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Sliming America

Monday, March 24, 2003

Most ordinary hard-working Americans will never pay to see Michael Moore`s Oscar nominated Bowling for Columbine. For those of us who have, the anger at the deceit in the portrayal of virtually every facet of the film is palpable.

Even the title harbors a lie. According to Dan Lyons of Forbes magazine, police later said the murderers, who took the lives of 12 students and a teacher at Columbine High School in Littleton, Cob., on April 20, 1999, didn`t attend their bowling class that awful day, as Moore suggests.

Hailing the film as presenting "the horrors of gun violence and the destructive attitude within the NRA` Handgun Control Inc.`s Sarah Brady puffed Moore`s Oscar nomination, saying "Michael`s candid interviews with gun enthusiasts and with NRA`s Charlton Heston illuminated how far we have to go to reach our vision of an America free from gun violence."

But Brady and the rest of the chattering classes have been deceived. Bowling for Columbine is not so much about trashing guns as it is about trashing America--and the spirit of Americans.

Moore told The UCLA Daily Bruin on Oct. 11, 2002: "Ultimately, this film is not about guns, its not about school shootings. You could make a documentary about how horrible the gun problem is, but I don`t care about that."

What he does care about is what he calls exposing "the dark side of the American soul."

To CBS` 60 Minutes, Moore put it another way, "I think we have, like, a shared mental illness, like, a collective mental illness when it comes to how we view the world."

And he told CNBC`s Tim Russert, "Guns don`t kill people, Americans kill people." He told Russert this was caused by, "that American ethic, that mean spiritedness that wants to beat up on the poor."

Moore`s Bowling for Columbine is a rant against the soul of a whole people--a rant laced with deceit. Gun ownership just happens to be the invisibility cloak he donned to hide the true meaning of the film.

Nowhere is that more apparent than when Moore sandbags ailing NRA President Charlton Heston; first by tricking him into thinking this would be a fair interview by a fellow NRA member, then by increasingly hostile, in-your-face questions nobody could answer. Moore says the segment was filmed in early 2001, just days after he purchased an NRA Life membership on Dec. 19, 2000.

This segment--at the film`s closing--begins with Moore talking with Heston on a gate intercom outside the NRA president`s home: "I`m making a documentary about the whole gun issue and I`m a member of the NRA. I thought maybe we could talk a little bit." says Moore.

Heston graciously says he`ll visit with him tomorrow. Moore cuts to the same scene the following morning. This time, Heston meets him, graciously offers his hand and escorts the scruffy Moore into his home.

Once inside, Moore tells him he`s a Life member of NRA and asks, "do you have guns in the house?" It`s not a question any real NRA member would ask. From this rude inquiry, it degenerates into an increasingly hostile inquisition.

Halfway through the badgering interview, Heston politely attempts to bow out. But Moore simply won`t let up.

"I come from Flint, Mich., and last year a little 6-year-old boy took a gun into a classroom and shot a 6-year-old girl. After that happened you came to Flint and held
a big political rally . . .

"Did you feel it was at all insensitive to the fact that the community had just gone through this?..."

"You think maybe you`d just like to apologize to the people in Flint for doing that at that time?"

Heston is incredulous: "You want me to apologize to the people in Flint?"

"Or to the people in Columbine for coming after their horrible tragedy. Why do you come to these places after they have these horrible tragedies?"

Heston stands . . . and Moore raises his voice, "I`m a member of your group here."

The NRA president walks out of his own home, pursued by Moore who is now holding up a photo of the little girl murdered in Flint. He`s taunting Heston to his back.

The camera holds on Heston, and Moore leaves the photo at the doorstep. Outside the gate Moore says, "I left the Heston Estate in Beverly Hills and walked back into the real world--an America living and breathing in fear. . ."

Moore`s demand for an "apology" is based on a huge lie targeting Heston and the NRA--a lie that punctuates the film.

Everything about this assertion is fabricated. Earlier in the film, he sets up his bullying Heston interview using footage of something that never happened.

At the end of a horrifying segment showing security camera videos of Columbine murderers Kevin Harris and Dylan Klebold gunning down classmates, we see news clips of sobbing teenagers. Moore cuts to footage of NRA President Charlton Heston`s famous oration signature holding a flintlock rifle above his head and saying, "... from my cold, dead hands."

Here Moore intones: "Just to days after the Columbine killings--despite the pleas of a community in mourning -Charlton Heston came to Denver and held a large pro-gun rally for the National Rifle Association."

Actually, Heston never said those words in Denver. The footage of Heston with the rifle is from another event held a year later in Charlotte, NC. (In fact, the first part of Heston`s statement was spliced from an entirely different appearance--that one not in Denver, either.) Moore`s visual assertion is a complete fraud.

