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Don’t believe everything the government tells you, even in secret

Just how in bed with the health insurance industry is our government? And just how lazy is our media? I’ll leave it up to you to decide, but I can’t think of any other way to describe this.

On Friday, WikiLeaks released another set of secret State Department cables, including one from a state department official stationed in Havana. Here’s an excerpt from it:

XXXXXXXXXXXX stated that Cuban authorities have banned Michael Moore’s documentary, “Sicko,” as being subversive. Although the film’s intent is to discredit the U.S. healthcare system by highlighting the excellence of the Cuban system, he said the regime knows the film is a myth and does not want to risk a popular backlash by showing to Cubans facilities that are clearly not available to the vast majority of them.

Next, the media picks this up as a story. And not just the US media. Here’s the headline from The Guardian: “WikiLeaks: Cuba banned Sicko for depicting ‘mythical’ healthcare system. Authorities feared footage of gleaming hospital in Michael Moore’s Oscar-nominated film would provoke a popular backlash”.

What I find hilarious about this is that the media somehow just assumes that anything in a US State Department secret cable is true, and runs with it without doing even the slightest amount of fact checking. And in fact, the cable was completely made up. As Moore himself points out, the movie was certainly not banned in Cuba, it was one of the few US movies that was actually shown widely in Cuba, and was even shown on Cuban national TV.

If just one media organization had taken a few seconds and done a simple web search, they could have discovered that the cable was false. Google will even translate the stories from Cuba, if you don’t understand Spanish.

This is something you expect from Fox News, but the same story ran on BoingBoing and Reason (although both later added an update with Moore’s response).

Ok, so we know the media is lazy and worthless, and investigative journalism is dead (let alone simple research). But the real question is where did this false information come from and how did it end up in a State Department cable? We may never know the whole truth, but we do know that the health insurance industry, which had vowed to “push Michael Moore off a cliff” worked with anti-Castro Cubans in Miami in an attempt to smear the film.

Of course, if the media can’t attack Moore because his movie didn’t play in Cuba, I’m sure they will now attack him because his movie did play in Cuba.



  1. Bard wrote:

    these are the same people who claimed that the last batch of Wikileaks showed Iraq had WMDs. Anything to distract people from the real meat of the leaks.

    Saturday, December 18, 2010 at 5:54 pm | Permalink
  2. Reed Elliott wrote:

    The writer is not fully convincing because it seems to me quite possible, having spent considerable time in Russia, Cuba’s best friend, that healthcare facilities available to the average Cuban may not really be as good a Michael Moore paints them. I like Michael Moore but I don’t think he always gives all the facts. Like FOX News, he sometimes only shows the facts that support his preconceived bias. That’s fair enough, but it’s up to the viewer to add salt.

    To me, what’s really scary about this report is the realization of how easy it would be to use an outfit like Wikileaks. The State Department could easily see that only certain “top secret” stuff got into their hands – stuff that actually furthered the State Department’s agenda. When people read it they think, “Wow! This was “leaked.” It must be true!” Don’t believe it kiddos. Just because it was “leaked” doesn’t guarantee it wasn’t “leaked” on purpose. The buyer needs to beware ALWAYS!

    Saturday, December 18, 2010 at 8:20 pm | Permalink
  3. Don wrote:

    I agree with Reed, but would like to point out that the idea of planting false leaks is absolutely nothing new. It’s been going on at a national level in this country since Thomas Jefferson executed his backdoor campaign of slander against John Adams as he wrested the presidency from him.

    That the folks (The Guardian and their ilk) supposedly vetting the cables prior to their release are apparently not doing their job in a very thorough and conscientious manner, and since much of what they are reviewing is peoples’ opinions, to assume that we’re reading nothing but facts in those cables can only make an ass of you and me.

    Saturday, December 18, 2010 at 8:51 pm | Permalink
  4. Iron Knee wrote:

    Reed, it doesn’t really matter what you think about Michael Moore. The leaked cable claimed that Cuba banned his movie, which is easy to verify is not true. Why is a lie about someone you don’t trust easier for you to believe?

    Second, when Moore released Sicko, he gave references backing up the facts in the movie on his website. Yes, of course Michael Moore is biased, but he sure seems to care about the truth far more than, say, Fox “news”.

    And finally, I have seen hospitals in Cuba. There are problems there, of course, mainly because they are a poor country. But I believe that their health care is far better than most countries in latin america. And their health outcomes are almost as good as the US, which is one of the richest countries in the world. Even if Moore exaggerated a bit, the point still remains that we in the US don’t get good value for money in health care.

    Saturday, December 18, 2010 at 9:47 pm | Permalink
  5. TJ wrote:

    IK – you’re last sentence my biggest problem with Michael More. He does it in every movie I’ve seen of his. He has a good point and all the facts he would need to back it up, but he exaggerates some of them to the point of “barely true” or uses unnecessary cheap gimmicks and it hurts his credibility.

    2 of the biggest examples to me:
    – In Bowling For Columbine, when he harasses Charlton Heston because he was spokesperson for the NRA. The opinions of the NRA spokesperson had nothing to do with the movie – Moore was just bullying.

    – In Farenheit 911, there’s an entire scene dedicated to showing pictures of the two Bush presidents shaking hands with unnamed Muslims while harrowing music plays in the background. There is no context given as to why these are bad people. The scene seems to say that the President should never shake hands with a Muslim, which is a ridiculous idea.

    Sunday, December 19, 2010 at 8:24 am | Permalink
  6. Dan wrote:

    What is really scary is that “government leaks” are being used to call someone, anyone, that doesn’t agree with a certain agenda a liar. This is a flat out attempt to discredit a liberal, nothing more. Make me wonder if this is all a set-up. Has anyone sent this to Jon Stewart? Sadly, Comedy Central would probably be the ONLY ones to broadcast it. Too bad other “news” outlets look to Fox and not Comedy Central, you would think that the truth would matter every once and a while.

    Sunday, December 19, 2010 at 10:49 am | Permalink
  7. patriotsgt wrote:

    Yeah and this time its a democratic administration. Imagine the outrage if Bush were still president. OMG the Moore’s along with every liberal organization would be parading and protesting with pictures of bush looking like hitler and who knows what else. Not even Colbert and Stewart challenge the Administration on this.

    Monday, December 20, 2010 at 1:40 pm | Permalink