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March 23, 2004

Scary Moses

Has anyone seen the documentary "Bowling for Columbine?" I picked it up from the library this past week and finally got around to watching it on Sunday night. For some reason, I really enjoyed watching it. It kept my attention throughout and did pose some interesting ideas to consider.

The most interesting part of the film was when Michael Moore went to the home of Charlton Heston, president of the NRA, to talk to him about gun ownership and some decisions made by the group. Yes, I admit that Moore blindsided Heston with some of his questions, no doubt posing them for effect, but it was no less interesting to listen to Heston's responses. Undoubtedly, Heston wishes he had some cue cards to read from, rather than having to answer off-the-cuff, because he stated some things I'm sure he wants to retract. When asked why the U.S. has so many gun killings per year (over 11,000) while Canada, having just as many guns did not crack the 50 mark, Heston responded that he thought it had to do with so many cultures mixing in our society. What he managed to do was to solidify the stereotype of NRA members as being racist white people who want to own guns to protect themselves from the onslaught of minorities. In his film, Moore did point out the "coincidence" that the NRA and the KKK were created in the same year.

Heston stated that he keeps loaded guns throughout his home, even though he said he really didn't need to because he had never been a victim of crime, and in his palatial estate, probably never will be. Yes, he has the right to bear arms, and there is no crime keeping loaded weapons in his home. Still, watching him hobble away from the interview in disgust made me a bit uneasy. The thought of an old white man living in a mansion with a stockpile of weapons, when he is barely able to walk across his driveway is scary to me. I would not want to be the minority person who has to deliver his pizzas or drop off a package from UPS. For some reason, it lessens my image of him as Moses, standing on the mountain and declaring that I "Shalt not kill." I will now forever picture the man standing at a podium shouting, "From my cold, dead hands!"

UPDATE: Perhaps this is reason enough for him to put down the guns and slowly back away.

Posted by Woundwort at March 23, 2004 09:28 AM | TrackBack
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Before taking anything from that film to heart you should check out any of the many places that itemize the intentional falacies that Moore put into it. A good starting place is Bowling for Truth.

The item you cite here is particularly blatant. Canada has a small fraction of America's population and an even smaller percentage of gun ownership. For Moore's assertion to be correct each man, woman and child in Canada would need to own two and one-half guns. Moore puts out a direct fallacy to his offbalanced interviewee to get a good sound bite and to get his incorrect information implanted into his viewers' minds.

As you can attest, his method is very effective. You didn't even consider how ridiculous his "fact" was because he slipped it in so slyly.

Posted by: Jim at March 23, 2004 09:53 AM

How incorrect you are, I did consider that he stated facts to make his point, and did not take all that he said to heart, instead choosing to take it with a grain of salt. I stated what he said to Heston, that is all. I did not know about the website you linked, and I will be interested to look at it. All I stated was that he made interesting points, the film was worth watching, and Heston scares me to death. They still hold true for me.

Posted by: Woundwort at March 23, 2004 09:59 AM

Christ, man. I'd of gone golfing if I knew you were going to post about Bowling Columbine. That's poking a hornet's nest, that is. :)

That said--Bowling for Coumbine is as much a documentary as Star Wars is. Probably the best roundup of criticism is at Spinsanity

Posted by: Bigwig at March 23, 2004 10:55 AM

I guess I learned from the master of hornet poking. Relax man, I was just saying that it was interesting, a good view. I didn't think it was the greatest piece of film, and obviously some of it may have been as much fiction as nonfiction. What is interesting is how each side on this debate is so vocal about their positions, bullheaded even, without suggesting that there might be a middle ground to be reached. However, each side thinks the other is one that is bullheaded and not willing to move a little on the position. I get tired of hearing all of them yell.

Posted by: Woundwort at March 23, 2004 11:02 AM

I won't poke hornets. I'll poke Woundwort instead.

The thought of an old white man living in a mansion with a stockpile of weapons, when he is barely able to walk across his driveway is scary to me.

Is it the fact that he's old, or the fact that he's white that bothers you? Personally, the fact that he smells like cabbage, is what bugs me.

Good thing it's only us NRA members who are racist and ageist, etc.

I do wonder how you would have reacted, however, if Heston had made the gauche mistake of pointing out the Clinton DOJ figures, that although Blacks make up only 12% of the population, they comprise nearly 50% of homicide victims; and of those, nearly 95% are killed in Black-on-Black crime. He could also have cited (Black) sociologists like Henry Louis Gates, Thomas Sowell, James Q. Wilson, who argue that cultural problems underlie the epidemic violence in the Black community, especially the impoverished sections of it. That would be really racist, for an old white man to point that out, but he desisted.

Or just couldn't remember. I'm pretty sure the senile (he had been diagnosed with Alzheimer's at the time) coot wasn't able to recall those facts offhand, and that even if he could, he was probably trying to be tactful and not really talk about it.

Oh well, I shouldn't pick on you. I guess if you find Michael Moore thought provoking, I ought to help you out and commend to you his book, Stupid White Men. I'm sure you will find that truly edifying as well.

Posted by: Blackavar at March 23, 2004 11:51 AM

Yes, I'm just about to pee my pants in anticipation with his newest opus about the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Seeing how he did so well with presenting lies as facts, here is a synpopsis: President Bush, along with the Jews, Haliburton and Evil President Reagan, planned the 9/11 attacks so that he would eventually have an excuse to invade Iraq and steal the oil because, as we all know, it's all about the oil. Remember, no blood for oil!

Posted by: El-ahrairah at March 23, 2004 12:45 PM

This is the same Charlton Heston who fought hard for civil rights throughout the 50s and 60s, marching alongside Dr. King well before it was chic to do so.

