Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Baby With The Bathwater

I don't like Michael Moore.

It's not that I disagree with his politics (although I mostly do). It's not because I think he's a bad film maker (actually I admire his skill with the craft). It all comes down to this. He fights like a creationist.

In the creation/evolution wars, the most frequent tactic of the young earth absolutists is to take the smallest nit, then throw it into a cloud of nits in an effort to obscure a greater truth. People like Kent Hovind and Duane Gish will find a very minor disagreement in the evidence then shout, "AHA! It must all be wrong which means we must be right!"

Moore is currently quite upset with CNN for a report by Dr. Sanjay Gupta on his new movie "Sicko". In the report Dr. Gupta states Moore "fudges the facts". As you can see in this Larry King segment last night, who has the "right facts" is a matter of source and perspective. It is also elucidating to note in Moore's point by point rebuttal of the CNN report on his website the fudging boils down to such shocking disagreements as $6000 vs $7400 and 77.5 vs 77.6. Nits.

Of course, all of this presents an opportunity for Moore to turn to another frequent creationist tactic. Persecution and paranoia. Instead of a reasoned response of exploring the differences and discussing the greater truth, Moore chooses to accuse CNN of being bribed by HMOs and the pharmaceuticals. Disagreement, no matter how mild, is sinister and heretical.

Moore does do a great service. Once again, he has sparked a national conversation. We should be talking about health care. It may be the most important and most complex issue facing our generation.

But no matter how important the conversation, Moore with his burn at the stake tactics will never win the conversion.


Anonymous said...

The difference between $6000 and $7400 may not mean much to you but I bet to a working family that could really use that $1400 for all sorts of other things, it is meaningful.

As for the 77.5 vs 77.6, that is a rather important distinction, because that 1/10th means the difference between the lifespan of Cubans and Americans - and CNN had it completely wrong - trying to say that Americans live just slightly longer than Cubans. Wrong.

While I tend to agree with you - I would prefer that Moore this film would really start this important conversation - sometimes you have to fight the way your opponents fight.

And are you suggesting that the major news networks are not beholden in many ways to Big Pharma? Have you watched television lately?

How can anyone really disagree that our health system is in a shambles? Michael Moore may not have the solutions to satisfy everyone. At least he has the balls to make the film and stand up to all the abuse he gets.

Anonymous said...

Yeah, Catherine kinda hit my point -- Moore is definitely guilty of the persecution paranoia and hostile overreaction, but it was CNN that started with the nits, not Moore. I don't think Moore cared about the 0.2 year difference between his and CNN's version so much as he was angry at Sanjay Gupta saying flat out "not true" about Cubans living slightly longer. Plus the $6000 vs. $7400 difference was probably of little import in the grand scheme of things compared with the $25 versus $251 error CNN made, when they alleged (later attributed to a "transcription error") that Moore claimed Cubans only spent $25 per capita on health care -- a claim he never made, and an allegation of a 10x factor fudging is quite more infuriating, I think, than a 20% of estimate.

Really, CNN's entire Sanjay Gupta "reality check" farce was nothing more than nit-picking, trying to find any tiny discrepancy in his film to write the whole thing off as hot air, the same way Fox Nooz has spent three days talking about the hypocrisy of high-voltage concerts for Earth Live rather than address actual climate change. If I were Moore, I'd be pissed, too, but yeah, if he actually wants to be more effective, he'd learn to take it out in the green room and be more collected on camera. I got tired of watching him, too.

MTHEORY said...

"...argues like a creationist."

I truly despise Michael Moore, but get really tired of my conservative friends dismiss him as merely a loudmouth. He's far more dangerous than that, and you explain (some of) why he is.


griftdrift said...

Catherine, I have no doubt 1400 would make a difference to most people. But we are talking about a multi-billion dollar industry. Looking at the greater scale its not even a thimbleful.

Young Earth Creationists frequently use a similar tactic in an effort to discredit dating methods. They will say how can you trust these guys when they say something is 5-6 million years old? How can they be sure of anything when they are a million years off? Conveniently ignoring the million years is in significant in a 4.5 billion year time line.

Shelby, maybe CNN was picking nits also. But if you go back and watch the "reality check", you will see that Gupta agrees with Moore far more than he disagrees with him.

This was no hit piece. This was not a corporate shill attacking a little guy for their corporate overlords. It was a rather mild criticism on certain points in a documentary.

And what did that mild criticism lead to? Another opportunity for Moore to bloviate. And where did that bluster lead? A promise of a scourging of the dastardly CNN by Moore.

And what was this big flaming rebuttal? About six bullet points that generally amount to "nu uh, my report says 6 so stop saying its a half-dozen".

If Michael Moore really had balls instead of flaunting the word libel on his website, he would instruct his lawyers to actually file a suit.

If he does, I will gladly take book on who will win that one.

Anonymous said...

The problem is whether or not the points are very minor, what the average viewer takes from it is "OMG Michael Moore's new movie isn't true!!! I don't need to worry about the health care crisis!". Once that meme is out there on the national airwaves, the only counter measure is to go nu-clar, even if these are only nits we're pickin. So while Moore is a blow hard and Gupta is a preening peacock, I think Moore rightly understood the stakes, and responded as he had to.

Related but irrelevant story: we once attended a dinner party where Gupta was another guest. We didn't recognize him right away. He then proceeded to make references to his work with CNN, which got more and more obvious as the night wore on. By that point, all the guests seemed to have formed an unspoken pact not to mention his work, no matter how pathetic his bid for attention got. Sample conversation: Gupta - "So, next week I'll be climbing Mt Everest for a special on health care at high altitude." Us - "Has anyone tried that new Thai place downtown?"

Anonymous said...


You believe that a viewer, after watching Gupta's report, might get the impression they don't need to worry about healthcare anymore?

Not to defend Gupta too much here, but to be fair - he did agree with Moore on the point that "healthcare needs to be improved" and "healthcare isn't the best it could be".

Where did you misconstrue "our healthcare system sucks" for some criticism about Moore's cherry-picking of facts?

On another note, Moore wants to put healthcare in the hands of the government? The same folks who are putting Social Security and Medicare (oops!) into bankruptcy? The same people who are stuck in the '50's when it comes to moral and social issues (Marriage, sex, etc). That can't be a good idea...

Anonymous said...

I'm not a big Moore fan either, but I really enjoyed the way he tore "Sheep in Wolf's Clothing" Blitzer and CNN new ones for hyping the invasion of Iraq without asking any tough questions, and for his kid gloves interview with Dick Cheney. I wish more people would take the news network talking heads to task for not fulfilling their journalistic responsibilities.