In 2003, the American public wasn’t quite ready to recognize the idea that George W. Bush was a monster who had thrown the country—and partly the world—into an endless and meaningless war in Iraq, which Michael Moore discovered when he used his acceptance speech for Bowling For Columbine’s Best Documentary Academy Award to speak out against Bush and his habit of promoting fiction as fact. Moore was essentially booed off of the stage by the audience at the Oscars, with the celebrities in attendance evidently unprepared for Moore’s now-famous “tell it like it is!” shtick.
Now, 15 years later, Moore received the Lifetime Achievement Award at the Critics’ Choice Documentary Awards this weekend, and he decided to celebrate the occasion by digging up his full, abandoned acceptance speech from the 2003 Oscars. Moore explained that the event was held just days after the U.S. invaded Iraq, and though his initial requests to cancel the ceremony altogether were ignored, he was at least able to bring all of his fellow documentary nominees onstage before getting “yanked” off. Here’s the full text of Moore’s speech, via IndieWire, with some new asides by Moore in italics:
I’ve invited my fellow documentary nominees on the stage with us, and they are here because they are in solidarity with me because we like nonfiction. We like nonfiction, but we live in fictitious times. We live in the time where we have fictitious election results that elects a fictitious President.
That’s when all hell started.
We live in a time where we have a man sending us to war for fictitious reasons.
Now, the cacophony of booing is getting quite loud and I can’t even hear myself.
Whether it’s the fiction of duct tape or the fiction of orange alerts, we are against this war, Mr. Bush.
Shame on you, Mr. Bush,
Now I’m just trying to be heard, this wasn’t even in the original speech, and I’m just telling people, in front of a billion people, shame on you, but keeping it clean, Bob. Now the microphone is lowering into the stage, they’ve struck up a band, the stage manager is giving me the heave-ho and I’m bending down to the microphone.
And any time you’ve got the Pope and the Dixie Chicks against you, your time is up.
That was the end of me, and they hauled me off the stage. So now, here for the first time ever, is the rest of my Oscar acceptance speech.
So before I close, I want to say a few words about nonfiction and how to use it as a cure for the many lies we are being told, and as a nonviolent weapon of revolution and change. I have read over the years that my first movie, ‘Roger and Me,’ kicked open the doors for documentary films, the first documentary to be widely distributed to the shopping mall cinemas and multiplexes of America.
The Academy, though, has not let me in as a member for 13 long years, not until just last month. I had heard all the reasons why: ‘Roger and Me,’ it’s not a documentary; ‘Roger and Me,’ documentaries are not supposed to be entertainment; you’re using your frivolous humor and it lessens the seriousness and the impact of what you’re trying to say; et cetera, et cetera.
Those of us from the now-dead factory towns of the Rust Belt who, like me, have just a high school education, I barely made it out of my senior year, I flunked English and I flunked math, but I got a D in French, we from the working class immediately know the class-based tone of those who speak to us, those who went to the finer schools, or even any school at all. I encourage everyone watching at home tonight in the Gary, Indianas of America, in the Camden, New Jerseys, in the San Ysidiros, the East St. Louis, and yes, the Flints and the Detroits and the Pontiacs and the Dearborns, to pick up a camera and fight the power. Make your voice heard and stop this senseless war.
Thank you and good night.
It’s ironic that that part of the speech Moore was unable to give is the part that’s less overly political than the opening, with him talking about himself and his filmmaking journey more than the injustices perpetrated by the Bush administration. It’s possible he could’ve given more of his speech if he had started with that stuff, but either way, Moore told the 2018 audience that his message is still worth hearing. “Tonight, we are not only still at war, but we have a president who has declared war on our democracy and war on us,” he added.