January 7, 2009

"The trouble with Sanjay Gupta," says Paul Krugman, is seen in the way he "mugged" Michael Moore.

I know, you're thinking: If that's the trouble, bring it on.

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.

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.
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.

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.

62 comments:

EnigmatiCore said...

The pre-administration period does not matter all that much, especially when compared to when the President actually takes office.

That said, since being elected, President-Elect Obama has pissed off all of the correct people so far and disappointed those most in need of being disappointed.

If he keeps this direction once in office, he may end up being great.

Host with the Most said...

Excellent defense, Counselor.

TheCrankyProfessor said...

Not to mention that Michael Moore, Manhattan resident, is about as much an outsider as Paul Krugman is for exiling himself to Princeton, NJ. The outsider, baseball cap thing is a costume, like Jack Benny's violin.

traditionalguy said...

I admit that I do feel sympathy for highly skilled, productive men and women who go ahead and serve the public for the good of their community in face of the NYT/Michael Moore style of slandering bombthrowers. The Party could never understand Dr Zhivago's attitude that you must also keep the patient alive during the surgery of great Social changes. They also cannot understand Obama's choosing a good surgeon like Dr Gupta instead of chosing a Communist revolutionary to gut the health care system. Politics does have consequences if Bombthrowers are appointed as the caregivers.

knox said...

Cranky's right. Michael Moore was fully assimilated long ago. He lives--and sends his daughter to private school--in Manhattan. I'd wager there's nary a dinner party he's not invited to!

And I'll never take Krugman seriously after he suggests that people are skeptical of Moore because he's not groomed or whatever; people are skeptical of Moore because his movies are full of shit and he's a preening hypocritical boob.

knox said...

Yes, preening. Cranky's right about that, too. His slobbiness is as calculated and as image-conscious as anything in Hollywood. Or Manhattan, as the case may be.

Ralph said...

Anyone who tells the gullible that Cuba's health care is anywhere near as good as ours deserves mugging.

Lem said...

He he he.

The professor said swallow.

Suchita S said...

Plus, Dr. Gupta's opinions wouldn't be his solely personal opinions as SG. They would be medical, scientific opinions, based on plenty of data and analysis (and definitely fact-checked).

I agree, give Dr. Gupta more credit than Krugman does.

Pogo said...

Krugman is merely pointing out that Gupta has violated the "no criticism of the left" policy.

As for Moore's mugging, it was deserved.

You ant to know about real Cuban health care>
Try this:
"The most difficult thing—which cost me days and incredible swaps—is the suture thread for the surgery they are going to do tomorrow. I also brought a box of disposable syringes since she yells to high heaven when she sees the nurse with a glass one."

And this (the pictures demonstrate a horror):
"It wasn't much of a cold; just the kind that would get better by itself in a week. In the meantime it was a nuisance with a cough and stuffy nose. A little over-the-counter remedy would help.....There were no over-the-counter remedies to be had. I asked the guide what Cubans did if they had a cold. The guide said that a Cuban would go to the doctor — a visit free of charge — who would write a prescription for aspirin. However, there would be no way to fill the prescription. We visited a pharmacy later in the trip. Behind the counter five well-dressed Cuban women waited to serve, but the shelves were empty. The only items in sight were the monthly ration of sanitary napkins, 10 permitted per Cuban woman per month.
It was like being in a dream where two different things can happen at the same time. We were in a two-tier system: one for the privileged (tourists, for example) and the other for those who lived and worked in socialist Cuba."

Joe Welch said...

don't swallow anything whole, whether it's served up by rebel filmmakers or sophisticated doctors.

Or banal bloggers, for that matter.

jdeeripper said...

But I do remember his mugging of Michael Moore over Sicko.

"Mugging"!!! Did the Good Liberal actually accuse a Person of Color of mugging a melanin deficient pink male?

Boo Hiss!!! How RACIST, how XENOPHOBIC!!!

Krugman the Republican? A Palin supporter at the NYTimes??

