Wednesday, November 14, 2007


A Modest Proposal

Michael Moore has another documentary. This one's about America's out-of-whack medical system. He front-loads it with anecdotes from real people (when they survive) probably in an effort to make the criticisms less about him than his subject.

Good effort.

But everyone has their HMO/insurance/hospital horror story. The best thing is that Moore shows the alternative: superior, cheaper health care available in Canada, Britain, France, and even, in its most dramatic episode, in a back-water like Cuba.

"What's wrong with us?" he asks. The difference appears to be that Canada/Britain/France don't put up with the Royal Screwing Americans do, or maybe Americans, heads stuck proudly up our asses, just don't know what they're missing...or don't want to know...or are so mis-informed to know. the propaganda (remember that word--it'll be important later) put out by advertisers, the drug manufacturers, the hospitals and insurance thieves is that "socialized medicine" is bad medicine. The line is they'll go broke if they level the playing field, that research (funded largely by the government) will degrade--even if it doesn't involve stem-cells, that the bureaucracy will make the system unwieldy and inefficient, despite the fact that Medicare has operating costs of 10%, and is far more efficient than going through the gauntlet of forms that is required now. And if you try to subvert the system by going to Canada, France, india (saw a great report on cheaper better operations there on "60 Minutes"), or worse, Cuba (Moore was just subpoenaed by the White House, just so they can show that they give subpoenas as well as receive them), you're treated like a criminal. Yet, ironically, we see a scene where a 9-11 rescue worker with pulmonary problems can get an inhaler prescription for a nickel. In the US, the exact thing costs her $120.00. You see her flee the apothecaria in tears ..and no doubt, shame. And she's the criminal?

In Britain, where we imagine horror stories of bad teeth, iron-bed wards and exams with tongue depressors, they have wait times of 20 minutes. Last wait time I had? Two weeks. I got better before the appointment. Isn't medicine wonderful? No wonder quack self-help books become best sellers.

Even Margaret Thatcher loved their "socialized" medicine. And you know what a "red" she was.

Yes, of course, but it's Michael Moore, and you know how slanted his documentaries are. Like the commercials extolling wonders drugs right before the interminable health warnings aren't slanted. As if documentaries don't have a point of view. "Duh." That argument only makes sense if you think "Triumph of the Will" was pretty even-handed. Even Frederick Wiseman's unblinking, narration-less, scriptless docs still needed to have the camera pointed, and the film edited. Every time something is left out and something is included an editorial decision is made, and a bias is created.

Really, the folks who complain about about Moore's politics have their own snake-oil to sell. But to complain that a documentary is biased is...if not deliberately retarded, its certainly ignorant. Of course, they're biased. That's what documentaries are unless they done by a commitee. "The Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill" had a POV fer cryin' out loud!*

No, what really bugs people about Moore is his style. He holds up the self-important to ridicule. His methods are the Theater of the Absurd's in a dark, Swiftian manner. And when you live in a bubble (or a beltway) built of your own ego, being made to look absurd feels like an attack. Most of these vampires are afraid to see their own reflections. This hurts their comfort.

There is a common thread running through all of Moore's films and that is the inherent weakness of the American people. The brilliant deconstruction of America's dependence on guns by Parker and Stone in "Bowling for Columbine" makes a direct corollary to our fears., just as "Farenheit 911" proposes the same for the real power behind the Bush Administration. "Sicko" points to the corrupt HMO/insurance/pharmaceutical Axis of Evil and says that fear of losing what advantages we have keeps us from acting to better the system. Fears exacerbated by the PR and lobbying firms employed by that Axis. And we're just ignorant of how things work...and work well in other countries...for nothing. Governments are corporations are subject to the same fears (Why did Nike drop Michael Vick?) and only by appling soles firmly to asphalt will any change be made ** The 9-11 conspirators were foiled soon after the WTC disaster by a band of brave Americans who did what needed to be done. Politicos and People In Authoritah enough to wield fear praise their bravery but secretly fear it. If fear is good enough for us, its good enough for them.

Time to light the torches and gather ye pitchforks.

And retire in Canada...or France...or Spain. Anywhere but here.

"Sicko" is a rental.
(Hey, my insurance is as high as a mortgage payment, I've gotta economize somewhere!)

* An acquaintance once told me that "Spielberg is so manipulative." I asked them who their favorite director was and then pointed out a particularly manipulative moment in one of their films. "Well, they're better at it than Spielberg." "OR you're pre-disposed not to notice." They took offense at that. But, really, there's no defense of that attitude. Let's just abandon that argument, folks, because it's worthless. Whenever a writer puts pen to paper it's manipulation. The director, by his very definition, is manipulating. And the editor, the costume deigner...anyone who bends light is capable of bending reality and minds. Film IS manipulation. Always has been...since its inception more than 100 years ago.

** This is how good a filmmaker Moore is: In a sequence showing french citizens taking to the streets protesting for benefits, there is a brief shot of a policeman looking hopeless and demoralized in the face of the demonstration. Cut to a protest of cops demanding benefits. That's the nice thing about protest. Anyone can do it.

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