With all the DVD releases recently, you may have missed Michael Moore’s SiCKO. It is even possible, you weren’t really looking for it. Isn’t Michael Moore over? Hasn’t he shown he isn’t really a documentary filmmaker but a propagandist? In short, isn’t he just a little too biased?
The short answer to that question is: Of course, he is. But let us examine the bias inherent in asking that question. Due to the fact that Moore’s chosen medium is the film documentary, pundits tend to get very hung up on how “factual” his movies are. While I believe that Moore strives not to include any INCORRECT information in his pieces, that does not guarantee that his films are factual or even correct for that matter.
Everyone knows that it is possible to tell the truth, without necessarily telling the whole truth and nothing but the truth. Yet, there is something which Moore’s critics just don’t get: Whether or not his films are completely “factual” DOES NOT MATTER.
First of all, even the most balanced documentary is innately biased. Just as in so-called hard news, there is a built-in slant merely by choosing your subject or the story you choose to tell. Look at the administration’s attempt to get news stations to not report only the “bad news” from Iraq. Although Moore makes documentaries, he has no aspirations toward journalism. He is a provocateur. Not an agent provocateur, for he is no covert operator. On the contrary, for Moore, the more overt, the better.
Moore’s goal is two-fold: Making films entertaining enough so that he needs a wheelbarrow to go to the bank, and in the process provoke debate. Along the way he’s become a lynchpin figure, someone so divisive it’s difficult to look past the personality and examine only the content.
Does he let us know where he stands on the issue? Sure. But can we give movie-goers a little credit, here? No one who watches Sicko is going to come out thinking to himself, “Gee! I think I should move to Cuba since they have such nifty health care.”
The visit to Cuba is there for the shock value and the contrast. It would be as if Moore had visited Iran, been arrested as an enemy combatant, and found himself granted the rights of habeas corpus and due process. We would sit up and notice because we would not expect justice under such a repressive regime, and because it would throw our own deplorable policies into such stark relief.
A lot of folks have avoided this film thinking that it is Moore’s plea for ?socialized medicine? for the U.S. The actual subject of the movie is people who HAVE insurance, yet still somehow manage to not get the care they need when they need it.
At least with Moore, you go in knowing up front that you are going to get a specific point of view. Moore does not pretend to be “fair and balanced.” But his films pose some important questions.
How do we save communities when corporations move their jobs elsewhere? Why does the US have so many gun deaths compared to any other country? Why did the middle class vote against its own self-interest when Bush was transparent about his desire to take care of the rich and corporations over them? Why do we accept that government can be trusted to be relatively efficient and equitable when providing police and fire protection, roads and bridges, and Social Security but not health care? Why are we satisfied having the most expensive health care per capita in the world? All important questions indeed.
Moore’s critics would rather harp over minute details, like say changing the issue to his going to Cuba, than answer the important overarching issues. Moore does not attempt to provide answers himself; nor should he. He knows he is not a policy maker. But thank God there are still some people out there, journalists be damned, who are willing to ask, “Why?”