Outrageous.

BIGOTBIGOTBIGOTBIGOTBIGOT***frothing at the mouth***RACISTRACISTRACISTRACIST!!!!

froggyprager said...

I agree with Krugman's point in that Gupta made a huge effort to discredit Moore by pointing to supposed problems with his statisitcs. The differences were grey and insignaficant to the larger point of the problems with our health care system. Even if Gupta agrees with Moore about many of the problems, his attack against his #s discredit the message of the movie and do we want someone like that involved with health policy at a the federal level.

Henry said...

his attack against his #s discredit the message of the movie and do we want someone like that involved with health policy at a the federal level

Yes.

I prefer to have my policy hashed out by non-ideologues.

EDH said...

Notice, Krugman never documents the incorrect facts he alleges Gupta used to "mug" Moore.

Instead, what Krugman hypocticially does is rely on old faithful: try to provoke a now "fashionable" "village" attack on Gupta with a tenuous Bush analogy. Sorry Paul, that train will be leaving the station soon.

For support, Krugman links a USA Today article citing how Gupta/CNN misreported a $25 versus $251 per capita Cuban healthcare expenditure figure.

Yet to say Cuba spends less per capita is to exaggergate Moore's point, isn't it? After all, Moore thesis, I think, is that Cuba spends less per person for a given healthcare result than does the US.

Hence, at worst this seems like a naked reporting error on Gupta's part, not a misleading fact used to "mug" Moore.

So, where's a misleading fact used to "mug" Mooore? The only other "fact" I saw in the USA today piece that Krugman links to is the conflict of interest charge against Tommy Thompson. And Moore doesn't support Democrats?

What will people like Krugman do when they don't have George W. Bush to kick around anymore?

Hopefully, marshal some actual facts that support their arguments and charges!

Richard Fagin said...

I repeat my earlier comment about The Boy Who cried Wolf, and Krugman is one of the better examples, as is Moore. Even when the occasional correctly stated fact comes out, it's obscured by the pile of falsehoods otherwise propounded.

TosaGuy said...

I am sure Paul Krugman has never (cough) ever (cough) attacked a person (cough) because they were an outsider pointing out something in an uncooth and unfashionable way (cough cough).

Sorry for the coughing....until I hit Walgreens after work there is as much cold medicine in my house as Cuban pharmacy.

Tibore said...

Instead of making a "meta" attack on the meta story - the fact that Gupta clashed with Moore - possibly Krugman should do the intellectually responsible thing and use original sources and information to build his thesis. Show where Moore is right and Gupta is wrong, and if he runs across the corrections Professor Althouse here has pointed out, acknowledge them and continue to build the argument on other places he believes Moore is right and Gupta is wrong. Build on facts, not some silly argument about who's "uncouth". To do otherwise is to not build an argument of fact, but to build a hit piece.

Then again, let's be honest. This is Krugman.

---

As an aside, let me also state yet another disappointment in Krugman (that tally is getting really big, lemme tell you): By arguing that people were judging Moore by his behavior rather than by facts demonstrates Krugman's opinion of the "common person". And it apparently is low. Possibly some of us have been doing independent research into the state of health care financing and US policy since the first Bush was in office, and have been able to draw our own conclusions about Moore's information not based on his appearance or "uncouth" behavior? Possibly some of the rest of us in the hoi-polloi use logic and fact to make our judgements? Oh no, we were engaging in "village behavior"... we weren't thinking clearly.

Condescension like that is why I cannot stand Krugman or anyone else who passes such broad judgement of the rest of America.

TosaGuy said...

Next Krugman article "Obama misses chance to put (preening) Nobel Prize winners in cabinet"

Palladian said...

"Even when the occasional correctly stated fact comes out, it's obscured by the pile of falsehoods otherwise propounded."

Time to pull out my favorite quotation from "The Exorcist":

The demon is a liar. He will lie to confuse us. But he will also mix lies with the truth to attack us. The attack is psychological, but powerful. So don’t listen, remember that, do not listen!

