Michael Moore: National Leftist, Local Capitalist

It took me a little while to get Moore to agree to an interview for a capitalist publication like Crain’s Detroit Business, but I finally pinned him down for this feature story on how he’s helped revive Traverse City, Michigan.

Michael Moore
Michael Moore

Love or hate his politics, filmmaker and liberal activist Michael Moore has done one thing that local folks of all political stripes can agree on (for the most part): his Traverse City Film Festival, and refurbishing of the local State Theater, has helped my hometown with its economic revival. It took me a little while to get Moore to agree to an interview for a capitalist publication like Crain’s Detroit Business, where I wrote freelance business articles for a little while, but I finally pinned him down in 2012 for this feature story.

It is Thursday night and the State Theatre is packed to the balcony with attendees of the Traverse City Film Festival, who are catching “Louder Than Love,” a documentary about Detroit’s Grande Ballroom.

Outside, the downtown sidewalks along Front Street are filled with folks walking elbow to elbow, patronizing restaurants and shops. Inside the theater, Michael Moore stands in the lobby, dressed in shorts and his trademark baseball cap, greeting filmgoers with shy smiles and bowing his head modestly as he speaks.

But beneath his bashful manner, Moore’s tongue is as sharp as ever. And it is aimed directly at his sworn enemies — what he calls “greedy capitalists.”

“I’m teaching Capitalism 101 to all the capitalists here,” he says in an offhand response to a question. “I’m not sure they get it.”

Then Moore amends his comment. “In Traverse City, they get it.”

In this way, the native Michigan director of documentaries — including the sarcastically titled “Capitalism: A Love Story” — transitions from his persona as a progressive firebrand on the national stage to the local guy who many in the business community in Traverse City say has done more than any other person to boost the economy of his adopted hometown.

Read my full feature story on Michael Moore in Crain’s Detroit Business.