Turning Nevada Blue
Michael Moore visits Reno
by Mariva H. Aviram
October 14, 2004

Last week, I drove from my home in San Francisco to Reno, Nevada to volunteer with the local get-out-the-vote effort during the weekend. I decided to stay a few more days to see Michael Moore at the University of Nevada, Reno (UNR), a stop on his 60-city tour across the country.

One of the thousands of coveted tickets to Michael Moore's sold-out speech in Reno, Nevada, Oct. 13, 2004.

For two hours before Moore's speech, thousands of people lined up in chaotic snakes around the front of the UNR's Lawlor Events Center, a large concert stadium, which was then filled to capacity during the speech.

Before the event, I wondered how Moore would fill up 90 minutes on stage, but he did so easily. First, he thanked Jeff Champagne, the UNR student senator who stood up to the massive pressure to cancel or change the format of Moore's speech, as well as Brian Hutchinson, the local coordinator for Democracy for Nevada, one of the major sponsors of the event.

He analyzed the third and final presidential debate that had just taken place a couple hours before his own speech, making some typically Mooresque wisecracks about Bush's verbal performance during the various debates, such as "Apparently, there have been rumors on 'the Internets'...I didn't know there was another Internet! I want to get on that other Internet, because the Internet I've been using is too slow!" He dealt deftly with the few Republican hecklers who'd coughed up $5 for the privilege of booing Moore in person -- even asking the audience to applaud their courage in attending the event -- until they finally got bored and left. He showed some satirical "Vote Bush" ads that he and his staff had recently put together, as well as four minutes of unedited raw footage of George W. Bush addressing the press after meeting with the 9/11 Commission (this must-see is included on the Fahrenheit 9/11 DVD), and read excerpts of Bill O'Reilly's new book for kids (one section is titled "How Not to Be a Bully") and the now infamous children's book My Pet Goat.

Before Moore had come to be more targeted by Republicans than Osama Bin Laden, he was known for his funny and often poignant documentaries and reality television series championing the causes of everyday people, from laid-off auto workers in Michigan to gay men traveling the country in a pink recreation vehicle called the Sodomobile. The documentary he's currently working on targets HMOs and big pharmaceutical companies. When one prominent HMO caught wind of Moore's plans, the executives issued a panicked memorandum to their employees, one of whom, of course, leaked it to Moore. It warned: "If you are approached by a bearded, heavyset man wearing rumpled clothing and holding a microphone, please alert your superiors immediately. He is a filmmaker who is apparently making a documentary about the health care industry. We don't know whether it is pro or con."

The memo included a hotline phone number for employees to report seeing Moore on company premises. A member of the audience shouted,"What's the number?" Moore asked those of us with cell phones to hold them up, forming a vast field of electronic lights throughout the stadium. "Ah, this is beautiful," Moore remarked. "It's like the audience candlelight during the encore of a rock band!" He read the number and we punched it into our cell phones:


He asked us to flood the hotline with faux Michael Moore "sightings." (If the number has been disconnected, then we've been successful.)

Moore introduced a special guest, Tom Morello, formerly the guitarist of Rage Against the Machine, who played three songs on his guitar and harmonica and encouraged us to keep working on November 3, "no matter which one of these multimillionaires wins," because the poor economy, lack of quality jobs and health care and education, and the war won't just go away no matter who's in office.

From his new book, Will They Ever Trust Us Again? Letters from the War Zone, Moore read us a few of the letters from soldiers and their families -- to which one of the college-age Republican hecklers sitting near me was avidly paying attention, looking uncharacteristically somber and earnest. Moore asked military veterans and soldiers in the audience to stand up. He thanked them for their service and courage -- the great gift of their willingness to put themselves in harm's way so that the rest of us don't have to -- while we applauded and cheered. Again, the Republican hecklers seemed to appreciate this powerful gesture of true support for the troops.

Moore then asked the non-voters in the audience to stand up. They were mostly white men and women in their early twenties, often tattooed and wearing tattered collegiate or minimum-wage job clothes. As publicized during one of the last stops on this "Slacker Uprising Tour," Moore's staff handed out Ramen Noodles to the women and packages of Fruit of the Loom underwear to the men in exchange for their promise to vote on November 2. (Personally, I think the women got ripped off. Ramen Noodles? Come on, girls run out of undergarments, too. Moore could have at least sprung for some socks.)

The subject of Ralph Nader came up, which apparently Moore is now sore about. He said that Nader is angry about the 2000 election because he was shut out of the presidential debate -- and he's out for revenge. "But the state of this country, this election, Ralph," Moore admonished, "is not the forum for you to be working out your anger issues." He satirically mocked the lefty elitists: "I knew there were no weapons of mass destruction! I'm above all those other Americans...I look down upon all those liberals voting for Kerry! It feels good to vote for Ralph...so good, so pure...." He also addressed Nader directly: "I know how you feel about the leadership in this country -- and you want to be a good leader -- but a good leader knows how to listen. And Ralph, you're not listening! You're not listening to the people. They don't want you to run -- not this time, Ralph, not this time."

He ended by encouraging everyone in the audience to get involved in the cause, especially in the "critical" swing state of Nevada. (While Nevada has only five electoral votes, its polling results are volatile, alternating between pink on some days and light blue on others-- and its five electoral votes had swung the election in 2000 and could potentially swing this one as well.)

If you're in the Nevada area and would like to volunteer up to and through Election Day (even an hour or so helps), please contact:

America Coming Together
100 California Avenue, Suite 206
(at Sierra Street)
Reno, NV 89509

James Katz
Deputy State Director & Reno Field Coordinator
mobile 775-771-4575

Kyle Isacksen
Reno Field Coordinator

Ed Cobbs, Volunteer Coordinator
mobile 775-378-3315

Democracy for Nevada
Brian Hutchinson

Driving Votes
Matthew Fleming


Northern Nevada Democratic Headquarters
300 South Wells Avenue, #5
(entrance to parking lot on Ryland Street)
Shannon Raborn

Sacramento for Kerry
Mark Nash


Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons License.