Saturday, July 28, 2007

When sickos go after Sicko

This will be a follow up to yesterday's blog piece on Bush's
Wonderland, or, given the state of his administration, Bunker. While
the administration is claiming executive privilege to keep major
advisers from responding to subpoenas to testify on important
questions of ethics and law and the Attorney General may face a perjury
indictment, there are reports that the administration is about to
subpoena progressive film-maker Michael Moore because he dared visit
socialist Cuba as part of his most recent documentary, Sicko, a powerful
and, given the really depressing subject matter, entertaining indictment
of the U.S. for profit Health Care Industry.

Michael Moore is perhaps the most influential documentary film-maker in
U.S. history. No one has reached wider audiences with documentary
films, beginning with Roger and Me, which captured the contrast between
the working poor and unemployed of Flint, Michigan, in the late 1980s
and the de-industrializing capital exporting President of General
Motors, Roger Smith and his retinue fans, including Pat Boone, Anita
Bryant, Ronald Reagan, and other well known entertainers. Bowling for
Columbine won an academy award as it took on the gun industry and
culture and the media saturation of the society with glorified violence
after the Columbine massacre.
Fahrenheit 9/11 started with the fixed election of 2000 and went
through the 9/11 attacks into the Iraq Invasion. It reached a larger
U.S. and global audience than any U.S. docementary film in history.
Sicko is Moore's most recent and in most ways least controversial
film, since it makes points about the U.S. health care industry that are
considered truisms through most of the developed world, even among
conservative parties and politicians, who are usually careful to
say,when they advocate increasing private options in systems of
socialized medicine or reducing some benefits, that they of course don't
intend to bring anything like the American system to their countries!

So why is the administration after Michael Moore? He hasn't tapped any
body's phone or arrested people without warrants. While Guantanamo is
part of Sicko(not quite in the way the way that the administration would
like to see it presented) Moore hasn't put anyone there to "enjoy" its
free health care. Maybe it is a bit like the line from a song making
fun of the New York Daily News that Pete Seeger used to sing when I was
an undergraduate at City College: "We've got to stop Castro, Stop him
flat. He's too damn successful and we can't stand that." Michael Moore
has been "too damn successful" because in every film that he has made he
has stood up to the exploiters and oppressors and both made fun them and
shown the misery that they create and "they can't stand that." And he
has reached large audiences hungry for media with progressive content,
not the different brands of Center-Right, Right, and Ultra-Right
portrayals of everything that fill network and cable television and the
bland centrism of PBS(not the progressive independent film makers it
highlights, but its regular news and public affairs programming)

It's not enough that establishment print and electronic media picks
away at Moore as best they can for his lack of "balance"(ha! ha!) and
gives him far less attention than his successes in the media market
would earn for virtually anyone else. Bush's henchman think they can
bring back the "wonderful world of HUAC" and either intimidate
Moore(which has never worked) into moving closer to the American Medical
Association or perhaps blacklist him from the world. One could say that
acts like this are standard operating procedure in authoritarian regimes
that want to become full fledged dictatorships, but that would be as
redundant as saying that Bush believes that the First Amendment concerns
Executive Privilege.

Also, the press reports that Bush administration "may"(hopefully will)
run to major congressional opposition on its plans to sell "Saudi"
Arabia over 20 billion worth of sophisticated weapons. Certainly the
feudal regime in Arabia can afford it(the bin Laden family itself could
probably afford it if they bought the weapons on the installment plan).
I guess one could remind GW of the billions in U.S. weapons that the
Shah bought before he was overthrown in Iran and also the scrap iron and
other materials of military importance, not to mention oil, that U.S.
corporations sold the Japanese empire while they were devastating China
in the late 1930s before the Pearl Harbor attack. But I don't think
that would much good, since Bush has always been loyal to his friends
and military contractors, transnational oil corporations, and the filthy
rich feudal rulers and of "Saudi" Arabia are among his best and oldest
friends. But He would probably answer in the words of an old rock n
roll song from my high school days: "Don't know much about history."
Norman Markowitz


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