Last semester, one of my students told me that he was down on America. In fact, he said that he was ashamed to be an American. He didn?t keep me guessing as to the reason for his shame and depression. He immediately disclosed that he had seen ?Bowling for Columbine,? on one of the two occasions the Women?s Center sponsored its showing last year.
It is bad enough that the Women?s Center uses its budget as an excuse to campaign against conservative public policies, even when the policies have little to do with the women?s movement. But in the case of promoting Michael Moore, it is worse because the information Moore proffers is usually irrelevant and often completely inaccurate.
The thesis of ?Bowling for Columbine? is sometimes difficult to ascertain because Moore frequently contradicts himself in the movie. Nonetheless, I think that he is trying, above all else, to assert the following:
The United States has more crime than other countries (like Canada).
The United States has more guns than other countries (like Canada).
Therefore, guns cause crime and, of course, more gun control is necessary.
I have encountered similar simplistic thinking from the right in my eleven years as a college professor. For example, some students have made the following argument, usually in my introductory criminal justice course:
Saudi Arabia has less crime than the United States.
Saudi Arabia uses harsher punishment than the Unites States (including public executions and amputation of hands for thieves).
Therefore, we should have public executions and amputate the hands of thieves in the United States. (I won?t even mention the penalty for adultery. Talk about a harsh penal system!).
When confronted with such arguments from my most punitive students, I usually begin by challenging the assertion that we can readily ascertain the difference in crime rates between various nations. National crime statistics are simply too flawed to do that with any level of precision.
For example, in the United States, only about 35 to 40% of the victims of crime bother to contact the police in the first place. When they do, the police (usually local) are not required to report the crime to the federal government, although the feds ask them to do so in the form of the FBI Uniform Crime Reports (UCR). And the UCR totally exclude federal crimes from their data set. And so on, and so on.
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