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When a jackrabbit gets addicted to road-running, it is only a matter of time before he gets smashed-and when a journalist turns into a political junkie he will sooner or later start raving and babbling in print about things that only a person who has Been There can possibly understand.”

- Hunter S. Thompson


Filmmaker, muckraker, and liberal activist Michael Moore dares to take his camera where no one has gone before. Anyone familiar with Roger & Me or TV Nation will know his style; everyone else can learn about it by watching one or both seasons of The Awful Truth. Moore’s modus operandi as a public advocate includes:

a. Find someone whose doing something that pisses him off.
b. Visit the offending party at their home or office.
c. Confront the person in the most offensive manner possible.

Like Sinclair Lewis at the turn of the last centaury or Hunter Thompson at the beginning of the 1972 presidential election, Moore sees himself as a renegade on a quest. “No one else will tell you the truth,” he seems to say. “But I will.” When Moore is firing on all pistons, his creative rough & tumble is worthy of Swift.

Watching a few episodes of The Awful Truth reminds one of what 60 Minutes might have looked like if Saturday Night Live had produced it. In one scene, Moore travels to Ken Starr’s home with a small group clad in Colonial clothing. Like the citizens of Salem, they are here to show Starr how to conduct an economical witch trial. Crackers, the crime fighting chicken, travels to Disney World to have a heart-to-heart with Mickey about unfair labor practices, while the Sodomobile, a pink van loaded with gay men, travels from state to state fighting for homosexual rights. These particular scenes are very funny and make great theater.

Of course conservatives will hate The Awful Truth as much as liberals hate Firing Line. They might even be so rude as to point out that Moore never deals with real content (as if Buckley did). But The Awful Truth isn’t a news magazine or an exercise in investigative reporting. Mostly it’s a good excuse to harass companies that pollute, fail to pay insurance claims, and sell cigarettes to kids. In one scene Sal, the Bill Collector, visits the UPS office to interrogate a couple of VPs over a supposed contract violation. Even though Sal isn’t real, the two stiff shirts defend their contract to Sal, on camera. The viewer never receives enough information to understand the UPS contract, much less if it’s been broken. And it doesn’t really matter. What does matter is that the two guys with the ties don’t have better sense than to talk to Sal, the Bill Collector, making both executives, and UPS, look like idiots.

The Awful Truth does have one or two drawbacks, even for the bleeding heart crowd. Moore is front-and-center a little too often, and eventually his self-righteous whine grows tiresome. This is especially true when Moore pursues the bad guys and gals as opposed to a personality like Sal. When this happens, a typical episode runs as follows.

a. Moore delivers the opening monolog.
b. Moore institutes a new program called “work care” and illustrates its usefulness.
c. Moore delivers a second monolog.
d. Moore begins a campaign to deliver TVs to Afghanistan.

With this set-up, The Awful Truth begins to look like a program about Michael Moore.

The second and worst offence is that even when Moore is interviewing someone he’s sympathetic with, that person may be the butt of a joke when the footage runs on the program. When he talks to a number of “locals” in a sketch about the crazies who live in Montana, their answers are meant to seem odd and funny. Bill Nichols asks a similar question of an earlier Moore film. “Is it all right to make Miss Michigan look foolish by asking for her opinion about local economic conditions …in one scene from Roger and Me?” In both cases, Moore seems to make an ethical breech by ridiculing innocents.

Liberals will find solace in both seasons of The Awful Truth, because TV programs from a liberal perspective are a rare find. It will help take the sting out of an unfair world as well as balance out that windy guy on the radio named Rush and the right-wing cadre of reporters on the Fox News channel. Even liberals need a little red meat now and then. Sitting down and watching an episode in the evening could be the perfect antidote to the latest calamity from Bush II. Michael Moore sooths us by demonstrating that no one, be they high, low, or in-between, can escape from The Awful Truth.

Ronnie D. Lankford, Jr.

Both seasons of The Awful Truth are available at

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