Moore's "How to Deal with Lies," just digs him in deeper. This webpage trying to answer criticisms of his veracity actually admits the stronger criticism, ignores most of the rest, and snipes at a few criticisms where he has something of a point. Good! Let's get down to the fun! (If you came here directly, here is my webpage on Moore).
How to Deal with the Lies and the Lying Liars When They Lie about "Bowling for Columbine"
by Michael Moore
Alas, reading Moore's reply, one problem leaps out.He simply omits all the serious criticisms, and instead focuses on the few points where he has something somewhat defensible. Since he never bothers to link to where the original critiques can be found, the reader can never realize how much even Moore himself cannot defend as truthful. The result is not really an answer so much as vague assurances to his true believers that he can reply, and they must continue to believe.
Let me illustrate. Here are the first five criticisms raised on my webpage, and Moore's replies. One he implicitly admits is correct, another he partially ignores and partially admits is correct, and the remaining to the remaining three he makes no reply at all.
1. Willie Horton ad. I pointed out that Moore spliced together two different campaign ads, using mostly one not produced by the Bush-Quayle campaign, yet attributes the resulting edit to that campaign. He also edits in a caption never found on either ad. I'm not original here. Spinsanity criticized Moore's first version for this, and pointed out that his capition was wrong -- it said Horton had killed again, when his second conviction was for assault and rape.
Moore's reply: he ducks the entire issue (and sticks it at the very end of his webpage to hide it, at that):
"Actually, I have found one typo in the theatrical release of the film. It was a caption that read, "Willie Horton released by Dukakis and kills again." In fact, Willie Horton was a convicted murderer who, after escaping from furlough, raped a woman and stabbed her fiancé, but didn't kill him. The caption has been permanently corrected on the DVD and home video version of the film and replaced with, "Willie Horton released. Then rapes a woman." "
Uh--Mike: Spinsanity's criticism was that you doctored the ad, spliced two different ones together to give a false impression, then spliced in a caption that was never in either ad. Your only defense is a concession that you made a typo in the caption you added. And since you consider it a typo, your typo, you basically agree that Spinsanity told the truth.
2A. NRA and Heston at Denver. I point out that Moore doctored footage of Heston, and carefully omitted the fact that after Columbine NRA canceled all of their annual meeting except the voting members' meeting, which New York law (they're a New York corporation) mandated be held.
Moore replies to the doctoring of footage (his reply actually admits that, well, yes, he did splice in non-Denver footage -- I'll answer this below), but never replies to the omission of information about the meeting.
2B. NRA and Heston at Flint (Kayla Martin). I point out that Moore created the false impression that Heston held a progun rally at Flint shortly after (as little as 48 hours after) the shooting, and in response to it. Actually, the rally was a presidential campaign rally, just before the elections, eight months after the tragedy and having no connection to it.Bush and Gore both held rallies in Flint the same day, and Moore's candidate, Nader, had held one shortly before. Moore creates the impression that Heston is lying when he says there was no connection, when actually that is the truth.
Moore's reply: there is none.
3. Animated sequence linking NRA and KKK. Moore's animation suggests that NRA sprang from the KKK. I point out Moore butchers history here. NRA was founded by Union officers, headed by former Union commanders, elected as its president U.S. Grant, who was the greatest enemy the Klan ever had, etc.
Moore's reply: again, there is none.
4. Shooting at Buell Elementary School in Michigan. I point out Moore omits a few facts. The boy who shot Kayla was not the innocent he depicts. He was violent, has committed stabbings of other students, and his family were the neighborhood crack dealers.
Moore's reply: onec again, there is none.
I'm getting a bit tired of listing Moore's non-replies, so let's get down to what he does say.
Quoth Moore: "One thing you get used to when you're in what's called "the public eye" is reading the humorous fiction that others like to write about you. For instance, I have read in quite respectable and trustworthy publications that a) I'm a college graduate (I'm not), b) I was a factory worker (I quit the first day), and c) I have two brothers (I have none). Newsweek wrote that I live in a penthouse on Central Park West (I live above a Baby Gap store, and not on any park), and the Internet Movie Database once listed me as the director of the Elvis movie, "Blue Hawaii" ( I was 6 at the time the film was made, but I was quite skilled in directing my sisters in building me a snowman). Lately, my favorite mistake is the one many reviewers made crediting the cartoon in "Bowling for Columbine" as being the work of the "South Park" creators. It isn't. I wrote it and my buddy Harold Moss's animation studio drew it."
