This is Michael Moore, talking in 2016, about the time twenty years ago when he made a talk show pilot for Fox television in which he managed to get the first post-verdict interview with the newly free OJ Simpson. It’s never been seen, although Fox later offered a million to show it, having originally turned down the pilot. Michael said that he turned the million down because it felt exploitative but I wonder if there’s more to it.
Michael Moore mentioned this talk show pilot, and this interview, in his 1996 book ‘Downsize This!‘, alongside his reasoning why Simpson didn’t commit the murders. My suspicion is that, post that brilliant Oscar-winning documentary O.J.: Made In America and its revelations, Moore might have invited Simpson on from the perspective of being a friendly interviewer, when all other outlets were out to ‘right the wrong’ of the verdict, and Moore’s questions might not have aged well, given what we now know. Michael says that he asked ‘did you do it?’ but there are different ways of posing the same question: some adversarial, some friendly.
An edition of ‘Downsize This!’ supposedly now has two chapters about the murders: one written from the perspective of Simpson being guilty and one from the view point of him being innocent but I can’t remember the ‘guilty’ chapter from the copy that I once read (maybe an extra chapter in a book re-issue? I don’t know.). From memory, Moore’s general thesis was that famous people hire others to do dirty work for them; that Simpson was too much of a simpleton to carry out two murders and not get caught; and that the LAPD was corrupt beyond belief and should never, ever be believed without very good reason.
There’s a podcast interview with Jeff Garlin (from ‘Curb Your Enthusiasm’) from 2013 in which Michael still posits that Simpson might have been innocent but that pre-dates the amazing Ezra Edelman documentary, mentioned above, which makes it very hard to believe that Simpson wasn’t guilty as charged. It’s a great work; like a ‘cheat sheet’ for decades of American history, all crammed into eight hours or so.
To see a whole swathe of the public giving their total backing to an extremely dubious individual, despite all evidence to the contrary, in order to play the long game/long con and reach a desired end or goal, made the documentary chime with 2016 and its presidential election. Not to put Trump and Clinton on quite the same level as Simpson but both candidates had enough flaws, weaknesses and shadiness for another ten candidates for Clinton and another twenty for Trump.
Clinton and Trump were inflicted upon the rest of the country by only 9% of the United States but those in-the-tank for both of them, mainly because Trump wasn’t Clinton and Clinton wasn’t Trump, would be deaf and blind to all of the candidates’ shiftiness and shadiness until the end of time. The end game for Clinton supporters was the correct the treatment of females in society by making one the president. All of Clinton’s Iraq war voting and boosting; her voting for a Mexico border fence; her support for sending back children fleeing from Latin American war zones; her time on the board of Walmart; her waving through of the coup in Honduras; her blood-thirsty laughing when a human being was sodomised to death with a bayonet; her referencing to U.S. African-American youth by epithets; her FBI investigation; etc. etc. etc. was all ‘parked’ because she could be a female president and she would be the only way to stop Trump.
All of Trump’s repellent sexism; his racism; his ignorance about everything; his bullshit artistry; his financial chicanery all got ignored due to racist and sexist fears that society was becoming less white and less male and disgust at the economic neglect due to neoliberal malfeasance and skullduggery, and that he wasn’t Clinton and he was the only way to stop her.
All of Simpson’s physical abuse of Nicole and his tissue-thin explanations for why it can’t have been him who murdered Nicole and Ron that night but Simpson was the only tool to hand to correct the Rodney King verdict; payback for the L.A. Riots and the treatment of African-Americans for decades, it seems. Supporters of Simpson, of Trump, of Clinton were perhaps all like Jason Bourne facing down an assassin when there’s only a pen or a thick magazine to hand. You’d want something better, you’d never choose Simpson or Trump or Clinton with which to defend yourself but they were the only things in arm’s reach so you pick them up and wield them instead.
If one tried reasoning and debating with Hillary supporters during the primary or the general election or one tries reasoning with Trump supporters now, after he broke every single promise and is the most obvious con-artist and scoundrel in the world, and you still attacked for being a Hillary apologist; being a sexist; being a left-wing extremist; being a Trump sympathiser et al.
Many Trump and Clinton supporters were just voting against the other, not voting for someone. That’s often the case under first-past-the-post, winner-takes-all political voting systems but, faced with the two most unpopular candidates in U.S. history, it was this to the extreme. Indeed, the Hillary campaign knew full well how toxic their candidate was, so they played dice with the republic and tried to elevate the very worst that the Republic party could offer, thereby making their candidate slightly better by comparison. The really hardcore Hillary and Trump support would be able to watch ‘O.J.: Made in America’ and know that it’s possible to support someone so flawed and obviously dubious if there’s a bigger, longer game in mind and a grievance – real or imagined – to correct. Those who supported Simpson perhaps shouldn’t be judged too harshly or at least extended some understanding.