Part 4—Journalistic/professorial fail: Time magazine made a big mistake about film-maker Michael Moore.
Back in 2005, the list-making magazine honored Moore as one of the world's 100 most influential people. Two years later, the gentleman made a great film, and we all got to see that Time had been very wrong.
The film in question was Sicko, a humorous but highly pertinent look at the various health care systems of the developed nations. The film could have launched a great discussion, but we don't do discussion here—especially about the type of topic Moore attempted to tackle.
At the Washington Post, Stephen Hunter was called out of retirement to roll his eyes at Moore's film. "Ladies and gentlemen, I think we can agree on two things," he said as he started. "The American health-care system is busted and Michael Moore is not the guy to fix it."
In regular order, the Post's William Booth was more jocular in his own discussion of Moore's film. He described the way Moore had taken "his patented shtick to Canada, England and France...paint[ing] a very rosy picture, especially of the generosity of France."
At the New York Times, Moore's patented shtick was treated semi-fairly in an analysis piece by Philip Boffey. In this sardonic passage, he too mentioned France:
BOFFEY (7/5/07): After all these depressing tales, the second half of the film ushers us into a nirvana of humane and caring treatment supposedly provided to the citizens of Canada, France, Britain and even Cuba, a needlessly provocative choice that detracts from the main message.How strange! To think that viewers could have been left with an "impression" like that!
While Mr. Moore could find almost nothing good to say about American health care, he can find almost nothing bad to say about the government-run national health systems abroad. There is no acknowledgement of the months-long waits to see specialists in Canada and Britain, of the sick people who fall through the cracks in every system or of rising costs in virtually all countries.
The French system comes off as best, where the government dispatches home aides to help new mothers do the laundry and American expatriates extol the quality and promptness of care. We are left with the impression that these foreign systems are geared up to provide care, while our insurance companies are motivated to deny it.
In fairness, the New York Times published a lengthy editorial, in which the editors made an admission against major corporate interest. "Seven years ago, the World Health Organization made the first major effort to rank the health systems of 191 nations," the editors noted. "France and Italy took the top two spots; the United States was a dismal 37th."
Say what? France had been found to have the world's best health care system? Could that possibly help explain why Moore had taken his shtick there?
Inevitably, Paul Krugman devoted yet another column to the attempt to explain that countries like France provide universal health care, with health care outcomes as good as ours, at less than half the per person cost.
That said, if there was anyone less influential than Moore, it had to be Krugman, who had committed the cosmic error of knowing whereof he spoke. Meanwhile, rather weirdly, the editors completely skipped the issue of per person cost in their 1300-word editorial.
They examined a range of ways in which the U.S. health system fell short of those in other lands. But they completely failed to mention the matter of per person costs.
Let's return to our basic point. Rather plainly, Michael Moore wasn't hugely influential as of 2007. His superb film came and went, producing little change in this nation's pitifully Potemkin discussion of health care.
In part as a result, we can once again show you the startling numbers from yesterday's award-winning post. Nine years after Michael Moore's film failed to ignite a real discussion, you can once again see the remarkable numbers we have posted below.
The numbers come from the OECD. They compare the per person health care spending of the United States and France:
Per person health care spending, 2015Say what? France spends less than half as much per person? The U.S., which doesn't have universal care, spends an extra $5000 per person per year?
United States: $9451
In a word, those numbers are astonishing. In two more words, those numbers are never discussed. Thanks to the reliable silence of people like Maddow, Lilla and Rampell—we're naming just three in a cast of thousands—our standard gong-show pseudo-discussions roll along without anyone being asked to ponder the craziness of those blatantly crazy numbers.
Pretty amazing, isn't it? Five thousand dollars per person per year disappears into the maws of our "health care system," and we still can't provide the universal coverage achieved by a nation like France! Meanwhile, major news orgs break their backs to avoid discussing this state of affairs. Dearest darlings, it just isn't done!
Topics like these don't get discussed, not even by our own tribe. On the corporate channel which gets sold as "liberal," you see a great deal of mugging and clowning. But you never see the multimillionaire hosts discuss such looting at that.
What do we liberals do instead? When Sarah Kliff describes the fact that certain people in Kentucky can't afford to go to the doctor, we attack those people for their dumbness and, of course, for their presumed racism.
Skillfully, we doctor our facts, making their decisions seem more dumb than they actually are. We kick down at these average people as we maintain our well-paid silence about the looting conducted by the society's corporate interests and its professional swells.
What kind of professoriate conducts itself this way? What kind of liberal rank and file gets conned by the mugging and clowning of a car salesman like Maddow? And of course, health care looting is only one area where the Maddows agree to avert their gaze from the looting conducted by the interests.
To cite one other remarkable area, you're also constantly kept from knowing the truth about domestic and international test scores. This lets the interests pursue their attacks on public schools and public school teachers in their headlong pursuit of privatization's sacks of cash.
Incredibly, we aren't even allowed to know about the large score gains achieved by our low-income kids. Rachel would jump off the Golden Gate Bridge before she's discuss such a topic. No one else gives the first flying fig either, as their silence makes clear.
Today, we find ourselves two weeks away from a visibly crazy president. But guess what? We liberals can't persuade The Others that they've been taken in by Trump, in large part because we've been taken in by the Maddows and the long list of silent professors.
They tell us which groups we should "want to protect." In turn, they drop dick jokes and R-bombs on the heads of The Others.
Dumbly, we get swept along, rarely failing to tell ourselves how brilliant and caring We are.
To our own non-professional eye, Donald J. Trump seems diagnosable. It isn't a moral failing when someone is crazy, but that doesn't mean that he isn't crazy, and it seems to us that Trump is.
In theory, it isn't easy to lose a race to a visible crackpot like Trump. But in part because of our professors and our mainstream and corporate-liberal "journalists," we've been working for twenty-five years to help this disaster occur.
We slept in the woods as the narratives grew. We were barefoot and happy, convinced of our manifest brilliance.
Persistently, we name-call The Others, while protecting the elites by whom they're getting looted. This is very much the way our pathetic tribe rolls.
As this month's disaster approaches, we keep pleasuring ourselves with our attacks on the dumbness and racism of Those People. It's the only play we seem to know, and we know it amazingly well.
As the disaster looms, we keep pleasing ourselves this way. Might we suggest that the problems which now surround us have, in some tiny small way, maybe perhaps come from Us?