Michael Moore Spins Lies Into Gold

Michael Moore never made a secret of the fact that he is a man on the make. Mr. Moore craves wealth and adoration. Douglass Urbanski, Moore’s former manager, confessed to the Times of London that Michael Moore is “money obsessed.”

“I’m a millionaire,” Moore gleefully boasted to Fox News, “I’m a multi-millionaire, I’m filthy rich. You know why I’m a multi-millionaire? ‘Cause multi-millions like what I do. That’s pretty good isn’t it? There’s millions that believe in what I do. Pretty cool, huh?”

Millions of folks believe all sorts of things. In any case, Michael Moore is a boastful multi-millionaire ‘cause lots of lazy intellects like what he does and believe in what he flashes on the silver screen. But what does Michael Moore really do? Like the fairy-tale creep Rumplestiltskin, Mr. Moore spins straw into gold, which is to say, he edits reels of inexpensive stock film footage into cinematic fantasies that pander to liberal prejudice. Moore keeps his costs down by shooting only tiny amounts of original film. His signature editing technique is a repetitious exploitation of something that film historians call the Soviet Montage. It’s an editing style perfected by Soviet propagandists that exploits the viewer’s emotions by craftily juxtaposing carefully chosen film images to evoke a desired emotional response in its viewers. Truth and logic are incidental; in the realm of the Soviet Montage feeling is believing. Michael Moore’s mastery of the Soviet Montage made him a master manipulator of the liberal mind. Once Moore had captured their tender hearts he was free to lead them around by their noses.

[For the Internet’s most complete examination of Michael Moore’s movies and methods see Deconstructing Michael Moore in this series.]

Michael Moore has titled his most recent celluloid money maker Sicko. It’s a love letter to Soviet-style government-run health care which he strives to convince us will turn America into a patient’s paradise.

Moore presents himself as a folksy populist humanitarian crying in the wilderness even as he cruelly exploits a clutch of seriously ill people for dramatic effect. For example: Moore loads three Ground Zero volunteers and some other seriously ill people onto three boats on the Miami waterfront. Then he shows himself shouting “Which way to Guantanamo Bay” to a Coast Guard vessel. The tiny flotilla is shown casting off for Cuba where Moore has heard that the Bush administration is giving excellent health care to captured enemy combatants. The boats are shown arriving outside the American naval station where they are, predictably, denied entry.

It’s all political theater. Moore made no mention of the fact that all of them had actually flown to Cuba in air-conditioned comfort. The rotund multi-millionaire prankster continues his callous abuse of the rescue workers by wandering the streets of Havana with the three workers in tow. All of the other sick folks in Moore’s original entourage have mysteriously disappeared. Moore asks some guys playing dominoes if there’s a doctor in the neighborhood. They wander off to a pharmacy and then to a hospital where the Americans are swiftly admitted and offered treatment.

Just from watching Moore’s movie you’d never know that his every movement was prearranged and choreographed in cooperation with the Cuban secret police or that the hospital where Moore’s human props were quickly admitted was a special showcase facility for Communist Party dignitaries and friendly foreign propagandists who just happen to show up with film crews in tow. In truth, Moore had notified the Cuban doctors of their visit well in advance of his arrival. Moore says he told the hospital they were coming just to make sure they would receive the same quality of care as the local Cubans. In truth, the typical Cuban hospital is ill-equipped and poorly staffed. The average Cuban patient is expected to bring his own medications to the hospital; the average Cuban “doctor” has the skills of an American nurse practitioner.

Moore makes no mention of any flaws in any socialist health care system – instead Moore hops about from Canada to England to France and at every stop he inanely pretends to be astonished that he is in a country where medical services are “free.” The services aren’t free, of course; they are heavily bankrolled by sky-high taxation and a greatly diminished freedom of choice for the system’s captive patients.

In each country Moore interviews doctors who, predictably, extol the virtues of the system that pays their wages. There is not a peep about health-degrading long delays before receiving treatment or the widespread reality of second-rate care.

