somebody who you consider a friend and who’s a good person… But I want to say something else about Jada and Will Smith. She went to Flint, Michigan. Jada. She donated something like, I don’t know, I can’t remember the exact number, don’t hold me to this one but it was literally some crazy number like two million bottles of water to Flint, Michigan, care of the Smith family. These are good people. I’m not the only one that could tell a story like that of the goodness that Will and Jada have done and performed for so many people in this country. And they are beloved for all the good that they do. 

Michael Moore [00:14:47] So to see this whole thing, it was almost… When I play it back now, I feel like I’m watching a scene from The Matrix and it’s all slow motion. And it’s like, “No, no, this isn’t really happening.” And then, he doesn’t slap him. He takes the back of his hand, goes into this kind-of fighting stance so that he can put all his weight into the assault. And if you have seen Chris’s head, I mean, it literally snapped. His neck and his head snapped. It’s the kind of thing where if this was professional football, they’d have to send Chris back, put him in the tent for protocols and see if he was OK. It’s not a slap. We want it to be a slap. We like both of these people. And I believe Chris. He didn’t know about Jada’s condition. He’s a comedian. You know? And yet Will lost it. And he knows he’s going to win for Best Actor. Everybody knew that. He was going to win in about 20 minutes. And he just leapt up onto the stage. 

Michael Moore [00:16:00] And let me tell you, I know that feeling. I’ve had people leap on the stage more than once when I’ve spoken somewhere. And some crazy person, some right winger… One night in Nashville — geez, how many years ago was this? Almost 20 years ago? I was speaking there and a guy jumped up on the stage and he had a knife. By that time, I’d had so many people try to attack me, and kill me, whatever, I had to have security. And fortunately, the security guy grabbed him before he got to me and took him by his collar and his belt. One hand on the collar, one hand on the belt and swung him off the stage onto the cement below. So I know what it feels like to have somebody coming at me like that. Another time, I think it was in Portland? A guy with a club. He had a club in his hand. He was going to bonk me with it. Not security that time, instead my assistant at the time, Jason, he just jumped right in and blocked the guy so he couldn’t get to me. And by that time, then the security were able to get there. So it’s not a good feeling. I also know what it feels like on the Oscar stage. But when I won my Oscar that night, the fifth night of the Iraq War, and I said what I had to say about Bush and the war and the boos started, and the anger, the director struck up the band and wouldn’t give me my full time to finish my speech. The microphone went down in the floor. Will Smith got over five minutes, the longest Oscar speech, I think ever. They wouldn’t stop him. Even after he committed this assault they let him go back up on the stage and speak for over five minutes. Wow. 

Michael Moore [00:17:43] Here’s what happened to me. So, they played me off and I walked off the stage and in the wings backstage, a bunch of stagehands encircled me. One came right up in my ear and screamed, “Asshole!” And then they were in fighting mode and they were basically… There was going to be a brawl right there, backstage at the Oscars with the Academy’s crew and the Academy’s security people just standing there and doing nothing. And all of a sudden, I’m seconds and inches away from being clobbered by the stagehands. A very large man, let’s put it that way, broke through the circle of stagehands that were around me and stood in front of me between me and them. Like he was saying, “you’re going to have to deal with me first. You’re not going to touch him.” And then he called out for security. “Get over here right now!” And they did. Immediately. And they took me on each of my arms and practically, I don’t want say they lifted me off the floor. That would, I don’t know, it would be defying maybe the laws of physics, but it sure felt like it because they whisked me right out of there. And the guy who did that was just a guy in the audience and he thought something bad was going to happen. So he got out of his seat. 

Michael Moore [00:19:11] I was saying to somebody the other day, when I was talking about this, and I said, “do you realize I’ve never hit anybody in my life? Even when I was being hit. I didn’t hit back. Like, the worst I have done is if somebody was punching me, or flailing their arms at me, I would put them in a bear hug. I learned to do this on the playground, actually, with the bullies. Because I was the biggest kid, when the bullies would be picking on the little kids, I would go over there — even in like third or fourth grade — and I would just put my arms around them in a bear hug where they couldn’t move their arms. They couldn’t flail them and use them to hit kids, or me, anymore. And I would just look at them and I’d say, “Stop! Stop!” And they’d say, “Let me go! Let me go!” “No, I’m not letting you go until you calm down, and you stop.” Sometimes I’d say, “you have to apologize to that kid too.”. 

