Michael Moore sets the tone of Bowling For Columbine by choosing a title and reason for that choice that rests on false premises, uneven argument, factually inaccurate citations and a stubborn refusal to correct the record.
The film begins on the day of the Columbine murders on the morning of April 20, 1999. Michael Moore narrates the opening of the day and the movie, stating that on that day, “Two boys went bowling at six in the morning.”
The truth: the Columbine murderers skipped class on the day of the murders. Glenn Moore of the Golden Police Department concluded that they were absent from school on the day of the attack. This police record was made available before Bowling For Columbine was released.
The teacher of the bowling class kept attendance through score. When a student was absent, their average score was entered for them and circled. Page 31 of this pdf file scan of the police record from the Boulder Daily Camera to see the circles (top left corner of the page).
The police investigation found that none of the students in the bowling class that morning had seen the killers that day. Glenn Moore summarizes his final conclusion on page 33: “The score sheet, as well as the teacher, indicated HARRIS, KLEBOLD AND MORRIS were absent on April 20, 1999.”
This inaccuracy is important, considering it is the foundation for the thesis of the entire movie, which is that American violence is caused by America’s history of violence and and other excuses are invalid. Using Columbine as an example, Moore argues that because the boys allegedly went bowling the day they murdered their classmates, that blaming violent video games or Marilyn Manson music makes no more sense than blaming bowling. This argument fails under the revelation that the boys did not attend the bowling class and no evidence is given to suggest they had any interest in the sport, where as their enjoyment of Mansons music and violent video games is well documented.
Moore elaborates on this fallacy founded argument in the official Bowling For Columbine website FAQ:
One reason the film is called “Bowling For Columbine” is that, after the massacre, all the pundits and experts started blaming all the usual suspects that are wheeled out for blame whenever a school shooting occurs-evil rock music (in this case Marilyn Manson), violent video games, and bad parenting. My point is that those scapegoats make about as much sense as blaming bowling. After all, Eric and Dylan were bowlers, they took bowling class at Columbine-was bowling responsible for their evil deeds? If they bowled that morning, did the bowling trigger their desire to commit mass murder? Or, if they skipped their bowling class that morning, did that bring on the massacre? Had they bowled, that may have altered their mood and prevented them from picking up their guns. As you can see, this is all nonsense, just as it is nonsense to blame Marilyn Manson.
Moore’s claim that the violence based music and video games that the boys thoroughly (perhaps obsessively) enjoyed are illegitimate triggers for their violent behavior is supported only through the argument that another activity the boys enjoyed was not blamed.
Moore argues instead that United States foreign policy and proximity to company headquarters which make weapons for the military are more likely causes for violence, but does not explain why these dots he has connected are any more legitimate than the recreation the boys were actually interested in.
Moore also fails to elaborate on why exactly bad parenting is an illegitimate scapegoat when it pertains to gun crime, as well as why he uses that exact correlation argument later in the same film.
When manipulating the Kayla Rolland shooting, Moore blames the occurrence on lack of parenting which he in turn blames on Dick Clark.
In the FAQ section of the official website for Bowling For Columbine, Moore says that bowling was [emphasis added] “apparently the last thing they did before the massacre”.
The FAQ entry was later updated to fudge the claim made in the movie with the following revision [emphasis added]:
The title is taken from the little-known fact that the two killers, Dylan and Eric, were supposed to be in bowling class at Columbine High School on the morning of the murders. At least five witnesses, including their teacher, told the police that they saw one or both boys that morning at the bowling alley for their first hour class. Some school and law enforcement officials later maintained that the two boys skipped that class that morning yet no other witness has come forward to say they saw Eric and Dylan anywhere else that morning.
Even if the killers didn’t skip class, Moore’s claim that bowling was “apparently the last thing they did before the massacre.” isn’t right as the Columbine bowling class was at 6 A.M. while the killings began around 11 A.M. Moore continues on the site: