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how good is 'bowling for columbine'?


I've heard many, many good comments about Michael Moore's documentary Bowling for Columbine in which he examines the 'gun culture' of the US, and tries to find reasons why the US has a higher rate of gun homicides than any other country in the world. However, I missed it when it got released here in Ireland, so now I'm waiting for the DVD.

In the meantime, I found two sites (here and here) that debunk several, if not all, the premises on which the documentary was built. Since I haven't seen the movie I can't really comment, but one thing I find interesting about this "debunking" is that it should be easy to verify; I mean, just watch the movie and these things should be obvious. For example, the splicing of different Charlton Heston speeches mentioned in the first article should be clear since it appears that he is wearing two different suits in a segment that implies the sequence is linear. The spinsanity piece (second link) is particularly interesting to me since they are non-partisan and have attacked spin in the left as much as in the right.

One thing I do find interesting is that, if true, Moore (an avowed lefty) is engaging in little more than what other people (particularly in the right, although no one is clean of this) have been doing more of recently: bending the truth or 'connecting dots' of dubious precedence. The White House in particular has been heavily engaged in this in the past few months when trying to shore up support for action in Iraq. Unless they are so extreme that they are disgusting, I respect (although I might disagree) almost any position, as long as the person/group espousing them is honest and consistent (or makes it clear when they've made a mistake--anyone can change their mind). But consider for example this quote from Bush's speech yesterday at an aircraft carrier, declaring the end of armed conflict (although not the end of the war--if they did that, under the Geneva convention they'd also have to release the estimated 6,000 POWs currently under Coalition control, which would be, shall we say, inconvenient). Bush

[...] spoke in emotional terms not only about the troops who toppled Mr. Hussein but also about the Sept. 11 attacks, melding the battle against terrorism with the battle against Iraq. "We have not forgotten the victims of Sept. 11th, the last phone calls, the cold murder of children, the searches in the rubble," he said. "With those attacks, the terrorists and their supporters declared war on the United States. And war is what they got."
I find it awful that the tragedy of Sept. 11 is used for this purpose. US intelligence agencies themselves identified the hijackers mainly as Saudis (12 of them) and the operation to be organized by Saudis. Today, as was widely reported before the war began (take, for example, this article), almost half of US citizens believe that Iraq was either heavily involved or somewhat involved in the Sept. 11 attacks. There are no facts whatsoever that point in that direction. The Bush Administration itself identified Al-Qaeda as the main culprit, and, when linking Iraq and Al-Qaeda in the UN in February, Collin Powell talked much more about the risk of Iraq's weapons falling in the hands of terrorists than on the apparent links (which, tenous or not, he argued as being recent).

Both Moore (if he did what is claimed with his documentary) and the Bush Administration (if they are, as it appears, encouraging overtly or covertly the spread of things that aren't true) could be say to be voicing things in a way that reinforces what they truly believe in. I guess it goes back to the question: "Would you be willing to lie (or at least not tell the whole truth) to advance a 'cause' you truly believe in"?

As far as I'm concerned, the answer is no. In more mundane situations, gray areas are more commons, but for these ethical/moral/philosophical questions, when you are affecting millions of people with your message, making your case truthfully and honestly is a major element that determines true success.

Okay, I veered off into a rant there, this is a contentious subject and the particulars of each case are not what matters for what I'm trying to say. My point is: whether you're on the left or on the right, and specially for ideological debates, what counts is being honest. Everyone is entitled to their point of view, voicing their opinions and so on, but manipulating perceptions through half-truths and fabrications always ends up creating more problems than in solves. It doesn't matter if you think your cause is just: in these situations, the end rarely justifies the means.

Categories: art.media, geopolitics
Posted by diego on May 2 2003 at 3:59 PM

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