November 18, 2003

German Pavlovian Dogs

Well, what can I say? Germans would buy even the daubings of a chimpanzee if they were told it's an ANTI-AMERICAN chimpanzee.

US filmmaker Michael Moore wins warm welcome on German tour
18.11.2003 18:15

BERLIN (AFP) - A packed Berlin concert hall. Cheers and applause in a raucous welcome fit for a beloved popstar. But this idol doesn't exactly sing. He rants and rails against US President George W. Bush.

US filmmaker and author Michael Moore began his German tour in Berlin this week to promote the German-language version of "Dude, Where's My Country."

In two sold out appearances, 3,000 adoring German fans got exactly what they came for: a hissing diatribe against the US government.

"Welcome old Europe, thank God for old Europe," Moore began at the Columbiahalle Sunday, referring to an unpopular term coined by the US Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld.

"I live in a country in which it is almost a matter of national policy to keep people stupid. I am almost embarrassed to talk about it but I feel you are owed an explanation."

Appearing in his trademark jeans and baseball cap, Moore read from his new book, "Volle Deckung, Mr. Bush" ("Full Cover, Mr. Bush"), railed against the war in Iraq, poverty and violence in America and the 2000 presidential election. He urged Germans not to let their country become "like the US" and said Americans were waking up to the "lies" of the Republican administration.

Laughter. Clapping. Whistles of support. The whole night through.

Moore began his European tour in England this month, "as an advance man" for Bush's visit to Britain. After Berlin, Moore visits Hamburg, Cologne and Munich before heading to two more sold-out shows in Austria.

While his documentaries are popular in the US and he makes the bestseller lists with his books, he is still sometimes seen by the press and public there as a fringe gadfly.

But in Europe, he is a phenomenon: his book "Stupid White Men" sold 1.1 million copies in Germany, almost double what it sold in the US, according to US magazine Publishers Weekly.

The English version was only one of two English books to ever make the German bestseller lists -- the other was "Harry Potter". The new book is already 18th in advanced sales on Internet site

Moore's appearances sell out and he appears in the most high-brow newspapers and magazines.

"He is for young people like a popstar," wrote German newsweekly Der Spiegel.

"And what is completely astonishing is that Moore is pretty old and looks like one of the 'stupid white men' he writes about. In spite of this, Michael Moore is in; he is hip; he is cool."

Germans attribute this to Moore's mirroring of what is popular thinking in Europe, particularly after opposition grew in France and Germany to the US-led war in Iraq.

"He hits a nerve with what he says and people agree with him," said Ursula Haberl, who attended the show. "He is a star here."

Another fan said he gives legitimacy to negative images of the United States and an outlet for frustration with Washington's policies.

"He reinforces all the stereotypes we have of America," said Stefan Baumann. "We can point to him and say, see, even Americans are saying that about themselves."

But Baumann added that some of Moore's work goes too far and Germans do not always realize that his anti-Bush stance is not an anti-American stance.

"A lot of what is in the book is really repetitive and some of it is just not quite believable," he said. "But Germans believe it because they want to. As for me, I just like him because he is funny."

Moore, for his part, says he believes Europeans truly like Americans, just not the government and does not see himself as promoting anti-Americanism.

"You like us, our charming simpleness," he said.

"We're a happy people, we don't have to think too much. We don't have to know what is going on in Nairobi."

And he is thrilled with his warm welcome in Europe.

"I am overwhelmed with the support my work has received here," he said.

"Thank you, people of Germany, for being a good friend."