What's the difference between art and propaganda? The artist wants to communicate and share and the propagandist wants to manipulate.
Michael Moore is a talented filmmaker, a great marketer, and a superb propagandist. Those skills have now been invested in his latest film venture about health care, "Sicko."
Part of the shtick, of course, is the portrayal that he's a man on a mission. A social crusader -- a kind of Ralph Nader whose medium is film.
"I mean, it is really disgusting," he says, "when a guy in a ball cap with a high school education is the one asking the tough questions....Criticize me? No. Somebody, really should show up and say, 'Thanks.'"
But a lot of people are showing up and saying "thanks." It's why Moore, from what appears to have been pretty humble working class beginnings in Flint, Mich., is now a multi-millionaire and far from being a simple guy in a ball cap. Folks are saying thanks by plunking down fistfuls of dollars to see his films and buy and rent his videos.
Moore's last film, "Fahrenheit 9/11," a broadside attack on the Bush Administration and the war on terror, grossed $220 million worldwide and cost $6 million to produce.
Is he a social commentator? A man who lives to reform?
No, this is an entrepreneur from the far political left with a business model that is serving him very well. The usual left wing Hollywood con artist, who talks socialism and gets rich off capitalism.
Moore's films are to social commentary what pornography is to human relations.
Find vulnerabilities and hot buttons, stimulate, provoke, exploit and sell tickets.
I've had a chance to see "Sicko" because I was on a TV panel that hosted Moore as part of his promotion campaign.
The film, which cost $9 million to produce, and likely will generate nine figure revenues, is out of the usual mold.
It pitches socialized medicine by cherry picking stories that allegedly testify to the success of the government-run systems in Great Britain, France, Canada, and even Cuba, and then finds horror stories to show how bad things are in the U.S.
I shot an e-mail to a friend, an American, now a long time resident of Great Britain, and asked about their National Health Service. Here's the response:
"If you end up with an exotic disease that requires a lot of care, you're screwed. For example, the waiting list for any kind of major surgery is long and for things like knee replacements you can wait for three years. Alzheimer's drugs aren't available on the National Health Service because they're too expensive. More and more people are paying for private health insurance cover, and more and more companies are making it part of the perks package. So, Britain will end up with a two-tier system before too long where the "rich" get good private cover and the poor or uninsured have no alternative to the NHS."
Moore and his rich left wing Hollywood buddies won't have to worry about the inevitable shortages and distortions of socialized medicine. They'll simply be living in their own private care universe.
Cuba? Call any Cuban expatriate here, and I've talked to a few, and they'll tell you that the shoddy local care is never what a foreign visitor would see. What we do know is that Cuba has the highest abortion rates, highest suicide rates, and lowest fertility rates in our hemisphere. And we also know that any Cuban that tries to exercise free speech, like Michael Moore luxuriates in here, would soon become a non-person.
We do need health care reform in the United States. But problems get solved through analysis and integrity and not with sensationalism and exploitation.
We already have massive government involvement in our health care markets and there is good reason to believe that this is at least part of the problem. A third party payer system subsidized by the tax code and a patch work of state regulated programs and, hence, no national market.
Government run Medicare and Medicaid are in fiscal crisis and rote with distortions, waste, fraud, and abuse
Michael Moore thinks health care should be free. Why doesn't he distribute this important work explaining why for free? After all, he's said "...I made this film because I want the world to change."
When word got out the other day that a pirated edition made its way onto the Internet, his friend and distributor, movie mogul Harvey Weinstein, went into high alert taking online countermeasures to prevent distribution.
Moore himself, ever cool, said, "The more people who see it the better, so I am happy this is happening."
So give it away for free, Michael. You'll be ecstatic.