CNN vs. Michael Moore vs. CNN vs. Michael Moore

OK, as I understand it, this is what happened.

CNN’s coverage of Michael Moore’s SiCKO has been dismissive, with talking medical head Sanjay Gupta accusing Moore of “fudging the facts,” and challenging his statistics.

Moore’s response has been angry, defying them to put up or shut up and prove him wrong, and pointing out that his statistics were backed up.

CNN swiped back, sometimes saying that they weren’t really disagreeing with him and therefore he was “creating controversy where none existed,” sometimes saying that while his statistics were backed up by reliable sources, sometimes he would choose (real) statistics from two different sources to exaggerate a point — so-and-so spent this much on health care in ’03 according to source X, while such-and-such spent that much on health care in ’05 according to source Y. Instead of comparing both parties’ numbers from ’03 from source X. This gets kind of nitpicky. Moore is correct that his numbers are accurate and backed up by reliable sources. CNN is correct that they are not as accurate as they could be if he was being wholly dispassionate in choosing them. However, CNN admits that even the numbers which are more “correct” by their standards support Moore, just not quite as starkly as the ones he chose to put together. So it kind of ends up being “Moore claims that American health care really really really really sucks compared to the rest of the world, but the accurate numbers show that it only really really really sucks. He fudged the facts!

There are also disagreements such as CNN claiming that Moore makes it look like free universal health care isn’t paid for by anybody, which is simply not true if you watch the film. He talks about the tax burdens that heavily socialized-health-care nations like France suffer under. He finds out that they’re not that outrageously different from ours, considering what they buy the citizens.

Overall CNN’s response, while trying to sound strong and thoughtful, is pretty weak, because the bottom line by their own admission is that they challenged him on virtually nothing of substance, while giving the overall impression in their coverage that he was full of shit.

They try to turn that into a point in their favor (“he is creating controversy where none exists — we did not disagree with him about this”) but to my mind, in saying that they are admitting how completely empty their critique was. It boiled down to some beefs with numbers which formed a tiny, tiny fraction of the content of the movie.

It sounds like the CNN coverage didn’t in fact give the impression that “no controversy existed,” but that the movie was basically bogus. In admitting that “none existed” they are admitting that they themselves (Gupta specifically) were creating an air of controversy over uncontroversial claims.

Point to Moore.

But he’s a dork for leaving himself open to even that much quibbling.