Moore's Folly

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The Colorado Freedom

Moore's Folly

by Ari Armstrong, March 26, 2003

Within the span of a minute, Michael Moore destroyed his remaining credibility and turned himself into a joke for nighttime talk shows.

For a brief moment, I thought Moore was doing something noble in bringing his fellow Oscar nominees to the stage as he accepted his award. But then he used them as props in launching a vitriolic political speech. It wasn't so much what Moore said that got him into trouble and turned a standing ovation into a chorus of boos. Rather, it was Moore's shameless self-promotion at the expense of others. I doubt any of the other nominees appreciated Moore's antics, and certainly the much-criticized Hollywood crowd cringed at his over-the-top and badly-timed remarks.

While I expected Moore to win for his quasi-documentary Bowling for Columbine, his win suggests those who voted for him wanted to make a political statement rather than select a quality documentary. It's a stretch even to call Moore's film a "documentary." His distorted and one-sided account doesn't document so much as it propagandizes (and promotes its director).

As I argued in a review, Moore selectively reports the facts and commits many of the same errors he accuses others of making. Moore also flat-out distorts the truth in a number of instances, as has been pointed out by numerous reviewers. A March 25 column by Debbie Schlussel points out a few of the problems:

  • Moore suggests the murderers at Columbine may have gone bowling at school the morning of the murders, even though clear evidence proves otherwise.
  • Moore's "film implies Harris and Klebold had violent tendencies because of 'weapons of mass destruction' produced by a Lockheed Martin assembly plant in their hometown of Littleton. 'Bowling' actually features footage of giant rocket assembly to make the point. But, according to Daniel Lyons in Forbes magazine, Lockheed Martin's Littleton plant makes space launch vehicles for TV satellites, not weapons."
  • Moore "stages an event at North Country Bank and Trust in Michigan's Traverse City, claiming that opening an account would entitle one to walk out of the bank with a gun in hand. The film shows him doing just that... In reality, the bank does not provide guns for opening accounts, and you can't walk in or out of the bank with one -- unless you're a security guard employed by the bank... In order to qualify for the gun, customers must open a 3-year CD with at least $5,000 and then must pass a background check for the gun, which can only be picked up at a licensed gun dealer." [May 14 update: Schlussel is not entirely correct on this point. See for details.]
  • Moore neglects to report crucial details about the mother of a boy who shot and killed a girl in Flint, Michigan, such that she abandoned her son and left him in an apartment strewn with drugs and stolen guns.

Schlussel adds, "As Brian Rohrbough, whose son Daniel died at Columbine, said, 'This is just a guy trying to capitalize on the tragedy of others.'"

The April edition of America's 1st Freedom, an NRA publication, points out some additional errors:

  • In supposedly "documenting" an NRA business meeting in Denver shortly after the Columbine murders, Moore uses film of Charlton Heston from two other events.
  • While Moore notes the NRA held an event in Flint after the lethal shooting there, the rally was held eight months later, and for unrelated reasons.
  • Whereas Moore claims, "It is believed that all of the guns that [the Columbine murderers] used were all legally purchased at gun stores and gun shows...", he doesn't mention that the murderers themselves obtained the guns from two other buyers, in one case illegally, not from a store or show. See also David Kopel's review.
  • Moore claims the U.S. gave $245 million in aid to Afghanistan, but he doesn't mention this was food aid distributed by the UN.
  • Moore used fabricated footage of a beagle with a rifle strapped to it.

An editorial in the March 25 Rocky Mountain News referred to "the relentlessly self-promoting Michael Moore" whose movie "reviewers have found manipulative and factually flimsy... Hollywood seemed to justify its reputation for embracing from its safe and gilded confines a loopy sort of leftism when the audience gave Moore a standing ovation as he took the stage."

The best word to describe Moore's alleged documentary is "fictitious." As he accepted his award, Moore attached the word "fictitious" to four other things: the election of Bush, the President himself, the reasons for going to war, and the "homeland security" policies of encouraging people to buy duct tape and issuing color-coded alerts:

We live in the time where we have fictitious election results that elect a fictitious president. We live in a time where we have a man who's sending us to war for fictitious reasons, whether it's the fiction of duct tape or the fiction of orange alerts. We are against this war, Mr. Bush. Shame on you, Mr. Bush. Shame on you.

I will take it for granted that Bush is not himself "fictitious." As for the election results, both parties were involved in their share of shenanigans. Democrats who continue to gripe about the election just seem to be pissed off the U.S. Constitution allows for the election of somebody who doesn't carry the popular vote.

Moore may be right that the advice of "Homeland Security" is mostly nonsense. What about the war? We now know some documents purporting to link Iraq to the attempted purchase of nuclear supplies were faked. Also, I find it strange that Bush's rhetoric has changed in focus. He used to talk mostly about "weapons of mass destruction" -- now he talks mostly about freeing the Iraqi people. Regardless, the reasons generally given for the war -- to deter terrorists and promote security in the Middle East -- should be taken seriously, even by those who eventually conclude those arguments aren't substantiated or they don't justify war.

My sense is that Bush is well-intentioned but misled by the siren song of military interventionism. But whether or not Bush's actions warrant shame, Michael Moore's certainly do.

* * * * *

Owen S. Good wrote a February 27 story for the Rocky titled, "Moore's left-wing wake-up call: Liberals are in the mainstream, says activist filmmaker." Moore had given a speech in Denver the previous evening.

Moore said, "If we don't get busy, folks, and get out of bed, what's going to happen in your state legislature tomorrow with the gun show loophole bill [sic]?" Good adds,

Moore, who said he was fed up with two years of authoritarian responses and limp-wristed liberals who accept them, rang out numerous demands for the Bush administration to account for its behavior. "Why are we on high alert? Why are thousands of Arabs, Arab-Americans, Arab-looking men, rounded up, arrested?" Moore said. "Where are they tonight? What jails are they in? What crimes did they commit? "What happened to the U.S.A.?"

While the Bush administration has violated the civil rights of some who were arrested, surely Moore exaggerates. A much more severe problem is that Ashcroft continues to fill the prisons with people who violate prohibitionist laws.

What happened to the U.S.A. is that so-called "liberals" such as Moore call for rounding up and imprisoning peaceable gun owners for technical violations of fascist gun laws. Moore is no less "authoritarian" than his co-dependents on the right -- he just wants to fill the prisons with different sorts of innocent people. Moore is a sham and a hypocrite.

The Colorado Freedom