Guerilla filmmaker Michael Moore knows how to push buttons. He let the gun lobby embarrass itself in “Bowling For Columbine,” and he trashed President Bush and his administration’s response to the terrorist attacks in “Fahrenheit 9/11.”
Moore’s newest film is “Sicko,” an indictment of the nation’s health care system. From uncaring insurance companies to government regulators who don’t do enough to protect patients, it is certainly ripe for criticism. Moore’s genius, if you want to call it that, is for making the people he attacks, become part of his publicity machine.
The Bush administration is obliging this time, by launching an investigation into Moore’s film-making trip to Cuba. There, he sought better care for 9/11 firefighters and other rescuers who suffered long-term health effects from toxic substances at Ground Zero, and say they haven’t gotten proper treatment through the government or the U.S. medical establishment.
“For five and a half years, the Bush administration has ignored and neglected the heroes of the 9/11 community,” Moore said in (a) letter, which he posted on the liberal Web site Daily Kos. “These heroic first responders have been left to fend for themselves, without coverage and without care.
“I understand why the Bush administration is coming after me _ I have tried to help the very people they refuse to help, but until George W. Bush outlaws helping your fellow man, I have broken no laws and I have nothing to hide.”
Nothing serious is likely to come of the investigation into Moore’s trip to Cuba- the probe is civil, not criminal. But how better to launch his latest project, than to have Washington brand him as an outlaw? To make himself appear more of a victim, Moore says he has put a copy of “Sicko” in a “safe house” outside the country, in case the government wants to seize his movie.
“Sicko,” given the number of people who aren’t getting what they want or need from American medicine, will be a hit and may in the end wake some authorities up to the need for reforms. And that will be thanks, partly, to publicity help from a government that’s let the hospital conglomerates, the drug companies and the health insurers do pretty much what. As those who’ve gotten a free p.r. ride on news stories in the past have said, “You can’t buy this kind of publicity.”