by Gary Gordon; this article was originally published in Partisan issue no. 24, printed November 2007.
It is difficult to review a Michael Moore film without reviewing Michael Moore. He is the upstart troublemaker, activist, trickster, vaudevillian, the sore spot on the ass of the official story; celebrated, vilified, studied by anthropologists. Oh, and he's popular.
In "Roger & Me", he documented the economic collapse of Flint, Michigan, as General Motors reorganized and the local Chamber of Commerce simultaneously denied the collapse and concocted bizarre and unsuccessful plans to revitalize the place.
In "Fahrenheit 9/11" he argued that the "war on terror" and the invasion of Iraq were based on lies.
Now in "Sicko" he declares the healthcare system in the United States is broken, owned and operated by a greedy and often corrupt insurance industry and their servile politicians in both major parties, and there is a better way.
Through heartbreaking interviews with healthcare system victims, including 9/11 heroes who worked ground zero, and those in middle-management who once perpetuated the system and have since defected, Moore clearly documents the problems created by the for-profit health industry.
Through interviews with citizens of Canada, England, France and Cuba, Moore presents exciting aspects of their national health systems and maintains this kind of socialized approach is a solution for us to grab. To detractors of socialized systems, he points to long-socialized American institutions: our police and fire departments, our post office, public schools and libraries.
Critics of Moore often pick over his films the way vultures devour roadkill, finding fault and what they argue is deception and manipulation. Unfortunately, by some reputable accounts, Moore leaves himself open to these attacks because there are times when his use of narrative and moving images slights the truth of a more complex situation. His celebration of then-First Lady Hillary Clinton's health care plans, as if her call for a national health plan was not a colossal deception designed to maintain the insurance industry's grip speaks to his occasional naivete. To his credit, he points out her rank as senator and presidential candidate among recipients of health insurance industry donations: she is number two.
The thing is, Flint, Michigan's economy did collapse when General Motors shifted facilities and tens of thousands of jobs to Mexico and the Chamber's schemes flopped, the "war on terror" and the invasion and occupation of Iraq were and are based on lies, and the U.S. healthcare system is broken.
In other words, despite Moore's faults and his critic's best efforts, Moore gets it right.
Moore's is not the first nor final word on the healthcare debate, but his film "Sicko" is a brilliant, devastating portrait of a sick system and a poignant draft of a possible solution.
Gary Gordon is a member of the Los Angeles County Peace and Freedom Party Central Committee.
"Sicko" is now widely available on DVD.