Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Mikey Moore & The Making of Idiocracy

When I was a lad, 13 or 14 or something, I liked Michael Moore. He had a show on tv that exposed our societal hypocracises, untruths, excesses and misdirections in a time when no one was really asking (The Clinton/Chretien era) and no one really cared. After about ten episodes, the show was cancelled and Michael Moore was never heard of again. That is, until a national catastrophe occurred that proved too tempting to hijack.

Mikey was back, and his Bowling for Columbine singlehandedly resurrected the fictional documentary. It was years since This is Spinal Tap, and so everyone had pretty much forgotten that just because it looks like a fact, smells like a fact, and is delivered like a fact, it doesn't mean that it is a fact. North Americans and Europeans loved Moore's irreverent usurpal of the American gun industry - especially when he compared it to Canada, which has no guns, no violence, and no crime. A few years later, Moore was back with Fahrenheit 9/11, which attacked the fact that the West had been attacked by violent Islamists and hinted at widespread conspiracies which were plunging the world into chaos and war. When critics pointed out the many fallacies, strawmen, and sometimes plain lies of Moore's films, he and his followers simply ignored them: When you're in the fiction business, you're the realist, everyone and everything else is just imaginary.

It's 2007 and Moore is back with Sicko, another fictional documentary that this time goes after private medical insurance in the United States. The point of it is that nationalized medical insurance, paid for by taxes, is good, and private medical insurance, paid for by clients, is bad. Once again, Canada is held up on a pedastel, while the American healthcare system is chopped to peices.

So what does this have to do with the making of an idiocracy? Well it's not like film is the most cerebral of mediums, so obviously you can't fault Moore there. Where you fault Moore is with how and why he sells his ideas. Rather than a pro vs. con comparison of each argument, Moore simply dismisses any opposition without actually building an argument to do so. It's like John Stewart, only some Daily Show viewers are able to distinguish between real life and tv, whereas many Moore fans have simply decided not to. What happens is that millions of impressionable youths (and holdout communists, socialists, leftists, condo-owning hippies) walk out of movie theatres thinking they've engaged an serious issue, or at least have a good understanding of it, while all that's really changed is just an unquantifiable drop in common sense and greasy popcorn fingers. Moore says it's wrong, ergo it is wrong. Tautology for the unphilosophized.

To wrap up this rant I'd like to just point out a couple problems that I can immediately see with Sicko just from what I know of the premise of the film. For starters, the American medical system, even with it's lack of public medical insurance, is still the envy of the world. People do not fly from Cheyenne, Wyoming to Vancouver, British Columbia for treatment - they fly to Cheyenne from Vancouver. Nationalized health insurance is prone to widespread abuse by patients, which clogs the system and prevents many honest patients from receiving the treatment they require (and paid for), which has a substantial affect on, say, the survivability rates for breast cancer. Last I looked, the curative rate for breast cancer in the USA was around 75%, as compared to 50% and 40% for Canada and Britain. Are these trivial facts, too peripheral for Moore to include? It seems so.

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