Further, there was no such thing as a "rally" after the tragic mass murder at Columbine.

Two weeks following the murders, the NRA held its annual corporate meetings, which had been scheduled there since February 1995, in Denver. Normally, the yearly convention includes exhibits, an annual banquet and many smaller events for the entertainment and education of members. All were canceled in deference to the grief over the murders--a grief shared by NRA members.

Only those sessions required by NRA bylaws were held, including the Annual Meeting of Members. At that meeting, Mr. Heston`s speech was somber, and in all presentations there great dignity and honor were exhibited by everyone who spoke about the victims of Columbine.

The real story of the meeting was of grown men--cowboys and tough, working men--sitting, heads bowed, brushing away tears at the thought of the tragedy. It was not a rally, but more of a memorial. The only "rally" was a raucous demonstration held by the Million Mom March across the street.

As for Flint, what did Moore say? ". . . the community that had just gone through this . . . doing that at that time . . ."

The only rally that occurred in Flint was eight months alter time tragedy, a political rally to support George W. Bush`s candidacy--one among many multi-state appearances. Flint was critical to the campaign because of its high dual union/NRA membership. Yet Moore leaves viewers believing that NRA showed up the day after the shooting and held a pep rally.

If Moore`s bullying treatment of Heston on screen is dishonest, small and mean, what Moore left out was even worse. He told commingsoon.net--an online magazine--on Oct. 30, 2002:

"The reason we were in L.A. was because we went out to the gun manufacturer that made the Saturday Night Special that killed the little girl in Flint. So, I wanted to trace the gun back to where it was originally made. It was one of the ideas for the film that didn`t end up in the film, but that`s why we were Out here shooting. And I had got that gun, the exact model and everything and I wanted to present the gun to him as a present. I don`t want to threaten him with a gun because I don`t want him to think he`s got a gun pointed at him, so I`m just holding up in a paper bag and said,`Mr. Heston, 1 also want to give you the gun, the same kind of gun that killed this little girl.` In the editing room, I just thought, `That`s harsh.` It`s rough enough just watching what I`m already doing. I mean, he`s an old man and he`s recovering from hip-replacement surgery, so he`s walking very hard. I`m a human being. I disagree with him politically, but I feel for him as a person. I treated him with respect . . ."

Respect? It was nothing more than a hatchet job based upon a lie, and Moore knows that.

The entire "gun violence` theme of Moore`s film is built around Columbine and Flint--events which Moore colors and shades with dishonesty and guile by using innuendo, ignoring critically important facts, changing the timeline to create a false chronology and then salting it all down with outright lies.

Here`s another example.

After showing the security video montage of the Columbine Murders Moore says, "It is believed that all of the guns that they used were all legally purchased at gun stores and gun shows

In truth, Harris and Kiebold had violated at least 20 different state and federal firearms laws.

Moore never mentions that the murderers had threatened other kids, and that the threats were ignored. And he never explores the fact that they had made a film of their own--a school-project video where the future murderers in black trench coats moved through the halls of the school pretending to gun down classmates.

Moore never mentions anything except that American society, American culture and American values are solely to blame for the acts of these two cold-blooded killers.

Moore goes to the Lockheed Martin plant in Littleton and with a backdrop of huge rocket boosters says, "So you don`t think our kids say to themselves, `Dad goes off to the factory every day, he builds missiles of mass destruction. What`s the difference between that mass destruction and the mass destruction over at Columbine High School?"

But these "missiles" were actually rocket boosters used in placing TV satellites in orbit, a fact ferreted out by Forbes magazine.

Moore then cuts to a montage of what he considers American foreign policy atrocities with headlines superimposed over stock black and white news footage. With a soundtrack of Louis Armstrong singing "It`s a Wonderful World" Moore blithely credits America with killing or murdering millions of people--in Vietnam, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Panama.

Some of the headlines read:

"1990: Iraq invades Kuwait with weapons from the U.S." (The footage here is of a Soviet armored personnel carrier)

"1991 U. S. enters Iraq"

"Bush reinstates dictator of Kuwait"

"1991 to present: American planes bomb Iraq on a weekly basis"

"UN estimates 500,000 Iraqi children die from bombing and sanctions"

"2000-01: U.S. gives Taliban-ruled Afghanistan $245 million in `aid`" (The truth is "aid" given to the Taliban came via the United Nations as food aid to overcome an impending famine.)

The final headline says: Sept. 11, 2001: Osama bin Laden used expert CIA training to murder 3,000 people.

So there it is. It`s all our fault. The tragedy of Sept. 11 is on each of our heads as Americans. According to Moore, we are all guilty.

