It wasn't your typical tear-jerker either. It was Michael Moore's "Bowling for Columbine", a remarkably personal film documentary where Moore grapples with why it is that Americans shoot so many other Americans. We follow his threads of logic, as he tries to figure out causes, and rules out guns (Canada has about as many per capita, but fewer shooting deaths by orders of magnitude), brutal or violent histories (look at European countries), video games or rock and roll (those are played everywhere).
Moore boils it down to a primary cause -- America lives in a culture of fear, fired by a Media that wildly skews representations of how things are, and supported by people who manufacture and market guns, security devices, etc. etc., that play on this unfounded fear.
It's an important and difficult film, forcing Americans to Look At What We've Become. By the end of the movie, I'd been exposed to such an onslaught of tragedy (security tapes from the Columbine shootings, the audio from a 911 call after a 6 year old shot another 6 year old at school, the ridiculousness of the current welfare-to-work program, America's history of violence abroad, etc. etc.), that a dam burst within me, and I just sobbed.
My primary fear is that this film will simply be dismissed. Dismissed by The Right and the NRA-types, who assume that the movie is simply out to get them (it most definitely is not), and dismissed by the left because the left has a history of being remarkably dismissive of those that they could really help. Toward the beginning of the film, Moore talks to members of the Michigan Militia, a group that is easy to dismiss, though who should be heard. They should be heard because their members are straightforward and normal folk, trying to get through life same as everyone else, and they have very real and legitimate concerns about safety, employment, due process, and who have joined this group not out of some bizarre revenge fantasy or conspiracy fear, but because it brings meaning and provides some sense and context for their hopes and fears. The members of the Michigan Militia are exactly the same folks who would benefit most from a liberal agenda, but liberals have cast them aside as crazy gun nuts not worthy of their time.
Anyway, this has turned into a ramble, so I should probably curtail it. Let me just say that Moore's filmic essay is smart, entertaining, disturbing, and tragic, and worth any American citizen's time to see and consider.
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Fear sells. One of the most effective means of influence is to induce fear then offer a simple solution to alleviate that fear.
Posted by Ron Zeno @ 11/15/2002 07:52 AM PST [link to this comment]
Good point. Which raises interesting (and deep) questions about the emphasis we Americans place on 'the free market' as the solution for everything. In our continuing quest to sell (and consume) what other lessons are being implicitly taught and what are the unintended consequences thereof?
Posted by Medley @ 11/15/2002 09:12 AM PST [link to this comment]
Medley hit the nail on the head. i thought the movie was effective and mostly i thought "i wish people would actually watch this movie in large numbers and process the information and come to logical conclusions" - but i also thought it was disappointing that it stopped at the idea that "the media creates fear." this is true, but how can you not finish the thought and ask WHY does the media do what it does? it does it because it generates profit. everything is about money in this country. there are no regulations or initiatives to do anything unless it makes money. there is no information except product information. etc.
Posted by Bard @ 11/15/2002 10:09 AM PST [link to this comment]
I think Michael Moore definitely drew the line between The Culture of Fear and The Culture of Consumption. He discussed how consumption, in our country, is based on fear, and how a lot of people stand to profit from media portrayals of danger.
I still think there's a National Character quality at issue here, something about Americans that is different than Canadians, Germans, Japanese, etc., when it comes to guns and violence, something not solely addressed by The Culture of Fear.
While America's history is as brutal/violent as any other Western cultures', there's something about our glorification of "rugged individualism", and this notion of Personal Liberty Above All Else that I think plays a factor here. Every other Western country is far far far more communitarian than we are -- far more aware of a Society, of social effects, of cooperation. By contrast, American culture is much more about the individual. This has good ramifications (freedom of individual expression, the ability to positively stand out in a crowd, the ability to march to the beat of your own drummer), but negative ones as well (gimme-gimme-gimme, mine-mine-mine).
Posted by peterme @ 11/15/2002 11:00 AM PST [link to this comment]
"This has good ramifications (freedom of individual expression, the ability to positively stand out in a crowd, the ability to march to the beat of your own drummer), but negative ones as well (gimme-gimme-gimme, mine-mine-mine)."
And perhaps "I'm right", "I'm able to resist the unwanted influence by others". In other words, because American's are more individual-oriented, are they also more overconfident?
Posted by Ron Zeno @ 11/15/2002 11:46 AM PST [link to this comment]
peterme (and Ron Zeno), i think you're on to something there, and it's true that the movie did mention the profit motive. i suppose i would have liked it to be addressed more - if not in this movie, then elsewhere. i'm sorry if i sound too RED here but i feel the question of extreme capitalism's consequences is too easily brushed over in the american landscape -- it appears to be an issue that even "the left" doesn't discuss that much in any larger context.
Posted by Bard @ 11/15/2002 03:28 PM PST [link to this comment]
I have not yet been able to see this, but one note about the "Canadians have more guns per capita than the US, yet an order of magnitude fewer gun-related homicides."
Moore is right. There are a lot of guns up here. However, most of them are rifles and shotguns owned by farmers, hunters, and people in rural areas. Things like handguns, semi-automatics, automatics, and so on are either illegal or difficult to get up here. I know lots of people who own rifles, but nobody who owns a handgun.
This doesn't invalidate Moore's point or the central question of the film as presented in the trailers (are we a nation of gun nuts or are we just plain nuts). It is a wee bit misleading though.
Posted by Karl @ 11/16/2002 07:03 AM PST [link to this comment]
I'm with you on the movie and quite worried about what is happening with this country.
Posted by Adina Levin @ 11/17/2002 08:07 PM PST [link to this comment]
If I may stretch this conversation a bit -- does anybody else out there think there was some conspiracy to get rid of Senator Wellstone? Is it being investigated at all? Maybe my mistrust of our "government" has gone too far, but it just seems too wierd -- especially considering that two years ago an almost idential plane crash took the life of another Democratic Senator just before the election -- an election, by the way, that was scandalous all the way.
Posted by Carol Johnson @ 11/23/2002 05:33 PM PST [link to this comment]
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