‘UK Too Like The US – Gender Inequality And Student Debt’

After the press conference, producer Carl Deal (left), Michael Moore and executive producer Rod Birleson (right)
After the press conference, producer Carl Deal (left), Michael Moore and executive producer Rod Birleson (right)

‘I WANTED to pick the flowers not the weeds,’ says Michael Moore of his new film ‘Where to Invade Next’.

The producers point out: ‘Michael Moore has invaded Europe and discovered some jaw-dropping facts, which he loves and plans to steal and take back to the USA to help make it great again.’

Among other things, the film highlights longer holidays and lunch hours in Italy, healthy French school lunches, minimal homework for Finnish schoolchildren, lack of standardised tests and promoting happiness, free university access for citizens and foreigners in Slovenia, good working conditions in Germany.

The producers further say that he did not visit the UK: ‘Moore notes that the UK is too like the US, noting gender pay inequality, student debt and childhood obesity.’ Moore told journalists at a Belgravia press conference to launch the film in the UK on Thursday: ‘I’ve spent 25 years pointing out everything that is wrong.

‘Most Americans know everyone is working harder for less pay with less time off.

‘The issue of what’s wrong is the economic system – it’s not fair and it’s not democratic. But while we were making the film here in Europe we thought Europeans would love this film because it says what is good.

‘In Britain you have the NHS which is great – there are some problems so fix them. In Finland they don’t charge tuition fees. I said to a minister in Finland, “Why don’t you have an Oxford or Cambridge?” She said, “We have 19 Oxfords and Cambridges.”

‘I’m saying every child should have the same shot at least. The film is a reminder that in Europe you have done things that are good. We (Americans) look at you and think it must be nice.’

Asked why he did not film in the UK, Moore said: ‘That was a conscious decision. We wanted to be in countries where you could learn something. You seem to have given in – the fact that you put 18-23-year-olds in debt.’

Moore went on to speak bitterly of Tony Blair. He said: ‘Bush was able to invade Iraq because Tony Blair gave him the cover. If Blair and the liberal press hadn’t supported that war, I don’t know if he (Bush) could have pulled it off.

‘You did our country damage by letting us into that war because liberals voted for a man who wasn’t a liberal. This is a place that has now elected this Conservative government and now wants to leave the EU. The film is a plea for you British to do what you did best 12 years ago.’

A Brazilian journalist asked Moore: ‘Is it clear the US favoured the coup in my country? Do people know this?’ Moore replied: ‘Most Americans don’t know things about Brazil. We don’t have international news. We hear about Zita and that’s about it. Do American governments support left-wing governments in Brazil? Of course they don’t.’

Asked ‘If Trump is elected what will you do?’ Moore said: ‘I could be joining the queue to leave. I think there is an excellent chance of Donald Trump becoming president of the United States. We need to take that very seriously. He knows how to manipulate.

‘It’s the perfect 21st century fascism – merging the state with the corporations, excluding the many in favour of the few. At 25, I was saying there is no way this country is going to elect an actor as president (Reagan). At 45, I said there’s no way Bush will be elected. Now I’m older, I’m more cautious. Trump has gone against women, people of colour young people – that’s 80 per cent of the electorate. But people have to go out and vote.’

Moore was asked why he chose ‘Where to Invade Next’ as the film’s title. He replied: ‘The title was made to put people off. Part of it was the US has been an invading force for the past 15 years. But the idea was to show we were prepared to take something good back.’

He added that in America ‘too many people get sick, go bankrupt and lose their homes. That shouldn’t happen. The me, me, me has done us no good. Most other countries are very much against this. I first noticed this in the difference between US and UK football.’

He said that when he asked about the offside rule in UK football, ‘I was told “because it’s fair”.’ He added: ‘Passing the ball in rugby – that’s the NHS. People are helpful here.’

Asked what he thought of the UK’s new Labour leader, Moore said: ‘Jeremy Corbyn’s election is wonderful. In the US, a democratic socialist, Sanders has 46% of delegates and has won 21 states – that’s marvellous! Corbyn, that’s going back to Labour’s roots. I wish Tony Benn were still around.’

Asked about Barack Obama’s legacy, Moore said: ‘Like my colleagues I’m disappointed about compromises on Medicare. But the failures are due to the Republicans. They turned their backs on Flint. There were people who tried to stop Obama being elected. They said he wasn’t born in America.

‘In their minds he remains “Blackula”. That’s how Republicans think – they are a racist party. But we have a black president and now we may have a woman president. Obama’s victory was historic.’

Asked to comment on the satirical nature of his film, Moore said: ‘My politics and sense of humour was shown here (the UK) first. This country understands satire and welcomes it. We’re grateful the UK exists, that you support the arts, that you can still buy books and read.’

In notes from a Q&A supplied with a press pack, Moore was asked: ‘What were the origins of this project?’ He said: ‘It really started when I was 19 years old. I had just dropped out of college and I got a Eurail pass and a youth hostel card and spent a couple months travelling around Europe. I was in Sweden and I broke my toe, and somebody sent me to a clinic.

‘Not much you can do with a broken toe, but they did what they could, and I went to pay the bill, and there was no bill. And I didn’t understand it. Seriously, I had never heard of such a thing.

‘And so they explained to me how their healthcare system worked, and all through Europe I just kept running into little things like that, thinking, “That’s such a good idea! Why don’t we do that?’’

‘My original idea was to go and invade other countries and steal things – other than oil. And I would do it without firing a shot. I had three rules: (1) don’t shoot anybody; (2) don’t take any oil; and (3) bring something back home that we can use.’

He was asked to ‘Talk about your decision to pick the flowers, not the weeds’. Moore said: ‘The mainstream media does a really good job telling us night after night how all the rest of the world is just so bad, they pay so much in taxes, and it’s just awful. And look, a lot of it is awful – and you get to watch it and read about it on television, in the papers, online.

‘But every few years, I’ll ask for two hours of your time to present the other version. The other truths about what goes on. If you want to know why I didn’t point out Italy’s high unemployment rate, my answer to you is that I went there to pick the flowers and not the weeds.

‘Other people can pick the weeds, but I wanted to show – especially my fellow Americans, but certainly people around the world – the contrast between the two.’