Moore is quick to tell us that a doctor in Great Britain makes a good income – about $200,000. In truth, this is not much for a first-rate doctor; it’s certainly pocket change to a fat cat like Michael Moore. What Moore doesn’t tell you is that socialist systems of health care set limits on the earning potential of first-rate doctors. When a Canadian doctor has earned $300,000 he is paid no more for the rest of that year no matter how many complicated surgeries he performs; after the earning limit has been reached, the doctor is working for free. Now that’s free health care; never mind that not paying people for their labor used to be called slavery. As a result of this built-in disincentive to toil long hours some of Canada’s best doctors have moved to the United States; more are on the way. America welcomes all skilled practitioners even as their migration diminishes socialist systems around the world. Moore mentions none of this; he has nothing to say about the quality of treatment offered to urban dwellers compared to that of country folk or about any of the dozens of pertinent questions that have been raised by forward-thinking Americans in recent years. Moore does not interview even one of these forward thinkers; in his hermetically-sealed cinematic world they simply do not exist.

In the end, Sicko is just a showcase for Michael Moore, the mocking, smug, manipulative and self-righteous multi-millionaire. Most striking of all is that Sicko brings to light nothing that the media have not covered extensively for years. Because Moore has no interest in complexity his movies are simple minded. Because health care is a complex issue, Moore is intellectually unequipped to explore it or offer us insight.

For example: Sicko doesn’t discuss the difficulties of reforming a system that is entangled with sixteen percent of the American economy; it doesn’t even hint at the tradeoffs and compromises that an all-encompassing health care system would require. It’s just a whirlwind tour of France and Canada set to the chant of Moore’s angry rant. It’s an anger machine. Moore’s simplistic answer to America’s health woes is a single-payer system with the government as insurer that would place critical health-care decisions in the hands of politicians and put private insurance businesses out of business. To quote the New York Times (6/24/07): “Well before the film’s June 29 national release, politicians on the left began lining up to associate themselves with Mr. Moore.” The article includes a photo of Moore at the podium of the House of Representatives surrounded by super liberals. Dennis Kucinich is standing at Moore’s immediate right hand, applauding.

The Times continues: “Mr. Moore and his producers have hired a team of experienced political operatives to garner publicity for ‘Sicko’ and to respond to anticipated attacks from the insurance and pharmaceutical industries. They include Chris Lehane, an aggressive consultant for the Gore and Kerry presidential campaigns, and Ken Sunshine, a prominent New York publicist who once served as chief of staff for David N. Dinkins, the former mayor.”

News that Moore had “hired a team of experienced political operatives to garner publicity for Sicko” comes only four paragraphs after Moore is quoted as swearing that, “I don’t need to market my films. Every time I make a film it breaks the last record.” He means the record for documentary films which was always a cinematic wallflower. In any case, he’s even telling lies about how his films are promoted. If he has no need to market his films then why is the notoriously tightfisted Mr. Moore shelling out big bucks for an expensive “aggressive consultant” and a “prominent New York publicist”? Perhaps because box office receipts for Sicko have been sagging. Critical examinations of Moore’s previous films have left him with the reputation of being a chronic and habitual liar. People who felt manipulated by his other shlock-u-mentaries are staying away from Sicko.

It isn’t only conservatives who are troubled by Moore’s crooked methods; even some leftists think Moore is casting a shadow over their pet enthusiasms. A documentary titled Manufacturing Dissent is currently being screened at festivals and was slated to air on the Sundance Channel; it presents a far-from-exhaustive collection of Moore’s cinematic fabrications and omissions. For example, the Toronto-based co-directors Rick Caine and Debbie Melnyk present evidence that the very premise of Moore’s Roger & Me was fraudulent – Moore spends his on-camera time chasing an elusive Roger Smith, the president of General Motors, while concealing from his ticket buyers that Mr. Smith had generously granted Moore two lengthy in-depth on-camera interviews. Moore keeps this film footage tightly locked away in his private film vault.

Most of the facts presented in Manufacturing Dissent have been common knowledge among inquiring conservatives for years. I detailed Moore’s methods long ago. As for Sicko, co-director Rick Caine has been to Cuba and he knows that the Havana hospital footage in Sicko does not come close to presenting the reality of Cuban health care. To quote Mr. Caine: “[In the film] there are no police or soldiers sticking their hands in the lens, trying to arrest the crew. When you show up with a camera like that, forget about it. You’re gonna be incarcerated within minutes. There’s no freedom of the press at all. But if you say, I’m gonna make your system look great, then they’re interested.” The marxist Mr. Moore was only too happy to put a smiley face on the oppressive Cuban police state.

For example, statistics from the World Health Organization, the CIA and others all suggest that Cubans and Americans have similar life expectancies: about 77 years. Cuba touts a lower rate of infant mortality. Both Moore and Castro make a big deal about this, but consider some other facts. Cuba has a very high abortion rate, which tends to lower the rate of recorded infant deaths. That stands to reason: the more children are killed before birth, the fewer will die after birth. A high abortion rate also elevates the average life expectancy because fewer infant deaths are pulling down the average life span. The constant flow of refugees away from little Cuba also raises the Cuban life-expectancy statistic because the births of the refugees are on record but the deaths of the long-gone refugees are never recorded.

