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Moore was brought up Catholic, and has Irish, and smaller amounts of Scottish and English, ancestry. Some of his ancestors were Quakers. He attended parochial St. John's Elementary School for primary school and later attended St. Paul's Seminary in Saginaw, Michigan, for a year. He then attended Davison High School, where he was active in both drama and debate, graduating in 1972. As a member of the Boy Scouts of America, he achieved the rank of Eagle Scout. At the age of 18, he was elected to the Davison school board. At the time he was the youngest person elected to office in the U.S., as the minimum age to hold public office had just been lowered to 18.
Moore dropped out of the University of Michigan-Flint following his first year (where he wrote for the student newspaper The Michigan Times). At 22 he founded the alternative weekly magazine The Flint Voice, which soon changed its name to The Michigan Voice as it expanded to cover the entire state. Popstar Harry Chapin is credited with being the reason the magazine was able to start by performing benefit concerts and donating the money to Moore. Moore crept backstage after a concert to Chapin's dressing room and convinced him to do a concert and give the money to him. Chapin subsequently did a concert in Flint every year.
In 1986, when Moore became the editor of Mother Jones, a liberal political magazine, The Michigan Voice was shut down by the investors and he moved to California.
After four months at Mother Jones, Moore was fired. Matt Labash of The Weekly Standard reported this was for refusing to print an article by Paul Berman that was critical of the Sandinista human rights record in Nicaragua. Moore refused to run the article, believing it to be inaccurate. "The article was flatly wrong and the worst kind of patronizing bullshit. You would scarcely know from it that the United States had been at war with Nicaragua for the last five years."
Moore believes that Mother Jones fired him because of the publisher's refusal to allow him to cover a story on the GM plant closings in his hometown of Flint, Michigan. He responded by putting laid-off GM worker Ben Hamper (who was also writing for the same magazine at the time) on the magazine's cover, leading to his termination. Moore sued for wrongful dismissal, and settled out of court for $58,000, providing him with seed money for his first film, Roger & Me.
Directing, producing and screenwriting
Roger & Me
The 1989 film Roger & Me was Moore's first documentary about what happened to Flint, Michigan, after General Motors closed its factories and opened new ones in Mexico where the workers were paid lower wages. The "Roger" is Roger B. Smith, former CEO and President of General Motors. Harlan Jacobson, editor of Film Comment magazine, said that Moore muddled the chronology in Roger & Me to make it seem that events that took place before G.M.'s layoffs were a consequence of them. Critic Roger Ebert defended Moore's handling of the timeline as an artistic and stylistic choice that had less to do with his credibility as a filmmaker and more to do with the flexibility of film as a medium to express a satiric viewpoint.
Pets or Meat: The Return to Flint
Moore made a follow-up 23-minute documentary film, Pets or Meat: The Return to Flint, that aired on PBS in 1992. It is based on Roger & Me. The film's title refers to Rhonda Britton, a Flint, Michigan resident featured in both the 1989 and 1992 films, who sells rabbits as either pets or meat.
Moore's film, Fahrenheit 9/11, released in 2004, examines America in the aftermath of the September 11 attacks, particularly the record of the George W. Bush Administration and alleged links between the families of George W. Bush and Osama bin Laden. Fahrenheit was awarded the Palme d'Or, the top honor at the 2004 Cannes Film Festival; it was the first documentary film to win the prize since 1956. Moore later announced that Fahrenheit 9/11 would not be in consideration for the 2005 Academy Award for Documentary Feature, but instead for the Academy Award for Best Picture. He stated he wanted the movie to be seen by a few million more people via television broadcast prior to Election Day. According to Moore, "Academy rules forbid the airing of a documentary on television within nine months of its theatrical release", and since the November 2 election was fewer than nine months after the film's release, it would have been disqualified for the Documentary Oscar. Regardless, Fahrenheit did not receive an Oscar nomination for Best Picture. The title of the film alludes to the classic book Fahrenheit 451 about a future totalitarian state in which books are banned; according to the book, paper begins to burn at 451 °F (233 °C). The pre-release subtitle of the film confirms the allusion: "The temperature at which freedom burns."
