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Moore's message: racist white America is scared

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Bill Jenkins reviews Bowling for Colombine, directed by Michael Moore, on general release

The Colombine massacre. After waking early and taking in a visit to the local bowling alley, two suburban white boys from Littleton, Colorado, a week from graduation, walk into their far too normal school and indiscriminately shoot and bomb their class mates and teachers.

Except it's not that indiscriminate. They kill the black boy in the library because he's black. Bowling has a lot to answer for, if it is capable of sparking such a murderous rampage.

Well it's either that or Marilyn Manson, for all the insight demonstrated by the countless television experts and religious evangelists shown in Michael Moore's new film, Bowling for Colombine.

Using his familiar melange of interview, exposure, vintage and contemporary film, Moore tries to give a better explanation. Contrasting the banal with the ridiculous, Bowling is funny, sad and often extremely powerful. Moore's interviews reveal why his work is so insightful and engaging. He simply asks people "Why?" Allowing them to explain their motivation and beliefs without feeding them a line.

So from the Michigan Militia, which gave us the Oklahoma bomber Tim McVeigh, to the Canadian kids bunking off class, he gives a platform to the prejudices, fears and insights of ordinary people. But this is not any random collection of ideas. Moore is quite clear why the Colombine Massacre took place. For him it boils down to three connected facts.

First, the all-pervasive violence and hypocrisy which runs through corporate America. One irony the film reveals is that Lockheed Martin, the largest arms manufacturer in the world and the firm that runs the "welfare to work" scheme in Flint, Michigan, builds its missiles in Littleton. The USA and its allies in the Western Europe have bombed and killed their way through history using Lockheed's hardware.

Second, the endemic racism of the USA. Gun ownership only became commonplace in the late sixties with the rise of the civil rights movement, when a quarter of a billion guns were purchased by white America.

The film reveals that guns in schools are mainly a problem not in the black inner cities, as the various Hollywood urban gang themed films would have it, but in the white suburbs, tranquil islands of escape populated by scared and scary people, drowning in normality.

Black youth are demonised by the media to frighten white America.

Moore's third and final theme is how corporate America makes heaps of money through perpetuating fear and uses this fear to justify repression. It does this directly through the sale of useless guns, ammunition (available at the barber's while getting a short back and sides!) and self - defence equipment, anti-nerve gas suits and such like. It does it indirectly by manipulating people's fears to divide and weaken working class and poor communities.

The film concludes by interviewing Charlton Heston, faded film star and the leader of the National Rifle Association (NRA).

One major reason why we defend the democratic right of people to bear arms is because one day we may need them to defend ourselves against right-wing nutters who think like Heston.

Every school massacre in the US is followed soon after by an NRA rally, to defend the right of white citizens to shoot people. Moore a model of affable insouciance, allows Heston to voice the racist paranoia of the gun-toting self-defence lobby. Heston blames the USA's 11,000 annual gun deaths on the large number of "ethnics" in America.

Enough said.