Reply: Moore doesn't cite any sources for most of the above, and they're pretty minor. I'll briefly note here, in response to the ones I have seen:
As far as having been a factory worker, Moore has no standing to complain.He loves to create that impression (far better for his role than an accurate description as a millionaire living in NY City). "Moore said his roots shape his work. "It's part of being from the working class--we're not very well mannered," he said." Source. He addresses letters as "Michael Moore, Flint," even tho he lives in NYC, etc. Example. Another.
He boasts of his million dollar apartment on the stylish end of NYC. "The local paper in Flint has never written the words, "and he lives in a beautiful apartment on the Upper West Side of Manhattan," because the local paper in Flint hates me." Source. Of his liberal critics, he says "They're just pissed because they're not sitting in this apartment. They went to all the right schools, and they paid a lot of money. I didn't even fucking go to college. I went for a year and dropped out. They played by the rules, and now they're a grunt at Newsweek or The New Yorker or someplace like that, and they want to know why they're living with five other people in a five-floor walk-up down in the East Village, and now they have to move to Jersey City." (same source).
True, he's not "on" Central Park -- he's two blocks west of it, in a million-and-up office and condo building with doorman, concierge, and indoor pool.
Moss indeed animated the cartoon -- and Moore went out of his way to tie it to South Park, imitating the South Park style, inserting elsewhere real South Park footage, and interviewing Matt Stone, one of South Park's creators, at length not long before the footage is shown, and listing him in the credits. It's safe to say he positively wanted viewers to assume that the South Park creators had done the cartoon.
Enough of that. Let's get down to the meat of his defense.
The Bank Scene
The bank scene isn't on my own main webpage. It's on a secondary page, devoted to criticisms I omitted and why. On the page, I note that staging a scene is permissible in a documentary, and that my investigation indicates this was a staged scene which probably departed somewhat from fact, but nowhere near as far as the rest of the movie.
So far as I could find--the bank probably can transfer guns on the spot, since it is licensed as a federal firearms dealer, and can order up the FBI background checks. Where Moore seems to have departed from fact is that I doubt it has a full inventory of Weatherby firearms (unit price of $800 to $15,000, with many variations, so full inventory would cost a good part of a million, for each branch office). The firearms are instead ordered from wholesalers as each is requested by a depositor, and that takes days or weeks.
Moore: "The Truth: . . . .When you see me going in to the bank and walking out with my new gun in "Bowling for Columbine" that is exactly as it happened. Nothing was done out of the ordinary other than to phone ahead and ask permission to let me bring a camera in to film me opening up my account."
And, of course, to advance-order the rifle desired.
"I walked into that bank in northern Michigan for the first time ever on that day in June 2001, and, with cameras rolling, gave the bank teller $1,000 and opened up a 20-year CD account. After you see me filling out the required federal forms ("How do you spell Caucasian?") which I am filling out here for the first time the bank manager faxed it to the bank's main office for them to do the background check. The bank is a licensed federal arms dealer and thus can have guns on the premises and do the instant background checks"
Does put a slightly different take on Moore's purpose, which is to show how easy it is to get a firearm. Go to a licensed dealer, take out a twenty-year CD, get an FBI background check and clearance. . . .
The Lockheed Factory.
Again, a criticism that I moved to the omitted page, since it proved hard to get firsthand verification of key data, and I wanted that. Mike's defense here is so long that I can't justify spending pages on it. Suffice it to say--
He says that the Littleton plant built Titans for nuke missiles, beginning in the 1950s. He omits that Titans (whereever built) were closed out for nuclear use by the SALT talks, and most of their silos were dynamited, around 1980-82. I should know: one of the two remaining silos is a museum some miles south of me. The door is welded open so that recon satellites can see in and verify there's no missile inside.
