December 20, 2002
Rethinking "Bowling for Columbine"

Ever since its release Michael Moore's documentary, "Bowling for Columbine", has been receiving a lot of well-deserved attention. Its compelling and provocative subject matter, which Moore delivers with insight, sensitivity, and clever humor, has sparked an increasing awareness about violence and has made the film a topic on tips of tongues nationwide. Now, one of the reasons I liked the film was the director's unwillingness to narrow-mindedly point the finger at anyone in particular. He's just a guy trying to "figure it all out", like the rest of us, and his investigation into America’s puzzling history of violence seems to transpire truthfully on camera. The final product gives the impression of an appealing innocence on the creator/director's part, but should we really buy into this so easily? I’m afraid not. Unfortunately, being human these days means carrying around an innate skepticism that tends to color everything ugly and evil. What's more unfortunate is that such persistent misgivings aren’t entirely unjustified. Even in this case. According to this brief piece in Forbes Magazine, it seems this documentary needs a second, more critical, look.

Posted by irene at December 20, 2002 02:23 AM
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But Irene, let's weigh the significance of Moore's slippery facts in context of the movie.

TITLE: Moore titled the movie Bowling for Columbine because, he suggests, the two kids who shot up Columbine High in Littleton, Colo., went to a 6 a.m. bowling class on the day of the attack.
ACTUALLY: Cool story, but police say it's not true. They say the shooters skipped their bowling class that day.

Hm. So What? I'd miss class too. It'd take too long to go home, get guns, come back to class.

MISSILES: Moore wonders whether kids at Columbine might be driven to violence because of the "weapons of mass destruction" made in Lockheed Martin's assembly plant in Littleton. Moore shows giant rockets being assembled.
ACTUALLY: Lockheed Martin's plant in Littleton doesn't make weapons. It makes space launch vehicles for TV satellites.

Lockheed Martin also makes ICBMs, might be the biggest producer of ICBMs in the world. If you want to get rid of weapons of mass destruction, they're a much bigger player than IRAQ. Just swap the TV satellites for some warheads and you can have your own intercontinental ballastic missle. When I think Lockheed Martin, I think weapons, not TV.

WELFARE: Moore places blame for a shooting by a child in Michigan on the work-to-welfare program that prevented the boy's mother from spending time with him.
ACTUALLY: Moore doesn't mention that mom had sent the boy to live in a house where her brother and a friend kept drugs and guns.

Well, so she had to send the kid to her brother's place because she was on the work-to-welfare program. I'm sure if she knew a doctor or a lawyer that would take her kid, she would've opted for that. The fact Moore left that out not of any real consequence.

BANK: Moore says North Country Bank & Trust in Traverse City, Mich., offered a deal where, "if you opened an account, the bank would give you a gun." He walks into a branch and walks out with a gun.
ACTUALLY: Moore didn't just walk in off the street and get a gun. The transaction was staged for cameras. You have to buy a long-term CD, then go to a gun shop to pick up the weapon after a background check.

What strikes you as more bizarre? That the bank offers a gun for openning a CD or Moore had staged the transaction for the filiming? I think the former.

Posted by: teddy on December 20, 2002 3:22 PM

Moore is also well known for his attack on corporate malfeasance, greed, corruption. Readers of Forbes will probably applaud the short article you pointed to, but I see the stab at the cursory details of 'Bowling' as something of a victory for Moore. It shows that Moore's getting noticed and that Forbes feels the need to deride what Moore is campaigning for. They seem to say, "Hey maybe if 'Bowling' is not entirely factual, the other works by Moore shouldn't be trusted either."

I'm actually skeptical of everybody; Moore, Forbes, everybody. But being skeptical isn't everything, because even when you can make out the fake trees in a forest, it's the forest that's important. The forest Moore shows you is ugly. Forbes just tells you that some of the ugly trees are fake. It's still an ugly, ugly forest...

Posted by: teddy on December 20, 2002 3:43 PM

Those are some excellent points. I actually agree that even the Forbes article raises some doubt. I still felt it was worth noting though, because all I've been hearing about "Bowling for Columbine" is praise, and I always think it's important to not simply take what's given to us, unquestioned.

Posted by: Irene on December 20, 2002 4:14 PM

I actually worked for North Country Bank when the gun promo started. The fact is you can walk out with the gun at time of purchase if it was in stock. If you lived out state you would be required to pick it up at a gun shop.

Posted by: L Wallace on June 13, 2003 11:59 AM

I'm glad someone finally pointed out the obvious fact of the "staged gun incident". If the bank really didn't do what was filmed, wouldn't they have sued Michael Moore for slander or liable or whatever, since the film was labeled as a documentary. I have yet to see an actual statement from the bank itself stating that what was shown was staged. All we see are rumors perpetuated one on top of the other. What happened to what we learned in grade school when writing papers: state your sources. An internet chat/opinion site is far from legitimate. I guess for that matter L Wallace might be made up too. But when you see "legitimate" commentators on CNN perpetuating rumors, you really need to wonder.

Posted by: M Santos on September 3, 2003 4:19 PM

who cares if they let out some of the story in attaining the weapon...the fact is that they give away guns at a bank. why would you do that. The documentary brings up alot of question im the minds od americans...and this is definatley a good thing. Especially for Americans. We have to get out of the mindset that what we do as a country is always right. The fact is we will screw over who ever we can to get ours. But i guess thats what you have to do to stay on top right?

Posted by: markus mcgoo on September 21, 2003 8:34 PM

whats rather odd in the thing about the gun is if you have to go pick it up at a gun shop why did the bank say they were a licensed gun dealer and that they have atleast 500 firearms in their vault at anytime and the fact that when they gave him the gun he is holding it in the bank and talking about how much of a nice action it had wouldnt it be odd walking into a bank carrying a gun?

Posted by: bill on September 25, 2003 10:04 PM

thx, i mean someone had to use logic, because what other people were posting mad entirely no sense whatsoever

Posted by: bill on October 12, 2003 11:10 PM

I was living in Flint MI, when the 6 year old girl was shot in a Beecher school. BEECHER... not FLINT. Anyway, the news at the time said that the little boys uncle TAUGHT him how to shoot that gun, and to my knowledge, he was the person the authorities were going to try to pin it on, rightfully. I don't know what ever became of it, but I do know theres not a single mention of it in 'Bowling for Columbine'. I don't know why Michael Moore felt like leaving that out, but I can guess that one senseless drug addict doesn't make anywhere near as fun a target as welfare and Dick Clark.

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