Fear in the U.S. – documentary blames gun-nuts, media

After seeing “Bowling for Columbine,” I feel guilty. First, for wanting a job in mass media. Second, for ever having lived in fear.

Despite its title, this movie isn’t a dedication to the tragedies in Littleton. It isn’t a look into the psyche of the murderers, although creator Michael Moore provokes harsh criticisms of those who do such things.

It examines the violence, fear and ignorance that exists in society and questions why over 11,000 people die each year due to gun violence.

Using both horror and humor to get his message across, Moore explores American ideology by talking to celebrities, making comparisons to life in Canada and critiquing the media.

Everyone has heard some kind of hype that the mass media has created: Y2K, killer bees and, more recently, though not mentioned in the film, duct tape. And what has happened? Nothing.

Yet, we are still afraid. Why? Moore blames it on the top stories that always involve some form of violence. In Canada, however, top stories are more humane. After interviewing a Canadian media expert, Moore found out that his lead stories are usually about medicine, taking care of the sick and elderly and political negotiations.

Though Canada has the same television violence, gun laws and even higher unemployment rates than the U.S., Moore suggests that our news media instills a greater sense of fear into its public, in turn making us quicker to react with violence.

“In the U.S., it’s just like ‘we’ll kill you’ and that’s the end of that,” a Canadian woman said, attempting to explain the difference that she perceives to exist between the bordering countries. Is this the image that our media really gives off?

Besides showing the media as they appear on camera, Moore filmed a reporter during and after a serious broadcast of a school shooting. Somber and sad on camera, the newscaster was nothing more than a whiny actor off-camera. When the cameras stopped rolling, in a lighthearted manner, he complained about his need for a hair cut while demanding a doughnut.

Other apathetic actors, such as Dick Clark, who owns a restaurant where poor people serve the rich for minimum wages, and Charlton Heston, president of the National Rifle Association, seemed baffled by Moore’s questioning. Clark refused to give Moore the time of day, while Heston couldn’t break his chain of circular reasoning and succumbed to Moore’s wit.

The famous interviewee with the most intelligent commentary had to be Marilyn Manson, who completely backed up Moore’s suggestion that it was bowling, rather than music or video games, that influenced the behavior of the Columbine murderers. Of course, Moore doesn’t really believe this. He just uses it as a metaphor since the Columbine murderers bowled during their first period class before the massacres. He jokes that bowling had as much influence on their actions as the music they listened to, hence the title.

Continuing with his critique of the media, Moore examined the popular show “Cops” and how its stereotypical criminals were black or of some other minority. He portrayed the fear that is drilled into peoples’ heads because of race, and suggested that this fear be balanced out by a show called “Corporate Cops.”

All humor aside, the film was a tear-jerker at some points. Interviews with survivors of the Columbine shootings, along with actual hidden camera footage of students squatting under tables in the cafeteria, brought the situation almost too close to home.

Besides its riveting emotional effects, the film makes you question your belief in what the media says. It leaves you wondering who is worse: Marilyn Manson for singing about evil things or President Bush for actually dropping bombs on people.

And it makes you think twice about being afraid of what you normally fear. After learning that Canadians never lock their doors at night and feel safe, I made the conscious effort not to lock the car doors when I got into the car after the movie. But only a minute later, my mom hit the automatic lock button and we both laughed.

“I can’t help it,” she said. “It’s just a habit.”