Stupid White Men ...and Other Sorry Excuses for the State of the Nation!
|LC Class||E902 .M66 2001|
Stupid White Men ...and Other Sorry Excuses for the State of the Nation! is a book by Michael Moore published in 2001. Although the publishers were convinced it would be rejected by the American reading public after the September 11, 2001 attacks, it spent 50 consecutive weeks on the New York Times bestseller list (eight weeks at #1) for hardcover nonfiction and is in its 43rd printing. It is generally known by its short title, Stupid White Men.
The book is highly critical of recent U.S. government policies in general, and the policies of the Clinton and Bush administrations in particular. Moore's A Prayer to Afflict the Comfortable was originally published in this book.
Moore completed Stupid White Men shortly before the September 11, 2001 attacks. His publisher, HarperCollins, initially refused to release the book, fearing bad publicity in the wake of the attacks (despite an advance printing of over 50,000 copies).
HarperCollins wanted Moore to rewrite half of the book. They asked him to tone down criticism of the president. They also wanted to change the title to Michael Moore: The American, delete three chapters: "Kill Whitey!", "Dear George", "A Very American Coup" and insisted that Moore himself would have to pay the cost of printing the revised book, which was $100,000. If he didn't comply, they would simply abandon the project and pulp the books already printed. In the book, Moore suggests that Rupert Murdoch, owner of News Corporation and HarperCollins, "passed down" this decision.
On December 1, Moore made a presentation in New Brunswick, New Jersey. He told the audience about the struggle to get his book published and that the only copies in existence were about to be recycled and probably would come back as Rush Limbaugh or Bill O'Reilly books. Moore read the first chapters of his book to the group. In the audience that day was Ann Sparanese, a librarian from Englewood, New Jersey. Sparanese sent word to various email lists including the Social Responsibilities Round Table (SRRT) and Library Juice, explaining Moore's predicament. She expressed that "this battle wasn't just one man's struggle with a publishing house, but was a battle to preserve free speech and to stop censorship". Moore was unaware of this until he received an angry phone call from HarperCollins two days after the reading.
Despite HarperCollins' predictions - and, according to Moore, their deliberately limited promotion of the book - the book became enormously popular, becoming the largest-selling nonfiction book for 2002 at such major outlets as Barnes & Noble and Amazon.com, and occupying the #1 spot in the U.S., the United Kingdom (including being the number one seller on Amazon.co.uk before a British printing was even proposed), Germany, Ireland, and elsewhere.
The book was subsequently criticized in another book, Michael Moore Is a Big Fat Stupid White Man, which HarperCollins published.
A Prayer to Afflict the Comfortable
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"A Prayer to Afflict the Comfortable" (full title "A Prayer to Afflict the Comfortable with As Many Afflictions As Possible") is a satirical prayer written by Moore and published in chapter 11 ("The People's Prayer") of the book.
The text of the prayer asks God to create circumstances in which (mostly unnamed) powerful figures in the American establishment are given problems or situations which affect "ordinary" Americans, including requests for:
- every member of the House of Representatives to contract cancer
- all senators from the Southern United States to become addicted to drugs and be permanently incarcerated
- the children of senators from states in the Mountain Time Zone to become gay ("really gay")
- all white political leaders "who believe black people have it good these days (especially the alumni of Bob Jones University)" to become black-skinned overnight
- bishops in the Roman Catholic Church (who are by tradition always male) develop unplanned pregnancies
Moore's message in the prayer is that if all political figures experienced the same level of injustice and misfortune as average American citizens, the former would be more empathetic towards the latter and make better leaders. His tongue-in-cheek conclusion is that the effect of God answering the prayer, in terms of the benefits it would bring to the majority of people, would outweigh the damage to the smaller number of afflicted members of "the Comfortable".
In support of his argument, Moore cites examples of notable figures who have become more sympathetic towards particular problems or situations when they have become personally affected themselves, including:
- Former First Lady Nancy Reagan's support for stem-cell research, upon learning of the possibilities that it may hold for the treatment of Alzheimer's Disease, which her husband, former President Ronald Reagan developed in later years.
- Vice President Dick Cheney, who was regarded as holding somewhat liberal views on gay rights for a member of the Bush administration, and whose daughter Mary is a lesbian.