This is all sweet music if you are a radical revolutionary spitting on Old Glory or if you are a militant Islamic fundamentalist looking for something to shore up your hatred of America. Moore might as well call America the Great Satan.

Moore`s extremely brief actual Columbine segment is sandwiched between video of his outrage at being free to buy a hunting rifle at a bank as a premium for opening a long-term CD; then to footage of Moore hanging out and sounding agreeable with the Michigan Militia.

There`s also an interview with the truly strange brother of Oklahoma City bomber Terry Nichols, a disturbed individual who purportedly puts a .44 Mag to his head at one point. This is what Sarah Brady cynically refers to as "interviews with gun enthusiasts`

The film even contains a snippet about a hunter who was shot after tying his rifle to his dog. Bowling for Columbine shows the actual video of the cute beagle pup togged out in an orange safety vest with the rifle strapped on.

Mike Pesca, WNYC Radio`s producer-at-large, one of the few members of the mainstream media to take even a cursory look at Moore`s "facts` called Michigan hunter safety authorities and discovered the footage of the beagle was faked. But the phony clip serves well Moore`s purpose--to paint American hunters as morons.

Another low point of this so-called "documentary" is a segment from South Park, which anti-gunner Brady simply called "a cartoon skit representing the history of guns in America." It is, in fact, much broader than that. Titled "A Brief History of the United States of America` it mirrors Moore`s theme about fear driving America.

"And in 1871 when the (Ku Klux) Klan became an illegal terrorist organization, another group was founded--the National Rifle Association. Soon politicians passed one of the first gun laws making it illegal for any black person to own one. It was a great year for America, the KKK and the NRA."

At this point in the voice-over, a cartoon NRA member pours gasoline at the base of a cross, while a cartoon Klansman watches with an evil grin.

"Of course they had nothing to do with each other, and this was just a coincidence."

Under these words, the cartoon Klansman torches the gas and the cross is burning, while the toon NRA member grins.

The narrative continues. . . "One group legally promoted responsible gun ownership, and the other group shot and lynched black people."

So-called critics used words like "hilarious"rollicking" and "fun" to describe this slanderous outrage.

Moore`s obsession with racism permeates his view of America and especially his take on Flint.

On Feb. 29, 2000, the nation and the world was shocked by the murder of 6-year-old Kayla Rolland at her school by a 6-year-old classmate.

Headlines from the March 1, 2000, Detroit Free Press--which covered every aspect of the case in depth--told the story: "Boy`s home `shameful`--Police find drugs in trash-strewn residence.` The lead of that story read, "The first grader started his days amid drugs, stolen guns, ammunition and scattered trash at his uncle`s home, where he and his 8-year-old brother were left by their mother a week ago."

Or this: "The family portrait: Crack, crime and jail--Boy`s pattern was cut by generations before."

The story said, "The boy`s father, Dedric Owens, is in jail for a parole violation. So is an uncle, Sir-Marcus Winfrey, on a stolen property warrant. The boy`s mother, Tamarla Owens, is `involved with drugs` and allegedly abused the boy`s older brother, according to court filings."

These were critical elements to understanding why this terrible event happened. But not one word of any of this sad depravity made it into Moore`s coverage. Instead, Moore launches into a truly weird rap about the conditions that led to the 6-year-old pulling the trigger.

"Tamarla Owens was the mother of the 6-year-old boy," Moore says in the film. "In order to get food stamps and health care for her children, Tamarla was forced to work as part of the state of Michigan`s welfare to work program.

"This program was so successful in tossing poor people off welfare that its founder, Gerald Miller, was soon hired by the number one firm in the nation that states turned to privatize their welfare systems. That firm was Lockheed Martin."

"With the cold war over and no enemy left to frighten the public, Lockheed had found the perfect way to diversify and the perfect way to profit from the people`s fears with an enemy much closer to home--the black mothers like Tamarla Owens."

This is his connection between Columbine and Flint and the military industrial complex--the engine Moore believes is running the Great Satan. And it`s his connection to white racism.

The film didn`t include a word about what the mainstream media had been reporting worldwide--just a riff about workfare, fear and race. Nothing about drugs, stolen guns, the crack house where the kid stayed.

Why would Moore leave these salient facts out? And where did Moore`s workfare rant come from?

Perusing a well-known Web search engine--Google--perhaps provides the answer. Type in the string, "Tamarla Owens" and you get a list of articles with headlines from the Detroit Free Press, the Associated Press and newspapers worldwide, all echoing the horrible truth about the abusive conditions the child/murderer lived under.

