CHARACTER ASSASSINS

This is going to start an avalanche. The liberal speaks and I can just hear you guys cocking your guns…

Butch’s posting about Moore was not purposeless gossip. It was designed to tarnish Moore’s image and name. At the onset of Sicko’s release conservatives have worked themselves into a tizzy, outraged that, once again, this man is criticizing the system, any action of which conservatives have branded to be wholly un-American, even anti-American. Say what you will about Moore and his comments on Steve Jobs (which I too found ridiculous, but that’s hardly the point), it’s his film that deserves attention. However, his critics and dissenters (not excluded from this blog) follow the typical route of attacking his character in order to discredit the content of his film and distract people from it altogether.

The idea of “character assassins” is something I’ve wanted to elaborate on for a while. This aggressive and malicious form of coercion has become rampant in the news media forum, particularly among, though not limited to, the right-wing press. This vicious behavior is typical of Bill O’Reilly, Rush Limbaugh, and Anne Coulter, who’ve been defaming critics of the Republican Party for years now. There might be a tendency among their sympathizers to say ‘well, look at how many fans these guys have’ not only to somehow credit some veracity to their shows but to also justify their libel. Smack-talk is smack-talk and whether political or not it is sensational, attention-grabbing and attracts viewers and listeners like flies to shit. People didn’t consistently watch Jerry Springer, for example, because they actually believed everything they were seeing—most people knew it was largely fictional—but because of its audacity and entertainment value. O’Reilly and Limbaugh retain their audiences for similar reasons and to great appeal: there are countless Americans who respond enthusiastically to bullying. Really, can you imagine O’Reilly having the same popularity if he were genteel and polite?

The only leftist in my mind who is arguably comparable to these guys in terms of celebrity is Michael Moore, though he releases a film once every few years (big deal) versus Limbaugh, O’Reilly, et al, who do their mud-slinging on a daily basis. And while the character assassins on the Right have little purpose other than to defame in the form of “commentary,” Moore composes two-hour arguments that address problems–business moving overseas in “Roger & Me,” gun violence in “Bowling for Columbine,” ineffective HMOs in “Sicko”—and offer insight (our widespread violence is linked to widespread fear, “BFC”) or proposed solutions whether you like them or not.

How does the conservative right respond to Michael Moore? The way they respond to anybody who criticizes Republican policy: namecalling. The anti-Moore website “Moorewatch.com” calls the man a “fat bastard.” Fred Thompson in this YouTube video suggests Moore is mentally disturbed: “a mental institution, Michael, it might be something you ought to think about.” Google “Sicko” and “Michael Moore” together and you’ll find a slew of conservative websites that howl and call Moore a liar and yet offer no evidence of lying. The “Business & Media” website started their review of the film with “Michael Moore is a documented liar” and proceeded to not only state zero examples of Moore lying but rather accused him of failing to acknowledge the bad points along with the good of the Cuban healthcare system (yet B&M themselves failed to acknowledge the good points of the film along with the bad, choosing instead to focus on calling Moore a liar). This weblog “Truthdig.com” reviews “Sicko” and accuses Moore of not telling the truth. The reviewer spends three paragraphs criticizing the film’s music (!), though never points out any lies. What’s up with that, guys? Why would conservatives do that? Just being old-fashioned? Tradition? Anything anti-conservative must be a lie!

The slandering is so unchecked on the Right that I agree with my friend Steele: the Left needs more character assassins of their own. Fratboy neo-cons have been waging war on Democrats for the past two decades. What do you think? Do you think the pinkos ought to start calling their opponents faggots, liars, wackos, fundamentalists, and pedophiles ?

Back to where it started. Michael Moore and “Sicko.” Indeed, Butch, you didn’t even mention his movie or its implication before you chipped in to the right wing smear campaign against Michael Moore. This is the problem. You guys are throwing sucker punches at Moore himself so I’m going to call you on it. You’re passing judgment on this guy and affecting your opinion of his film before you’ve even seen it, if you ever allow yourself to see it. I don’t expect you or anybody on the right to knock off all the belligerence that has run amok in our public forums. The problem is so advanced that it’s not going to change. In the meantime I hope you can at least recognize this as a major setback in social discourse and effective communication in general whose fundamental component is fact not opinion.

As for the film itself,
here’s the best review I’ve seen of SICKO
. For anybody too skiddish to watch the film, this article sums up quite well its strengths and weaknesses, commenting not just on Moore as both filmmaker and subject, but also on the issues that the film addresses.

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Michael Moore whines about iPhone launch

Hat tip to “Let Freedom Reign

Michael Moore is whining about the debut of the Iphone as a shameless capitalist distraction from his precious little documentary. Talk about someone who reads his own press clippings:

“Apple and AT&T obviously don’t care about fixing America’s healthcare system. They only care about how many iPhones they’re going to sell.”

