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May 31, 2004

Rohit Reviews: Dude, Where's My Country?

I just wrapped up my first book of the summer. Well, actually, that's a lie. I've now read three books since summer started last week, but Dude, Where's My Country? is the first one I've read that I hadn't read before. I actually purchased it last year, when I saw Michael Moore speak in Berkeley, but I only found time to read for fun last week. My impression of the book is similar to my response to his speech: mixed feelings.

If I was to rate the book strictly on comedic value, it would receive an above average rating. No one can deny Michael Moore's talent as a humorist and satirist. Everyone likes jokes about conservative right wing wackos, except maybe the conservative right wing wackos. Rating the book on content, however, proves to be more difficult.

While Moore does make some valid points about the Bush Administration's policies and attitudes, I got the impression in many parts that the evidence and details were more than a bit embellished. First cause for suspicion: there are a lot of statistics in the book. Sixty percent of people think this, 85 percent think that, stuff like that. It's mostly based on polling data, and moreover, the questions used are politically neutral to extract an obvious answer. For example, 82 percent of those polled in whatever poll he sources (I didn't go through the footnotes) says people are concerned about toxic waste and polluted drinking water. A better question is, who isn't concerned about that. That type of polling doesn't get at the heart of the issue.

Actually, a more pressing issue for me while reading this book was that I couldn't relate with some parts of it at all. The audience for this book is clearly working class America, and any time he begins a tirade on unionism and corporations, I found myself unable to match any experiences with his writing. Sure, Enron executives suck, but beyond that, I had the feeling we were definitely not on the same page. Further, the entire book came off as very angry, caustic, and bitter, which detracts from the message. Finally, I couldn't find much new material in the book that hadn't already been covered earlier. I guess that might be because it's a book on current affairs and I'm reading it almost a year after it was written, but it also might be because the point is just to rehash what is already known, with more anger.

Overall, I'd give the book one star of five. It's a quick read, written with accessible language, and sometimes amusing. While there is a fair degree of spin, propaganda, and bullshit, where is there not these days? Recognize the book for what it is and is not, and you will have less trouble dealing with it. Or better yet, skip it.


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