Michael Moore's view on what happened to the United States after September 11; and how the Bush Administration allegedly used the tragic event to push forward its agenda for unjust wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.
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The United States of America is notorious for its astronomical number of people killed by firearms for a developed nation without a civil war. With his signature sense of angry humor, activist filmmaker Michael Moore sets out to explore the roots of this bloodshed. In doing so, he learns that the conventional answers of easy availability of guns, violent national history, violent entertainment and even poverty are inadequate to explain this violence when other cultures share those same factors without the equivalent carnage. In order to arrive at a possible explanation, Michael Moore takes on a deeper examination of America's culture of fear, bigotry and violence in a nation with widespread gun ownership. Furthermore, he seeks to investigate and confront the powerful elite political and corporate interests fanning this culture for their own unscrupulous gain.Written by
Kenneth Chisholm (firstname.lastname@example.org)
What are we to make of a documentary that claims to discuss violence in America, but fails to even mention a policy responsible for raising U.S. homicide rates at least 25%?
At the end of his film Bowling for Columbine, director Michael Moore bowls a strike. Unfortunately, his film is less successful. He heaves mightily and knocks down a few pins, but he also rolls some gutter balls.
Economist Jeffrey Miron of Boston University found "drug and alcohol prohibition have substantially raised the homicide rate in the United States over much of the past 100 years" by an estimated 25-75%. Why? Prohibition creates violent black markets. It's a simple theory supported by the evidence.
So, in his rambling exploration of many other facets of violence in America, why does Moore completely ignore the domestic consequences of prohibition? Such an omission is inexcusable, and it indicates Moore's social agenda trumps any serious effort to come to grips with the problem.
That said, at times Moore's work is chillingly poignant. During one segment, he shows frame after frame of botched U.S. foreign policy moves. The U.S. helps kill or otherwise remove one leader of a struggling nation, only to see the rise of an even worse leader. The U.S. has supported both Saddam Hussein and the Taliban, though in retrospect that support seems to have been unwise. Moore's critique of American "foreign entanglements" mirrors libertarian concerns.
On the morning of the Columbine murders, Moore points out, President Clinton was on television announcing the latest American bombing raid in Kosovo. Just an hour later, Clinton was back on TV discussing the suburban terror. Is senseless violence on the personal level linked to the mass violence of the state? It's possible, but Moore doesn't demonstrate a causal connection.
Shock-rocker Marilyn Manson continues this theme by pointing out the president has more influence than Manson does. Manson blames the "campaign of fear and consumption" constantly bombarding Americans. However, Manson's suggestion that his music is a healthy "escape" is as ludicrous as his critics' assertions that Manson's music somehow drives people to mayhem.
Moore notes the Columbine killers also attended a morning bowling class, so why not blame bowling? Moore's comparison is silly, but he does raise the excellent point that people shouldn't look for scapegoats following a tragedy.
Which brings us to another of Moore's gutter balls. Scapegoating is precisely what Moore does, only his victim is the American gun owner rather than Marilyn Manson.
At one point, Moore places a picture of the young victim of the Buell school shooting against a ledge of Charlton Heston's house. Moore seems to think Heston is somehow to blame for the death, and he asks Heston to apologize.
Moore also took a couple of Columbine victims to K-Mart and used media pressure to convince the chain to stop selling ammunition. He describes this as an "overwhelming victory." Yet his self-serving media stunt accomplished the same thing keeping Manson out of Denver accomplished: exactly nothing.
In his incoherent badmouthing of corporations, Moore neglects to remind us that his film was released by a large corporation, his equipment was manufactured by corporations, and his work was advertised by corporate web pages and media outlets. This doesn't prove Moore's case is wrong, but it does prove he's not self-reflective.
Moore offers some needed criticism of American media, especially television news programs. One person Moore interviews notes that, even as the American murder rate plummeted, television coverage of murders dramatically expanded, thus giving viewers a false impression of reality.
Moore rightly rails against racism. Many white Americans have an irrational fear of black males, and this encourages a violent mindset. That's a needed criticism. Unfortunately, Moore seeks to replace bigotry against blacks with bigotry against gun owners.
Many of my gun-owning friends are doctors, lawyers, professors, and professionals. Does Moore interview anybody representative of the American gun owner? Of course not. Does he interview any scholar who is an expert on crime and firearms, such as David Kopel, John Lott, Gary Kleck, or Don Kates? Of course not. To do so would be to treat the matter seriously rather than fan the flames of prejudice.
Moore cites the gun-homicide statistics for a variety of countries with lower numbers than in the U.S., but he conveniently omits countries with more stringent gun laws and higher gun-homicide rates.
He also ignores the fact that England's gun bans have been followed by an increase in violent crime there, including gun-related crime. All the evidence that demonstrates lawfully carrying a handgun or keeping a defensive gun in the home deters criminals is totally suppressed.
Moore does wonder why Canada has a relatively high gun-ownership rate yet fewer murders. He concludes there is something wrong with American culture.
He's right about that: there is something wrong. He rightly points to poverty and America's racist past as part of the problem, even though he looks to failed welfare schemes to solve poverty -- whereas libertarians look to repeal the government interventions (such as prohibition) that have perpetuated it.
But Moore overstates his case. He thinks America is a nation of fear and paranoia. But in some ways he feeds into the same media frenzy he criticizes in his film. Yes, some Americans have problems with violence, bigotry, and paranoia. However, the vast majority of Americans, including the vast majority of American gun owners, lead basically responsible and healthy lifestyles. This basic fact seems not to assist Moore in his quixotic crusades.
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