BY PATRICE GREANVILLE
COMMENT AND OPINION BY THE EDITOR
Well, judging from what we are beginning to see, it didn’t take too long for the mainstream media to regain its footing, atone for its earlier honest hoorays for Moore’s film, and figure an angle from which it might preserve the remnants of its tattered honor while still fulfilling the dirty job its corporate masters demanded it to do, which was to badmouth Michael Moore’s brave documentary, SiCKO, into complete ineffectiveness. The spectacle makes me sick.
Just a few days ago CNN’s Anderson Cooper offered on his program 360 a glimpse of the subtle and not so subtle maneuvers being frantically worked out by the elites as they scramble to repair the huge breach on their disinformation wall created by Moore’s near irrefutable expose of the American healthcare system, an industry whose cynicism and callousness should have been exposed by the “professional media” in the same manner eons ago.
While Anderson—I’ll give him that—was (for the MSM) uncharacteristically aggressive, one might even say “crusading,” in reinjecting the term “for profit medicine” in his otherwise soft-gloved interrogation of Karen Ignagni, an industry hack, the program only featured some clips from the film and no live panelists to counter Ignagni’s well rehearsed dissembling.
The exchange however was a harbinger of what we now see as a consistent slant underscoring the counterattacks issuing from the for-profit healthcare camp. My bet is that far worse is yet to come, for, make no mistake, this is an issue of incalculable significance to the direction this nation may take in resolving its innumerable politically-manufactured crises and deficiencies, and they—the corporatocracy, the guys who make and benefit from the wounds—know it better than most.
So what’s their prescription for defeating SiCKO? Quite simple, actually, something any corporate, Republican, or Democratic sellout talking head will have little trouble parroting. The argument goes more or less like this:
(1) YES! The US healthcare system has serious problems, is broken, and needs revamping…BUT (this is a big BUT, usually accompanied by a pregnant pause for maximum effect)—
(2) Moore’s prescription is
• will create another huge government bureaucracy (oooo la la!),
• will deny Americans their right to choose (this is a big one in a nation with so many fanatical consumerists),
• blah blah blah…whatever.
For good measure, throw in any bogeyman you can think of, preferably from the plentiful annals of anti-communism. Shake the toxic brew for a few seconds, and voilá…you get the desired effect: Moore’s proposed cure is UNAMERICAN! Moore has been defanged. Never mind that all of these lies were efficiently and conclusively addressed and dismantled in SiCKO. The lingering effect will be one of doubt, and doubt is already a victory for their position.
Nothing new under the sun
Students of rhetoric and lawyerese know that this is an old and hypocritical formula taught since the time of Hermogenes or earlier: When confronted with an immense, unassailable truth, concede the undeniable in order to deny what you want to deny and maybe save the day.
Ask any rhetorician if you doubt me, or, perhaps more entertaining, any of those highly-paid prostitutes we see crawling all over the body of this decomposing republic, the fabled “spinmasters.” Or any Republicrat demagogue. For this is how Madison Avenue, the professional political class, the incestuous media, and, in particular, their even more revolting relatives, the underhanded operatives of the public relations industry, earn their bread. By serving those who can pay, which is not the vast majority of the American public. Compared to this crowd, the ladies of the night are paragons of virtue.
Reinventing the same narrative
As I suggest above, these scoundrels realize that they can’t deny outright that the healthcare system is rotten, and that Big Pharma is an assembly of white-collar crooks with the ethics of Al Capone, since such a gnawing suspicion is now commonplace among most ordinary Americans. So the only solution has to be consistency in maintaining the old lies. Or, just maybe, to appease the masses, propose that yet one more special blue-ribbon panel be appointed to study the obvious: that profits and healthcare don’t mix; that they should NEVER be in the same bed. It is a foregone conclusion that these shameless apologists for an indefensible status quo are betting on the legendary short attention span of Americans, and their almost perverse propensity to forgive those who victimize them with impudence, coldly figuring that, by the time the inevitably multi-volume, heavily footnoted report appears, most Americans will have long forgotten about SiCKO and the lessons it taught them and shifted focus to the latest episode in the Paris Hilton saga. (The commissioning of ponderous studies on obvious problems is an old tradition and political gimmick to delay remedial action in America.)
