Bash the US, Demonise Republicans, Deny Islam’s Violent Links
by Robert Harris (July 2016)
The June 13th episode of RTE’s 6.1 News featured an interview with Michael Moore, during his visit to Ireland, to promote his new documentary “Where to Invade Next”. Moore waxed lyrical on Donald Trump, and the Republican party, on which he blamed for the US’ ills. He also held the Party’s supporters individually responsible for the high homicide rate.
Moore endorsed a whitewash of the Islamist motives behind the Orlando massacre, appearing to argue that Omar Mateen’s upbringing in New York is more relevant to the massacre at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando. He also argues that the religious faith of Omar Mateen is irrelevant, and simply should not be reported by the media, disagreeing with Donald Trump’s stance on the issue:
“And his [Trump’s] whole thing today with blaming Muslims and foreigners and Arabs and all this whole thing of his, I just want to state this fact. The killer in Orlando was a New Yorker. He was born and raised in New York City. He’s an American, he’s a New Yorker. A New Yorker committed mass murder. That’s the way you report that. If you want to start reporting people’s religion or whatever when they do things, then we have to go back, lets say, to the Oklahoma City bombing. A Catholic blew up the Federal Building in Oklahoma City, and killed a 187 people. But we don’t really report it that way, right, because it’s not really the Catholic Church that killed a whole bunch of people.”
Moore echoes a rather familiar liberal-left talking point by raising the Oklahoma City bombing, instigated by Timothy McVeigh, to assert that religious faith is not responsible for killing. Rather bizarrely, Moore effectively asserts that religious intent is never an issue in terrorist atrocities, because a given act is not sanctioned by religious institutions.
Unlike Mateen however, McVeigh did not profess any religious motivation for the attack, nor affiliate himself with any form of a Christian terrorist group. By contrast, Moore appears unmoved by the widely reported fact that Mateen vowed allegiance to Islamic State, during a 911 phone call, a pledge he also expressed on Facebook. He also expressed support for a US member of al-Nusra, as well as those responsible for prior terrorist attacks on US soil, which had overt Islamist motives. IS called on Muslims to attack the West during the holy Muslim month of Ramadan, and the pledge follows IS’ very instruction for martyrdom.
It has also been reported that Mateen’s father endorses anti-American views, and supports the Afghani-Taliban, which aided Osama bin Laden when al Qaeda brought an unprecedented degree of terrorism to US soil. Signs of radicalism have also emanated from the mosque where Mateen worshipped for much of his life.
McVeigh’s own religious beliefs seemed to fluctuate through his life. While there are reports that McVeigh possessed some level of religious faith, he also proclaimed himself an atheist and latterly an agnostic. McVeigh’s act had a solely political motive, which, if anything, is not wholly alien to Moore’s own views on US foreign policy.
On gun-related homicide
At the beginning of the interview, Moore began by responding to a question about the Orlando massacre, which some believe to be an issue appertaining to gun crime, rather than Islamist terror:
“Any sick individual can walk into a store next to a McDonald’s and buy an M16, which is called an AR15 in the civilian world, but it’s the M16 automatic weapon, and its designed to kill a lot of people, and you can legally buy one, and he did and he passed the background check, and that’s the country I live in. We’ve over 300 million guns in our homes and we had probably close to 30,000 people last year die due to a gun. And I think the UK last year had 32 people die because of gun violence.”
Moore appears to have intentionally misrepresented the number of gun-related deaths in the US, by comparing generalised US gun deaths with the more relevant act of gun violence in the UK.
Around 30,000 people die each year due to guns. Moore gave his audience the distinctive impression that the great majority of these deaths are attributable to homicide, but more than 60% are in fact attributable to suicide. In recent years, twelve to thirteen thousand homicides have occurred each year with approximately thirteen thousand deaths occurring last year. Approximately 2/3rds of these homicides occur due to gun use. These figures indicate that the United States has a significant problem with gun-related homicides, but the homicide rate has been on a downward trend since 1993.
Moore’s contrast with United Kingdom deaths represents a differentiation of 1,000x (30,000 versus 32 deaths). However, the rate of gun associated deaths in the UK is claimed by UNDOC to be 29 times less than the US for 2012. The UK also has a significant murder rate, albeit significantly lower than the US, where it is almost four-fold. It is clear, however, that non-firearm methods would be used to a significant extent when gun access is largely prohibited, so a direct comparison between gun-related homicides presents as a rather misleading partial. The gun control controversy relates most keenly to the rate of murders in general. Clearly, guns make it easier to kill, but high murder rates still occur without them. Thus, Moore should have pointed out, when comparing the two sovereign nations, that guns would have contributed significantly to a near-four-fold increase in the murder rate (per 100,000: UK 11.68  and US 42.01 ), rather than an impressive-sounding thousand-fold increase.