If Moore's film creates an impression of Heston as a racist, then that says much about Moore's ability to mislead.

Posted by: Jeff at March 23, 2004 01:49 PM

Like Blackavar said; while it's not politic to say what Heston did, he's more or less right.

Competing (sub)cultures, and especially failing ones (like that of poor, urban black people... just like poor, urban white people, but with an added element of toxic and poisonous race-victimhood and socialism), tend to lead to economic and social conditions where crime and predation are rampant, and ... go figure, either as criminals or in defense against them, people will use guns.

It's typical Moore disingenuity to not point out that about half those "gun deaths" are from suicide... and that when guns are unavailable, the substitution effect does not keep the truly suicidal alive, merely because they cannot acquire a gun to kill themselves with.

The stereotype of NRA members being "racist white people who are scared of minorities" generally only sells to people who both don't know jack about "NRA members", and who are inclined to believe any sort of ill (especially race-related ill) or other (white) people, such that they can feel superior. At very least, that's my experience with such sorts, from their own words on the subject.

Such a stereotype, though vastly incorrect, continues because it's helpful to selling a reflexively anti-gun agenda to people who are already "concerned" about racism - as long, that is, as the racism is the property of white people. Ideally rural white people, who are "backward", and thus own evil guns. Why, look! Our KKK connection writes itself now!


(Furthermore, there is no middle ground between "every law-abiding citizen should be able to own a gun" and "nobody but a cop (or a movie star's security detail) should be able to own a gun".

Just like there's no middle ground between "the Jews are people like everyone else" and "all the Jews need to be killed for the good of humanity".

Compromise is sometimes not a virtue, and compromise with those who wish you disarmed and at their mercy is suicide. Yeah, the rhetoric is a bit "amped"... but the core is absolutely correct.)

Posted by: Sigivald at March 23, 2004 01:51 PM

Well, I was going to post a comment, but looks like Moore's already been 0wnz0r3d without any help from me- good show.

Posted by: Kevin at March 23, 2004 09:45 PM

Buzzzzz, Buzzzzz!! Heston's record on civil rights is fine, I bet the guy is a fine man, and Ben Hur rocks! Easily the best film that lasts over 5 hours, but my comment was meant to suggest that his comments and then his leaving the interview did not put him in the best light. I admit, which I did in the post, that Moore did all of this for effect in order to try to make his point. Moore's style during that interview reminded me of watching Connie Chung interview Gary Condit. He, like she, sucked at it, and tried to repeat the same questions over and over to knock the old man off balance and make him appear uncomfortable. Him placing the picture of the little girl that was killed on Heston's driveway was a little too dramatic as well. Still, it did give off the impressions that I mentioned in the post, which I'm sure is what Moore was going for, right or wrong.

It was interesting how Moore made such a point of saying that the media pumps us full of fear, and then he manages to tell us how scary it is that so many people own guns, blah, blah, blah. It would seem that he might be just as guilty as the people he mentioned in that regard.

I am not for disarming the nation, nor do I believe that the NRA is a racist organization, which some of you apparently got from the post. Yes, I watched the entire film and found it interesting, that is all. It didn't cause me to run to my local K-Mart to check if they still have ammunition on the shelves, or to sign the WalMart petition that Moore has posted at his site. The film was interesting, and if nothing else, it was apparently good fodder for discussion.

Posted by: Woundwort at March 24, 2004 06:41 AM

Moore has been heavily attacked for the manner in which he edits his interviews. Anybody who has done a normal press availability can tell you, there is a lot of umm and ahhh involved. Most reporters are trusted to produce the finished product in a smooth way, partially to avoid intentionally embarassing the subject, and mainly to present a smooth looking and sounding interview that make sense to the viewer, and imparts information to the viewer in a coherent fashion.

In Bowling for Columbine, Moore was slammed for his generally rude treatment of senile Heston, and for his intentional chop & cut job on the interview with the employees of the bank that gives away guns with new accounts. They were ambush interviews.

Moore is a sore subject, I believe, because he is a wealthy, hard-left polemicist posing as a populist, man-o'-the-people documentarian, and a good chunk of the mainstream media (which is a little left of center) is happy to pass him off as a straight investigative reporter / documentarian. He is infuriating in part for the same reason R.W. Apple's news reporting for the NY Times is infuriating - it is partisan bashing posing as news coverage, and the institution for which he works smugly asserts he's simply reporting the facts, with a straight face. It's as if Anne Coulter were hired to report the news on Democratic politicians, and she did her usual hatchet job.

The other maddening thing about Moore is that a lot of polemicists - Coulter and Chris Hitchens, for example - are venomous but they usually have their facts pretty straight, and they don't make any bones about the fact they are opinionating. Moore is a fabulist, reporting a lot of made up shit and distortions as the truth, basing his opinions on them, and then insisting he is here to tell you the facts.

Whatever you do, don't blame Moore for having bad interview technique. He is one of the best in the business at the hitjob interview, maybe even better than Dan Rather in his 60 minutes chasing-the-businessman-down-the-driveway-with-a-camera prime. While Connie Chung is unintentionally disruptive, Moore knows exactly what he is doing.

This doesn't mean he is entirely wrong. His work in Roger & Me, a hitjob on the auto industry for decepting dealing with its workers, poses some worthwhile questions. It's also funny. But as he moves further away from concrete issues and more into general politics, his work degenerates.

Posted by: Blackavar at March 24, 2004 07:39 AM

Blackavar, well said, I agree, and I have no doubts that Moore was well aware of how the interview with Heston would play out. It would be interesting to see if the interview would have gone in a similar fashion if the president of the NRA was more of a current celebrity, such as Arnold or Al Pacino. I'm guessing it might have come across differently.

Posted by: Woundwort at March 24, 2004 07:44 AM
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