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Noble message marred by cheap shot

Jeff Ackerman, Publisher
ALL | GrassValleyArchive

In an effort to diversify and spend some time with my 18-year-old daughter, I attended Saturday’s premiere showing of Michael Moore’s new documentary, titled “Bowling For Columbine,” at the Nevada Theater in Nevada City.

The title gets its name from the fact that the two shooters in the Columbine High School tragedy went bowling before beginning their deadly shooting spree that would result in the deaths of a dozen fellow students and injury to many more.

Moore, who has relatives here, wanted Nevada County to be one of the first to see what will probably become one of the top documentaries of the year. He was encouraged in part to do the film by the shooting death of a young Nevada County woman named Laura Wilcox, who was gunned down during a shooting rampage at the Nevada County Mental Health Department last year. Laura’s parents also attended the premiere, and half of the proceeds went to the Laura Wilcox Scholarship Fund. The other half went to the Peace Center of Nevada County.



In other words, it was a noble message for a noble cause.

Moore, whose previous books and documentaries generally paint the mainstream media, Big Business and white Republicans as the root of all that is evil in America today, wanted to find out in his documentary why Americans kill 11,000 or so other Americans each year with firearms. And what the documentary pretty much concludes is that it’s a combination of fear and inventory. The media has made us afraid of everything from bees to terrorists, according to Moore, and we feel compelled to protect ourselves by buying more and more guns.




The problem could also be, according to Moore, a result of an American society that believes in the, “every-man-for-himself” theory (perpetuated, of course, by Evil Big Business), and therefore we must kill or be killed.

With the exception of Moore’s stretch to connect the shooting death of a 6-year-old Michigan girl by a 6-year-old classmate to rock legend Dick Clark (the shooter’s mother worked in one of Clark’s chain restaurants when she should have been home collecting welfare and watching her son, according to Moore), the film was well-done and worth seeing. I was especially glad to hear that Moore had scheduled a showing for members of Congress (this evening), particularly in light of the recent random shootings the D.C. area has seen. It is time to end this madness.

Instead of leaving on a high note, I stuck around to listen to the question-and-answer session Moore conducted from the stage. And that was a mistake.

One woman told Moore the Mental Health Department shootings here were a result of negligence by mental health administrators who knew the shooter was disturbed and armed. She essentially said it could have been avoided had administrators simply done their jobs and not broken the law.

Then the parents of a young man who was tragically shot and killed in a Nevada City cemetery by a county deputy told Moore their son was murdered by the deputy. An investigation, however, absolved the deputy of any wrongdoing, saying he shot the young man to avoid being run down.

The deputy involved in the shooting wasn’t at the premiere to defend himself (just as Moore wasn’t at the cemetery at the time of the shooting and has never seen the report). Nor, apparently, did the “negligent” and “criminal” mental health administrators attend the premiere. But that didn’t stop Moore from using the occasion to do a little grandstanding.

“Unfortunately, Nevada County has a very s—– newspaper,” he told the crowd, much to the delight of many who apparently wonder why our headlines haven’t read: “Deputy Murders Innocent Teen” or “Mental Health Director Guilty Of Negligence in Shooting.”

Moore went on to say how blessed we are to have a local public radio station, somehow inferring that we at least have a way to get the “real” news.

I am not as concerned with Moore’s description of our newspaper as I am in the public way he delivered it. Showing no evidence of the “Big Business” bucks (the film is being released by media giant United Artists) he must be anticipating from his Hollywood successes (maybe his next documentary could be titled “Whoring For Hollywood,” a look at the $200 million-per-film hypocritical movie industry), Moore strolled on stage wearing his customary ball cap and baggy blue jeans – and took one of his trademark cheap shots.

Media bashing is nothing new, mind you. But to suggest that the “alternative” media is somehow better informed, unbiased or any less “s—-” is a fraudulent argument. We all have our good days and, yes, our “s—–” days. Perhaps Moore was simply having one himself on Saturday.

So go see the film if you can. And remember that its purpose was to open our eyes to the fact that too many innocent and good lives have been lost in a very “s—–” way.

Jeff Ackerman is the publisher of The Union. His column appears on Tuesdays. Contact him at 477-4299,


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