Kicking off his five-city German book tour, author Michael Moore, part liberal preacher, part comedian, riffed on his standard fare in Berlin on Sunday. Not everyone was impressed.
"It makes a difference to have friends overseas"
If Michael Moore didn't have the mostly young Berlin crowd on his side when he rumbled on to the stage of a sold-out Berlin concert hall Sunday night, his opening line brought over the stragglers.
"Welcome, old Europe!" Moore said to cheers, a reference to U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld's dig at Germany for its Iraq war opposition.
For the next hour, Moore, 49, delivered the expected dosage of Bush and Iraq war criticism to the first audiences of what will be a five-city German tour promoting his new book, "Dude, where's my country?" The appreciative audience, nary a dissenting voice among them, responded with whoops and cheers. This, like the rest of Moore's German tour stops, was going to be an easy crowd.
Germany's favorite anti-American
Nowhere has Moore's entertaining, sound-byte light
Buchcover: Michael Moore - Stupid White Men
introspection been more successful than in Germany. Riding on a wave of anti-Bush sentiment around the Iraq war, Moore's book "Stupid White Men" sold one million copies in Germany before it did in the United States. His book titles have etched themselves into the newsmagazine Der Spiegel's bestseller lists, and "Bowling for Columbine" drew in half a million fans in the first two months after opening last year.
All of which put Moore, dressed in jeans, an untucked shirt and brown jacket, in a thankful mood Sunday night at the Columbia-Halle in Berlin.
"It has not been the easiest year in America to stand up and voice your dissent," said Moore, leaning his large frame into the podium. "It makes a lot of difference to have friends overseas supporting me."
For the next hour, Moore riffed, sang and joked his way through the topics that have become standard fare in his books and crowd favorites. He mocked American ignorance by citing a National Geographic geography study in which 70 percent couldn't identify where the U.K. was on the map. He slammed George W. Bush for acting in God's name in Iraq, and read a chapter from his book he titled "Jesus W. Christ."
Germany, "don't be like us"
Moore even took aim at the reforms Chancellor Gerhard Schröder and his government coalition are trying to push through. He warned Germany not to "cut away the safety net."
"Don't be like us," he said. "You've got to stand up, right? You've got to be brave."
Mixing in sports metaphors, Moore said popular European sports like rugby and soccer revealed the old continent's more cooperative, team-oriented approach to matters.
"In rugby, if someone gets tackled with the ball, he just throws it to the next person," he said. "'No! You go on without me!'" he sang, slipping into one of many over-the-top imitations that delighted the Berlin crowd.
Too much showboating?
Michael Moore flashes a peace sign as he poses with the Oscars won for best documentary feature for the film "Bowling for Columbine" during the 75th annual Academy Awards Sunday, March 23, 2003, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)
"He's an entertainer," said German literature student Janina Alfen, 22. "He writes things that are funny to laugh about and later make you think."
But Moore's alleged creative handling of the facts in his books and films, a standard criticism in the United States, is beginning to make its way across the Atlantic. German journalists, professors and critics have begun to take off the gloves when talking about the bestseller. Even devoted fans left feeling empty-handed after an appearance they felt was more entertainment than substance.
"I thought it was almost like a kind of cult. He says somebody is crap and everyone cheers," said Max Klemmt, a truck driver. "I thought he would bring a few more examples and a bit more context."
But for most, Moore's ranting against Bush's handling of the Iraq war and his plan to unseat the incumbent president was enough.
"I think Germany is sick of the whole Iraq war thing, and they're starting to see they were right," said Tarek Ahmia, 37, a music technician, after the show, "and finally an American comes along and confirms that."