After my last post, questioning whether the movie Sicko had a significant impact on the development of Obamacare, I stumbled across an insurance book with an entire chapter dedicated to Sicko – Deadly Spin, by Wendell Potter.
Michael Moore Was Being Watched
I confess I haven’t read the entire book yet, but basically Mr. Potter was an insurance executive at CIGNA during the year that Sicko was released. Potter was the head of CIGNA’s Public Relations Department, and he explains that as soon as Michael Moore mentioned he was looking at the insurance industry, the insurance industry was watching him.
I guess I shouldn’t be surprised, because when a big, rich corporation is concerned a film-maker might be producing a movie that can really hurt business, of course they are going to spend money to mitigate the damage as much as possible. What I didn’t expect is the lengths they went to…
Insurers Made Sure Sicko Wouldn’t Hit Their Pocketbooks
First, Potter explains, the insurance industry collectively sent a representative to be at the Cannes Film Festival (in gorgeous Southern France) for Sicko’s world premiere (Now that’s a sweet assignment!). Then, as soon as the film was over, American insurance executives got on a conference call to find out if they should be worried. The answer? Yes.
Sicko painted American insurers in a very negative light (see my last blog entry), and CIGNA in particular was blasted, hard. So what did these insurance CEO’s plan to do about it? They launched an all-out campaign to 1) make themselves look good and 2) make Michael Moore and his support for socialized medical care look crazy and dangerous.
We Can Trust Our Insurers, Right?
Now, I can understand that any business needs to cultivate a good image through advertising, and address the criticisms that are lodged at it. But when the “business” is a giant, super rich and super powerful corporation, there needs to be a sense of social responsibility and morality to keep that kind of power in check. Did the insurers keep it real and honest? No. You bet they didn’t. Their money, their big paychecks, their livelihoods were at stake, so this was an all-out war.
I won’t bore you with the details, but basically what these insurers did was hire an outside PR firm to create an “independent” group of insurance experts to issue statements, studies, and reports that show our current system of private insurance was “the best in the world” and that people in other countries were suffering and only wished they had our health care. Never mind that this wasn’t true ,they were going to pay people to make arguments for it and they wanted those people to look like they thought it up all themselves. Shady? Yes. Oh yes. And yet, not illegal.
Why Didn’t We Know Where the Messages Were Really Coming From?
And this is where our media failed us. They fell for the trick. Not one journalist tracked the statements of this insurer-funded “independent” group to see where it was all really coming from. They ate it up, and they fed it to us. We were all duped by the millions of dollars that insurers were spending to make us believe that we already had the best health care in the world, and we should just ignore that crazy Michael Moore guy.
The reality was that Michael Moore was making some excellent points, and they didn’t want us to believe it.
Why Do We Fall For These Expensive and Dishonest Campaigns?
The answer is pretty complex, and it has roots in our educational system and our media. In my travels and studies, I have observed a recurring theme – the American people are not getting a good perspective on the rest of the world. Our education is too insular, and our news programs are too local. Basically, we only learn about us, our own recent American history, and why we are the best, richest, and brightest. We have been a comfortable world power for so long that we don’t even bother to learn what the rest of the world is thinking, and more importantly, what they are doing. Don’t believe me? Why were we, as a nation, so shocked and unprepared when September 11 happened?
My point, for the purposes of this post, is that if Americans were more educated about the world we wouldn’t believe what we are fed through catchy slogans and cute animals without noticing that something stinks. Thankfully, I think the internet is changing this. Now there is a cheap way for us to share information and get the word out. Big companies will continue to spend truckloads of money to sway our views and lull us into a sense of utopia (while we fork over our cash to them, of course), but as internet access becomes a way of life, fancy commercials and local newscasts are no longer your only source of information. And that’s the real beauty of the United States. We will never settle for the status quo. We work hard, and we strive to be better. What we may lack in one area, we will make it up with inspiration, hard work, and pure American enthusiasm.
- Ridenhour Prizes Honor Courageous Truth Tellers (pogoblog.typepad.com)