16 July 2007

Moore vs Gupta -- in the Octagon!

I hadn't intended to go here. I haven't seen Sicko, and don't intend to. (My summer film viewing will be limited to Ratatouille, The Simpsons, and Harry Potter. I have kids.) I do want to comment on the Moore vs Gupta kerfuffle. For those who didn't see it, Moore was on CNN and Dr Sanjay Gupta did a "fact-checking" of his film, Sicko. They have since been bickering about the various facts Moore asserted in his film and Gupta's adversarial framing of the fact-check. CNN has issued a tempered retraction, and Moore has taken his usual combative approach.

So I'm not much interested in the actual numbers in this case. Moore said the US spends almost $7000 per capita on health, Gupta says it's just over $6000. Depends on your source and the year. Sheesh. Either way, it's still something like twice the OEDC average.

What I am forced to wonder is why CNN and Gupta felt the need to run a hatchet job on Moore, implying that his numbers were cherry-picked and somehow by implication his conclusions are untrue? All the more perplexing since their current line is "Hey, really, we all agree about this stuff anyway and Moore's trying to create conflict where there isn't any?"

Moreover, how come Wolfie & the gang will let right-wing apparatchicks spout complete and utter bullshit without ever once even challenging them, let alone "fact-checking" them in this manner? Why are they trying to hold Moore to some higher standard than they hold conservatives? To be fair, I am happy to see the media sort-of start to do its job with regard to calling bullshit when they see it -- I just wish they were so diligent about their duty to truth and facts with right-wingers.

As usual, Ezra comes pretty lose to the heart of the matter, I think. Money quote:

Here's a guess, though: Michael Moore elicits a very specific type of status anxiety in mainstream journalists. Moore's product -- passionate, provocative political commentary -- is a close cousin of the media's product -- bloodless, boring political commentary. ... What he does is, broadly speaking, in the same realm as what they do. But there are differences between the product he puts out, and what the media offers. A major one is that Moore's releases strike massive emotional chords with the American people, setting off weeks of heated discussion every time he unveils a film. ... So there's an acute desire on the part of the press to separate what Moore does from what they do, both in order to explain away his successes and to underscore their own assumed strengths (objectivity, rationality, etc). His failings may be manifold, but that hardly renders him unique. His treatment, however, is unique. The world is full of political provocateurs and public hotheads, but only Moore triggers the media's all-too-absent obsession with factual accuracy. Ann Coulter doesn't, and Al Franken doesn't, and Rush Limbaugh doesn't, and Mitt Romney doesn't. Only Moore. Because he scares them.
Or to put it less charitably: Moore's clear reporting of the terrible shambles that is our health care system and advocacy for serious reform makes one wonder what the hell Dr Sanjay Gupta has been up to the last seven years and why he and CNN have not made an central issue of the developing crisis. So Dr Sanjay has to take down Moore and make him look like a liar in order to preserve the veneer of his own credibility.

Journamalism at its finest. Heckuva job, Sanjay.


  1. I like the explanation Ezra offers because it is not based on a left/right treatment. I really think the mainstream media doesn't screw up because of left/right as much as other factors.

    Now, couple that with some very dedicated right-wing, or actually Republican Party, propoganda machines and you have a problem. But it makes sense that Franken probably gets the same pass as Coulter.

  2. In the octagon?

    That would be like Royce Gracie vs. Tank Abbott.

    I'd go with the skinny guy.

  3. Scalpel,

    I have no idea who those people are, but the mental image still makes me laugh. And having been a skinny guy wrestling a big guy (JIM2) I can attest that indeed F=ma.


  4. I must agree with jimii here. Anyone who saw Chris Matthews allow the thoroughly unprofessional Edwards ambush of Coulter must agree that left/right is not the issue.

    That CNN is falling into the opinio-journalism trap that the other networks have is the real issue here.

    And I'll disclaim that Moore's a liar who hardly deserves defense when he is attacked for telling lies. It just doesn't excuse CNN from their problems.


  5. Top 10 Reasons why CNN is better than the BBC World Service:

    10) We can afford James Earl Jones to read our tagline. So there BBC!!

    9) Graphics! You call those graphics!! Heck, we spend more on our graphics than you spend on your whole show!!! Shows what you get when you allow commercials to run half the time.

    8) Larry King - I learn so much from that man!

    7) BBC files stories from Mauritius and Mali and stupid countries like that that don't even exist.

    6) No crane shots in studio.

    5) Who cares about the climate in Cambodia. Do they even *have* climate in Cambodia?

    4) I like commercials. They're almost as slick as the news itself!!

    3) The BBC calls people "communist" or "socialist" like it's some kind of sociopolitical viewpoint, instead of the evil mark of the beast we all know it to be. Who writes the copy at the BBC anyhow? Might it be... SATAN!!! Some Red Chinese illegal alien from Mexico living here illegally for Red China so he can globalize jobs away from the American middle class for Red China!?!?!? (That's news, by the way!!!!!!)!!!!!!!

    2) They talk too much. It hurts my head. I like my news short and snappy!



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