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Calvin Meyers

Ben David
Dr. Peter Blair
UWRT 1102-016
22 February 2015
How Not To Provide An Argument
Michael Moore's movie, 'Capitalism: A Love Story', attempts to accuse the
modern American economic system of stealing money from the lower and middle classes
in order to increase profits for the elite class. Moore supports his claim with many pillars
of evidence, however these pillars are built upon weak foundations. This critique does not
question the legitimacy of his argument, but it rather questions how the argument is
created and supported. Moore relies on many fallacies and propaganda techniques to
superficially strengthen his argument against modern capitalism, including ad-hominem,
card-stacking, guilt by association, and red herring.
Ad-hominem is defined by Nancy Wood in "Essentials of Argument" as attacking
"a person's character rather than a person's ideas." (Wood 3). The phrase literally means
"to the man". The ethos fallacy is a method of distorting the image of the opponent in a
way that is unrelated to the argument at hand. Moore uses ad-hominem to distort the view
of the American government and its capitalistic economic system. Sarcasm is a
denomination of this fallacy that attacks from a more indirect angle without sacrificing
the brutality of the direct criticism. It can also make use of irony through falsely praising
or mocking characteristics that are resented by the presenter. Moore often uses soft, slow,

high pitched tone when describing a subject that is supposedly not worthy of any
In the movie, Moore shows some of America's darker moments to the audience
while describing the "good" capitalism of the past. He blames our financial success on
the lack of competition, at which point he shows the results of World War II in Germany
and Japan. He later says "Yes, of course, not everything was perfect. We didn't mind
having to put up with a little bit of this, and a little bit of that, just as long as we could be
middle class." By this and that, Moore is visually referring to the harsh treatment of
African Americans during the Civil Rights movement, and the Vietnam War,
respectively. In the former, he shows black people being "hosed" by firefighters in an
attempt to end their protests. Moore also shows American planes dropping bombs on
houses and buildings during the 60's and 70's. He uses these moments of the past to
distort the audience's view of America's character in order to make it easier to criticize
our economic system.
Moore displays a televised message from President Carter, who urges an
American audience to take seriously the new form that the economy is shaping society
into. Moore follows the message with his own voiceover, saying "Wow. What a bummer.
It was time to bring a new sheriff to town. One who knew how to act like a president."
The monologue continues and displays Ronald Reagan in one of his films, as a cowboy
riding his steed in the wild west. Moore continues to criticize Reagan through his
association as actor, without reference to the significance of the relationship between his
acting career and presidential career. Instead of providing the audience with a neutral
introduction to Reagan's presidency, Moore jests with silly film clippings from Reagan's

movies that paint an unprofessional image of his ability to preside over our nation. These
include shots of him as a cowboy riding a horse with a large grin on his face, appearing in
advertisements for big businesses, and a scene of him slapping a woman in a movie. The
latter shot is shown after Moore mentions the government's struggle to deal with those
"annoying feminists whining about their Equal Rights amendment."
Moore takes advantage of a propaganda technique known as "card-stacking" on a
few occasions throughout his movie. Ann McClintock defines this technique as "one side
may suppress or distort evidence, tell half-truths, oversimplify the facts, or set up a
'straw-man'--a false target--to divert attention from the issue at hand." Moore relates the
failure of the capitalistic system to Reagan and his associates in an effort to distort the
argument against modern capitalism.
Moore explains that Ronald Reagan gained his presidency through the bank and
corporation leaders that wanted better tax cuts. He specifically names Don Regan,
Secretary of Treasury at the time, as one of the primary influences on Reagan's
presidency and policy. He claims that Reagan is just a front for the rich to implement
policy that only benefits themselves. Moore makes no effort to show the argument from
the perspective of the government, and therefore distorts evidence by "stacking the cards"
against the President and his associates.
Moore blames Reagan's presidency and administration for the destruction of
America's industrial infrastructure, and frightening statistics of successful corporations.
He claims that Reagan has contributed to the billions of dollars in profits for these
businesses, yet also for the hundreds of thousands of worker layoffs. While worker
productivity increases by 45%, Moore criticizes the statistic by stating that the remaining