But there is one that jumps off the page--one that is much different than the others. The headline reads:

"Michigan school shooting: a tragic consequence of U.S. welfare `reform.`"

Click on the link and you find the article. There it is--point by point identical to Moore`s thesis. And at the top of the article is a masthead: World Socialist Web site. The date on the piece is April 28, 2000.

That site has a very good internal search engine. Type in "Littleton" and you get a series of articles and editorials on the Columbine murders--all saying precisely what Moore says about that as well.

The article, "A nation at war . . . with itself` refers to "the corrosive impact on this society of the death and destruction that America visits upon people beyond its borders."

Another article, "the Columbine High School massacre: American Pastoral . . . American Berserk" says, "The deed itself represented an extreme application of the selfish and inhuman attitudes that are commonplace in American society today . . . ."

That is exactly what Moore says in his movie, and it is what he says consistently in interviews, both before and since.

If you wonder who these seers are who share Michael Moore`s vision, click on the link, "About WSWS." Here`s what you get:

"The World Socialist Web site is the Internet center of the International Committee of the Fourth International (ICFI) . . . The standpoint of this Web site is one of revolutionary opposition to the capitalist market system. Its aim is the establishment of world socialism."

So what on earth is the ICFI? The answer is just a click of the computer mouse away.

"The International Committee of the Fourth International (ICFI) is the leadership of the world socialist movement, the Fourth International Founded by Leon Trotsky in 1938 . . . ."

Ain`t the Internet grand!

Did these self-proclaimed "Trotskyites" rip off Michael Moore`s thesis? The answer is "no." as their articles predate Moore`s film.

So is this plagiarism, inspiration or coincidence?

Coincidence is unlikely, since there is a clear indication that Moore knows these people. Asking the search engine to find "Michael Moore," it links to an interview with something called "The IWB"--a site that includes this testimonial by a "reader in Philadelphia":"Congratulations on your Web site on the Internet. I think the layout is excellent and very professional. I am very excited to find genuine Marxist writing, finally. What has been available under socialism and Trotskyism until now had been truly pathetic."

Moore`s June 20, 2000, interview with the IWB is headlined: "The media in this country is one lie repeated over and over again."

Asked a question suggesting that the American people were duped by the media into supporting a war against the Serbs, Moore responded: "I see once again the liberals supporting this sort of thing. People don`t see what`s really going on here. I think the media in this country is one lie repeated over and over again. And everyone just buys into the same lie, and it gets repeated enough and then it`s the truth."

He`s purportedly talking about the same U.S. mainstream media that is in love with his film and with virtually every project he touches. But there is more--this time on the entertainment media.

Moore was asked about his experience in American television. At the time, FOX was running his short-lived television show, "TV Nation?`

"The executives don`t like the show. They put it on because they believe they can make money.

"That`s one of the great ironies of capitalism. They will give you the rope to hang themselves with. I mean they`ll sell it to you. It is an extreme irony that we`re on the Rupert Murdoch station."

Only a few people in the media have acknowledged the leaning of Moore`s politics and philosophy. Instead he is almost always painted as a scruffy, lovable "populist" in jeans and a ball cap. Populist?

Clothes may make the man, but would Leon Trotsky look like a lovable "populist" if he dressed in scruffy jeans, sneakers and a dirty ball-cap?

In a 1989 Los Angeles Times review of Moore`s first film--Roger and Me--a "documentary" trashing corporate America with respect to General Motors plant closings in 1986, the reviewer says, it "looks like paint by the numbers Marxism..." cited Moore as having "an extensive leftwing political activist background." Remarkably, the reviewer cited Moore`s having cheated on the chronology of events depicted in that film, too. Among the reordering of events, Moore used a 1980 speech by Ronald Reagan as if it occurred after 1986 plant closings in Flint.

The subject of just how far left Michael Moore`s views are came up in an interview with NBC`s Tim Russert, who asked, "You consider yourself a liberal?"

Moore answered, ". . . I`m liberal, progressive, left of--way left of center . . . When you say liberal to me, I`m going, `You didn`t go far enough,` you know. I`m further than that,you know."

Russert says, "Far out, pinky, wacko liberal," and Moore replies,". . . I am way out there liberal."

Moore was taunting Russert, playing with him. It`s like one of those weird notes made from cutout newspaper headlines--"stop me before I kill again . . ."

The media and Hollywood have embraced Moore`s film unquestioningly because they think it is an attack on the gun culture, something they despise. But it is actually an attack on American culture, on American society, on us, the American people. And it is an attack on the media itself.

Like Fox broadcasting, the big corporate media that embrace Moore, celebrate his cause and promote his so-called documentary are simply providing the rope with which to hang themselves.

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