Michael Moore [00:20:08] So that’s my act of violence that I had to deal with on the Oscar stage at the Dolby Theater. And I got out of there. Steve Martin came out on the stage afterwards. I don’t know if he had witnessed what was going on, but his joke was, “Teamsters just loaded Michael Moore into the trunk of his car.” It’s kind of funny now that I look back on it and I wasn’t physically hurt. But the other part of that story is that the guy that did get up right in my face and screamed asshole into my ear. Wow, it really shook me. The next day I got on the plane to come back home, and I put the Oscar in my checked luggage wrapped in towels and shirts so it’d be safe. I got home in Michigan and opened up the luggage, and you know those TSA notes they put in there saying they opened up your luggage to check it out? There was one of those notes, and there was my Oscar completely keyed. Somebody had keyed the entire gold statue. Somebody who obviously worked for TSA. 

Michael Moore [00:21:24] A couple of years later — and again, it was the fifth night of the Iraq War that I made my comments there on the Oscar stage — so now it’s two years into the Iraq War, and everybody knows now what a mistake it was, and how many people were dying. By that time Fahrenheit 9/11 had just come out and Jay Leno had me on his show. He had me on like four or five times that year, and was a big fan of the film, and wanted everybody to see it. So I came on. I came on his show. And when the show’s over, I get up off the couch. The band has played The Tonight Show theme song, and I’m stepping off the stage and the guy that was holding the boom mic — you know, the one that’s up in the air that you can’t see in the frame of the TV — he comes over to me and he says, “I’m so glad that you’re here. I get to meet you. And I’ve wanted to tell you something for some time now, and the fact that I get to say this…” And he started to cry. I said, “Are you OK?” And he said, “Just let me get this out… I’m the guy who screamed ‘asshole’ into your ear just moments after you won the Oscar. I was one of the guys that was going to beat you up there backstage and rough you up a little bit. And I screamed ‘asshole’ in your ear. And it wasn’t long, by the end of the first year of the war, I realized that not only had I ruined your Oscar night, but that you were right. They were wrong to send our boys, are young women, to Iraq. And the fact that I get to apologize to you for that…” Now he’s crying, and I’m like, “Wait, wait, wait, hang on, hang on.” I put my arm around him and I said, “Look, look, you didn’t do anything wrong. You believed your president. Your president told you that Saddam Hussein had something to do with 9/11. You’re supposed to believe the president. We’re all supposed to be able to believe the president. We’re supposed to assume that the leader of this free country would tell the truth.” And he goes, “Yeah, but he lied.” I said, “Right! HE lied. So you were just working off a lie when you screamed ‘asshole’.” He goes, “yeah, but I want to somehow get rid of this…” “No, don’t get rid of this,” I said, “Listen, seriously, I’ve been able to tell this story, the ‘asshole story’ for a couple of years now, and now if you take this away from me…” And he’s like, “I know, but…” I said, “no, it’s all good. You and I are good.” And I gave him a big hug. And I thought, Wow, you know, the world is a good place. Even some of the people that you think are the absolute worst, who do what he did to me backstage that night, who was ready to use his fists to hurt me. And by this point, almost two years later, he was against the war. He was against Bush. It does sometimes work out that way. You know it. You’ve seen it happen in your life. We’ve seen it happen politically. You know, especially if you’re my age or, you know, I think anybody over 50, you ‘knew’ that a black man would never be elected president of the United States. You ‘knew’ that for all those years. And then it happened. And you’re like, what? Because that’s also the country you live in. Nobody ever assumed or thought that a black man could get elected in this country — there’s too much anger, hostility, racism. And yet it happened. It’s… I know. It’s a crazy life. 

Michael Moore [00:25:28] Does this take away from Will Smith and the good that he’s done? It does not excuse it, that’s for damn sure. If I were still on the Academy board, it’s not enough that he just resigned from the Academy. I mean, Will should probably just offer to give his Oscar back. And if the Academy wants to decide five or 10 years from now that that’s enough time for redemption to repent, then they can give him his Oscar back. Part of me is loath to even tread down this road here because the violence in this country is perpetrated by white people. Historically, we are the ones who committed the act of genocide to steal this country. We are the ones who enslaved human beings. We are the ones who have created a mass incarceration system in the 21st century to lock up people of color. We are the ones who make people of color and poor people, working class people, live a very, very hard life. It is an act of violence the way that we’ve structured our economy. The way that people have to suffer and get through without full health insurance, without mental health help, without all the stuff that we as the richest country on Earth don’t have. Things that dozens and dozens of other countries have, but not us. It is an act of violence and we are the perpetrators of that violence. Men. We are the ones in charge. Women aren’t in charge. Women make up 25 percent of Congress. We are 75 percent. And that’s where my mind went after Chris so viciously had his head and neck snapped. By somebody that was as you watched him walk away — and I’m talking about Will — and also back at his seat, just now shouting. Dropping F-bombs, and still shouting at Chris. I’m sure Chris thought, “he’s going to come back up here and really finish this off.” And where is that Academy security that wasn’t there for me? Until somebody ordered them, “You better help Michael Moore there.”. 