Cuba’s low standard of living may actually enhance Cuban health in odd ways. Dr. Robert N. Butler, president of the International Longevity Center in New York and a Pulitzer Prize-winning author on aging, has traveled to Cuba. Dr. Butler observed that, “Because they don’t have up-to-date cars, they tend to exercise more by walking. And they may not have a surfeit of food, which keeps them from problems like obesity . . .” That’s no small point. Obesity is epidemic among American children. “This may be the first generation of Americans to live less long than their parents,” opined Dr. Butler. But what does this say about the Cuban and American health systems? Nothing. The Cuban health care system can take no credit for thin Cubans and the American system of health care deserves no blame for obesity.

In the American system, private providers face the daunting task of quickly and efficiently providing the best treatment to a population that won’t say “no” to its own destructive appetites. Nearly 130 million Americans are overweight; sixty million of them are clinically obese. Healthcare costs for these home-built lard buckets now rivals that of another vast group of self-deteriorated people: smokers. The obesity bill for 2003 was $92.6 billion, with the taxpayer-funded insurers Medicare and Medicaid picking up almost half the bill. America’s big problem isn’t bad health care; it’s bad health. People choose to smoke and to overeat; they can choose not to. There are now more former smokers in America than smokers. Anyone can quit. Healthcare costs would plummet if people chose not to indulge in unhealthy behavior. We should feel no urgency about saving foolish people from the foreseeable consequences of their voluntary behavior.

For decades Cuba financed its health care system and its medical education system with lavish subsidies from the Soviet Union. When the Soviet Union collapsed the subsidies vanished. By 1992, medical equipment and drugs were becoming scarce in Cuba. Dr. Leonel Cordova, a Cuban defector, recalls that he was assigned to care for everyone in a four-block neighborhood in Havana Province: all 600 of them. “But even if I diagnosed something simple like bronchitis,” said Dr. Cordova, “I couldn’t write a prescription for antibiotics, because there were none.” You won’t here anything like this in any Michael Moore movie.

Dr. Cordova observed that Cuba has two health care systems: one is for party officials and foreigners like those Michael Moore brought to Havana. “It’s as good as this one here [Baptist Hospital in Miami], with all the resources, the best doctors, the best medicines, and nobody pays a cent,” recalled Dr. Cordova.

The hospitals to which the 11 million ordinary Cubans are condemned will never appear in one of Michael Moore’s political cartoons. These hospitals are commonly ill-equipped and patients “have to bring their own food, soap, sheets – they have to bring everything.” How can this be? Didn’t Michael Moore assure each and every one of his ticket buyers that the gleaming Cuban hospital that he showcased in Sicko was exactly like the ones frequented by the average Cuban?

There is currently a shortage of doctors in Cuba because 20,000 Cuban doctors are now working in Venezuela to create the illusion that Venezuela’s Marxist boss man is some kind of miracle worker. As for Fidel Castro, he finally acknowledged that his emergency surgery had been botched by the best Cuban doctors; he kept from the Cuban people the fact that a specialist was rushed in from Spain to save the aging dictator’s life.

As for Michael Moore, even the central premise of his film is crap. Moore wrongly asserts that “we remain the only country in the Western World without free and universal health care.” That is false. Moore stumbles about France for days on end but remains totally clueless of the fact that the French do not have a no-fee system of health care, but a system of basic insurance, supplemental insurance and co-pays. Just over the border in Germany the average Hans and Hildegard have a whopping 14 percent of their gross pay deducted for a “sickness fund.” The real difference between the United States and those other countries is not that their health care is free, but that their health care coverage is compulsory.

As for the heart-rending stories: every system has them. There is no Patient’s Paradise. Here’s one horrible example: Michael Moore tries to make Americans hate their health care system by showcasing an American couple whose deaf child was denied cochlear implants for both ears because, the insurance company reasoned, the child could hear well enough with only one cochlear implant. Here’s the part Michael Moore won’t tell you: According to the Nottingham Post an English family was told exactly the same thing by England’s National Health Service. As I said, every system has its sad stories. In this case the American insurance company relented and ponied up the money for implants in both ears. The English couple had to finance the second operation from their own savings. The price was $63,000.