He talks about the Littleton plant "partially assembling" missiles or "instruments" for other military projects in the 1980s or having "played a role" in development of the Peacekeeper missile, a project attempted around then.
Moore: "The Titan IV rockets manufactured in Littleton have been critical to the war effort in both Afghanistan and Iraq. These rockets launched advanced satellites that were "instrumental in providing command-and-control operations over Iraq...for the rapid targeting of Navy Tomahawk cruise missiles involved in Iraqi strikes and clandestine communications with Special Operations Forces."
Not exactly "weapons of mass destruction," eh? But compared to Moore's other whoppers, here he's at least in the parking lot, if not in the ballpark itself, so I gave him credit and put the issue on my omitted criticism page, to explain why it wasn't to be found on the main page.
Heston, NRA, and Denver.
Moore: "The oddest of all the smears thrown at "Bowling for Columbine" is this one: "The film depicts NRA president Charlton Heston giving a speech near Columbine; he actually gave it a year later and 900 miles away."
Clever, but that's not what I said. I said (a) Moore edits in the beginning of the speech -- "from my cold dead hands" from a speech never made at Denver, but a year later and 900 miles away and (b) in the remainder of the Denver speech, edits Heston's video, cleverly covering the splices, to assemble a speech which was not given. He actually makes a splice in the middle of one sentence.
Moore continues: "Um, yeah, that's right! I made it up! Heston never went there! He never said those things! Or.... The Truth: Heston took his NRA show to Denver"
Notice that Moore does not answer the point that NRA canceled everything but the one voting meeting it was legally required to have, and that Moore deleted from Heston's speech the statement that all the meetings, dinners and such had been canceled.
"and did and said exactly what we recounted."
Watch for the sleight of hand here. Moore is about to pull a shell game, and his hands are moving fast.
"From the end of my narration setting up Heston's speech in Denver, with my words, "a big pro-gun rally,""
How fast he moved! The "Cold dead hands" sequence he spliced in came just before his narration. He shows Heston speaking, then shows a billboard as he narrates (to ensure you forget that Heston has a blue shirt in one sequence and a white one in the next), and then goes back to Heston, giving you the impression it's a continuation of the speech. Nope, it's two speeches spliced together, and Moore's defense is in fact an admission of the splicing.
"every word out of Charlton Heston's mouth was uttered right there in Denver,"
A little more sleight of hand. If I splice together Moore saying "I venerate the memory of the firefighters and policemen who died trying to save people from the terrorists on 9/11" and turn it into "I venerate the memory of the terrorists of 9/11," he did say every word, yes, but that's no defense of having butchered his statement.
"just 10 days after the Columbine tragedy. But don't take my word read the transcript of his whole speech."
Do that. Here is the comparison.
"Heston devotes the entire speech to challenging the Denver mayor and mocking the mayor's pleas that the NRA "don't come here.""
Read it. Heston points out that he and many NRA members have served their country, that since NRA members are already in Denver's police and fire squads, its schools and businesses and government, it is already here.
"Far from deliberately editing the film to make Heston look worse, I chose to leave most of this out and not make Heston look as evil as he actually was."
Evil, a curious choice of word. But common to narcissists, who see the world as divided into good (those who agree completely with them) and evil (anyone who differs with them).
Sure, Mike, you took out "So, we have the same right as all other citizens to be here. To help shoulder the grief and share our sorrow and to offer our respectful, reassured voice to the national discourse that has erupted around this tragedy," because that made Heston sound too evil for your taste? Or was it "NRA members are, above all, Americans. That means that whatever our differences, we are respectful of one another and we stand united, especially in adversity" that appalled you? Or "shocked and horrified as every other soul in America mourning for the people of Littleton."?
"Why are these gun nuts upset that their brave NRA leader's words are in my film? You'd think they would be proud of the things he said. Except, when intercut with the words of a grieving father"
And cut and pasted to make them sound arrogant, whereas the original was dignified and concilliatory. And how does "far from editing the film to make Heston look worse" fit in here?
"suddenly Charlton Heston doesn't look so good does he? Especially to the people of Denver (and, the following year, to the people of Flint) who were still in shock"
Too bad Moore still doesn't reply to my point about Flint.It was an election rally during the campaign swing, with both Gore and Bush in Flint speaking, eight months later and had nothing to do with the tragedy.