Palladian said...

"Oh no, we were engaging in "village behavior"... we weren't thinking clearly."

But wait, I thought "village behavior" was a good thing?

Henry said...

Then again, let's be honest. This is Krugman.

Yes. Though the real problem with Krugman isn't his bias. It's the fact that he's boring.

He's the Jersey Turnpike of opinion writers. Starting point A leads to conclusion B and there's nothing interesting in between.

Palladian said...

"He's the Jersey Turnpike of opinion writers. Starting point A leads to conclusion B and there's nothing interesting in between."

But, but he's a NOBEL LAUREATE! His every belch and fart should be bottled and saved for posterity! That's how the New York Times sees it, anyway.

Original Mike said...

I agree with Krugman's point in that Gupta made a huge effort to discredit Moore by pointing to supposed problems with his statisitcs. The differences were grey and insignaficant to the larger point of the problems with our health care system.

The differences are gray and insignificant to the larger point that no sentient being would choose to be treated by the Cuban health care system over that of the U.S.

Kirk Parker said...

"we listen to Moore — some of us"

Shame on some of us. If the sort of serial dishonesty and fabrication that Moore has engaged in (starting right from the beginning) doesn't disqualify him from serious consideration, then please tell me what would it take to do so?

David said...

Once again, Krugman shows that he should stick to economics.

Paul Snively said...

Michael Moore isn't a documentary filmmaker. He's not even an entertainer. He's a liar, plain and simple. As another poster said, he's been so from the very beginning: he actually met with Roger. It's all downhill from there.

You can listen to liars if you wish, but I wonder why you'd waste your time.

X said...

Paul Krugman was an advisor to Enron and the New York Times has lost shareholders 90% of its value since he came on board while Pinch has been raiding the assets for the benefit of family members who keep him in power.

garage mahal said...

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.

The Bonesman in the Village wouldn't stand for it any other way. This Land is THEIR Land! They must critically fact check every Moore film immediately to try to discredit his findings that, yes, there are actually poor people living in America under the enlightened Villagers Watch - and that our health care system is the biggest market failure ever - while the entire time they are reporting on Democrats haircuts or some trivial bullshit that effects virtually nobody. What use do multi-millionaire Nantucket journalists like Chris Matthews have for actual policy questions or debates about health care? They already have it! Worse, they don't even attempt to do the most minimal research to learn it.

Pogo said...

"our health care system is the biggest market failure ever"

Democrat stupidity, arrogance, and anti-capitalistic jingoism all in one short phrase.

El Presidente said...

Even I didn't believe the horse $#!& that Michael Moore was shoveling.

garage mahal said...

Democrat stupidity, arrogance, and anti-capitalistic jingoism all in one short phrase.

And squarely in the majority, unlike yourself.

jayne_cobb said...

I've always wondered something regarding the claims made by supporters of universal health care when regarding Cuba:

Have the claims made regarding life span and infant mortality rates ever been independently verified? Has a reputable organization ever traveled through the workers' paradise (where cell phones are a rich man's luxury) without a governmental chaperone and actually checked out the claims?


I'm pretty sure of the answer, but I find it funny that people who go on endlessly about how any statement by the Bush administration is a lie routinely take as fact any assertion made by a communist dictator.

Hoosier Daddy said...

and that our health care system is the biggest market failure ever

Seriously garage, hysteria is so unbecoming of you.

And squarely in the majority, unlike yourself.

And you're still bitching about everything under the sun.

Hoosier Daddy said...

I've always wondered something regarding the claims made by supporters of universal health care when regarding Cuba:

I've always wondered why people who have free and the bestest health care in the world would risk sailing 90 miles in rickety raft through shark infested waters to the land filled with Pink Men who hate non-pink men and non-pink women and health care isn't free.

Pogo said...

"And squarely in the majority"
The majority is very often (if not usually) wrong (from partially to entirely), and when wrong, sometimes horribly and destructively so.