Incidentally, one more card—an ace up their sleeve so to speak—is now being played to deepen the confusion about an issue that, at this point, must rank among the most incomprehensible policy issues of all time, made incomprehensible not by its inherent complexity, but by the fact that in order to compel a marriage between profits and health business interests have constructed a truly monstrous Rube Goldberg machine, with layer upon layer of ugly contortion and waste in every nook and cranny of its convoluted organism. And that’s the cynical assertion that, yes, despite the system’s faults, the US (if we are to believe Sean Hannity) is still the nation “with the highest quality of healthcare in the world.” Hannity, who I presume has attained by now the dubious distinction of combining in one person just about everything that is repugnant in a rightwing bully, may be aware that this is a piece of macaroni, since he’s mixing apples and oranges and asking the audience to believe the result should be lentil soup, but if he is, he’s apparently not bothered by such trifling details. Of course the US has the most advanced medical equipment in the world as befits an enormously wealthy nation, although I doubt it is alone in that category. But (sorry Sean) the issue is not about the spectrum of exotic machinery that exists within the boundaries of a nation, but the distribution of access to it. The US also has many more Rolls Royces than Rwanda, but most Americans can’t benefit from that (assuming they liked these extravagant conveyances) because most won’t even get close to owning one in their lifetimes. Their existence is therefore a moot point in practical terms.
A sure bet
I’m therefore prepared to wager a bet that, as a first stage in their battle with SiCKO and its political consequences, the powers that be are—as we speak— busily putting the finishing touches on some ambitious p.r. and ad campaign to start muddying up the waters once again, with the leading politicians on hand to dismiss as “not serious,” or “not realistic,” any proposal that would create a government-sponsored single payer healthcare system, or any plan that dares to completely rule out “a partnership” between government, big pharma, and the private insurance companies.
The excuses will be the usual time-tested arguments: “we don’t want more bureaucracies,” “higher taxes”, “bigger government,” or whatever these cowards and liars usually hide behind to pay off their debts to their controlling masters, or save their skins from the sure-to-follow attacks the hypocrites on the right, through their highly disciplined noise machine, will surely deliver in keeping with the enormous lies they have disseminated with impunity for decades.
Yes, friends, the old tricks are being dusted off once more to render service to the empire. The same old tricks that Moore eloquently shows in his film have kept Americans in a cage of woefully inadequate (and brutally expensive) healthcare for as long as anyone can remember. The same high-handed deceptions spread by the conservative American Medical Association and the pharmaceutical mafia half a century ago, using as their megaphone the “all-American” persona of Ronald Reagan, surely one of the phoniest and most malignant politicians of the Twentieth Century. A blackmailing system of healthcare apportionment that has also served to tame labor and restrict the mobility of employes confronted with unhappy workplace conditions.
Cognoscenti of cold-war and right wing propaganda will recognize that Karen Ignagni, CEO of America’s Health Insurance Plans, and one of the earliest voices to be deployed in defense of capitalist medicine, has no compuction in resorting to the old bugaboos. It’s not accidental that she’s already warning us about that dreadful thing, a “Government takeover…” Brrrrr. Haven’t we heard that one before? When did the commies ever come to power except in “takeovers”??? Get the implication? It’s filthy and this woman knows it, but hey, she is what she is. As they say, very few will “see” something when their fat paychecks depend on not “seeing it.” Even if it costs unnecessary lives and happiness, which were, I thought once, part of the birthright of all Americans.