"over the tragedies when Heston showed up. As for the clip preceding the Denver speech, when Heston proclaims "from my cold dead hands," this appears as Heston is being introduced in narration."
Ah, Moore is making a retreat here. You should have been smart enough to understand that "Cold dead hands" was just meant as an introduction, not to make you think Heston ever said that at Denver. If you thought it was said at Denver, Mike implies, that was your mistake, not his. You just don't understand his editing. Sure, Mike, you never meant people to believe that. Sure.....
"It is Heston's most well-recognized NRA image hoisting the rifle overhead as he makes his proclamation, as he has done at virtually every political appearance on behalf of the NRA (before and since Columbine)."
Wrong. I can find no record of Heston using the words before May 2000, when he was presented with a handmade custom rifle in Charlotte, North Carolina. He has used it a few times since then (hardly at every political appearance), but had never used it before that I can find. It is noticeable that Mike has no links here.
"I have merely re-broadcast an image supplied to us by a Denver TV station, an image which the NRA has itself crafted for the media, or, as one article put it, "the mantra of dedicated gun owners" which they "wear on T-shirts, stamp it on the outside of envelopes, e-mail it on the Internet and sometimes shout it over the phone.". Are they now embarrassed by this sick, repulsive image and the words that accompany it?"
Calm down, Mike, or someone might start talking about your own statements. Let's see -- 9/11 was a tragedy because the terrorists should have hit someplace where they could kill people who voted for Bush. The people on the airplanes were "scaredy-cats."
Moore: "I've also been accused of making up the gun homicide counts in the United States and various countries around the world. That is, like all the rest of this stuff, a bald-face lie. Every statistic in the film is true. They all come directly from the government. Here are the facts, right from the sources:"
Not terribly useful, since he doesn't tell us where the data can be found, or for what years. An attribution to an agency, or to "the International Journal of Epidemiology," volume, year, author, title omitted, is almost useless here.
"The U.S. figure of 11,127 gun deaths comes from a report from the Center for Disease Control."
Bingo! On my webpage I said that my research indicated Moore's figure probably came from just this source. Confirmation at last!
Too bad Moore doesn't answer the point I made: this figure is thousands higher than the FBI's, and includes police killings of thugs, and uses by citizens in self-defense against criminals.
"Japan's gun deaths of 39 was provided by the National Police Agency of Japan; Germany: 381 gun deaths from Bundeskriminalamt (German FBI); Canada: 165 gun deaths from Statistics Canada, the governmental statistics agency; United Kingdom: 68 gun deaths, from the Centre for Crime and Justice studies in Britain; Australia: 65 gun deaths from the Australian Institute of Criminology; France: 255 gun deaths, from the International Journal of Epidemiology."
Just try finding any of those cites.
Who went "Bowling."
Moore: "Finally, I've even been asked about whether the two killers were at bowling class on the morning of the shootings."
This one's not on my webpage, because it's pretty trivial. And I'm not about to spend hours looking it up. The secondary sources seem to indicate that there is a conflict in witness accounts and evidence. Some say they did, some say they didn't. I don't much care to sort them out.
"Well, that's what their teacher told the investigators, and that's what was corroborated by several eyewitness reports of students to the police, the FBI, and the District Attorney's office. I'll tell you who wasn't there -- me! That's why in the film I pose it as a question: "So did Dylan and Eric show up that morning and bowl two games before moving on to shoot up the school? And did they just chuck the balls down the lane? Did this mean something?"
"Of course, it's a silly discussion,"
I'd agree. That's why I omitted it.
"and it misses the whole, larger point: that blaming bowling for their killing spree would be as dumb as blaming Marilyn Manson. But the gun nuts don't want to discuss either specific points or larger issues"
Strange that Moore brings it up, then, and omits responses to the major points I and others have made, which are listed at the beginning of this page.
because when that debate is held, they lose. Most Americans want stronger gun laws (among others, see the 2001 National Gun Policy Survey from the University of Chicago's National Opinion Research Center) and the gun lobbies know it."