Two hundred thousand Britons are now waiting to join the one million Britons who are on the NHS waiting list for treatment. Once on the list patients may wait for years for routine treatments. Many of them will die while waiting. Many frustrated Britons are choosing outside practitioners for treatment, so many, in fact, that the private health-care market is thriving. Today, more than 6.5 million Britons prefer privately insured health care, 6 million have cash plans, 8 million pay out-of-pocket and a quarter million self-fund for private surgeries. Millions more choose private dentistry, ophthalmics and long-term care.

Moore is quick to pass along stories of Americans who died after being denied a treatment or a transplant, but he is silent about England’s “post-code lottery” which grants or denies life-saving treatment to patients based on how much money remains in the budget of that patient’s home district. Moore extols the Canadian way of treating patients. Of the American way he says: “About four hundred years from now, historians will look back at us like we were some sort of barbarians, but now we’re just the laughing stock of the Western World.” Well, let’s see.

The first freedom that Canadians lost was their freedom to choose a healthcare provider. Now Canadians are forced to endure long waits for government approval for necessary surgery. If they succumb to fear or frustration and seek immediate medical treatment in the United States, then they will be denied Canadian post-surgery care. How’s that for compassion?

The median wait to see a specialist from the time a Canadian primary doctor refers a patient to a specialist is now 8.3 weeks. After that, the median wait until actual treatment begins is another 9.4 weeks. Average wait times from family-doctor referral to the start of treatment is five and a half weeks for cancer patients and forty weeks for those needing orthopedic surgery. A recent story tells of a Canadian who suffered an unexpected epileptic seizure. Doctors told him that he might have a brain tumor; they also told him that he couldn’t get a needed MRI examination for many weeks. The frightened man crossed the border and got an immediate MRI exam that confirmed that he did have a life-threatening brain tumor. He was scheduled for immediate brain surgery. Now he is back home in Canada and suing the Canadian government for the $40,000 he spent to save his own life. With such an obvious need for something better, private clinics are opening across Canada at the rate of one a week. According to one Canadian doctor who flouted the government healthcare monopoly: “We’ve taken the position that the law is illegal. This is a country in which dogs can get a hip replacement in under a week and in which humans can wait two to three years.”

This is the system that Michael Moore wants to compel you to endure. When the American system of health care has been swept away there will be nowhere for frantic patients from socialist healthcare systems to run to for relief. But to Michael Moore’s way of thinking, the big problem with HMOs is that they are private, whereas the Canadian healthcare monopoly is taxpayer funded; in his mind the government-run system must be more compassionate even when it is offering inferior medical care. Compassion is a cherished liberal buzzword.

Michael Moore exudes the essence of every middle-class socialist. George Orwell captured this mindset perfectly: “The underlying motive of many socialists, I believe, is simply a hypertrophied sense of order. The present state of affairs offends them not because it causes misery, still less because it makes freedom impossible, but because it is untidy.”

Socialists crave an orderly New Order. Whether they are soviet socialists or National Socialists or just fretful suburban American socialists like Michael Moore, they all want the rest of us to get in line and wait our turn and conform to their shiny new Big Plan.

Moore’s pretense to social concern is all high-profit public relations. Behind his ratty beard, his baseball caps and his burger belly is a cross-dressing pretender to working-class authenticity. He’s a middle-class twerp who turned a few simple cinematic tricks and a social pose into millions of dollars. He brags about his millions. The populist poseur is, in truth, a peripatetic money grubber. The “compassionate” Mr. Moore, the man his former manager called “money obsessed,” insisted that the survivors and grieving parents of slain students pay an admission fee to see a “special screening” of Bowling for Columbine, which provoked one parent to remark, “Maybe now that he has made millions of dollars off the blood of our children he could toss a DVD or two our way to view.”

Peter Schweizer’s book Do As I Say (Not As I Do): Profiles in Liberal Hypocrisy includes one of Michael Moore’s tax returns which reveals that Moore and his wife control a stock portfolio that includes Halliburton stock. Moore had made a big show of excoriating Halliburton as a war profiteer. In truth, Michael Moore made a bigger profit from his war-related Fahrenheit 9/11 than Halliburton made from supplying goods and services to American troops in Iraq. Halliburton was constrained to a profit margin of 4% or less. There were no such constraints on Michael Moore. According to IRS filings, Moore enjoyed a 15% profit from his Halliburton stock holdings.