Readers wishing to read further on this topic may examine the attached Action Alert prepared by FAIR, a fraternal media watch organization with a distinguished record of impeccably documented exposes. The paper speaks for itself. Read it, and take action. Whining endlessly about how bad things are without taking any decisive action is a formula for defeat, and that, folks, is no longer an option. Michael Moore has given America an extraordinary political gift, an organizational and mobilization tool of superior power, capable, when deftly used, of overcoming the most rabidly stubborn defense of an indefensible status quo. Let’s thank Moore the best way we should: by putting SiCKO to work with ample faith and determination that change is possible in this and other corrupt areas of American life.
Patrice Greanville is Cyrano’s Journal founding editor.
USA Today’s ‘Sicko’ Debate
Is Michael Moore wrong…or very wrong?
On June 28, USA Today’s editorial page offered a “debate” on Michael Moore’s new film Sicko. But the paper “balanced” its own take critical of Moore with a piece written by a representative of the private health insurance industry.
Under the title “Today’s Debate: Healthcare,” readers saw the paper’s view under the headline “Flawed ‘Sicko’ Sparks Debate.” The paper wrote that Sicko “plays on emotions with anecdotes, stories and facts that aren’t always in context, up-to-date or accurate. So it has to be taken for what it is: a provocateur’s exposé of the worst of the American system, coupled with an uncritical, even naive, review of his preferred alternative.”
The paper went on to argue:
“Is a single-payer, government-run system the answer? That’s what Moore is pitching. Sicko applies rose-colored camera lenses to healthcare in Canada, Britain, France and Cuba. None of these, particularly Cuba, is as idyllic as portrayed. All require higher taxes to finance and are beset by inefficiencies.”
While acknowledging that the U.S. healthcare system had problems, USA Today concluded by declaring that “Sicko doesn’t have the answer.”
The piece that followed–labeled “Opposing View”–could only be considered the other side of a “debate” in the sense that it was more critical of Moore. This was not a surprise, considering the author: Karen Ignagni, president and CEO of America’s Health Insurance Plans. Her argument against Moore echoed USA Today’s in some key aspects: “Moore wants a government takeover,” she wrote, and his film “relies on one-sided anecdotes.” Ignagni also wrote that “Moore advocates a total government takeover of healthcare, sugarcoating what that would inevitably mean–including rationed care, long waits for care, underpaid doctors and delayed adoption of new technologies.”
So USA Today’s “debate” on healthcare policy went something like this: Michael Moore’s film is misleading, inaccurate and naive, and his solution for healthcare problems is wrong; on the “other” side, Moore’s work is one-sided and his solution would make healthcare in the United States much worse.
This restricted range of debate would seem to be in line with the paper’s reporting on Moore’s film. On June 22, USA Today’s Richard Wolf wrote that “Sicko uses omission, exaggeration and cinematic sleight of hand to make its points. In criticizing politicians, insurers and drug makers, it says little about the high quality of U.S. care. In lauding Canada, Great Britain, France and Cuba, it largely avoids mention of the long lines and high taxes that accompany most government-run systems.” The article closed with Ignagni complaining that the industry’s perspective was not included in the film.
What’s missing from USA Today’s coverage, meanwhile, is a real sense of how poorly U.S. healthcare fares compared with other countries. While the editorial noted that the United States spends “more than any other country” to achieve lackluster results in terms of longevity, it doesn’t point out that the U.S. spends twice as much or more on healthcare per capita as the countries that the paper calls “beset by inefficiencies.” As for “higher taxes,” a real rebuttal to USA Today’s position might have noted that the U.S. government spends about as much on healthcare as a share of GDP as the Canadian, British and Cuban governments do, and France’s government spends only somewhat more–even as the U.S.’s private spending on health dwarfs that of any developed country.
In its editorial, USA Today signaled a hope that Sicko “can stir a serious debate about the nation’s ailing healthcare system.” That sounds like a great idea–so why didn’t the paper have one in its own pages?
ACTION: Contact USA Today and ask them why their June 28 healthcare “debate” over Michael Moore’s Sicko was so unbalanced.
Brent Jones, Reader Editor