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THE MICHAEL MOORE "ROGER & ME" FILM CONTROVERSY

This paper will review questions relating to Michael Moore's genesis film "Roger & Me".

 

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This paper is written with comments from people whom Moore worked for and with. It is written from documented sources from people who were there, knew the true story and have sterling credentials.

Where did Moore originate? What dues did he ever pay and was he ever on the firing line like the genuine Flint blue-collar activists were? Was he an unsuccessful small liberal magazine writer who meandered around on the coat tails of the " Flint activists"? What is his knowledge and credibility based on and what are his credentials?

"If" Moore was the rebel leader that he suggests how many rallies, demonstrations and conferences did he organize, lead and conduct like the "actual" blue-collar Flint worker activists who put the cause above themselves and worked in a selfless way to protect America's jobs, workers and the communities in which they live?

Was "Flint" the base for Moore to claim as home because the activist's home base was Flint and they had already educated Flint with countless hours of TV/radio & press coverage over a period of many years?

Was Moore a leader of people or was he a "single" fringe opportunist using other people's genius, hard work and ideas to garner the support of a concerned, and therefore gullible middleclass to enrich him and promote his liberal agenda? Did he deliberately exploit the very people that he alluded to be concerned about?

Did Flint and its people benefit because of Flint's connection to Moore or was it Moore who was enriched because of his connection to Flint?

There was vast press coverage on this issue post Roger & Me and the conclusions were quite similar. While there could "easily" be much more said, for a brief overview we will review just a few comments in this paper.

While reading this particular Moore paper please consider the "content", "timeline" and "issues" of the Westfall committees work on this site relative to the big picture.

 


 

PHIL DONAHUE SHOW + [excerpts & comments]... 1/29/1990

 

On January 29, 1990 Phil Donahue brought his nationally televised show "Donahue" to Flint's Whiting auditorium to interview Michael Moore on Moore's runaway hit "Roger & Me".

Donahue said… ''This is Flint, Michigan and if you haven't been here you're missing the whole industrial story of America's heartland.''

Donahue talked briefly of Flint's job loss and the boarded up stores.

nDonahue stated… ''Your city is subject of a film which everybody is talking about. It no doubt will be the most talked about movie of 1990 and I am pleased to present its creator, producer, director and star. Here is your native son, Michael Moore.''

[Donahue went on how in Moore's film that Moore was unable to meet G.M. CEO Roger Smith. Actually, Moore did talk to Smith at two G.M. stockholders meetings and Westfall got him into both meetings. Westfall would take a group of his people to these stockholders meetings to demonstrate, confront the G.M. C.E.O. and make known the workers and communities concerns. Moore went with Westfall…twice.]

Donahue to Moore "Tell what message is embodied in your film?"

Moore replied… ''It's -we're all working harder to make less. There is no such thing as job security''

''And it's a story that doesn't get told. And I'm- actually, I'm very glad that now we have a chance to tell our story''

[Check the timeline and content of the Westfall papers on this site relative to Moore and his film. Actually, it wasn't Moore's story and it was not Moore who was losing his job security or who was working harder. It was America's blue-collar workers and the story had already gotten out by these hard working activists who were actually losing their jobs. The Flint activist workers had through years of intensive hard dedicated work been doing the grunt work nights, holidays and weekends to bring a national awareness to the issues. It was Moore, however, who claimed himself as the Don Quixote, as stated by Jim Musselman.]

Donahue went on…" but you got a lot of help from-and under way here in Flint, among others, Mike Westfall, a proud UAW member, Jim Musselman, an attorney drew up the idea for the film about what was happening here"

Moore…''Oh, that's not true .Oh, they lied.

Donahue…" they worked hard on -they fought General Motors''

Moore… ''No, No''

[Jim Musselman spent years in Flint as an attorney from Ralph Nader's Washington office and he was a dedicated and genuinely concerned American who worked very hard on the issues that Moore was now proclaiming on national television as his own exclusive domain.]

Donahue… "Please let me finish Mike. You do get to speak"

Moore…''yeah, yeah''

Donahue…"back in 1985; Ralph Nader and a few of his people who work for him were challenging General Motors publicly on their attempt to get tax rebates. The idea for a film came up it was drawn. Interviews were made with people in the union, and others-real solid citizen types doing in the trench work. And those people suddenly disappeared from the film. The film suddenly became Roger & me-"ME… Michael Moore' and you shouldn't be surprised that there is a little disappointment".