As of August 2012, Fahrenheit 9/11 is the highest-grossing documentary of all time, taking in over US$200 million worldwide, including United States box office revenue of almost US$120 million. In February 2011, Moore sued producers Bob and Harvey Weinstein for US$2.7 million in unpaid profits from the film, claiming they used "Hollywood accounting tricks" to avoid paying him the money. In February 2012, Moore and the Weinsteins informed the court that they had settled their dispute.
Moore directed the 2007 film, Sicko, about the American health care system, focusing particularly on the managed-care and pharmaceutical industries. At least four major pharmaceutical companies--Pfizer, Eli Lilly, AstraZeneca, and GlaxoSmithKline--ordered their employees not to grant any interviews or assist Moore. According to Moore in a letter on his website, "roads that often surprise us and lead us to new ideas--and challenge us to reconsider the ones we began with have caused some minor delays." The film premiered at the Cannes Film Festival on May 19, 2007, receiving a lengthy standing ovation, and was released in the U.S. and Canada on June 29, 2007. The film is currently ranked the tenth highest grossing documentary of all time and received an Academy Award nomination for Best Documentary Feature.
Released on September 23, 2009, Capitalism: A Love Story looks at the financial crisis of 2007-2008 and the U.S. economy during the transition between the incoming Obama Administration and the outgoing Bush Administration. Addressing a press conference at its release, Moore said, "Democracy is not a spectator sport, it's a participatory event. If we don't participate in it, it ceases to be a democracy. So Obama will rise or fall based not so much on what he does but on what we do to support him."
In May 2017, it was announced that Moore had reunited with Harvey Weinstein to direct his new film about Donald Trump, titled Fahrenheit 11/9, which was released in approximately 1,500 theaters in the United States and Canada on September 21, 2018. Sexual assault allegations against Weinstein prompted Moore to revoke the plan to work with The Weinstein Company, which stalled production. The title refers to the day when Donald Trump officially became President-elect of the United States. In a column for Variety responding to the film's low opening weekend, "How Michael Moore Lost His Audience", sympathetic film critic Owen Gleiberman wrote "He's like an aging rock star putting out albums that simply don't mean as much to those who were, and are, his core fans". According to Glenn Greenwald, "what he's trying is of unparalleled importance: not to take the cheap route of exclusively denouncing Trump but to take the more complicated, challenging, and productive route of understanding who and what created the climate in which Trump could thrive."
Planet of the Humans
Michael Moore was executive producer of the documentary, Planet of the Humans, which was directed by Jeff Gibbs and released on July 31, 2019. The film makes the argument that since the first Earth Day, the condition of the planet has worsened, and questions whether mainstream approaches adopted by industry to mitigate climate change entail environmental impacts whose costs are comparable to or even possibly outweigh the benefits. The film received criticism from a number of climate change experts and activists who disputed its claims and the accuracy of figures cited in the film and suggested that the film could play into the hands of the fossil fuel industry.
Between 1994 and 1995, he directed and hosted the BBC television series TV Nation, which followed the format of news magazine shows but covered topics they avoid. The series aired on BBC2 in the UK. The series was also aired in the US on NBC in 1994 for 9 episodes and again for 8 episodes on Fox in 1995.
His other major series was The Awful Truth, which satirized actions by big corporations and politicians. It aired on the UK's Channel 4, and the Bravo network in the US, in 1999 and 2000. Moore won the Hugh M. Hefner First Amendment Award in Arts and Entertainment for being the executive producer and host of The Awful Truth, where he was also described as "muckraker, author and documentary filmmaker".
Another 1999 series, Michael Moore Live, was aired in the UK only on Channel 4, though it was broadcast from New York. This show had a similar format to The Awful Truth, but also incorporated phone-ins and a live stunt each week.
