Filmmaker Michael Moore got the Twitterverse buzzing on Sunday when he tweeted that snipers are cowards. Conservative and pro-military users on Twitter and media outlets responded by giving Moore exactly what he wanted: attention.
My uncle killed by sniper in WW2. We were taught snipers were cowards. Will shoot u in the back. Snipers aren't heroes. And invaders r worse — Michael Moore (@MMFlint) January 18, 2015
Moore claims the tweet has nothing to do with the movie, American Sniper, or the late Chris Kyle, the U.S. Navy SEAL sniper the movie is about. The movie opened in theaters nationwide on Friday and surpassed all expectations by shattering January opening weekend box office records and having the second-largest Friday to Sunday 'R' rated debut in cinema history. The movie also has 6 Oscar nominations, which likely helped drive up the numbers.
Since the tweet from Moore came out of nowhere, any claim that the tweet had nothing to do with the film seems disingenuous.But it got people talking. Conservative commentators on Twitter quickly fired back and RTed his tweet so their followers would rebuke him as well. Media outlets, from celebrity news to 24-hour cable news stations, picked it up as well, interviewing Navy SEAL snipers to get their take on the comments. People were outraged by the comment and that is exactly what Michael Moore was counting on. He got time in the spotlight again.
How many people really care what Michael Moore thinks? Very few, but as Jon Stewart recently said about activists in the Keystone XL debate, Moore can tap into the nation's "vast outrage reserves." It is clear from his career as a filmmaker that he knows how to move the cogs on what Michael Austin calls "The Great American Outrage Machine." The best way to upset public discourse in the United States is to enrage people.
It doesn't take much, either. All it takes is a single tweet (no more than 140 characters of text) or one line in an interview, and a sensitive social topic -- like our troops. If there is any suggestion that a person who has been in the spotlight before is defaming the men and women who serve this country, the backlash is going to be big and it is going to be heated. Moore is well aware of this. He saw an opportunity to garner some attention after he had long faded into obscurity, and he took it.
Did it pay off for him? For perhaps a short-period of time, yes it has. The only way to keep people who thrive on other people's rage from taking over the national conversation on any topic or issue is to ignore them completely. Yet, why would the mainstream media do that when they have something to gain from overclocking the Great American Outrage Machine?