Um…yeah, that’s right. That’s typically what phone companies are worried about. Shame on them. And Michael Moore is not at all concerned about how many of his movie tickets are sold…right?

HeadlinedNews.com

Sicko: endorsement and counter

I received an email from my good friend Tom regarding the new movie Sicko.

John,

I watched Sicko earlier today; it was really illuminating (and sad). Have you heard of it? It’s Michael Moore’s new piece about the health care industry in the US.

Yes, I know how you feel about him. Yes, he uses a lot of his usual antics and rhetoric. Yes, you will likely find some and perhaps even most of them irritating.

With all of that said, there is a one big shock: for the most part he is fair and non-partisan, perhaps for the first time ever. He mostly avoids partisan issues, choosing to focus his attention elsewhere, but, being Moore, he of course can’t resist a few digs, especially against politicians bought too easily (and cheaply) by lobbyists. But, believe it or not, one of those receiving the harshest smack-down is his previously beloved Hillary. Apparently, hell has frozen over. Or maybe Moore has finally sobered up and looked around. (I confess while finding Hillary irritating and irksome at times, I once admired certain aspects of her platform long ago– especially regarding health care reform– but I feel she has long since lost her way).

The movie unabashedly makes a case for socialized health care, so you deserve to know that in advance, since I have gathered you are opposed to it. With that said, I hope you might be willing to watch the movie regardless. If nothing else, it pays to know what your enemies are up to.

The movie opens next Friday, and I am seriously considering footing the bill for anyone who wants to see it.*

I will likely see it and you are invited, although I suspect your interest might be limited because it’s a Moore film. If so, I cannot entirely fault you for that–his usual antics are on full display, and while I find a lot of his orneriness amusing, I well understand you and many others find his antics (and him) obnoxious. These days, I think many perceive Moore as more of an entertainer that panders to the left than as a bona fide journalist. I would, in fact, largely agree with this assessment.

Consequently, in many ways I wish someone else had made this film, because the issues it raises are important for everyone, regardless of which way a person leans politically. The whole nation needs to be having some sort of dialogue about these issues, and Moore is so thoroughly branded as a left-winger (or maybe even as a left-wingnut?) that I think the fact his name is attached to the movie will just polarize the issue politically, which would be a shame. Health care reform deserves bipartisan discussion and support–as a nation, we have got to transcend political differences on this issue. I can tell you firsthand that the current system destroys families and lives in a brutal and vicious way.

Too many people will miss this documentary because of who made it, and that is a shame and makes me wish almost anyone else had filmed it. But, with that said, I am glad that at least someone made this movie, even if it had to be done by Moore.

My reply:

One of the earliest free health care demagogues was Huey Long. Louisiana used to have charity hospitals all over the state, with 14 in New Orleans alone. During the last oil boom of the ’70s (during stagflation for the rest of the country) Louisiana was hopping. Without fail following an increase in oil prices Louisiana would elect a Huey Long style populist that demanded more money for charity hospitals. Even before Katrina the charity hospitals in Louisiana had conditions that were similar to that of the VA system in Washington D.C.

Now, the new populism advocates not for free health care (the results of which is plain to see in Sicko), but free health insurance for all. Somehow this will equate to Doctors not making mistakes or shortening ER lines.

If some health care socialization bill passes I’ll be ok, I can always bolt-hole to Taiwan. They have universal health care, but not the entitlement mindset found here, Canada, Western Europe (yet). Doctors there see 4X the patients and get 1/4 the pay as American doctors. Universal health care didn’t improve things there (the health care system was good already), but it did ratchet up the burden on the doctors I know there.

There is a long list of things the government is in charge of that are run inefficiently, and quite horribly. Public Schools and VA hospitals are two examples I can think of right quickly.

Just because something works for a small, homogenous western European nation doesn’t mean it will work here. Watch and see as those countries become less homogenous (via low birthrates and high immigration), as socialism as risk aversion (between homogenous classes and ethnicities) gives way to socialism as redistribution (from wealthy natives to poor African and Middle Eastern immigrants), you will soon see a change in policy there. The French electorate recently, and overwhelmingly, rejected the nanny state socialism Moore adores. As such, the French are so entrenched in the welfare state it will be hard to reverse course for a while.

And don’t get me started on Britain. They recently passed a law allowing citizens to go to other countries to receive health care on the government dime, acknowledging the severe limitations of their own impoverished system.

In Canada a citizen needed a Supreme Court ruling to allow a citizen to pay out of pocket for health care expenses. A single payer program would provide this kind of monopsony power to our federal government.

So, I’ll spare myself the anecdotal demagoguery this go ’round. There was a time when Huey Long/FDR style populism was what the doctor ordered. I don’t think that is the case today.

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