Excerpts About Westfall From : MICHAEL
MOORE IS A BIG FAT STUPID WHITE MAN
. . . During this period, Moore made some
crucial connections. A group of Flint community activists had taken on General Motors on several fronts, and Ralph Nader
had joined forces with them, to the point of assigning staffers to live and work with them in Flint and in Detroit. Nader
himself was working on a book, one of whose themes was a none-too-flattering personalization of Roger Smith, GM's top executive.
(Nader's concept was that, rather than blaming impersonal firms for their harmful conduct, one should understand that the
conduct was the product of specific human beings and their choices.)
The activists contacted Moore in hopes of adding his underground newspaper to their coalition, and introduced him
to Nader when he visited Flint to speak on how they should personalize Roger Smith rather than pressuring GM as a corporation.
One of their number, Mike Westfall was a union activist trying to find funding for a documentary on GM's practices, the proceeds
from which would be used to benefit Flint. Westfall's concept was given to Moore in the hopes his connections would be useful
in finding the required assistance. "We had major, major plans back in 1985 to do a movie using the same material that Moore
used," Westfall would
"the difference is the money was to go back to the community-every dime of it." Westfall got Moore into GM shareholder meetings
where community members questioned Smith and asked that he meet with them on key issues. Moore, however, found other opportunities.
It was time to leave Flint, the supposed hometown that Moore has since portrayed as his Xanadu, akin in reverence
and misery to the famous mansion of Citizen Kane. In 1986, Moore set out for San Francisco, an ideal place for his musings,
where he was picked (above an internal candidate) to be the savior and next editor of the leftist magazine Mother Jones.
His star was on the rise.
But within a few months, Mother Jones canned him. The publisher described Moore as "arbitrary; he was suspicious;
he was unavailable." Moore's response was a harsh one: He immediately sued the magazine for $2 million, claiming the parting
had occurred over ideological differences.
To make his case, Moore immediately went to the streets. The former Mother Jones employee who had been passed
over for Moore's job described how the recently fired provocateur stood on the front steps of San Francisco's City Hall to
assail the magazine. To make him go away, Mother Jones reluctantly settled his $2 million claim out of court for $58,000.
Who was the former employee who'd been passed up in favor of Moore? He was none other than David Talbot, who in 1996
founded the influential and hugely popular magazine Salon. And how did he come to relate this story about Moore.s early
example of overblown grandstanding? Not surprisingly. the issue surfaced more than ten years later, in 1997, when Moore wrote
an angry letter to the magazine following the publication of an article that dared to criticize him, detailing his now legendary
record of outbursts. This time, Moore's
suggested that Salon's editor had surfaced to whack him for a relatively insignificant (to all but Moore) occurrence
a decade earlier.
THE LOST YEARS
With his career
at Mother Jones at a dead end, Moore returned to Flint, but not for long. In 1987, settled in Washington, D.C., Moore
started a weekly newsletter, "Moore Weekly," which was partially funded by Ralph Nader's organization. Unsurprisingly, before
long the duo had a falling out. In Moore's version of events, the firing was fueled by Nader's jealousy over a $50,000 advance
Moore had been offered to write a book about GM. "He'd never gotten an advance like that," Moore later told the New Yorker.
"He got really upset." (Nader's office contended that Moore was told to move out because he was spending more time in
Flint than on the newsletter.)
career then took an unusual turn: toward filmmaking. During his previous Flint sojourns, he had become familiar with Mike
Westfall's proposal for a documentary on General Motors' practices and how they harmed the community, and with Nader's idea
of personalizing corporate executives, in particular GM's Roger Smith. While working in Nader's operation, friends of Westfall
had discussed the potential such a documentary would have, and how the story could be told with humor. Moore saw the potential
and began filming.
to assist, Westfall provided Moore with hundreds of pages of his own research, and again got him into a shareholders' meeting,
where Moore questioned Roger Smith extensively on camera. Later, Moore got to question Smith during a press luncheon and
on an exhibit floor. Moore also gathered
footage of Westfall
and other activists. All anticipated a documentary on the community's conflict with General Motors.
along the line, however, the theme began to change. The story of the activists vanished, as did all acknowledgment of their
aid and of Westfall's ideas. The theme would now be Moore's single-handed and heroic crusade. The title summed it up: Roger
& Me. Since its running joke would be Moore's unsuccessful attempts to interview Roger Smith, the footage of
him doing just that would likewise be deep-sixed.
the film became a hit, Moore spent a good deal of time denying the aid of Mike Westfall and the others. On live television,
Phil Donahue asked, "But you got a lot of help from-and under way here in Flint, among others, Mike Westfall, a proud UAW
member, Jim Musselman, an attorney, drew up the idea for a film about what's happening here.
back, "Oh, that's not true. Oh, they lied." He claimed that, "Attorneys from Ralph Nader's office hand delivered a statement
to you today saying that these people are out on a limb, that the Nader office supports this film.
When Nader's office denied sending any such letter, Moore
proclaimed in the Flint Journal that "they want money and they're trying to extort it from me." Needless to say, the
millions that the film earned did not go back to the community. save for a trifling amount: Moore proudly told Donahue that
he did demand that the distributor pay the rent for the four evicted families depicted in the film. . .
(http://www.moorelies.com/book MICHAEL MOORE IS A BIG FAT STUPID WHITE MAN Website)
About Westfall From: MICHAEL MOORE IS A BIG FAT STUPID WHITE MAN: David T. Hardy, Jason Clarke: Harper Collins, 2004