Moore or Less: Slacker Uprising

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Michael Moore scored a big buzz with the online release of his latest doc Slacker Uprising, a kind of concert film of his 2004 efforts to get out the (young Democratic) vote in advance of the election. The release, timed for the ’08 contest, functions as a cautionary tale to “not get fooled again” — again and again.

Slacker Uprising

The film is free to download after registering on the website with an email address. The inital online release was handled on the Slacker Uprising website as flash video on September 23, and as bit-torrent download — and judging from the initial download speeds (slow to none), the servers seem to have been overwhelmed by the response. By the end of the day, however, the bandwidth issues were sorted out, spreading out the task to a number of outlets, including Amazon, iTunes, Hypernia.com and Blip.tv. Interestingly, the formats varied from outlet to outlet, from a modest 400 MB QuickTime file from Hypernia.com, to a 1.2 GB monster HD file from iTunes.

Moore is not alone is offering media free online (check out hulu.com or Tom Roston’s post on SnagFilms for some other free online media outlets), but he’s better than most in getting attention for his work. But how is the film itself? Do you get what you pay for?

Not so much. The power of Moore’s oratory is tempered somewhat by the familiarity of the territory the film covers — we’ve seen Moore’s rabble-rousing before. And even if you haven’t, you’ll see him do it a dozen times throughout the course of the film, and after a dozen times, it’s not so rousing anymore.

If you’re sympathetic to the message, it’s easy to understand what Moore’s trying to do from the first minutes of the film; to those who aren’t, simply hearing that message over and over probably won’t make you change you mind. Repetition does not equal depth, and the message doesn’t get deeper or more nuanced as the film goes on. The celebrity fellow travelers Moore takes along with him repeat the same point again and again: the electorate, roused from ignorance, should now know better than to elect Bush to a second term. But hearing that message from Gloria Steinem isn’t dramatically different from hearing a similar message from Eddie Vedder or from Viggo Mortensen — three of the celebs Moore recruits for his rallies.

Ditto for the venues. Cities and towns, big and small, across twenty states — over sixty in all — tend to blur after awhile. You get the sense that when Moore shouts out the name of a city at the beginning of a speech, he’s almost trying to remind himself where he is — there isn’t much else to distinguish one event from another.

Moore is at his best when he’s not running off a script. When heckled by a group of Republicans at a rally in West Virginia, his brilliance shines. “I have some good news for you Republicans,” he tells them. “When we’re in power, we promise not to treat you the way you’ve treated minorities for the last four years… Even though many of us in here see you as a deviant form of behavior, Republicanism, Right-wing-ism, we’ll still let you marry each other.”

To be fair, Moore’s effort in the film is a national, not local, one; he’s trying to influence the outcome of a presidential election. And though the effort comes up short, Moore’s spin on the results of the 2004 election is to point out that the only demographic that Kerry won was the “young voter.” The timing of the release of Slacker Uprising, just six weeks before the 2008 presidential election, offers Moore the chance to redeem his efforts — depending on the results this time around.

David Nanasi
David Nanasi
David has worked on POV's website since its infancy, helping to develop and nurture it, as well as producing special features. David also oversees and administers POV's internal network, maintaining hardware and software for the POV staff. Prior to joining POV, David, served on the staff of CyberEd, an 18-wheeler Internet classroom that toured nationwide. Since 1997, David has worked independently as a computer consultant, including systems, networks, databases, and web design and construction. David's favorite documentaries are: 1. Eyes on the Prize - Henry Hampton (Executive Producer) 2. Crumb - Terry Zwigoff 3. The Thin Blue Line - Errol Morris 4. Roger & Me - Michael Moore 5. The Camden 28 - Anthony Giacchino
  • Mark K

    FOREIGNID: 17142
    FOREIGNPARENTID:
    I am one of the 47 million people without health insurance. I am diabetic, and am supposed to take my metformin twice a day. I sometimes only take it once/day, because I can’t afford to refill it that often. I also have high colesterol, but cannot afford the needed medication, so that goes untreated. I believe I have had a couple mild heart attacks, and have frequent gall-bladder attacks, but I can’t afford to treat these conditions, either. My teeth are in bad shape, but again, I don’t have the $4,000 for the dental work they say I need. I will probably be another of those that die early, simply because of a lack of health care. I sincerely hope Gwen asks some pointed questions about health care in Thursday’s debate. It is astounding that the United States is the ONLY industrialized nation in the western world that does not have universal care for all its’ citizens! What is wrong with us?!?

  • Mark K

    FOREIGNID: 17143
    FOREIGNPARENTID:
    I am one of the 47 million people without health insurance. I am diabetic, and am supposed to take my metformin twice a day. I sometimes only take it once/day, because I can’t afford to refill it that often. I also have high colesterol, but cannot afford the needed medication, so that goes untreated. I believe I have had a couple mild heart attacks, and have frequent gall-bladder attacks, but I can’t afford to treat these conditions, either. My teeth are in bad shape, but again, I don’t have the $4,000 for the dental work they say I need. I will probably be another of those that die early, simply because of a lack of health care. I sincerely hope Gwen asks some pointed questions about health care in Thursday’s debate. It is astounding that the United States is the ONLY industrialized nation in the western world that does not have universal care for all its’ citizens! What is wrong with us?!?

  • Joseph Schmoe

    FOREIGNID: 25615
    FOREIGNPARENTID:
    “The inital online release was handled on the Slacker Uprising website as flash video on September 23, and as bit-torrent download — and judging from the initial download speeds (slow to none), the servers seem to have been overwhelmed by the response.”
    You obviously know nothing of how bit torrents work. If a torrent is popular, the download speeds *increase*, not decrease. A truly popular torrent will download at a blinding speed. A torrent no one wants will be shared by few, if any, peers and will exhibit extremely slow downloads as you have just described.
    It is a distributed sharing protocol, and not reliant on “the servers”.
    Otherwise, you might be referring to the later release of the film from servers, where you sell your email address to Mr. Moore in order to download the film from a central location he controls. If that is what you are referring to, then the mere slow download speed again does not indicate popularity. It merely indicates that it is (was) 2008, and Mr. Moore was dealing with server-side limitations that most professionals would have handled by then. I recall that around 2000-2002 there were lots of new media releases which suffered from underpowered servers sitting atop inadequate bandwidth. If the downloads from a central site are extremely slow, it is a problem of poor capacity planning, not necessarily attributable to massive demand.
    In other words, it seems that no one wanted to seed Moore’s film. That is not a success.

  • Mercedes Townsley

    We are well aware that movies can become way too explicit/horrific, its comforting to just take in a docmentary about real life concerns. I feel centered again.