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David Sirota

David Sirota

Posted: July 3, 2007 10:17 AM

Damn You Michael Moore! How Dare You?

Employing a tone that implies reporting on a fast-breaking scandal, the Los Angeles Times breathlessly tells us today that filmmaker Michael Moore will - gasp! - make a lot of money on his movie Sicko if it is successful.

Here's the excerpt:

"Moore himself stands to make a mint on the film. Thanks to a lucrative contract negotiated with the Weinstein Co. by his talent agent, Endeavor's Ari Emanuel, Moore is in line to receive 50% of "Sicko's" gross profits -- arguably one of the most lucrative deals on Hollywood's books, richer even than those enjoyed by the likes of Tom Cruise, Julia Roberts and director Peter Jackson. After theater owners have taken their cut, in other words, "Sicko's" profits will be split in half between Moore and Harvey and Bob Weinstein, whose Weinstein Co. is releasing the film nationally today. And that's not the only place Moore's deal eclipses almost all other movie deals. While most actors and directors get a cut calculated on 20% of a film's DVD revenue, Moore's cut of those earnings is calculated based on all of the DVD proceeds."

The horror, really. How dare a documentary filmmaker make money on movies about issues that the political Establishment doesn't want to talk about? How dare he deny corporate Hollywood an outsized share of the profits of his work? And how dare he engage in such shrewd business tactics as to make sure he a larger economic slice of his work than famous actors like Tom Cruise? Who does this guy think he is? Didn't he get the memo that its some sort of scandal for progressives to actually make money while championing their cause?

I hope you can sense the snark here. The fact is, there's nothing wrong with doing good and doing well, even though the media (think the pandemonium over John Edwards' and Al Gore's houses) and some in progressive circles seem to think there is a conflict there - I know, because I've felt it myself every now and then (as I expect many other progressive writers have) from some who say I'm committing some sort of moral atrocity in - the horror! - writing books about progressive politics and then promoting them for sale so that I can make a living.

Sure, there is nobility in the "struggling artist" meme, but that doesn't mean that anyone in the progressive movement should aspire to struggle, or be bitterly angry at those who have found a to simultaneously fuel the movement while not having to economically struggle. In fact, I'd say its the opposite - we need as many people as possible pioneering ways to do good for the progressive movement in an economically viable way, and we need as many people aggressively promoting their work for the progressive movement in a media environment decidedly tilted against us.

The more people who can pioneer their own way to make a solid living - or better than just a solid living - doing progressive politics, the stronger our movement will be. This is why I happily blog at Working Assets - a company built on doing good and doing well. It is also why I happily promote our great progressive champions, whether they be politicians like Sherrod Brown and Bernie Sanders, writers like Glenn Greenwald, or other filmmakers like Robert Greenwald - because the better they do, the better our message is amplified and the better our movement does as a whole.

Michael Moore is about as good an example as you can find in progressive politics of someone blazing their own path and making a very good living - all while championing some of the toughest issues of economic power that even some parts of the progressive movement have been too afraid to touch. Congratulations, Michael - you done good and you done even more well than other celebs, and there ain't no shame in that.