I enjoyed Bowling for Columbine
. Coming out of the theater, I thought the message was a little muddled, and I'd choked on a few statistics he'd given that I could clearly tell were misleading. I liked Michael Moore
's work on TV nation
. I've slowly grown to despise the film.
First off, I don't have a problem with Mike's message, muddled though it might be. I'm not sure what causes gun violence either, and while I believe in our right to keep guns, I also believe they should be heavily regulated. I agree that the media induces fear in people, makes them think they are living in a more violent and divisive society than they are, and thus makes them more prone to resort to using guns.
I'm not against his message, but his method. He's claiming this movie as a documentary, and that to me implies some amount of objectivity, at least a commitment to not be misleading.
Why is a movie making the claim that 'the number of guns in America isn't the problem' attacking the NRA?
He gives us a bunch of number on gun deaths in various countries, but doesn't bother to give them per capita. So were left thinking the US is 11,127/165 = 67 times as gun violent as Canada. When, adjusted for population (~30 million vs ~280 million) that figure is closer to 7.5 times as violent. Sure, even then this would support his point that we're more violent, but he's being misleading and inflating his numbers. His failure to compare apples to apples weakens his argument in my opinion.
Why is a movie claiming that 'scare mongering in the media about gun violence is what's causing the violence' giving misleading statistics on gun violence?
He's even worse with the one statistic that stuck in my mind: Canada has 7 million guns in 10 million households. His argument is that, therefore, it can't be all the guns in America that make us more violent. First off, now he's willing to start giving numbers "per capita," making the statistic even worse by bloating it to households. More importantly, he gives us absolutely no US numbers to compare to. That is because those numbers go against his point. Americans have 3 times as many guns per capita as Canadians, and 7 times as many handguns, again per capita.
Hmm, taking into account population and actual handgun ownership, Canada has almost the same rate of gun homicide per handgun. (~7.5 times as many deaths, 7 times as many handguns, both per capita) His failure to give statistics to compare to, particularly when they have a major influence in his claim (that the increased gun violence in the US is not caused by more guns,) leaves a major hole in his argument.
I wish I could find the numbers he gave, but he dismisses the idea that it might be racial division in the US by saying that Canada has minorities too. He gives a figure (I think it was 15%) without giving the US number to compare to (around 35% counting Latinos). I am not claiming that racial tension, or minorities contribute to gun violence, only that Mike's argument fails when the statistics he quotes don't back him up.
Why is it that Mike gets to rail against pundits using biased statistics and giving limited information, but it's okay for Mike to use them to prove -his- point?
Mike claims that it can't be poverty in Canada either. He backs this up by claiming that the unemployment rate in Canada is almsot double that of the US. He fails to mention that the poverty rate in Canada is almost half that of the US.
Looking around on the web, there are also a few things that he says that just aren't true. The commercial he shows about Willie Horton does not exist. The closing screen "Willie Horton released. Then kills again" appears to have been added by Moore. It's not from the original commercial, and it's is factually incorrect (Horton raped, not killed, a woman.) He also makes the claim that $243 million was given to the Taliban for stopping the production of opium. All of this money was given to United Nations humanitarian organizations operating in Afghanistan, not to the Taliban. He claims that the plant near Columbine is creating weapons of mass destruction when it actually creates rockets to launch satellites.
Its make me stop listening to any of Mike's arguments when I see tactics designed to mislead built into his arguments. I'm not going to listen to him tell me that the media is biased when he's presenting me with biased facts. His claims that corporations are hiding information falls short when I see him doing the same. His claims to the objectivity of a documentarian are destroyed by the clear bias of his reporting. I'd prefer to just look at the movie as entertainment and comedy, but I cannot when it clearly intends to be so much more, and relies on the laxness of his audience to maintain that illusion. All in all, I'm left feeling betrayed by Mike. He's not so much a documentarian anymore as a propagandist.
I did lots of poking around and googling to find out what I could.
Most of the data comes from www.census.gov and www.statcan.ca
The factual inaccuracies are mentioned in an article on spinsanity:
Doh! Starke's excellent writeup went in while I was writing my own. Ah well.