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Defending Oneself Against Michael Moore

July 20, 2007

I've often wandered what it must be like to be on the receiving end Michael Moore's wrath.

I got a glimpse into this inhospitable situation last night, when I asked a friend of mine who works for a national health insurance organization, how it felt to watch and deal with the fallout from Moore's latest feature-length documentary, Sicko, about the ills of the U.S. healthcare system. My friend has been in a particularly interesting position vis-a-vis the movie. She's in communications at a company that was singled out as one of the main offenders responsible for the history and development of what Moore sees as a desperately broken system.

The first thing she said was, "I quite liked the film. I think Moore's overall point is correct." What she took umbrage at, however, was the way that Moore misconstrued some of his evidence about her company and made things look worse than they actually are by using stories out of context and telling half-truths.

Interestingly, the company she works for has not issued any public statements defending itself against the allegations made by Moore in the film. The only course of action so far, it seems, has been an internal communications campaign in the form of letters from various members of the organization's executive committee to the staff aimed at informing them of the shortcomings in Moore's method of research and storytelling. My friend tells me that many of these letters have been exceedingly long, dry, and rambling. So I imagine that the absorption factor in the cubicles has not been all that high.

I was surprised that an organization as large as the one my friend works for -- and as publicly slighted by Moore -- should take this mild path of least resistance. I was expecting my friend to tell me about primetime TV ads and lawsuits. In this world of slander and cross-slander, I'm impressed that the organization is not attempting to stand in the way of the film. Better to spend precious funds on doing what it can to improve its services than on lawyers' fees.

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