In 2017, Moore planned to return to prime time network television on Turner/TNT in late 2017 or early 2018 with a program called "Michael Moore Live from the Apocalypse". In February 2019, however, the network announced the show would not be produced.
He appeared in The Drugging of Our Children, a 2005 documentary about over-prescription of psychiatric medication to children and teenagers, directed by Gary Null, a proponent of alternative medicine. In the film Moore agrees with Gary Null that Ritalin and other similar drugs are over-prescribed, saying that they are seen as a "pacifier".
Moore's Broadway debut, The Terms of My Surrender, an anti-Trump dramatic monologue, premiered on August 10, 2017 at the Belasco Theatre. Donald Trump tweeted his dislike for the show and falsely claimed that it closed early. In the first week the production earned $456,195 in sales and $367,634 in the final week, altogether grossing $4.2 million, falling short of its potential gross. It lasted 13 weeks with 96 performances until October 2017, grossing 49% of its potential. Fox News gave it a negative review, in line with Trump's comments. The show was unenthusiastically praised by The Guardian, which said he only wanted to "preach to the choir". A spokesman for "The Terms of My Surrender" suggested that the production might have a in San Francisco in early 2018, which didn't materialize.
Although Moore has been known for his political activism, he rejects the label as redundant in a democracy: "I and you and everyone else has to be a political activist. If we're not politically active, it ceases to be a democracy." According to John Flesher of the Associated Press, Moore is known for his "fiery left-wing populism", and publications such as the Socialist Worker Online have hailed him as the "new Tom Paine". In a speech, he said that socialism is democracy and Christianity. However, he later said that economic philosophies from the past were not apt enough to describe today's realities.
During September and October 2004, Moore spoke at universities and colleges in swing states during his "Slacker Uprising Tour". The tour gave away ramen and underwear to students who promised to vote. One stop during the tour was Utah Valley State College. A fight for his right to speak resulted in massive public debates and a media blitz, eventually resulting in a lawsuit against the college and the resignation of at least one member of the college's student government. The Utah event was chronicled in the documentary film This Divided State.
Moore drew attention in 2004 when he used the term "deserter" to describe then president George W. Bush while introducing Retired Army Gen. Wesley K. Clark at a Democratic presidential debate in New Hampshire. Noting that Clark had been a champion debater at West Point, Moore told a laughing crowd, "I know what you're thinking. I want to see that debate" between Clark and Bush - "the general versus the deserter". Moore said he was referring to published reports in several media outlets including The Boston Globe which had reported that "there is strong evidence that Bush performed no military service as required when he moved from Houston to Alabama to work on a U.S. Senate campaign from May to November 1972."
In 2007, Moore became a contributing journalist at OpEdNews, and by May 2014, had authored over 70 articles published on their website. On April 21, 2008, Moore endorsed Barack Obama for president, stating that Hillary Clinton's recent actions had been "disgusting". Moore was an active supporter of the Occupy Wall Street protest in New York City and spoke with the OWS protesters on September 26, 2011. On October 29, 2011, he spoke at the Occupy Oakland protest site to express his support.
Moore praised Django Unchained, tweeting that the movie "is one of the best film satires ever. A rare American movie on slavery and the origins of our sick racist history."
Moore at the anti-Trump rally in New York City, November 12, 2016, which was allegedly organized by a Russian group
Moore's 2011 claims that "Four hundred obscenely wealthy individuals, 400 little Mubaraks - most of whom benefited in some way from the multi-trillion-dollar taxpayer bailout of 2008 - now have more cash, stock and property than the assets of 155 million Americans combined" and that these 400 Americans "have more wealth than half of all Americans combined" was found to be true by PolitiFact and others.
After Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez died in March 2013, Moore praised him for "eliminating 75 percent of extreme poverty" while "[providing] free health and education for all".