Donahue…"and here you come saying ''Ralph is very upset now because when cable news network and the New York times want a quote about G.M. they call Michael Moore, not Ralph Nader".

Moore… ''Yeah''

Donahue…" Michael, this is not classy, Mike".

 

 


 

THE FLINT JOURNAL [excerpts + comments] ... 1/31/1990

 

…In the January 31, 1990 Flint Journal article titled 'MOORE MISTAKEN' written by Ed Bradley, Ralph Nader said ''no attorneys of mine delivered a statement of support to Phil Donahue [for Moore].[Before the Donahue show Moore apparently had insinuated that a Nader attorney had sent a letter of support and he also had a statement criticizing Jim Musselman]

Jim Musselman said… "He was not trying to take credit for anything because the ideas in question were Nader's and Westfall's".

Nader said… ''Musselman did tremendous work out there in Michigan .He doesn't take credit for things he doesn't do''

[Westfall has always stated that Jim Musselman had a genuine heart for working Americans and a real sense of fairness and honesty. Musselman worked hard on the issues in Flint.]

Bradley said Musselman told newspapers that Moore claimed too much credit for the film, and that the ideas for what became "Roger & Me came from Flint area union activist Michael Westfall. Musselman said the movies format--a search for G.M.'s Roger Smith--was modeled on a book co-written by Nader about corporate executives''

[The book was titled 'THE BIG BOYS' and Nader did not use Michael Moore, but rather Michael Westfall as a reference for the book. The reason for this was Westfall's activist work on the issues and his confrontations with G.M. C.E.O. Roger Smith. Westfall was mentioned in "The Big Boys" book introduction credits. Nader came to Flint at Westfall's invitation and did press conferences and radio shows with Westfall. ]

 

 


 

Variety [excerpts & comments].....1/23/1990........

 

On January 23, 1990 Daily Variety, which is the magazine of the entertainment industry, stated ''Two of Westfall's associates, former associates with whom Moore had also worked, James Musselman and Nader himself last week attacked Moore and his film in a New York Times article [Jan.19]''

[Jim Musselman was upset when he learned that Westfall was eliminated from Moore's film when Moore had a change of heart and decided to change the entire premise of the film to be a Michael Moore story rather then the true story of Flint and G.M.]

Variety stated … ''Musselman said he and his colleagues are angry that Moore has unfairly portrayed himself in Hollywood and the media as a ''Don Quixote'' who single handedly forwarded opposition against G.M. and its chairman Roger Smith, when they and others aren't being given credit for work they've done''

Variety went on…''That Moore is to receive $3 million from Warner bros. for distribution rights to ''Roger'' and he admittedly had never in his life made more then $17,000 a year.''

[Any royalties that the activist workers would have gotten for their film would have gone back to the communities to help with the displaced worker problems.]

''Musselman told Daily Variety that in 1985 he gave to Moore, Westfall's proposal for a 90 minute film the G.M. auto worker intended to make at the time.'' ''He said he was looking to get Moore's input on the proposal for a film Westfall was looking to produce in collaboration with Nader and a New York film producer.''

''Westfall said at Moore's request he personally delivered him ''literally hundreds of pages of research materials and irreplaceable internal documents '' that he [Westfall] had compiled for the making of his own film and were never returned by Moore."

[The article mentioned that Westfall headed up several grassroots groups over the years dealing with corporate restructuring and its impact on job loss and that he published monthly newsletters full of material and issues. Westfall also wrote major pilot proposals for the International U.A.W. dealing with retirement issues and national health insurance.]

''Westfall is further attacking the credibility of ''Roger'' as a documentary, criticizing Moore for painting an ''unfair, inaccurate'' portrait of the citizens of Flint and for rearranging the chronology of events that occurred in that town during the 1980's.''

[Others including an unidentified member of the Academy's Documentary Committee have recently challenged Moore about his reordering the historic sequence of events that appear in ''Roger''. It is an interesting footnote that while Moore was busy defending his credibility that Warner Brothers was outraged at the large amounts of negative press he was getting]

 

 


 

The Saginaw News [excerpts and comments]… 2/3/1990...

 

Saginaw News writer Chris Thompson said "Roger & Me "would not have met the criterion of the whole truth and nothing but the truth if it were a courtroom drama.

Thompson said Michael Westfall was a G.M. union activist that has done films and seminars and led several groups.