In fact, when I find I agree with the majority, I give it another think.

IQs aren't additive, but inversely logarithmic.

The only thing the majority gets 'right' is things having no right answer at all, like music. 50,000 Elvis fans and all that.

Palladian said...

"And squarely in the majority, unlike yourself."

Says a supporter of big-time loser Hillary Clinton. As I recall, you weren't so happy with the majority during the primaries.

"The only thing the majority gets 'right' is things having no right answer at all, like music. 50,000 Elvis fans and all that."

They don't even get that right usually!

Oligonicella said...

garage mahal --

"They must critically fact check every Moore film immediately to try to discredit his findings that, yes, there are actually poor people living in America under the enlightened Villagers Watch..."

No, we already acknowledge there are still poor here. But, we argue about the meaning. For instance -- this -- little gem illustrates that we are amongst the best in the world at removing said poverty. And... whadayaknow?... Cuba doesn't release any data.

Keep in mind also, this map deals with what percentage the countries deems to live below their own perceived poverty line. Meaning, in the U.S. you have to make below $10K per year as of 2007 to be in poverty. Think about that. Ten grand is is how many years wages for the average Cuban?

garage mahal said...

Says a supporter of big-time loser Hillary Clinton. As I recall, you weren't so happy with the majority during the primaries.

I don't think I was in the minority during the primaries. As far as Hillary being a loser I bet the Goddess of Alaska would switch places with her. Rich, powerful, and known and respected around the world while Palin is known as, well.....Peg Bundy.

Defenseman Emeritus said...

garage said:

"As far as Hillary being a loser I bet the Goddess of Alaska would switch places with her."

Yes, I'm sure Sarah Palin is just eaten up inside with jealousy, rising to the position of governor of Alaska completely on her own, and raising a beautiful family to boot...while Hillary rode Bill's coattails to every so-called accomplishment of her career while being publicly cheated on and humiliated. Yep, you nailed that one.

Hoosier Daddy said...

As far as Hillary being a loser I bet the Goddess of Alaska would switch places with her.

Hoo hoo! I'll take that bet!

Rich, powerful, and known and respected around the world while Palin is known as, well.....Peg Bundy.

Garage, you once again demonstrate for all the total hypocrisy of liberal Democrats. You guys really do get a hard on over wealth and power and have complete disdain for average folk.

That being said, I'd rather hang out with Peg Bundy than that shrill hag whose cootch your nose has been buried in since Christ was a carpenter.

jayne_cobb said...

You're all missing the obvious implications of GM's statement.

In implying that the majority is inherently correct he's admitting that the re-election of GWB was the best thing for our nation.

garage mahal said...

Nobody could have predicted a party that rode the backs of soulmates George Bush and Sarah Palin- easily the two stupidest people in the Republican party, if not the planet - would so soundly get trounced in the polls!

It's not your fault they're both morons, so I don't understand the deep love and affection for people destroying your party.

Original Mike said...

Have the claims made regarding life span and infant mortality rates ever been independently verified? Has a reputable organization ever traveled through the workers' paradise (where cell phones are a rich man's luxury) without a governmental chaperone and actually checked out the claims?

Why, Michael Moore must of done that when researching his documetary.

No?

Defenseman Emeritus said...

Nobody could have predicted a party blah blah blah would so soundly get trounced in the polls!

Polls like the ones showing the Democrat-controlled Congress with a single-digit approval rating, the lowest in Congressional history?

garage mahal said...

Republicans in Congress less popular than Bush.

garage mahal said...

Dems not much better though.

Pogo said...

Oddly, garage admits that Democrats are stupid, arrogant, and anti-capitalistic, but because squarely in the majority, right.

('right' is implied, of course, but what else could he mean?)

The DNC: We may be stupid and arrogant marxists, but there's a whole lot of us!

jayne_cobb said...

So if Bush is an idiot, but he has beaten Democrats in national elections twice, what does that imply about those who opposed him?

garage mahal said...

