greg (grysar) wrote,

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Bowling for Columbine

I caught the new Michael Moore movie last Saturday, I rather liked it. Lampbane has already done a good summary of the movie's thesis, so I'm not gonna rehash it here.

However, I'd disagree with the idea that it was a "well-written essay." I discussed it afterwards with the Blairites I went to see it with and we're of the view that while the movie does a terrific job of raising issues, making people think, and putting out its thesis, it could do a far better and tighter job of supporting the thesis. To the degree that we suspect Michael Moore doesn't want to produce truly effective movies. This isn't to say some rambling in his style isn't all right, for example the bit on Africanized bees was hilarious, but he should limit it to when his tangents are quite funny or actually add a lot to the movie.

Bowling for Columbine often rambled and the final two segments (getting Kmart to stop selling bullets and an interview with Charleston Heston) went fairly long without actually adding all that much to the movie. Also if he had the ability to avoid going on off topic left wing rants he could probably sell his argument too a wider audience.

But the main thing I wanted was further exploration of his thesis. He did a good job of completely undermined a few alternate explanations for our level of gun violence: violent U.S. history (Germany), high gun ownership (Canada), and violence in the pop culture (Japan). However, while the fear animated clip was terrific and the interviews with the media was informative, he didn't do a sufficient job of showing that this was a uniquely American phenomenon. For one thing, his demonstration that Canadians during daylight hours, when they are home, keep their houses/town houses unlocked was less than impressive to me. Even so, I'm willing to buy that Canadians are more trusting, but showing a brief clip of Canadian news is hardly enough to support the point that their media does not do the same fear mongering tactics that ours does. Similarly, what about the other first world comparison countries, is the United States really all that unique in fear and fear mongering? It might be, but I don't know from this movie.

In addition, his undermining of two other alternate explanations, poverty and demographics, was muddled and undermined by arguments elsewhere in the movie. On poverty, he attempts to counter the argument by pointing out that Canada has twice the unemployment level we do. This is true, but, and its a big but, unemployment is not equivalent to poverty. As he points out later in the movie Canada has a far stronger social safety net, he even blames the lack of such a social net for a shooting in an elementary school! Poverty is a complex issue, and he leaves it muddled rather than taking it apart and figuring out what does and does not contribute to gun violence.

Similarly, while he dismisses demographics, he also argues that a lot of the fear he speaks of comes from white people being afraid of black people. Fear of other racial/cultural groups is connected to demographics and is hardly a uniquely American phenomenon. Indeed, even dealing with the historical consequences of enslavement of another ethnic group is not an issue that only America has dealt with. Cross national comparisons would be quite helpful here, e.g. How does American fear correspond with fear of immigrants in less violent European countries? Do increases in racial tension tend to correspond with increases in the murder rate? This isn't to say Moore needs to address in detail every single alternate explanation, but if he is going to put such emphasis on white fear as a contributing factor than he should take the time to give the issue the same level of attention devoted to violence in the media.

I'm betting the reason he didn't is that he knows that demographics arguments are often used as code for, well all those ethnic boogie-group of choice, are the ones out there killing people. I'm kinda surprised he never attacked that issue head on, he certainly played up the media's focus on black perpetrators but we were never given the figures to show that this coverage is inaccurate. I can only figure he didn't take the time because it has been done before or he couldn't do it without getting into a far longer rant about racism. This is unfortunate, because attacking this racist explanation would be far better done using existing crime and television statistics; rather than canards about how Canada is just as diverse as we are.

Thus ends the part of my rant where I'm trying to be objective, fair warning. ;p

Now a bit on foreign policy, the Lockheed Martin stuff seems conspiracy theory-ish. I somehow doubt there is a connection between American foreign policy and gun violence and he's gonna have to do a much better job of showing a connection for me to believe one exists. I mean, we kill each other because of the military industrial complex, huh?! I doubt the Columbine killers followed American foreign and defense policy, let alone were driven to kill by it.

Secondly, I am so bloody sick of liberal carping about Kosovo. Was it a perfect war, no, but it was one fought to prevent genocide. If you're gonna say 'never again' and mean it than you damn well better be willing to go to war over it. Moreover, he showed a clip with audio commentary that was clearly Serbian propaganda. I can maybe, maybe, accept that we bombed the Chinese Embassy intentionally. But the idea that we were intentionally bombing elementary schools is bullshit. Yes, we did take some actions such as knocking out power plants with the express purpose of making the Serbian populace feel the hardship of the war. There's a moral justification behind that sort of thing, as Sherman said, war is hell, the lives and long term health of civilians must be protected, but preventing them from experiencing discomfort will only prolong the war which will ultimately result in a higher death toll. Maybe Moore disagrees with me on this point, fine, he can make that argument, but to say that what we were doing in Serbia using the weapons of war with great restraint in order to prevent another Bosnia, is in no way morally equivalent or even similar than going to school and shooting students because you are a social misfit with deep psychological problems that is sick of getting picked on.

Third, this may just be me but is anyone else now interested in a further exploration of whether bowling actually does promote violence? Course, I could just posses that sentiment because I'm bitter that I've never broken 100. =p

Oh, and final note. I did like the movie, it did make a compelling argument while at the same time being funny and thought-inducing, I only knock it because it could have done it even better.
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