workers are forced to complete more tasks at a higher rate due to layoffs, and they still
receive only an average of 1% increase in wages. Once again, the only perspective that
the video takes is that of Moore's, with no opportunity for the Reagan administration to
defend itself. The cards are stacked against the administration by Moore, in an effort to
convince the audience that modern capitalism is severely detrimental through the
mangled image of a neglectful government. According to, " On the
domestic front, President Reagan advanced policies that reduced social programs and
restrictions on business. Tax cuts were implemented to stimulate the United States'
economy... By 1983, the nation's economy had begun to recover and, according to many
economists, entered a seven-year period of prosperity." (Ronald Reagan Biography).
Moore uses negative statistics to stack the viewers opinion in favor of the
argument he is trying to make. During the documentary Moore shows a chart of the rise
in various statistics in from 1980 to 2000. Some of those stats such as, 355% increase in
the number of incarcerated Americans 305% increase in the sales of antidepressants,
have nothing to do with the modern economic philosophy of capitalism. The portion of
the video of the Lexington Sheriff busting into the home in North Carolina also has
nothing to do with capitalism. In is just added to stack the viewers feelings in his favor.
In the documentary Michael Moore uses the fallacy of guilt by association to
convince the viewer that modern day capitalism is a bad economic philosophy. Guilt by
association, as defined by Nancy Woods as, character that can be judged by examining
the character of ones associates.(Woods par. 19) In the beginning of the documentary
Moore shows the viewer a clip of actors portraying Ancient Roman carrying logs and
then a clip of modern day factory workers. He uses these visuals to say both economies

are based on slave labor. Moore points out the similarities that both the society have such
as, the unhealthy dependence of the economy on slaves, the disparity between rich and
poor vast areas of crowded slums few jobs available and practically none for the
unskilled. To keep idle citizens entertained and out of mischief, frequent games and
spectacles were held at public expense. (Moore) Moore uses the fallacy of guilt by
association, in this case, to associate the fall of the Roman Empire the apparent fall of our
society. Moore fails to mention the spread of Christianity and loss of traditional values
or the arrival of Huns and migration of barbarian tribes (History par. 6-8) as key factors
to the fall of the Roman Empire. Moore can be found using the fallacy again as he
associates the closing and worker layoffs of Republic Windows and Doors in Chicago to
the new American capitalism. Moore once again neglects to tell the viewer key details
that take away from his argument. Moore doesnt tell the viewer that the CEO of
Republic Windows and Doors was promptly sentenced to 4 years in prison for admitting
to stealing more than $500,000 from the business. (Chicago par. 2) Moore also uses
guilt by association by saying that Ronald Reagan is guilty of being controlled by big
business. He bases this accusation on the fact that Ronald Reagan's Secretary of the
Treasury is the CEO of a multi-billion dollar corporation. In my opinion the reason why
Moore uses the fallacy of guilt by association because it is easy to sway ones opinion
negatively towards an issue if that issue is associated to negative things.
The movie "Capitalism: A Love Story" is guilty of too many fallacies to be
considered legitimate argumentative material. Sarcasm and Ad-hominem may attempt
portray Reagan and his administration as liars and thieves, but it also portrays Moore as
uneducated moviemaker with a grudge. He also stacks all of the cards and evidence in his

favor, stealing significant neutrality from the argument. Without the ability to counter any
argument from the perspective of Reagan's administration, Moore's movie is nothing
more than a full assault on a defenseless party. This leverage stands upon weak support,
which therefore weakens the entire argument as a whole. Michael Moore cannot provide
an argument unless he makes the effort to accept the argument of his opponent, and be
intelligent and true enough to counter it. Without these improvements, Moore is nothing
more than a child with a camera.

Work Cited
Andrews, Evan. "8 Reasons Why Rome Fell." A&E Television Networks,
14 Jan. 2014. Web. 22 Feb. 2015.
Moore, Michael. "Capitalism: A Love Story - Documentary." YouTube. YouTube, 10
Nov. 2014. Web. 22 Feb. 2015.
Schmadeke, Steve. "Republic Windows Ex-CEO Gets 4 Years in Prison." Chicago
Tribune. Chicago Tribune, 05 Dec. 2013. Web. 24 Feb. 2015.
McClintok, Ann. Propaganda Techniques in Todays Advertising. The Longman
Reader. Ed. Judith Nadell. New York: Longman, 2003. 304-311. Print.
Wood, Nancy. Essentials of Argument. Upper Saddle River: Pearson / Prentice Hall,
2006. Print.
"Ronald Reagan." Bio. A&E Television Networks, 2015. Web. 22 Feb. 2015.