Michael Moore’s “Sicko” undermines favorite Leftist myths

The Cannes Film Festival took place last week, with Michael Moore’s new film showing, out of competition, on May 19th. It’s called “Sicko” and in it, according to the Cannes site, “the filmmaker investigates the flaws in the American health care system.”

Looking cool in CannesHe does this, according to Anthony DePalma of the New York Times, by taking “a handful of sick Americans to Cuba for treatment in the course of the film”. Based on Cannes and the NY Times, you would think this movie is about medicine. But the fact that these “sick Americans” are actually World Trade Center first-responders, “heroes of 9/11”, as the LA Times puts it, shows the political motivation behind the film. (They are called “fist responders” on the front page of MichaelMoore.com. I suppose that means they swing first and ask questions later.) Says one of the men who was offered a trip to Cuba only to be “stiffed” by Moore:

“What he [Moore] wanted to do is shove it up George W’s rear end that 9/11 heroes had to go to a communist country to get adequate health care,” said McCormack, who suffers from chronic respiratory illness.

So when you read things like: “Michael Moore sees Sicko as “a call for action” for the American public to change their private health care system and make it fairer”, what you should understand is, “Moore wants you to vote the Republicans out of the White House, because they care about profits more than about doing what’s right; and once we have a Democrat running the country everything will be okay. Or at least we won’t have to worry, because, you know, Dems are ‘progressive’ so even if health industry is still unfair, at least we’ll know we’re headed in the right direction.”

Now I don’t think it’s right that millions of Americans can’t afford basic health services. Yes, let’s do what we can to make sure everybody stays healthy. And I don’t doubt that the health care industry is corrupt, poorly designed, and in dire need of reform. A simple trip to the dentist could teach you this much, and save you the incomparably greater pain of having to watch one of Moore’s outrageous documentaries. But comparing the US unfavorably with Cuba in any way is automatically suspect. And watch: Moore’s use of 9/11 workers for political gain will be defended by leftists, even though they would denounce any similar stunt pulled by the right. Nothing unusual here, even if it is hypocritical.

The basic premise is also well-worn: an American leftist finds that his country falls short, and that the Communist Revolution has produced something of a Cuban paradise. (In the interest of fairness to Moore, he does say in the Times article that he’s “not trumpeting Castro or his regime.”) But just how perfect the Cuban model actually is, is revealed somewhat by the Times article mentioned above.

First, Moore casually mentions the fact that “Cubans live on average longer than we do.” DePalma notes that “Statistics from the World Health Organization, the C.I.A. and other sources all show that the people of Cuba and the United States have about the same life expectancy — 77 years, give or take a few months”. But Cuba’s high abortion rate and the fact that nobody wants to live in Cuba could contribute to the impression that they live longer than we do: “The constant flow of refugees also may affect longevity figures, since those births are recorded but the deaths are not.”

But the healthiness of Cubans is surely not a total myth. For in the Cuban paradise many people don’t have cars, so they get more exercise by walking; and they don’t suffer from obesity because they can’t—there’s not enough food. I will not be surprised if Moore silently tries to turn necessity into virtue by crediting these unavoidable benefits to the “health care system.”

Second, “Mr. Moore transports a handful of sick Americans to Cuba for treatment in the course of the film . . . and he is apparently dumbfounded that they could get there what they couldn’t get here.” But a former Cuban doctor, who has since defected to Miami, explains that after the fall of the Soviet Union, medical supplies began to dry up in Cuban hospitals—to say nothing of the doctors fleeing the country. Hence the caption to the NY Times’s lead photo: “The Doctor May Be In.” This Cuban doctor explains that it’s misleading to speak simply of the ‘Cuban system’:

“Actually there are three systems,” Dr. Cordova said, because Cuba has two: one is for party officials and foreigners like those Mr. Moore brought to Havana. “It is as good as this one here, with all the resources, the best doctors, the best medicines, and nobody pays a cent,” he said.

But for the 11 million ordinary Cubans, hospitals are often ill equipped and patients “have to bring their own food, soap, sheets — they have to bring everything.” And up to 20,000 Cuban doctors may be working in Venezuela, creating a shortage in Cuba.

If Moore didn’t know this, he didn’t do his proper homework. If he did know this, let’s see if it comes out in the movie. Let’s see if the viewer of “Sicko” walks away with any notion that there might be some similarity between the US and Cuban systems. Both seem to break down along lines of haves/have-nots. If Moore has remained silent about this, it will be, to quote Simon Cowell upon learning that William Hung had no musical training, “the surprise of the century.” I mean, the suppression of essential facts, willfull misrepresentation, and fallacious inference based on simple juxtaposition are all Moore specialties.

At the Cannes press conference, Moore explained that he didn’t want to go to Cuba for its own sake. Knowing “that it would turn some Americans off in some way because we ended up in Cuba”, he says:

The point was not to go to Cuba, the point was to go to American soil in Guantanamo Bay and to get the same health care as the Al Queda detainees.

It will be interesting to see how the Moore-loving left handles this one. If they side with Moore, they’ll do so in order to argue that America treats its enemies better than it treats its own citizens. But this argument will force them to give up two of their dearest myths: that the detainees at Guantanamo are not our enemies, and that Guantanamo is an inhuman hellhole. I predict, though, that most Moore fans will have no problem maintaining all three beliefs simultaneously.

I have a hard time reading Harvey Weinstein’s assessment as coming from anything other than self-interest (Weinstein’s company is marketing and publicizing “Sicko”):

I’ve seen this movie with Republicans and Democrats, and this is one time Michael has sort of unified everyone

The movie doesn’t open till June 29th in the US, and I’m already sick of it.