Westfall said…"We had major plans back in 1985 to do a movie. "We wrote a proposal. One big difference is the money was to go back to the community...every dime of it.'' Westfall alluded to Moore who said on the Monday show that much income from the film would go to finance similar movie projects, laughing off suggestions that profits go to his hometown.''

Westfall said, ''I've taken on Roger Smith on the floor of the stockholders meetings on topics such as outsourcing ''he [Smith] answered me ...although he didn't like what I said I've written him letters and he [Smith] has replied to every one".

 

CONCLUSION

 

Our movie was not to be a malicious comedy farce promoting Michael Moore at Roger Smith's, General Motors and the U.A.W.'s expense. It was to be a serious movie, intelligently sounding an alarm and targeting the many problems by thoughtfully telling the honest story of the suffering of America's workers and their family's due to the horrific price of Middle American job loss due to corporate restructuring… The story never got told.

Unlike Moore, we were blue-collar activists who worked for these companies. We cared and were not out to destroy the companies that supported us or the unions that represented us. Our mission was to "change the direction of bargaining", which we did, and "raise major societal questions as to how these companies were being directed", which we also did.

The money made from our film was not going into our pockets like the millions of dollars from Moore's film went into his. Our films profits were going back to our suffering communities and the families of workers who were losing their jobs because that was where it belonged and that was the right thing to do.

Moore's movie was about himself. It was a self-promoting film exploiting America's workers plight. It was designed to make money, build a career and garner acclimation and name recognition for Moore…. which it did. But at what price?

In reality Moore's film genuinely hurt workers, their families and our communities because he made a vulgar joke of America's workers very serious dilemma while sidetracking and gliding over the critical issues. Moore was not a blue-collar worker, he did not understand and he obviously had a different agenda. The last thing on a worker's mind, whose job was slotted for export, wasn't becoming a rich and famous celebrity it was feeding and supporting their family. Hurting people should not be used as movie pawns. We would never have made fools of working people to make a movie. You just don't do that to people you care about.

Interestingly when Moore came out with "Roger" and garnered the spotlight and all the incredible attention and popularity that celebrities get, he turned on us activists in the national press and we lost a great deal of our support. The public actually believed that Moore was the one championing their plight and his comment's towards us hurt our work tremendously.

Since then auto workers jobs as well as other middle class jobs across our great nation have been decimated.

 

In the end Moore didn't go down with the ship because he was never on the boat. H e was never on the boat because he was never really one of us.

Prior to "Roger and Me" Moore was a writer of a small magazine in Davison, Michigan.

It has been said Moore became confused with what his role was as a writer and the role of the actual Flint activist workers he saw, so he decided to become the "Flint Don Quixote" and subject of his own story to see if America would believe it…and they did.

Moore may have wanted to be a blue-collar rebel but some believe he was really a very confused white-collar writer. It mattered not…to Hollywood.

Many selfless people worked on these issues in Flint and the surrounding areas during those years and their work was a real slice of Americana at its best. There were hundreds of loyal workers who were not looking for stardom and spent all of their effort and time working on the issues. There were also many genuinely concerned churches, politicians, union leaders, media and fine people from academia from all over the country working with the "real deal" worker activists.

One of the true heroes and hard workers from those years was Jim Musselman who was a staff attorney at the "Center for the Study of Responsive Law" in Washington and he was sent to Flint by Ralph Nader to work for several years.

Musselman and Westfall worked closely together for many years. Musselman also worked closely with Moore.

Musselman was not afraid and had the integrity to tell it like it happened.

Musselman stated that Moore had gone too far and had lied about everything from the chronology of his own life to where the original ideas for Roger & Me came from.

Musselman said that Moore did not even know he could attend a G.M. stockholders meeting until Westfall got him in………TWICE!

Musselman said that he had become a friend of Moore's who in 1988 was beginning work on a film called "Dance On The Titanic" which was totally changed to Roger & Me and that Moore's ego was getting in the way of a very powerful film, yet Musselman said that Moore assured him that proper credit would be given to Westfall.

Musselman said that in March 1989 after his expressing some concerns in the film that Moore stated everyone would know that Mike Westfall had many of the original ideas in the film. The film took off and Moore appeared in interview after interview lying about the true story, how he got the whole movie idea from Mike Westfall in Westfall's original film proposal and how the proceeds from Westfall's film proposal were to all go back to help the displaced workers.

Musselman stated ''if he had only told the truth he would have had a far more powerful but accurate film. No one can understand why he has to lie".

 

 

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