Bowling for Columbine: A Chronicle of Lies

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    Dec 15, 2009 3:02 AM GMT
    By definition a documentary is a work, such as a film, presenting its subject matter factually (Free Dictionary). Michael Moore’s representation of America in Bowling for Columbine is anything but factual. In Bowling for Columbine Moore’s purpose was to show why America is so violently labeled. In addition to this purpose, he blames America’s acceptance of guns for the violence. While some of Michael Moore's points appear to be valid, he deliberately manipulated the audience's reaction to tragedy, race, accessibility to guns and ammunition, and the mass media.
    A major theme in Bowling for Columbine portrays the National Rifle Association as callous towards homicides. Ron Briley argues that "Moore's evidence is anecdotal; the film focuses on what the director perceives as a cultural obsession with guns" (2). However, in order to make this theme fit, Moore consistently deceives the viewer into believing distorted evidence. As the film progresses the audience are introduced to the Columbine shooting followed by the Denver NRA meeting. Charlton Heston is formally introduced through a video promoting the NRA claiming:
    Good morning. Thank you all for coming, and thank you for supporting your organization. I also want to applaud your courage in coming here today. I have a message from the Mayor, Mr. Wellington Web, the Mayor of Denver. He sent me this, and said ‘don’t come here. We don’t want you here.’ I said to the Mayor this is our country, as Americans we’re free to travel wherever we want in our broad land. Don’t come here? We’re already here (Hardy).
    Not only has this speech been manipulated through editing, but it also leaves the viewer with a negative image toward the NRA (Hardy). Ultimately, this is Moore’s purpose. However, in reality, the NRA was quite sympathetic to the tragedy at Columbine. The event at Denver was not related to the Columbine occurrence and had been a fixed meeting planned years in advance. In fact, the NRA in Denver cancelled all normally occurring events except the annual members’ voting meeting. Heston and Wayne LaPierre, the group's vice-president, wrote: “But the tragedy in Littleton last Tuesday calls upon us to take steps, along with dozens of other planned public events, to modify our schedule to show profound sympathy and respect for the families and communities in the Denver are in their time of great loss” (Hardy). Moreover, Chris Cox, the NRA's Executive Director for Legislative Action Institute, stated that "[Moore] fails to document the well-known fact that out of respect for the families victimized at Columbine, NRA cancelled all events and meetings in Denver except those required by the Association`s bylaws and laws regarding not-for-profit corporations"(np). Moore’s manipulation of our society’s reaction to tragedy has also led us to believe that Heston may also be a racist.
    Moore’s biased attitude runs deep beneath the evidence supported in this film. During a pressed interview with Heston, Moore reveals why Heston believes there is increased violence in the United States. Heston says it may be due to the country “'having a more mixed ethnicity' than other nations, and 'we had enough problems with civil rights in the beginning'” (Hardy). Concluding that an ownership of guns is catalyzed by racial fears Moore acknowledges that Heston is holding the blacks and the civil rights movement accountable. Critically evaluating this theme in Bowling for Columbine, one will begin to realize that some history is missing: Heston is not taking about race, but about racism. In the 1960s a civil rights movement was fighting for acceptance and Heston was one who got involved (Hardy). Michael Skovmand states that "Heston, however, has a documented history of civil rights activism, having marched with Martin Luther King in the famous 1963 civil rights demonstration in Washington D.C. Furthermore, he was actively involved in breaking the Hollywood race barrier with Omega Man in 1971" (2). Despite the interview in the film with Heston, Michael Moore left it so that the viewer would feel that Heston is racist. However, the interview was twenty-three minutes long, contradicting the five minutes in the film. Moore has obviously manipulated this interview to make the viewer believe that Heston connected America’s increased violence with the non-white population. In addition to this skewed interview, the timing is completely misleading. During the film Moore organizes a meeting with Heston at 8:30 A.M. Examining this interview closely, one will discover that the real timing was at 5:47 P.M. Since Michael Moore has claimed that he left the interview unedited we can see the biased attitude present in this film. Not only is Moore’s bias evident in trying to discredit Heston, but in also his explanation to the accessibility to both guns and ammunition.
    This accessibility to guns and ammunition has been demonstrated through Moore’s biased analysis. In a North County Bank in Michigan, which is similar to numerous banks in the U.S., Moore is able to open up a bank account and receive his interest in the form of a rifle. Observing this, one can see how Moore ensures the audience is aware of how easy he was able to obtain a gun; especially in a bank. However, Skovmand states that "the bank where, ostensibly, Moore got a gun immediately after opening an account, requires you to have a background check, and normally you would pick up your gun at a gun shop" (2). Bowling for Columbine advances this analysis with Moore buying ammunition at a local Wal-Mart: “Look at what I, a foreign citizen, was able to do at a local Canadian Wal-Mart” (Hardy). He then buys a large amount of ammunition without any questioning: “That’s right. I could buy as much ammunition as I wanted, in Canada” (Hardy). Canadian officials have claimed that the buy has been either fake or illegal due to the fact that since 1998 law required that ammunition buyers to present proper identification (Kopel). In fact, according to a public policy source regarding firearm registration in Canada, "existing gun owners must have applied and received a license by 1 January 2001. By January 2003, the firearms themselves must be registered. In the beginning of 2001 Canada required non-Canadians to present a firearms or borrowing license in addition to their identification" (Mauser 4). The truth of the matter is that Bowling for Columbine was filmed after that law had been passed. Moore continues to use Canada as a prime example to why America is so dangerous. He states that "Canada has a tremendous amount of gun ownership, somewhat under one per household” (Hardy). In addition he says “then I learned that Canada has 7 million guns but they don’t kill people like we do. I thought, gosh, that’s uncomfortably close to the NRA position: Guns don’t kill people, people kill people” (Hardy). This statement leads into Moore’s comparison with the mass media in Canada opposed to the United States. However, this comparison is questionable. Earlier on in the movie he eliminated the possibility that video games and violent movies cause violence because Canadians like those. Since movies and games cannot cause violence, the mass media cannot either.
    While Moore’s representation of Bowling for Columbine contains some facts, they have been distorted and Moore has manipulated them to sensationalize. He used media editing tricks and techniques to play on the audience's emotions. A documentary should serve to educate the public; however, Bowling for Columbine is anecdotal evidence presented by Michael Moore's illustration of society's obsession with guns. Moore’s outcome raised interesting issues, but served more to line his pockets. Bowling for Columbine is, in fact, a chronicle of lies.

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  • Posted by a hidden member.
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    Dec 15, 2009 3:46 AM GMT
    "However, in reality, the NRA was quite sympathetic to the tragedy at Columbine"

    Yes, and the cigarette manufacturers are sympathetic toward cancer, and teens smoking. Even putting out anti-smoking stuff so teens don't start soon.

    And the alcohol companies put out ads to prevent drunk driving. DRINK and Drive responsibly. Look, they still want you to drink.

    Every documentary is going to push a side more than the other. As soon as Obama became president, my ex-str8 roommate ran out to buy another gun, fearing it would be taken away. And he's not even a hick. There are people like what Moore talks about, trust me, I've seen them.

    "While Moore’s representation of Bowling for Columbine contains some facts........." "Bowling for Columbine is, in fact, a chronicle of lies."

    Wow, sounds like there's a bit of ambiguity in that statement too.
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    Dec 15, 2009 5:11 AM GMT
    There is no need for some troubled 14-17 yr old testosterone filled angry at the wrd sex starved teen to have a GLOCK 9 or any fire arm for that matter. Can you state any facts of what the NRA has done to educate youth on why NOT to bring guns to school or feel as if that is the only resolution to his/her problem?