Michael Moore [00:27:49] But you saw the look on Will’s face, you saw him back at his seat, and he didn’t look right, did he? And that should have broken everybody’s heart because we want none of our fellow human beings, especially not a single, one more black man in this country having to feel pain, needing help. If you really stop and think about it, if we really cared, if it wasn’t just a punch line now, no pun intended, or just another joke. It’s not funny. And we all collectively have to do something about it. And I’m a big believer that art, the movies, books, plays, all kinds of art… A friend of mine went to the Whitney Biennial here this week, and she sent me a picture of one of the exhibits. I’ll post it here on the podcast page. This piece of art by an artist, Emily Barker. And the piece is called “Death By 7865 Paper Cuts.” And what it is is a print-out of a stack of medical bills. Medical bills from this person who had had an accident. They just printed everything off they’d been sent to recover from this accident. All these bills between the years 2012 and 2015. So this is right at the start of Obamacare. It’s 7,865 sheets of paper, 8.5×11 inch paper. And so that’s why the title is “Death By 7865 Paper Cuts.” Because if you live in America, that’s what it looks like. And they turned it into a piece of art. It’s so powerful. I’ll post it here, and I’ll put it on social media, too. The point is, is that art can be the most powerful weapon. Not your fists, not a gun, not violence, but intelligence, and the dispelling of ignorance. Shining a bright light on the truth — that’s what art does, that’s what the movies do. And that’s… boy that is my sincere and firm hope that we can get back to that, and to improving our lives and improving the society and fixing things. And if we need our artists, and our writers, and the people that do artistic installations in a museum to help us along, to inspire us, to ignite the spark in all of us because we know we can live in a better country and in a better world. Then that’s what we have to keep doing. Chris Rock has to keep doing what he’s doing. Will and Jada Smith have to keep doing what they’re doing. We all have to do this and we are never allowed to use violence. It is not how we win. It’s how you lose. Even if sometimes you win, because you have to commit acts of violence, because otherwise someone is going to kill you or hurt you, you never really feel good about it. That’s my guess. I mean, I’ve never been in that kind of situation where I’ve had to use a weapon, or use my fists or whatever, but man… It takes a lot more strength to be nonviolent. I know it sounds like a cliche but peace is the answer. Peace is the answer. I’m sorry how many millions or billions had to witness that last week, but there is a better way. And I think Will Smith knows that now. Maybe all of us learned some form of a lesson there. Of how we want to live and be. 

Michael Moore [00:32:04] But I want to encourage all of you to use your talents and your skills in your art — and your art could be anything. It could just be writing a letter and posting it, it could be a poem — you could draw something, you know? And if, like me, you were told at an early age when I used to get a ‘D’ in art that you’re no good at it. Don’t believe it. There’s something in you that needs to be said, and we need to hear it. And that was the beauty of CODA. We need to hear it. Yes, a film about a deaf family. Yeah, well, they already heard it, knew it, felt it. And it’s a gift to the rest of us. And it’s a gift from the working class. And to all the rest of the people that are not in the working class, and that have money and have been able to succeed during the pandemic, the real estate market, et cetera, et cetera — you need to really think about this because the incredible union activity that’s been taking place here during the pandemic and this past week. The Amazon workers in Staten Island, New York City, voted in a union, the first Amazon warehouse to make this happen. I had the Starbucks union on a month ago. They’ve gotten, I think, another 10 Starbucks that have either unionized or they’re taking a vote on it. They’ve got the cards signed. People don’t want to live like this anymore. When four million people decide not to go back to work during the pandemic, it’s a statement. We all want to come out of this pandemic living a better life, treating each other better. Feeling mentally better, feeling better than we do now with that fog that I referred to that we’re all in. I think it can happen. But for now, just be good to yourself. Be good to other people. And teach our children that violence is never the answer. 

Michael Moore [00:34:09] Thanks, everybody, for listening to this podcast today. Thanks to my executive producer, Basil Hamdan, our producer Angela Vargos, and all the people that have helped me here with this podcast over these first two years. Nick, Donald and many others — thank you, all of you. And to all of you who listen to this, it’s much, much appreciated. I’ll be back next week. We’ll talk some more. Be well. This is Michael Moore, and this is Rumble.