I finally saw Michael Moore’s Bowling for Columbine tonight, when it went out on Channel 4. It’s fascinating, but like most of Moore’s stuff I found it strangely irritating.
The usual way it pans out is like this: the first third is a little laboured; the middle third utter genius; the final third undermines the preceding by managing to miss the point made so eloquently only a little earlier. Bowling for Columbine seemed to me to fit this pattern rather too well.
What, I wonder, was the point of skewering Charlton Heston? Hadn’t Moore already demonstrated, via comparison with Canada, that widespread gun ownership was no indicator of shooting murder rates? Hadn’t he made a convincingly strong case that basic standards of living were the key discriminator: access to healthcare, unemployment benefit, urban regeneration?
Dragging the argument back to the doorstep of the NRA seemed to me to be (pardon the metaphor) taking pot-shots at an obvious target, after identifying the far more insidious threat elsewhere. Sure, getting Wal-Mart to abandon the sale of handgun ammunition was a remarkable achievement, but it’s hard to see it as anything other than tokenism. Stunt tokenism, at that.
I found myself similarly frustrated by Moore’s book Stupid White Men, which makes a glorious point about how it’s the white guys in Washington of whom you should be scared, not the black guys down the road from you. But the book then cracks on into half a dozen other subjects, some of which simply don’t ring true and present sloppily-constructed arguments. Which rather scuppers the authority of the original essay.
I’m left with one conclusion of my own: if Moore is the best liberal media agitator America can muster, they really do have a long way to go before they can sort out their problems.