We wanted the political passion of Michael Moore, not the solipsistic self-absorption of Jeff Stark.

By Salon Staff

Published October 22, 2002 7:00PM (EDT)

[Read Jeff Stark's "Michael and Me."]

I was hoping to read an interview with Michael Moore and understand some of his views and ideas about guns, documentaries and maybe a couple of interesting facts. For example, Moore has been criticized on his facts; does he stand by them or does he think he's justified in bending them? Is his movie about Columbine, or is it about gun-related violence in general? And if it's gun-related in general, how are these murders occurring? (Domestic violence? Gang-related?) Instead I read some introspective self-deprecating piece about the interviewer. What gives?

-- Adam Chase

"I don't think the political left needs its own Rush Limbaugh," Stark wrote.

He's correct. As the right drags us down the path of World War III, we need an army of our own Rush Limbaughs.

-- Robert Crook

Challenging Michael Moore's exploitative style is a noble pursuit, but must we be subjected to this juvenile junk? The whole idea of providing additional narration to the interview is doomed to failure anyway, but with no real substance to the interview itself, it reads like a long-winded excuse for why the article fails.

Which is too bad, because any success in coaxing Moore into a real debate could yield valuable food for thought. He's certainly fumbled his popular influence with shaky data and self-congratulation, but I still believe he's doing more good than harm.

A little more maturity next time, OK?

-- Ashley Holt

Jeff Stark simply isn't that interesting as a personality -- and certainly not as a writer -- to get away with this Michael Moore piece.

I suppose we should give him props for trying something different than the whole "I think Michael Moore needs to be taken down a peg by someone from the left" angle.

But it's just annoying.

Stark criticizes Moore (or his fans) for having the audacity to think of him as being a Rush Limbaugh of the left.

Stark says we don't need one.

Really? Limbaugh's got a lot of power.

Or doesn't he think so. Or think that's insignificant.

Sorry, Jeff. Not very impressive.

-- Mitch Perry

What is your fucking beef with Michael Moore? He's been the only liberal voice to break through the mass media and all you guys can do is whine and snivel about his agenda and journalistic ethics? And you cleverly top off the argument by making fun of his appearance? What the fuck?

Do you want Ann Coulter to be the leading political pundit in the country? Do you want no one to challenge our idiotic president and his manipulative gang of cronies?

Don't lose the forest for the trees. And get the chip off your shoulder.

-- Baldwin Cheng

Jeff Stark's interview of Michael Moore is more about Jeff Stark than Michael Moore. Why do we care if Stark doesn't like Moore's aesthetic, or that he thinks it's pathetic that Moore feels bad about his weight? How is that relevant? The piece is self-centered and mean-spirited.

Michael Moore is the lone popular liberal voice on the landscape right now. How many liberal political books have hit No. 1 on any national bestseller list in the past 20 years? "Bowling for Columbine" has the potential to be the highest-grossing documentary of all time. Stark's evident personal vendetta against Moore is immaterial; the real story is what it is about Moore's message and methods that see him at his peak of popularity after 15 years in the film business, especially during a time where most democratic politicians liberal or otherwise are afraid to speak against the Republicans.

-- Martin Quinn

Jeff Stark, the personification of solipsism. Following in the footsteps of another execrable piece in Salon (the one where the guy pesters Matthew Broderick in a movie line), Stark wastes several pages of our time, only to draw the conclusion that he's conflicted about Michael Moore.

The "left" in this country (as it is) has allowed itself to be jerked around by the right-wing opinion-generation machine for years. When someone finally stands up and fights back (like Moore), using tactics that pale in comparison to some of the garbage produced by the professional liars on the right (like Roger Ailes, Fox News, etc.), timid types like Stark get their nuts in a bunch. Moore is a renegade and a provocateur. He is not a historian. He uses (dark) humor to expose the grand tradition of right-wing hypocrisy. If this is what it takes to get opinions other than those sanctioned by Rupert Murdoch, Trent Lott and their ilk heard, then so be it.

If only there were 100 Michael Moores tossing ice water in the faces of a perpetually dazed American public.

-- Larry Grogan

Here's the part where Jeff Stark spends a page and a half getting the reader to take his side before he even asks any questions.

Wow. That's got to be the worst interview I've ever read in Salon. With a new Michael Moore movie coming out in the next few days, I knew that another hack job was going to be coming, but Salon should be ashamed to print drivel like "Michael and me." Jeff Stark is an incompetent interviewer who's tried to turn a standard interview into an exposé about how horrible Michael Moore and his methods are.

The problem is Stark made no explosive statements about the content of Moore's film at all. His italicized commentary was a pathetic attempt to make Moore's answers seem manipulative and contrived. Sure, he may not have completely answered the questions to Stark's satisfaction, but this interview was a causal conversation between two guys. If Stark truly cared about having his questions answered, he would have followed up his questions better and probed for the answers he sought, like any decent interviewer would.

Instead he deconstructed the conversation with statements like "Watch what Moore does here" and "here's where he takes control." Maybe there should be some underlined comments saying things like "Here's the part where Stark tries to make the editors of Salon forget that he didn't ask a follow-up question" and "Watch Stark explain what Moore is going to say before he prints the answer so he can make Moore's comments seem weak and predictable."

The worst part of the whole article is Stark's insistence that he had a "secret weapon." And what is the secret weapon? Well, it's that Stark went to Columbine High School 10 years before the shootings and didn't know anyone affected by the shootings! Who gives a damn?

Although I consider myself a fan of Michael Moore's work, I'm not blind to the man's faults. Jeff Stark may not like Moore, but it would be hard to see any of that if we had only read the transcript of the interview. His comments about Moore's methods, politics, questionable reliability and public persona were confined only to the introduction to the article. When he did confront Moore with things he doesn't like he follows Moore's answers with comments that make it seem like Moore is losing an argument when in fact he's winning.

It's obvious from reading "Miachel and me" that Jeff Stark is a terrible interviewer who tried to cover his tracks by adding pointed commentary to the interview after the fact. Maybe if there wasn't a feud between Michael Moore and David Talbot, Salon's editors would have seen through this tactic and not felt the need to edit a relatively tame interview with Michael Moore into an attack piece. You guys have really dropped the ball on this one.

-- Greg Saunders

Perhaps I'm missing the point, but I would think that an interview with Michael Moore should focus on Michael Moore. A good interview, as I need hardly tell Salon, should be constructed and written so as to reveal the subject. By placing his own feelings and reactions in the story, and by choosing to focus and emphasize Mr. Moore's skill at deflecting his questions, Mr. Stark naturally gives the impression that Mr. Moore is a false, disingenuous person. Mr. Moore may well be, but a skilled interviewer will allow his subject to reveal those qualities instead of telling us (over and over again) how skilled Mr. Moore is at answering questions in a phony and disingenuous manner. There is also the possibility that Mr. Moore's answers were honest and heartfelt -- which possibility seems not to have occurred to Mr. Stark. You choose instead to damn Mr. Moore with faint praise.

-- Bryant Gries

Ick! What an irritating interview. I suppose Jeff Stark thought it was cute but jeez, must the interviewer make the interview more about him than about the interviewee. Now I'm all annoyed. Thanks a lot, asshole.

-- Julie Abuelsamid

Salon Staff

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