I can never decide whether the journalists who cover health care are dishonest or just plain dumb. Having read various reports about the porcine provocateur’s latest film, Sicko, I’m inclined toward the latter conclusion. Only sheer stupidity can explain the apparent credulity with which the various media have reported Moore’s agitprop. An illustrative example can be found in this report from Reuters:
In Sicko [Moore] turns his attention to health, asking why 50 million Americans, 9 million of them children, live without cover (sic), while those that (sic) are insured are often driven to poverty by spiraling costs or wrongly refused treatment at all.
Nowhere in the article does the Reuters reporter question any of these data, despite readily accessible studies showing them to be highly suspect and, in some cases, transparently counterfactual. And Reuters is not an isolated case. FOX News is among the many media outlets that guilelessly parrot the party line:
Moore smartly lets very articulate average Americans tell their personal horror stories at the hands of insurance companies.
It has apparently never occured to the FOX correspondent that this kind of anecdotal evidence is usually deployed so that its sensational effect will distract the public from inconvenient facts.
I suppose it would be futile to suggest that the national debate over health care reform is too important for such mindless journalism, and that the public deserves more than uncritical repetition of tendentious talking points. Nonetheless, more responsible reporting would consitute a real public service.