An Inclusive Litany

5/1/03

Accepting his Academy Award for best documentary, Michael Moore—director of Bowling for Columbine, an examination of American gun culture using the Littleton, Colorado, school massacre as a launching point—invited his fellow nominees to join him onstage.

"They are here in solidarity with me because we like nonfiction," Moore explained, "and we live in fictitious times. We live in a time where we have fictitious election results that elect a fictitious president. We live in a time where we have a man sending us to war for fictitious reasons, whether it's the fictition [sic] of duct tape or the fictitious [sic] of orange alerts. We are against this war, Mr. Bush. Shame on you, Mr. Bush, shame on you." By the end of Moore's presentation, the audience was loudly booing.

Despite Moore's professed fondness for nonfiction, Daniel Lyons of Forbes notes numerous errors and misrepresentations in the film for which he won the best documentary award:

  • The film depicts Moore walking out of a bank in Traverse City, Michigan, with a gun supposedly provided as a gift for opening an account there. Moore jokes as he walks out, "Here's my first question: do you think it's a little dangerous handing out guns at a bank?" But the entire scene must have been staged, because it's only by purchasing a long-term CD that the gift applies, and even then customers must go to a gun store to pick out the weapon following a required background check conducted through the local sheriff's office.
  • Moore suggests that the two teenagers who perpetuated the Columbine massacre in Littleton, Colorado, were partly influenced by the manufacture of "weapons of mass destruction" at a nearby Lockheed Martin plant. The plant actually makes space-launch vehicles for television satellites.
  • In a survey of American foreign policy, Moore claims the U.S. gave $245 million in aid to Afghanistan's Taliban regime in 2000 and 2001. But the aid actually consisted of food assistance programs administered by the United Nations and non-governmental organizations to relieve an impending famine.
  • Moore recounts a 2000 school shooting in which a six-year old boy found a gun in his uncle's house, brought it to a Flint, Michigan school, and shot and killed a six-year-old girl. Moore surmises that the shooting happened because the boy's mother, Tamarla Owens, had to work 40 miles away at two minimum wage jobs, and had to leave her son in the care of her brother. That is, if it were not for the stringency of the state's welfare-to-work laws, she would have been able to adequately supervise her son and thus prevent the shooting.

    But in fact, the uncle's house at which Owens dropped off her son was a crack house, filled with guns that were often traded for drugs. Tamarla herself was a drug addict who admitted she held down her oldest son so he could be beaten with a belt by two male friends. She also admitted she beat the boy with a belt while sitting on him, after first duct-taping his hands, feet and mouth. So it's unclear what benefit her parental supervision would have provided the boy.

  • Even the film's title, Bowling for Columbine, represents an error. According to initial news reports, the two teenagers who perpetrated the attack had gone to a bowling class the morning of the massacre. But Littleton police say the two students skipped the class the day of their rampage.

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