It is also worth noting that the UK has a major long-standing issue with high rates of violent crime, which is typically a per-capita multiple of the US. These figures suggest that the rate of civilian gun ownership reduces the impetus of criminals, although when violent crime occurs, it is more likely to have a more lethal effect.
Moore asserted that the only difference between the AR15 and the M16 is in name. While the two guns have a similar heritage, Moore would surely be aware, as a seasoned proponent in the gun debate, that the M16 is a machine gun capable of full automatic fire, while the AR15 is a semi – automatic rifle. The national audience he addressed would not be so advised however.
Moore presented a very stark caricature of US culture:
“It’s a culture of fear that we live in. It’s also a culture of ignorance. We have a population that for years now because of the lessening of our schools, our media, the dumbing down of our people. It’s the only way you could explain the fact that Donald Trump could be candidate of a major party for president. So you have people that are afraid, they think somebody’s going to get them, they gotta have a lot of guns in the house, and you know we’re a perpetrator of violence around the world. I made bowling for Columbine in 2002, and six months later we were invading Iraq. And so we both have the state-sponsored violence and we have our personal violence, where we reach for the gun. And it’s a sad thing because I think you know we’re otherwise a good people. And you know the Irish aren’t better than us, the Brits aren’t better than us, the Canadians. And yet for some reason you don’t shoot a bunch of people when you get angry. And President Obama has wanted the Centres for Disease Control, the CDC, to study this as a disease, as a uniquely American disease, but the Republicans have prohibited any funding.”
Moore claims that citizens of the United States of America are good people, other than with respect to gun violence but he soon undermines his point by referring to a broad number of societal ills that lead to gun violence. He cites the popularity of the Republican Party and the success of Donald Trump, the Republican Party’s presumptive presidential candidate. He points to fear, paranoia, ignorance, rage, violent impulses, a presumably right-wing dumbed-down media, which not only harms US society but leads to violence all over the world.
Moore echoes a notable European left-wing talking point, by raising the quality of education in the US. While studies vary, depending on methodologies, with some noting a slightly poorer result than average for industrialised nations, the US tends to score in the teens with respect to composite rankings so it is not dramatically worse than the rest of the industrialised world, and excels at Tertiary education.
It is clear however that Moore understands his broad criticism of American culture as ultimately applying to Republican supporters – particularly Christians. Most remarkably, in the aftermath of an Islamist gun attack, when asked about Trump’s contention that Islamism is at the root of the violence, Moore infers that gun violence was largely the purview of Christian Republicans:
“It [Trump’s claim] resonates only with people who are ignorant. And again when you have a dumbed down population, when you have a Republican party, where the majority of the people of that party believe that Adam and Eve rode on dinosaurs 6,000 years ago, 19% of Republicans believe Obama is quote ‘the Anti-Christ’, that’s what we’re dealing with. And they own guns. So you know, Trump’s success, such as it is, is because he knows how to manipulate that audience. And he’s done quite well with it, and I think people should take him very seriously for November.”
Moore’s attack on the beliefs of some Republican supporters is noteworthy because he ignores the unusual beliefs of Democratic Party supporters. For example, that there is 2/3rds as much support amongst Democrat supporters and independents, for the belief that the Earth was created within the last 10,000 years.
A poll from 2006 indicates that Democrats also appear to be 9/11-Truthers, while another 2007 survey demonstrates that only 39% of Democrat Party supporters believe that George W. Bush did not have foreknowledge of the 9/11 attacks. Conspiracist views are not uncommon amongst Democrat supporters.
Moore claims racism is an elemental part of Republican support, but the periodic General Social Survey indicates that Republicans are not significantly more racially prejudiced than Democrats.
Moore fears Trump as a realistic presidential prospect come November but how could this be when he presents such views as solely attracting an extreme wing of Republican support? He may not be aware that Trump also finds significant support amongst Democrat supporters.
Michael Moore’s work is often criticised for being dishonest and staunchly partisan. Those who wish to breach the political divide, to obtain a modicum of consensus on gun legislation, might consider the why so many on the political-right believe the liberal-left is acting with bad faith, by mounting a propagandistic assault on US constitutional rights. Continuing to endorse risible propaganda, whilst demonising opponents, will not improve upon the distinctive deficit of trust in US politics, a quality surely necessary to come to any form of political consensus.
Robert Harris contributes articles to several websites on contentious political issues (not to be confused with the popular English novelist (1957-) of the same name). He also blogs at eirael.blogspot.com and lives in Ireland.
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