Stupid White Guilt

Stupid White Guilt

The front jacket of Michael Moore's new book, Stupid White Men ... And Other Sorry Excuses for the State of the Nation! (Regan Books/HarperCollins, $24.95) features an oversized Moore bestriding a boardroom of corporate executives who seem miniscule next to his colossal frame. To augment his righteous menace, Moore wields the Washington Monument in his right hand. It must be a nice feeling: HarperCollins almost canceled publication of Stupid White Men for fear that Moore's barbs about President George W. Bush, America's corporate culture, and a "national press that's thoroughly asleep at the wheel" would receive a chilly reception in a post-Sept. 11 world.

In a letter addressed "Dear Friends" on his Web site, www.michaelmoore.com, the usually funny political provocateur spells out a serious chain of events. By Sept. 11, HarperCollins had printed 50,000 of a planned 100,000 first printing of Stupid White Men, a sizable first print run by nearly any standard. On Sept. 12, Moore called his editor, who understandably said, "We'll take this a day at a time." Then, a siren erupted and the editor hung up and left the building. Weeks later, Moore called to find out about the status of Stupid White Men and its new publication date, since the planned date of Oct. 2 had already passed. As Moore writes on his site, "I was told that, unless I re-wrote large sections of my book (sections mostly dealing with my harsh but funny criticisms of the W.), plus change the title and the cover -- and then, after all that, reimburse the publisher up to $100,000 out of my pocket (!) so this new version could be reprinted -- then the powers-that-be might actually destroy the ENTIRE run of 50,000 copies that had already been printed! My book would be sent to the shredder and 'pulped.' I would then have to wait for up to a year before I could take it to another publisher."

HarperCollins PR Director Lisa Herling doesn't dispute Moore's recollection, but emphasizes that what Moore originally turned in to the publisher is precisely the same product that will be on store shelves beginning Feb. 19. "The book was delayed after Sept. 11 due to the sensitivities of that day and its aftermath," Herling said. "Then, after a period of time, we considered the best way to move forward and decided that it was time then to publish the book as it was originally written. We are very happy to be publishing it and it looks like it's going very well."

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