6 Responses to “Michael Moore’s “Sicko” undermines favorite Leftist myths”

  1. adrien Says:

    It is odd, is it not, that the prescription of too little food works to improve the longevity of Cubans, but not of the hungry of other nations in south America and the Caribbean? Actually, it is unusual for any third world country to have anything to boast of in the way of medical care or longevity. And yet, Cuba sends doctors to other third world, poor nations – it’s one of Cuba’s biggest exports: medical care.

    If the subject is freedom, Cuba certainly leaves much to be desired, but the subject is health care, isn’t it?

    Yes it is.

    Incidentally, Moore is critical of Democrats in his latest documentary, pointing out the amounts various legislators of both parties receive in contributions from the health care industry. Moore, as much as any of us, is perfectly aware that the medical crisis didn’t improve much under the most recent Democratic administration, but I suppose his current, more bipartisan approach doesn’t fit neatly into YOUR premise here, which seems to be that, however valid his criticisms, Moore is badbadbadbad. . . . . . . . .

  2. Subcomandante Marcos Says:

    I think Adrien makes a good point. Hunger making the Cubans healthy? That is a low point, Curly, shame shame. Also, your headline is a bit misleading, because you don’t really get to how Moore “undermines leftist myths” until that bit about Guantanamo, and I don’t really understand what you are getting at there. Seems a bit flabby.

    Anyway, there are plenty of reasons to hate the Cuban regime. I certainly wouldn’t want to live there and I actually know people who have and they’re not in a big hurry to make their academic visits permanent. BUT, relatively speaking (that is relative to ANY country of their size and GDP, anywhere in the world), they do an excellent job at health care. If Moore is doing this properly, he could correctly state that with the few and finite resources of a strapped, corrupt and alienated regime, the Cubans manage to do quite well (health-wise) for all their people. The U.S. is extremely rich, democratic (yes, I think they still have a functioning democracy), and well-connected, and they are blowing it as far as health care is concerned. I’ve heard it from chiefs of hospitals. The system is broken, but the political will to dump it and go universal isn’t there either.

    Maybe Moore’s question is “how bad does it need to get before we make the big change?” Maybe it is just more of his grandstanding. I will admit that my patience for the man has waned a bit. I might skip this one. But the American healthcare system is a shambles. While comparing it directly to the Cuban system is problematic, it does serve the purpose of making the U.S. look bad.

    And that’s what the left is really concerned with, making the superpower look super-stupid, right? It’s getting fairly easy to do these days. Anyway, cheers from the Lacandon Jungle, where we just shoot the ill. So much easier.

  3. Curly Says:

    Perhaps I was unclear: I didn’t suggest that lack of food leads to health, merely to lack of the particular health problems that come from obesity. Even the Times phrased it something like, “Cuba’s shortcomings improve its overall health profile.”

    RE: Guantanamo. There are people who say 1) the detainees aren’t our enemies, that they are just normal people, and 2) that Guantanamo is worse than the Gulag. If—IF—these same people were to hold up “Sicko” and say, “Look, the US treats its enemies better than its own citizens,” it seems that they have to give up both those assertions, at least for the purpose of making this latter argument. The assertion that Guantanamo is worse than the Gulag has always seemed quite flabby, to me.

    Regarding the title: hey, it’s snappier than simply “Michael Moore’s ‘Sicko'”—and it is related to the last part of the post.

    Adrien (and Marcos): the Cuban system might work even better if they had medicine. If what Dr. Cordova (in the Times piece) is not lying, he could diagnose bronchitis, but would not have any antibiotics to give the patient. And it would work even better if its doctors wouldn’t move to Miami . . . when the regime is such that it can’t get supplies, and is scaring its doctors out of the country, these are very much “health care” issues. Not just “freedom” issues.

  4. Subcomandante Marcos Says:

    You are still not getting it, Curly, but that’s okay, the Subcomandante has come to expect this. There are a lot of doctors still in Cuba and a lot of doctors that Cuba sends to other countries that are still Cuban citizens. The Miami Cubans, as always, are the loudest, so they get the most attention. I will maintain my position, Cuba has done a nice job with their healthcare system despite serious disadvantages. The U.S. has a poop system that leaves many hanging out to dry, despite being the epicenter of biotechnology and having huge amounts of cash.

    People who think that Guantanamo is worse than the Gulag are either delusional or just dumb. Still, I wouldn’t want to be there, and it’s no country club. How would you like to be stuck in an outdoor cage for 3 years without being charged? The lawsuits for this should be interesting. Gitmo is another embarrasment for the U.S.

  5. Curly Says:

    If I’m really not getting it on this topic, I’m not too disappointed. I acknowledge that I’m no central-american expert. How I would like to be held without charges, though, is kind of irrelevant to my original purpose of the post, which was to talk about the difficulties of simultaneously praising Gitmo’s medical care and denouncing it as a torture center.

    All the same, I’d rather not be there either.

  6. Subcomandante Marcos Says:

    I don’t think that the fact that prisoners at Gitmo are kept in cages for years without being charged with a crime is irrelevant to your purpose at all! That is part of the Left’s beef with that place.

    I will concede that Moore’s remarks about Gitmo seem to be boneheaded, though. Why should he care “that it would turn some Americans off in some way because we ended up in Cuba” if it supports his argument? Moore strikes me as a kind of used car salesman, to be perfectly honest.

    And he is a big, fat capitalist.

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