Over at a Comment is Free Christopher Hayes has an interesting comment on Michael Moore, propaganda, and Moore's new movie Sicko. By the sounds of it, the movie is a compelling critique of the US health care system. Moore's good at compelling, which is part of the reason why the right hate him. Moore's also good at logical inconsistency, various versions of 'the kite fallacy', and, of course, factual 'smoothing', which is why I feel conflicted about him*.
According to Hayes, Sicko - otherwise brilliant - ends with Michael Moore taking 9/11 rescue workers, whose health problems have been shamefully untreated in the US, to Cuba for medical attention. The first half of this premise sounds wonderful to me: given all the elixir d' propaganda that has been milked from the 9/11 heroes, the fact that some have been simply left to suffer the health consequences of the event, is not only an appalling indictment of the US health care system but also of the US itself.
And I can see the temptation of Cuba too: what better way to stick it to US elites then getting treatment from the old socialist boogieman. But the exercise is flawed in two ways. First, there's the uncomfortable fact that foreigners are charged for health care in Cuba (a point which, if Ben Whitford is to be believed, it is omitted from the film). Second, there's Cuba's human rights record - which shouldn't be, but too often is, ignored by some on the left.
Why give air to a regime like Castro's?
[Update: according to the Wikipedia "In an interview with Time Magazine, Moore states "I’m not trumpeting Castro or his regime. I just want to say to fellow Americans, "C’mon, we’re the United States! If they can [provide care for all] we can do it." Fidel Castro is also referred to as a "dictator" in the film." Which sounds a bit better - maybe I should just shut up until I've seen the film myself.]
[Update 2: Ah heck, blogs aren't about just shutting up, anyhow. So one more thing: I've been reading over the film list for this year's Telecom New Zealand film festival. In 2004, Fahrenheit 911 was afforded prime place, not so this year: we won't be seeing Sicko at all. Instead, we've got Manufacturing Dissent, a critique of Moore. What a difference a few years and a personal debunking industry can make.
Although if the Wikipedia entry is to be believed, there's some tasty irony floating round - it seems as though Manufacturing Dissent may have, erm, manufactured, claims about Michael Moore meeting Roger Smith.]
* It's worth noting that polemicists from all points of the politic compass engage in these activities. The fact that Moore's indulgences are more well known is not, in my opinion, evidence that he is any worse at them than anyone else but rather the fact that he has been successful enough to foster a Moore debunking industry.
Saturday, June 30, 2007