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School Massacre in Finland: Bowling For Tuusula?

Michael Moore opens his 2002 film Bowling For Columbine with this little voiceover: It was the morning of April 20th, 1999. And it was pretty much like any other morning in America. The farmer did his chores, the milkman made … Read More

By / November 8, 2007

Michael Moore opens his 2002 film Bowling For Columbine with this little voiceover:

It was the morning of April 20th, 1999. And it was pretty much like any other morning in America. The farmer did his chores, the milkman made his deliveries, the president bombed another country whose name we couldn't pronounce.

Michael Moore can’t pronounce Yugoslavia? Well, he’s going to have a hell of a time with Tuusula. That’s the town in southern Finland where an 18-year-old gunman named Pekka-Eric Auvinen opened fire inside a high school yesterday, killing seven students and then himself. According to The Daily Mail: “Terrified pupils jumped for their lives from windows before the killer shouted: ‘This is the start of the revolution' and shot himself in the head."

Teacher Kim Kiuru said the first he knew of the incident was when the headmistress announced over the public address system just before noon (10am GMT) that all students should remain in their classrooms.

"I stayed in the corridor to listen for more instructions, having locked my classroom door," he said. "I saw the youth running with a gun in his hand through the doors toward me. It felt unreal, a pupil I have taught myself was running towards me, screaming, a pistol in his hand. He was moving systematically through the school hallways, knocking on the doors and shooting through the doors."

But I suspect Michael Moore won’t be taking a stab at the pronunciation of the Finnish town because the incident undermines the hazy thesis of Bowling For Columbine: namely, that American gun violence is a cultural reflection of a) American military might, and b) fear played upon by the U.S. media in order to boost sales of comforting products. Halfway through the film Marilyn Manson pretty much dictates the moral of the story:

Manson: The president was shooting bombs overseas, yet I'm a bad guy because I sing some rock'n'roll songs. And who's a bigger influence, the President or Marilyn Manson? I'd like to think me, but I'm gonna go with the President. Do you know the day that Columbine happened the United States dropped more bombs on Kosovo than any other time during that war?

Moore: I do know that and I think that's really ironic, that nobody said, "Well, maybe the president had an influence on this violent behavior.”

Manson: Because that's not the way the media wants to take it and spin it and turn it into fear.

Boy, has that changed. Imagine 60 Minutes turning down the opportunity to blame anything on George Bush’s decision to go into Iraq. Manson goes on:

Cause’ then you're watching television, you're watching the news; you're being pumped full of fear. And there's floods, there's AIDS, there's murder. You cut to commercial, buy the Acura, buy the Colgate. If you have bad breath, they're not gonna talk to you. If you got pimples, the girl's not gonna fuck you. It's a campaign of fear and consumption. And that's what I think that it's all based on, is the whole idea that: keep everyone afraid and they'll consume. And that's really as simple as it can be boiled down to.

So, tragedies like Columbine are unique to America’s militaristic commercial culture.

From the film:

 Are we homicidal in nature? Because in Europe and Australia, most other free-world countries, they don't have this. They don't have people who snap and go on murderous rampages.

Well, they do in bellicose Finland. Switzerland, be warned. Moore’s particular fetish for pacifist PR leads him lovingly to Canada. In Bowling for Columbine, Canada is held up as the better version of America. Kinder, saner, more trusting, and less violent. In Moore’s Canada nobody locks their doors, everyone owns guns but no one uses them, everyone is insured, and the population looks like a Benetton ad. In Canada’s Canada there’s been three Columbine-style school shootings since April 20, 1999. So, maybe the U.S. had school shootings first because we see most forms of cultural excess first. The magnificent and the horrific. In time, the world always catches up. Teen alienation isn’t an American phenomenon; it’s a universal one. And unhinged high schoolers don’t check their impulses against the Pentagon’s daily figures before gearing up for a rampage. Speaking of the Pentagon. In April of 1999, the honorable air strikes that saved Albanians and Muslims from ethnic cleansing at the hands of the Serbs were executed by NATO forces, and therefore involved a broad spectrum of nations. As do school shootings.

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