But let's read what Krugman has to say:
So apparently Obama plans to appoint CNN’s Sanjay Gupta as Surgeon General. I don’t have a problem with Gupta’s qualifications. But I do remember his mugging of Michael Moore over Sicko. You don’t have to like Moore or his film; but Gupta specifically claimed that Moore “fudged his facts”, when the truth was that on every one of the allegedly fudged facts, Moore was actually right and CNN was wrong.Krugman's link — at "mugging" — goes to a USA Today article about the conflict, which mainly dealt with the amount of money spent on medical care per person in the United States compared to Cuba. You can see Gupta and Moore having it out on the Larry King show on video here or read the transcript here. The fact that Gupta actually did get some numbers wrong overshadows the policy dispute: Moore wants the government to pay for all medical care for everyone, and Gupta thinks Moore might be right, but that things are more complex than Moore will admit.
What bothered me about the incident was that it was what Digby would call Village behavior: Moore is an outsider, he’s uncouth, so he gets smeared as unreliable even though he actually got it right. It’s sort of a minor-league version of the way people who pointed out in real time that Bush was misleading us into war are to this day considered less “serious” than people who waited until it was fashionable to reach that conclusion. And appointing Gupta now, although it’s a small thing, is just another example of the lack of accountability that always seems to be the rule when you get things wrong in a socially acceptable way.
It's true, as Krugman says, that Moore comes across as an uncouth outsider and that we tend to feel an instinctive aversion to him. And Gupta is couth, an expert at projecting competence, expertise, and level-headedness. And Krugman is right that the uncouth speaker may be right when the couth speaker is wrong. On this occasion, Gupta got some things wrong, and where he was wrong, he quickly and clearly corrected himself and apologized. That's part of the couth style. So where is this "lack of accountability" that Krugman talks about? Gupta didn't get away with mistakes by speaking "in a socially acceptable way." Gupta was immediately called to account, and he stepped up to it.
And what of Moore? Is he accountable? Moore may have not been wrong on this occasion, but he's been wrong in the past about plenty of things, and his entire filmmaking style is based on a strong point of view — that is, bias — that involves distortion and emotive exaggeration. Does Moore make corrections and apologize? He method involves going doggedly forward toward his predetermined goals — like government-managed health care or opposition to the war or gun control.
So it's quite sensible — not some dysfunctional "village" reflex — to be skeptical when Moore speaks. At the same time, we listen to Moore — some of us — because he's got an artistic style that is often lively and funny and thought-provoking. He's chosen his uncouth, rebel style, and he uses his style every bit as successfully as Gupta uses his. Moore has scarcely been ostracized for his outsider manner. He's very popular. Some people hate him, but he's choosing to antagonize those people — it's part of his the polemical style that has made him rich and famous.
So don't cry for Michael Moore, give Sanjay Gupta the credit he deserves, and don't swallow anything whole, whether it's served up by rebel filmmakers or sophisticated doctors.