íViva WikiLeaks! ‘Sicko’ Was Not Banned in Cuba
Yesterday WikiLeaks did an amazing thing and released a classified State Department cable that dealt, in part, with me, and my film, “Sicko.”
It is a stunning look at the Orwellian nature of how bureaucrats for the State spin their lies and try to recreate reality (I assume to placate their bosses and tell them what they want to hear).
The date is January 31, 2008. It is just days after “Sicko” has been nominated for an Oscar as Best Documentary. This must have sent someone reeling in Bush’s State Department (his Treasury Department had already notified me they were investigating what laws I might have broken in taking three 9/11 first responders to Cuba to get them the health care they had been denied in the United States).
Former health insurance executive Wendell Potter recently revealed that the insurance industry—which had decided to spend millions to go after me and, if necessary, “push Michael Moore off a cliff”—had begun working with anti-Castro Cubans in Miami in order to have them speak out and smear my film.
So, on January 31, 2008, a State Department official stationed in Havana took a made up story and sent it back to his HQ in Washington. Here’s what they came up with:
“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.”
Sounds convincing, eh?! There’s only one problem—the entire nation of Cuba was shown the film on national television on April 25, 2008! The Cubans embraced the film so much it became one of those rare American movies that received a theatrical distribution in Cuba. I personally ensured that a 35mm print got to the Film Institute in Havana. Screenings of “Sicko” were set up in towns all across the country.
But the secret cable said Cubans were banned from seeing my movie. Hmmm.
We also know from another secret U.S. document that “the disenchantment of the masses [in Cuba] has spread through all the provinces,” and that “all of Oriente Province is seething with hate” for the Castro regime. There’s a huge active underground rebellion, and “workers there readily give all the support they can,” with everyone involved in “subtle sabotage” against the government. Morale is terrible throughout all the branches of the armed forces, and in the event of war the army “will not fight.” Wow—this cable is hot!
Of course, this secret U.S. cable is from March 31, 1961, three weeks before Cuba kicked our asses at the Bay of Pigs.
The U.S. government has been passing around these “secret” documents to itself for the past fifty years, explaining in painstaking detail how horrible things are in Cuba and how Cubans are quietly aching for us to come back and take over. I don’t know why we write these cables, I guess it just makes us feel better about ourselves. (Anyone curious can find an entire museum of U.S. wish-fulfillment cables on the website of the National Security Archive.)
So what do you do about a false “secret” cable, especially one that involves you and your movie? Well, you wait for a responsible newspaper to investigate and shout what it discovers from the rooftops.
But yesterday WikiLeaks gave the “Sicko” Cuba cable to the media—and what did they do with it? They ran it as if it were true! Here’s the headline in 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”
And not one scintilla of digging to see if Cuba had actually banned the movie! In fact, just the opposite. The right wing press started to have a field day reporting a lie (Andy Levy of Fox—twice—Reason Magazine and Hot Air, plus a slew of blogs). Sadly, even BoingBoing and my friends at the Nation wrote about it without skepticism. So here you have WikiLeaks, who have put themselves on the line to find and release these cables to the press—and traditional journalists are once again just too lazy to lift a finger, point and click their mouse to log into Nexis or search via Google, and look to see if Cuba really did “ban the film.” Had just ONE reporter done that, here’s they would have found:
“June 16, 2007 Saturday 1:41 AM GMT [that’s 7 months before the false cable]
“HEADLINE: Cuban health minister says Moore’s “Sicko” shows ‘human values’ of communist system
“BYLINE: By ANDREA RODRIGUEZ, Associated Press Writer
“Cuba’s health minister Jose Ramon Balaguer said Friday that American filmmaker Michael Moore’s documentary “Sicko” highlights the human values of the island’s communist-run government... ‘There can be no doubt this documentary by a personality like Mr. Michael Moore helps promote the profoundly human principles of Cuban society.’”
Or, how ‘bout this little April 25, 2008 notice from CubaSi.Cu (translation by Google):
“Sicko premiere in Cuba
“The documentary “Sicko”, the U.S. filmmaker Michael Moore, which deals about the deplorable state of American healthcare system will be released today at 5:50 P.M., for the space Cubavision Roundtable and the Education Channel.”
Then there’s this from Juventudrebelde.cu (translation by Google) [http://www.juventudrebelde.cu/cuba/2008-04-25/esta-tarde-estreno-del-documental-sicko-en-la-mesa-redonda/]. Or this Cuban editorial (translation by Google) [http://www.juventudrebelde.cu/opinion/2010-07-15/el-proximo-bocado/]. There’s even a long clip of the Cuba section of “Sicko” on the homepage of Media Roundtable on the CubaSi.cu website!
OK, so we know the media is lazy and sucks most of the time. But the bigger issue here is how our government seemed to be colluding with the health insurance industry to destroy a film that might have a hand in bringing about what the Cubans already have in their poverty-ridden third-world country: free, universal healthcare. And because they have it and we don’t, Cuba has a better infant mortality rate than we do, their life expectancy is just seven months shorter than ours, and, according to the WHO [World Health Organization], they rank just two places behind the richest country on earth in terms of the quality of their healthcare.
That’s the story, mainstream media and right-wing haters.
Now that you’ve been presented with the facts, what are you going to do about it? Are you gonna attack me for having my movie played on Cuban state television? Or are you gonna attack me for not having my movie played on Cuban state television?
You have to choose one, it can’t be both.
And since the facts show that the movie played on state TV and in theaters, I think you’re better off attacking me for having my films played in Cuba.
Michael Moore is an activist, author, and filmmaker. See more of his work at his website MichaelMoore.com
—CommonDreams.org, December 18, 2010