Moore kicks off tour in Camden

Megan Angelo

Had it not been for a few irrepressible profanities, Michael Moore could have been mistaken for the leader of a kiddie playgroup at his Monday night appearance at the Tweeter Center in Camden.

The audience was noticeably young. College students wearing clever slogans and curious-looking teenagers listened as Moore, seated on a couch onstage, read a children’s story. The book, “My Pet Goat,” was the same one President Bush was reading to elementary school children when he learned that two planes had hit the World Trade Center on Sept. 11.

Detecting the average age of the crowd, Moore, several times, found himself interrupting his own references to recent history to ask, “Do we have people old enough here to remember this?”

His allusions to the past, however, took a backseat to his attention to the present, as Moore delivered an invective against the media, offered advice to John Kerry and Democrats and paid some unexpected compliments to the Republican party.

A standard amount of Bush-bashing aside, Moore’s harshest words of the night were directed at American news outlets, whose job, he said, he is doing for them.

“You are given a public trust – we are counting on you,” he said. “You get to take your camera and your pen and your notebook into places of power and your job is to come back and tell us what the hell is going on.”

He suggested John Kerry adopt several blunt, Moore-devised mantras to help diminish the candidate’s reputation as a “flip-flop.” One of them was, “Mr. Bush, where’s Osama? You said you’d catch him. Where is he?”

“Stop crying” was Moore’s message to Kerry supporters bemoaning Bush’s current bounce in the polls. He encouraged them to instead emulate “relentless” Republicans. “I’ve never met a Republican slacker – the slackers are all on our side.”

Moore, for his own part, has hardly been one of them lately. He is currently embarked on a nationwide, college-based lecture tour that will overlap with both the DVD and video release of “Fahrenheit 9/11” on Oct. 5 and the distribution of his next book, “Will They Ever Trust Again?” a collection of American soldiers’ letters to Moore due out the same week.

Moore returned to the subject of slackers for the night’s conclusion, when he invited any unregistered audience members onstage to claim a blank voter registration form and a “slacker prize” from the table of Ramen noodles, chips and dip and underwear (“slackers hate to wash their underwear”) arranged near the podium.

The first person in line was Chrystel Eberts of New Jersey, who told Moore that she had not yet registered because, she said, “I work seven days a week. I’m busy, but I definitely want to register.”

Eberts, the supervising producer and vice president of business and legal affairs for the PAXTV channel, explained that she had recently moved from Pennsylvania to New Jersey and had not had time to register at her new residence.

After shaking Moore’s hand and vowing to “vote Bush out,” Eberts exited the stage with a form and a box of Easy Mac, her choice from the slacker prize arsenal.

Eberts, who will register again with the Republican party despite her distaste for Bush, said getting that form in is at the top of her to-do list now. “I think sometimes in our busy lives we just need to be reminded of how important [voting] is,” she said. “You really have to make it happen.”