"Bowling for Columbine" is the latest offering from proudly liberal-left
filmmaker Michael Moore. It is generally described as an anti-gun
documentary, but I found that description to be very misleading. I was
expecting a brilliant and persuasive propaganda production. What I
experienced was a funny, rambling inquisition that never really came to any
Michael Moore is an amiable slob with a wicked sense of humor who has one
of the best jobs in the world. He gets to make silly movies that include
all his personal prejudices and half-formed ideas about how the world
really works. He interviews people and edits the footage to make them look
like saints, idiots or psychopaths; it's his choice. He never has to
justify his positions or answer tough questions, because he has full
The best part of this movie is a hilarious three-minute animated short that
offers Moore's abridged version of American history beginning with the
arrival of the Pilgrims. It attributes every major historical event to
racism. I never would have guessed that such an insulting
oversimplification could be so funny. The only thing lacking was the voice
of Homer Simpson as narrator.
Yet Moore can be right on target, as he was when he examined the way
television news organizations exploit violent crimes and how this sows fear
in the population. His behind-the-scenes peek at a network news reporter
broadcasting from a satellite truck at the scene of a violent crime is
priceless. He also managed to include his favorite topic, racism, by
showing how black men are demonized as dangerous criminals.
Unfortunately, Moore devoted much of the film to demonizing harmless,
law-abiding gun owners and the NRA. It was never made clear exactly why he
disliked them so much, but he obviously felt comfortable denigrating
certain groups while protesting the similar treatment of others. One of
his odious methods was to interview people from the lunatic fringe of the
gun culture, then cut to images of mainstream gun owners and their
Imagine Moore's outrage if a wacko right-wing filmmaker
used the same technique to associate responsible African-American citizens
with radical black racists.
It was interesting to note that Moore did not challenge the Second
Amendment. Perhaps his lack of respect for American culture and history
makes it irrelevant in his view. Even more notable was the fact that he
failed to propose a single new gun control law.
What was most surprising was the fact that Moore never actually blamed
violence on the availability of guns. I thought he would surely trumpet
this axiom of liberal dogma, but he repeatedly pointed out that Canadians
have almost as many guns per capita as we Americans do, while shooting each
other in far smaller numbers.
One of his explanations for this difference was the influence of the
Canadian welfare state, which he felt keeps single Canadian moms home
raising their children. Moore believes that American welfare reform has
forced many single moms to work, leaving children unattended and prone to
violence. He seems to have missed the fact that violent crime decreased
dramatically in the 1990s as welfare reform was phased in.
He never actually said what he blamed for gun violence in America, but he
flashed on-screen a number of the most guilt-producing factors that plague
the minds of hand-wringing liberals. He is obviously quite upset with each
and every example of American involvement in foreign conflicts. He made
several hostile references to corporate greed, fraud and profits from
manufacturing military hardware. And of course all white people (except
him) are racists.
Although billed as an anti-gun documentary, "Bowling for Columbine" is really
a vehicle to display Moore's outrage at what he sees as an inherently
violent, racist and insufficiently liberal American culture.
Since Moore does not blame guns for violence in America, it is puzzling why
he takes such vicious cheap shots at people associated with guns. He
seemed to wander on a haphazard quest to lay the blame for the Columbine
massacre on someone other than those who perpetrated it. He blamed
Lockheed for making Minuteman ICBMs not far from Columbine High School. He
blamed Kmart for selling the ammunition that was used. Then he talked his
way into Charlton Heston's home and essentially blamed him.
The strange logic behind these mean-spirited gambits may lie in the
intended audience for the film. The people in the nearly full theater with
me were all white and all liberal. You could practically smell the liberal
guilt and the cloying odor of political correctness. Corporations and the
NRA are among the most evil demons of their mythology and make popular targets.
There was audible outrage in the theater when Moore tricked Charlton Heston
into speculating on a reason why gun violence is so much greater in America
than it is in Canada. As any criminologist knows, American gun violence is
highly concentrated in young black and Latino men. Violence among the
white population is roughly similar between the two countries.
fact is not open to discussion because it is not politically correct to
mention it in polite society. Ironically, this inability to address the
problem may condemn many more young men to an early death.
The film is satisfying for liberal viewers and funny to anyone who
appreciates Michael Moore's sense of humor, as I do. But one does not come
away with any answers. Moore is just as confused as everyone
else. Perhaps more so because he is locked into a leftist ideology that
fails to adequately explain human behavior.
I can't help but wonder if this lack of sharp focus is related to the
events of 9/11, which occurred as Moore was finishing the film. He posted
the following statement on his Web site immediately after the shocking attacks.
"This started out as a documentary on gun violence in America, but the
largest mass murder in our history was just committed – without the use of
a single gun! Not a single bullet fired! ... I can't stop thinking about
this. A thousand gun control laws would not have prevented this massacre.
What am I doing?"
I think Moore is too honest to be making political films. A good anti-gun
propagandist must be ruthless, cold and calculating, like those creepy
folks at the Violence Policy Center. Moore's only big lie was to imply
that the United States and Canada have a similar ethnic makeup.
On the whole, I'd say Michael Moore would do better as a comedy filmmaker
or even an actor. He has a good imagination, good comedic timing, and his
mean streak could be put to better use writing humorous jabs at
unsympathetic characters. He would be perfect as a screenwriter for "The
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