In the interest of full disclosure, I have not watched any of Michael Moore's movies, and I consider Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh to be bigger Dickensians than Michael Moore could ever hope to be. For me, it's not primarily Michael Moore's politics that make him a sack. He does seem to be trying to watch out for the little guy. I am descended from construction people and farmers, and many of my relatives still work with their hands in conditions that are much worse than what I enjoy, so I can respect the belief that working people need more government protection than, say, billionaires. And to some degree, I think Michael Moore came by his outrage honestly, where Limbaugh and Beck seem to have cobbled together their attitudes primarily from racism, willful ignorance, leftover teenage resentment and an overactive sense of accomplishment. Also, maybe ratings and pain medication play in there somewhere. Every time I hear someone complain about how hard it is to be a rich white guy in America, I want to stick a fork in my eye.
My main problem with Michael Moore -- as well as the Fox News crowd -- is that he is a propagandist. I will call them as goebbelers, since I haven't made up a word yet this week. My aim in politics -- to the extent that I have one -- is to view our society as a system, and to identify and address core issues that are making the system act in a way that we find undesirable. The goebbelers are intent on doing something completely different. They want to find some single aspect of a particular issue that they can cast in a popular light, and then try to make that aspect the central issue of the debate. In this way, their side wins, the other side loses, and we can all celebrate good times.
The problem is that this behavior takes us farther from a real solution to the original issue, and degrades our ability to think rationally. For example, I saw Michael Moore on a morning show this week arguing that capitalism is the opposite of democracy. I saw a sign from a Tea Party protest last week that said something about not cutting Medicare to create socialized medicine. While arguments -- however weak -- could be made for the validity of both sentiments, this kind of discourse is just making things worse. The worst thing about the Big Lie is not that it will be believed; it is that it makes future lies easier to swallow.
Take health care as an example. First, we're talking about medical care, not health care. And the question we need to answer as a society is whether we consider access to medical care to be a civil right, like due process, or whether medicine is a commodity like food, available to those who can afford it? Or is it somewhere in between, a part of the social contract, like voting? Answering this question honestly would clear up a lot of the implementation details, as well as telling us what to do about medical malpractice.
But questions like these are difficult, and require people to honestly pick a position on issues that matter. I mean, no politician wants to come out and say that poor people shouldn't get medicine, so they tell us that Americans deserve the best care, which can only be delivered by private industry working for profit. I'm not sure what makes us think we deserve the best just because we're American, but there you have it. On the other side, giving everyone access to medical care means that there will be limits to what can be provided, and we are already providing more than we can afford. Medicare does a good job containing costs and providing full service, but it's going broke at a frightening pace. If you dissect any single point that anyone is making in the current debate, you will almost certainly find it to be inaccurate, irrelevant or something that is already true.
If we continue to treat politics as a competitive sport, with sound bites used to score points, I'm afraid personal responsibility will continue to erode and our government will continue in the direction that virtually everyone agrees is not where we want it to go. On the other hand, people seem to enjoy it. Who am I to spoil their fun?