When confronted with his ownership of Halliburton stock, Moore dissembled on C-SPAN:
“Michael Moore own Halliburton stock? See, that’s like a great comedy line. I know it’s not true – I mean, I’ve never owned a share of stock in my life. Anybody who knows me knows that, you know – who’s gonna believe that? Just crazy people are going to believe it – crazy people who tune in to the Fox News Channel.”

Well, call me crazy. Moore is carefully parsing his English again. The way to enjoy the profits from a stock without “owning” the stock is to have your spouse or your corporation “own” the stock for you. Moore knows this legal trick very well: this rich man who rattles on about how the rich should be taxed at a higher rate made sure that his opulent Manhattan apartment was “owned” by a private corporation that Michael Moore had created just for the purpose of reducing his taxes.

So this mock populist can say he never “owned” any stock even as he spends his share of the Halliburton profits. The “regular guy” who says he doesn’t invest in the stock market because of his high moral principles has set up a private incorporated foundation that has invested its wealth (his wealth) in the pharmaceutical and medical giants Pfizer, Eli Lily, Merck, Genzyme, Elan, Becton Dickinson and Boston Scientific. How serious can Michael Moore be about hating these companies when they are supporting his opulent lifestyle? Even as his film Sicko savages American methods of health care, trashes the HMOs and vilifies pharmaceutical companies, Moore continues to pretend that he never “owned” stock in Tenet Healthcare and Pharmacia Corporation. He makes these denials with the studied earnestness of John Kerry denying that he “owned” a stable of gas-gulping SUVs. (They were “owned” by his wife.)

Michael Moore’s collected works, both literary and cinematic, constitute a library of misinformation. He has managed to move his entire fan club a step backward from uninformed to misinformed, rendering them even less capable of engaging in intelligent political discourse. His release of Fahrenheit 9/11 was carefully timed to explode in the midst of an election year like a political dirty bomb, leaving in its wake a toxic residue of needless acrimony and confusion. Michael Moore made it perfectly clear that it had been his intention to sway the election in favor of the left-wing candidate. Moore was even given a seat in Jimmy Carter’s private box at the Democratic Convention. Moore is their kind of guy.

Likewise, Sicko was intentionally released in the midst of a political free-for-all. For the first time is eighty years a presidential election campaign will not include any incumbent or former vice president; it will be a wide open-election. The movie Sicko is intended to be a campaign advertisement for whichever Democrat candidate offers the most radical socialized healthcare proposal. Every Democrat has a Big Plan.

Political advertisements are propaganda films. For political reasons it was paramount that Sicko be as relentlessly negative and maudlin as Moore could make it. Because Sicko is a political advertisement it is predictably long on emotion and short on the truth. To this end Moore’s website invited employees of drug and health care companies to audition for cameo parts in Sicko: all they had to do was tell horror stories about their employers. Moore encouraged people with heart-wrenching tales of bureaucratic unresponsiveness to contact him immediately:
“OK, here’s your chance. As you can imagine, we’ve got the goods on these bastards. All we need now is to put a few of you in the movie and let the world see what the greatest country ever in the history of the universe does to its own people, simply because they have the misfortune of getting sick. Because getting sick, unless you are rich, is a crime – a crime for which you must pay, sometimes with your own life.” [Emphasis added]

Moore concludes his on-line invitation this way:
“Thank you, all of you, for your help and your continued support through the years. I promise you that with ‘Sicko’ we will do our best to give you not only a great movie, but a chance to bring down this evil empire, once and for all.” [Emphasis added]

Moore was clear about his purpose: “I think the American people are clamoring to see the HMOs punished.” [Emphasis added]

So, Michael Moore wants to “punish” the “bastards” who maintain an “evil empire.” Wow. When George Bush talked this way about the sadistic and genocidal dictator Saddam Hussein, Michael Moore was quick to call Bush a crazy person. The same Michael Moore likened bomb-building religious bigots to “the Minute Men”; he called fanatical jihadists “freedom fighters.” This is the guy who licensed Fahrenheit 9/11 for release in the Middle East so it could be used as a jihadist recruiting film. This is the guy whose unbridled appetites for food, money and adulation have made him the strutting self-satisfied lard bucket liar we now know as Michael Moore. Even leftists have made a documentary about what an outrageous liar he is. He says that most American children couldn’t find England on a map and then, in the next breath, he professes his heartfelt belief that the very same government that gave these children such a lousy education is miraculously capable of giving all Americans first-rate health care. That’s called magical thinking. It’s a measure of Moore’s intellectual depth.

Thomas Clough
Copyright 2007
August 21,2007