Sorta funny, coming from a fellow whose movie concludes that gun ownership can't be the reason the US has high violence levels -- Canada, Moore says, has guns out the ears and lets anyone buy ammunition. The reason for violence, Moore argues in the movie, is not firearms, but the evening news.
Let's just say he's put himself in a really peculiar position here. And not in any position to complain that the debate is distractive.
"That is why it's critical to distract and alter the debate and go after anyone who questions why we have so many gun deaths in America (especially if he does it in best selling books and popular films)."
"I can guarantee to you, without equivocation, that every fact in my movie is true."
I have to stop for a laugh here. I wonder if there's an intentional joke (for all his problems with veracity, Moore does have quite a sense of humor.) Of course "every fact" in the movie "is true." If untrue, it's not a fact. Goebbels, Nixon, and St. Ralph the Liar could make the same statement. Every fact they have stated is true.
And "equivocation" technically isn't waffling or being evasive. It's equi-vocation. A statement which has two equally accepted meanings, and is used for one, meaning to trick you into believing it was used for the other.
Hmmm... without equivocation, he equivocates?
Moore:. . . "Well, guess what. Total number of lawsuits to date against me or my film by the NRA? NONE. That's right, zero. "
That's becaue Mike is very careful about the law of defamation, which makes it almost impossible for a "public figure" to win.
He should know how to do it by now. He lost a jury verdict in 1993 when he depicted a non-public figure in "Roger and Me," which may be the reason that film has never gotten a TV release. Blurb on suit: I later verified through attorneys that Moore lost and did not appeal.
He lost a big verdict, as in the jury awarding millions to punish for willful misconduct, over "The Awful Truth," but got it reversed because the victim was a public figure. Source. Source on reversal. (From what I can find out about the suit, plaintiff may have made a tactical error, suing the studios that released it rather than Moore, who was at that time a small player with a small pocket. That meant that on appeal the plaintiff had to prove that the studio, as opposed to Moore, had made the false statements with "actual malice," and no one could show the studio had such a state of mind -- it just released what Moore gave it.
And, what the heck, he has been sued over "Bowling." Terry Nichols filed suit over it back in October. Link. I would not, however, be putting any large wagers on Nichols winning, but he did sue.
Moore: "And don't forget for a second that if they could have shut this film down on a technicality they would have. But they didn't and they can't because the film is factually solid and above reproach. In fact, we have not been sued by any individual or group over the statements made in "Bowling for Columbine?" Why is that? Because everything we say is true and the things that are our opinion, we say so and leave it up to the viewer to decide if our point of view is correct or not for each of them."
Chuckle. I bet he let his attorneys draft that one. The way you trash a person's reputation without risking a libel suit is to make sure they are a public figure, and then never quite SAY something bad about them. Make sure it's an IMPRESSION the viewer gets, but which you can disavow later as your intent. It's the viewer's fault, not yours. Look at the Heston/Denver defense above. It amounts to "I never said Heston said "cold dead hands' at Denver. That was just my way of introducing him, not a claim he said it there."
The other key is to depict your statement as one of opinion rather than (to use the legal term) "provable fact." It wasn't something true or false as a matter of hard fact, it was just your opinion. So long as you can depict it as opinion, you can get away with anything, period.
"So, faced with a thoroughly truthful and honest film,"
Funny, I thought Moore said it was in part opinion.
"those who object to the film's political points are left with the choice of debating us on the issues in the film or resorting to character assassination. They have chosen the latter. What a sad place to be."
Chuckle. A narcissist's standard approach to life is (1) call everyone who disagrees with him evil (the exact term he uses for Heston above) and (2) accuse everyone who criticizes him of character assassination and pose as the injured martyr.
The protestations of absolute veracity make a strange contrast to Moore's implicit concessions that parts are untrue (the doctored Willie Horton ad, the splicing of "cold dead hands" into Denver, the use of firearm violence figures which include self defense and police use) and inability to answer the key points of the remainder (Kayla's killer, Heston at Flint, NRA-KKK). When you cut through the fluff and get to the heart of things, Moore's defense is just a long-winded guilty plea.