Here Comes Trouble: Stories from My Life

"Outstanding…Moore Triumphs! Publishers Weekly

Mike's Letter

June 4th, 1999 12:00 AM

Teen Sniper School

Dear friends,

Many of you have e-mailed me today asking about a rumor that you read on the internet this morning regarding this Sunday's episode of "The Awful Truth." I would like to inform everyone of the details surrounding what is happening.

After a number of discussions with the Bravo network regarding this Sunday's show, the network has decided to censor and remove a four-minute piece from "The Awful Truth" entitled, "Teen Sniper School." While we have a deep respect for the people at Bravo (they have treated our show with the kind of support independent filmmakers and TV producers usually can only dream of), we disagree with their decision to pull the segment.

"Teen Sniper School" is one of the most biting and uncomfortable pieces of satire we have produced. It takes the current environment of easyaccess to guns by children of all ages to its logical extreme -- why not just arm all the kids and teach them to be better shots as part of the school curriculum?

We shot this segment five months before the tragedy at Columbine High School. Bravo is correct in its feeling that viewing "Teen Sniper School" in the aftermath of the Littleton, Colorado, incident is not an easy thing to do. We believe, though, that one of the main functions of satire is to confront the uncomfortable issues. Satire is not supposed to be the kind of Comedy Lite you can find on every other channel. Satire assumes the audience has a brain. Good satire has you laughing so you don't start crying -- and, in the end, maybe it gets you thinking about just what the #@*& is going on in this strange world.

We offered to recut the piece and add a new twist that said, essentially, "It took 25 years since the King and Kennedy assassinations to get our first gun control law passed (the Brady bill). It took only four weeks after Columbine to get our second gun law passed. Then it took only six hours after the shootings at the Georgia high school last week to get our third gun control bill enacted. Clearly, the only way to get true gun control in this country is for there to be more school shootings."

Some people can take that, some can't. Bravo correctly points out the adage quoted by Woody Allen in "Crimes and Misdemeanors" that "tragedy plus time equals comedy." You can make all the jokes you want about the Lincoln assassination and end up personally offending few people.

Killings that happened last month, though, are no laughing matter.

Of course, we don't produce "The Awful Truth" so we can just get you all to yuck it up. By now, even if you can't pick up "The Awful Truth", you have probably figured out from the type of work we do that our aim is not the hysterical punch line or the ability to shock. It takes no great skill to go around with a superior "we're-so-smart-and-hip-and-you're-so-stupid" attitude (Craig Kilborne/The Daily Show) or to shock the audience with gross junior high antics (SouthPark/Tom Green). There is no denying that each of these examples (with the exception of Kilborne) are very funny, but when you take it to the next level -- where lurking beneath the humor is some very pointed satire about something the writer BELIEVES in -- then you have those rare films and shows (The Simpsons, Bulworth, yes, even Beavis and Butthead) which aspire to make comment on the social condition and maybe, just maybe, get a few people out there to do something -- anything -- before the whole thing heads into the permanent crap-ola.

With "Teen Sniper School", as we try to do most weeks, we sought to make our statement without a sermon and yet do it the most honest way we know how. I think you get where our heart is at, and that when we show a two year-old holding a 9mm Glock, you are able to figure out that that is the OPPOSITE of what we want in this world. Of course, most of you already know this. To the Irish, Canadians and Brits reading this, you also know it because you have not stomped on your wonderful tradition of satire (Swift, Python, Mark Thomas, Mike Bullard, etc.) as we have here in the U.S. with ours. We have to reach back to Mark Twain and Will Rogers to cite real examples of brutally popular satire.

So this Sunday's show (9pm and 1am on the East Coast, 6pm and 10pm on the West Coast) will be four minutes short. The other two segments you will see are still pretty damn good -- a piece on Ted Turner and another where we send "Adolph Hitler" into a number of Swiss banks in Zurich to "make a withdrawal" of the stolen money they've been holding for him since 1945. Some pretty funny, offensive-with-a-purpose stuff.

Don't be upset with Bravo; they're the ones with the guts to air this stuff and they have told me that they hope to air "Teen Sniper School" at some later date when they feel an appropriate time has passed since the Columbine tragedy.

Unfortunately, because we still refuse to deal with this gun issue in a civilized way, there will continue to be more Columbines in this country. In fact, there is a "Columbine" that happens every day in this country. Thirteen kids under the age of 19 are killed every single day in America by guns. Again, to our foreign viewers, it's hard for me to explain our wacky attitude about guns. After the founding fathers wrote the Constitution, they started to get freaked out that the Brits might return, so they wrote an amendment saying we all had a right to have a musket in our cabins. That turned out not to be not such a bad idea 'cause the Brits did return in 1812 (thanks guys), but ever since then, the Second Amendment has been more like the Second Commandment. It made a lot of sense then; it makes no sense now. The potential foreign invaders or a possible rogue American government we are supposed to be ready to fight with our pistols and shotguns now all have atomic bombs and sonic jet fighters -- and there ain't nothin' I can keep in my garage that's going to fend off that kind of firepower.

Or let's look at it another way. I would assume that even most gun nuts in America would not subscribe to the belief that every American has a right to own weapons-grade plutonium. But why shouldn't we? Isn't that the modern version of the 1776 musket? The reason we are all willing to give up our God-given right to weapons-grade plutonium is that we feel it's better to be denied that right than to risk what might happen when one or twokooks decide to blow up Des Moines with their Constitutionally-protected plutonium. The same type of survival instinct leads us also t o accept the abandonment of our Fourth Amendment rights when we walk through the metal detector at the airport. Even the most liberally-minded say go ahead and x-ray my bags and wave that magic wand over my crotch CAUSE I DON'T WANT TO BE BLOWN TO KINGDOM COME!

To those who say it isn't the guns causing all this tragedy, but, rather, that it's Hollywood, rock and roll, the internet and the disinterested and absentee suburban parents who fail to notice the 30 pipe bombs Junior is building in the bedroom, let me point out that the Brits watch the same exact violent movies, the same violent TV shows, play the same violent video games, listen to the same dark Goth music, have access same sick internet addresses and have the same number of lousy parents raising the same number of psychotic kids in the same kind of morally-corrupt society.

Last year, in a nation of over 50 million people, with strict guns laws, there was a total of 30 handgun murders in Great Britain.

Thirty.

I hate to say it folks, but it's the guns.

Funny how our former masters get to have the last laugh after they sent us down this insane road.

That's it for now. Let's hope the success the Russians seemed to have had bringing this idiot war in Yugoslavia to an end really holds. According to the proposed agreement, there will be no NATO troops in Kosovo (Clinton/Blair loss #1), no KLA drug-running army allowed into Kosovo (Clinton/Blair loss #2), and that nut-case Milosevich still gets to be in charge, as is always the case when we bomb the innocent civilians to bits, i.e.Saddam, Khadafy, etc. (Clinton/Blair loss #3).

"But Mike, it's not the Russians that did the trick, it was the bombs! It's the bombs that did it! It's the bombs! It's the guns! It's the guns! No wait it's Marilyn Manson! I mean, it's... it's... IT'S THE TRENCHCOATS!!!!!"

Yours,

Michael Moore
Winner of "N.R.A. Marksman Boy Scouts Award" for perfect shooting, Flint, Mich. 1970

"Air Pollution Doesn't Kill People -- Breathing It Kills People!"

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