Oddly, garage admits that Democrats are stupid, arrogant, and anti-capitalistic, but because squarely in the majority, right.

No, I said I'm squarely in the majority on just about every hot button issue and you're squarely in the fringe. Republicans have won elections effectively by making it a personality contest by calling the other terrorists, commies, marxists in spite of being in the minority on their dreadful policies. Why would McCain want to detail his health care plan that would have taxed the benefits you receive from your employer, and give you 5k to find you own when you get everyone to talk about Obama's terrorist tendencies.

Hoosier Daddy said...

Nobody could have predicted a party that rode the backs of soulmates George Bush and Sarah Palin- easily the two stupidest people in the Republican party, if not the planet - would so soundly get trounced in the polls!

Garage, here's a newsflash, George Bush wasn't running for President with Palin.

blake said...

Yes, Hoosier, but GM needs to tar Palin with the big W lest she come back and challenge the Dems at some future time.

What's fascinating to me is, after eight years of calling the majority stupid, they're suddenly smart again because they agree with people like GM.

Pogo said...

"squarely in the majority"

The majority trends toward idiocy, else how to explain Paris Hilton, MS Windows, and Cheez Whiz?

Hoosier Daddy said...

What's fascinating to me is, after eight years of calling the majority stupid, they're suddenly smart again because they agree with people like GM.

Well I cut garage some slack because I think when his girl lost the primary to The One, he wore his horsehair shirt so long it's affected his reasoning.

Then again those 'hot button issues' garage seems to have his finger on, certainly don't seem to be much of priority with Obama. No tax increases, big tax cuts on the way, no pullout from Iraq, solid backing the Israelis, pissing off the Islamofasicsts.

Hell, this is looking like Bush's third term every day.

PatCA said...

And we wonder why the media treated Obama with kid gloves. In their world, tough questions equate to "mugging."

garage mahal said...

So everything conservatives have been saying for a year about Obama being a closet muslim terrorist Defeatocrat was just bluster, or just plain wrong. Or both?

Hoosier Daddy said...

So everything conservatives have been saying for a year about Obama being a closet muslim terrorist Defeatocrat was just bluster, or just plain wrong. Or both?

Looks that way. Provided he governs the way he appears to be heading now, especially with the emphasis on spending restraints, I will be happily proved wrong.

Seems to me that those of you who bought into the Hopiness Changyness bullshit are the ones who should be pissed off.

Like I said, it's looking a whole lot like Bush's third term.

jayne_cobb said...

I would like to point out that the "Obama's a Muslim" rumor was started by the Clinton camp who went so far as to release those photos last year.

Sigivald said...

Garage Mahal said: Republicans have won elections effectively by making it a personality contest by calling the other terrorists, commies, marxists in spite of being in the minority on their dreadful policies

Please provide specific examples of Republican candidates, campaign organizations, or 527 groups doing this name-calling?

If all you have is "some bloggers or newspaper-letter-writers called Democrats mean names", then you have less than nothing as an attack on "Republicans", since the same level of personal rather than institutional namecalling hysteria exists on all sides.

(And note further that calling a policy "socialist" won't suffice, if the policy in question actually is definitionally socialist and in line with actual Socialst platforms, no matter how much The Common Man quite wisely reacts negatively to the term.

It ain't a "personality contest", after all, if the thing being called socialist is A) a policy and B) accurately being described.

The same would be true of any cries of "fascist" against policies on the right, with the slight problem that they never seem to propose any that meet the actual definition of the term, but cf. Orwell on that little abuse of language.)

garage mahal said...

Seems to me that those of you who bought into the Hopiness Changyness bullshit are the ones who should be pissed off.

Not me, remember. It was either him or the unimaginable.

blake said...

Not me, remember. It was either him or the unimaginable.

A guy virtually indistinguishable from him in every significant detail?

Robert Cook said...

http://www.michaelmoore.com/sicko/news/article.php?id=10017