Saturday, October 16, 2004

USA Snapshots: A Visual Stethoscope on the Heartbeat of America 

Stand Up and Holla! writes:

I attended a live Michael Moore speaking engagement last night at my alma mater, the University of Southern California (wacky t-shirts from cross-town rival UCLA say the "USC" stands for "University of Spoiled Children" or "University of Surrounded Caucasians"; both slogans are deadly accurate). It was held outdoors in a big park on campus; estimates have said there were about 6,000 people there. It was supposed to be for students only, but I snuck on campus easily.

The show itself was great -- Moore did a sort of sloppy but hilarious stand-up routine about the debates, then showed some short film clips of material that didn't make it into "Fahrenheit 9/11." He brought up former Rage Against the Machine guitarist Tom Morello to play 3 protest songs, and then had 2 other guest speakers - one was a young substitute teacher from L.A. whose brother had been killed in Iraq a couple months ago, and the other was a 24-year-old black guy who had been in the army and was disgusted by his experiences.

Moore then read some of the 3,000 letters that he has been written by U.S. soldiers since the start of the war. A couple were very powerful. He closed the evening by riffing on the idea that college kids should embrace their status as "stoned slackers," and said the great thing about voting is you can still sleep in until 3 and still get it done. He then handed out packages of clean underwear and ramen noodles to kids who came up to register to vote. He also encouraged everyone to download the movie and burn it and pass it around to anyone they want. It was a great night of showcasing what Moore is so good at - the funny pop politics that get people excited about this stuff.

The evening would have been a blast were it not for the legions of anti-Moore protestors. It's no secret that USC is fairly conservative - lots of students from Orange County families with big old money - but it was a slap in the face to see it up close after, frankly, living in a fairly consistently liberal (or at least intelligent) environment in my day-to-day life. I was definitely ashamed of my school at many points (also nothing new, but that's mostly irrelevant).

Although the university had set up an area behind a fence for the people who brought signs, they was easily at least a thousand people wandering around giving out Bush/Cheney stickers, hawking "Michael Moore is a Big Fat Stupid Liar" books and SCAM t-shirts (which played on the SPAM logo with a picture of Kerry - not sure of the joke/significance), and trying to start infuriatingly stupid arguments.

Tragically, my camera phone could pick up very little in the dim light, so a lot of the genius will have to go visually unrecorded....

I wish I had managed to get pictures of:

- The skinny kid with a black t-shirt that had "The Godfather" logo on it, only it was rewritten as "God the Father," who handed out anti-abortion literature while wearing headphones during the speech, presumably to drown out Moore.

- The sorority girls with Bush stickers over their breasts, shaking them for anyone with a camera, like some sort of "Girls From the Depths of Hell Gone Wild"

- The group of about 10 older black (!!!) ladies with "W Stands for Women!" signs dancing around on the fringes of the crowd.

- The frat guys with tilted trucker hats putting Bush stickers on everyone who was walking by, then summarily throwing the backing paper for each sticker on the ground, making a huge mess.

- The group of USC water polo players with no shirts on and giant red "W"s painted on their chests, causing a homoerotic spectacle by blowing air horns (during the speech from the man whose brother was killed working for the army's Iraq Survey Crew, in the middle of the part about his brother's gruesome death) and bumping chests with each other.

- Some blonde Barbie half-heartedly holding a sign reading "FAKE-nheit 9/11" while literally screeching into her cell phone "Omigod! Omigod! He did NOT! That is SO CUTE!"

- The "Michael More Hates America" sign (sic)

I recommend attending one of these events at all costs; the people-watching is tremendous -- but your sanity will definitely be tested by the protestors, so be prepared.


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