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April 30, 2007 | by  | in Film |
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Bowling for Columbine (2002)

With the recent Virginia Tech massacre I’m not sure what I find more disturbing: a society that produces a never-ending stream of massacres, or that the same society refuses to examine why they are happening.

The powerful, privileged, and elite of America will of course tell people they need to be strong and move on, as any serious inspection of what’s going on will threaten their position. I don’t expect anything from people at the top of the system other than to defend that system, no matter how degenerate it becomes.

Who I do expect to be honest social critics are the artists, but due to conformity, commercialism, and a bleak political outlook, they have given up their traditional role. This has left the job in the hands of vague and self-indulgent liberals like Michael Moore.

However: if you can wade though all the ambiguous bollocks, two very important points can be found in Moore’s Bowling for Columbine which attempted to explore the reasons behind 1999’s Columbine High School massacre. The first of these is that there are social problems that are the root of America’s gun violence. Inequality, massive poverty, and attacks on the poor like Workfare (work for the dole) have torn communities apart. A racist system that doesn’t hesitate to imprison and disenfranchise minority groups has become a breeding ground for hatred.

Systemic sexism grinds women down and forces them into the worst and most vulnerable of circumstances. Aggressive US foreign policy that has no regard for human life has had a negative impact at home. All this, combined with a ruthless free-market ideology, has created an increasingly atomised and alienated population. Increasingly many people are being pushed over the edge.

The second point hidden in this unclear film is that instead of trying to fix these problems, the US government has used these tragedies to create a culture of fear: fear of crime, black men, immigrants, terrorism, and whatever else is needed to manufacture consent for authoritarian laws, brutal prisons, and wars of profit.

It would be easy to turn this into crass anti-Americanism, but it’s important to remember that America is really a great place full of cool people with an amazing history, and that it’s just the parasites at the top of society dragging everything down. And that’s a problem the whole world faces.


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