In an op-ed piece for The New York Times published on December 31, 2013, Moore assessed the Affordable Care Act, calling it "awful" and adding that, "Obamacare's rocky start ... is a result of one fatal flaw: The Affordable Care Act is a pro-insurance-industry plan implemented by a president who knew in his heart that a single-payer, Medicare-for-all model was the true way to go." Despite his strong critique, however, Moore wrote that he still considers the plan a "godsend" because it provides a start "to get what we deserve: universal quality health care."
In December 2015, Moore announced his support for VermontSenatorBernie Sanders in the 2016 United States presidential election. Moore called Sanders a "force to contend with". In January 2016, he officially endorsed Bernie Sanders for president. He also described democratic socialism as "a true democracy where everyone has a seat at the table, everyone has a voice, not just the rich". After Sanders lost the 2016 primaries, Moore urged Americans to vote for Clinton while also correctly predicting that Trump would win the election because the post-industrial Midwestern states would vote for Trump. After Trump was elected, Moore called Trump a "Russian traitor", saying his presidency had "no legitimacy".
In October 2016, Moore criticized Julian Assange and WikiLeaks for publishing leaks from the DNC's emails, saying: "I think WikiLeaks and I think Assange, they're essentially anarchists and they know, just like a lot of people voting for Trump know, that he's their human Molotov cocktail and they want to blow up the system. It's an anarchic move."
In March 2018, Moore criticized the "corporate media", saying "You turn on the TV, and it's 'Russia, Russia, Russia!' These are all shiny keys to distract us. We should know about the West Virginia strike. What an inspiration that would be. But they don't show this".
In April 2018, Moore taunted Trump by ironically asking him why he had not already fired Robert Mueller. After the Russia-United States summit of July 2018, Moore called for Trump impeachment, saying "Congress needs no more proof than Trump's admission yesterday that he sides with Putin to impeach and remove him."
Moore married film producer Kathleen Glynn on October 19, 1991. He filed for divorce on June 17, 2013. On July 22, 2014, the divorce was finalized.
Moore was raised a Catholic but disagrees with church teaching on subjects such as abortion and same-sex marriage. In an interview with The A.V. Club, when asked if there was a God, he stated, "Yes, there is. I don't know how you define that, but yeah."
Following the Columbine High School massacre, Moore acquired a lifetime membership to the National Rifle Association (NRA). Moore said that he initially intended to become the NRA's president to dismantle the organization, but he soon dismissed the plan as too difficult. Gun rights supporters such as Dave Kopel said there was no chance of that happening; David T. Hardy and Jason Clarke wrote that Moore failed to discover that the NRA selects a president not by membership vote but by a vote of the board of directors.
^Fonger, Ron (February 28, 2019). "Michael Moore's ancestor was a Scottish slave killed by American Indians". MLive. "On Moore's late mother's side of the family, Gates showed records indicating Moore's third great grandparents were Quakers, living in North Carolina. His third great grandfather was brought before a court martial in 1812 after refusing to serve in a militia.
"That is amazing and such a good feeling too," Moore said. "Quakers are pacifists ... among the kindest and most loving people you will ever meet."
^"'I am the balance', says Moore". Minneapolis Star Tribune. South Florida Sun-Sentinel. July 4, 2007. Retrieved 2007. Moore rejects the label "political activist"; as a citizen of a democracy, Moore insists, such a description is redundant.
^Flesher, John (June 16, 2007). "Hollywood meets Bellaire as Moore gives sneak peek of "Sicko"". Associated Press. But the filmmaker, known for his fiery left-wing populism and polemical films such as "Fahrenheit 9/11" and Oscar-winning "Bowling for Columbine", told the audience "Sicko" would appeal across the political spectrum.
^Collins, Andrew (November 11, 2002). "Guardian/NFT interview: Michael Moore". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 2011. ...I became a lifetime member after the Columbine massacre because my first thought after Columbine was to run against Charlton Heston for the presidency of the NRA. You have to be a lifetime member to be able to do that, so I had to pay $750 to join. My plan was to get 5 m Americans to join for the lowest basic membership and vote for me so that I'd win and dismantle the organization. Unfortunately, I figured that's just too much work for me so instead I made this movie.