Kurt Loder: MTV’s Hatchet Man On Sicko

Heavily Doctored” by MTV’s venerable newsreader, Kurt Loder, is an embarrassingly flawed and tendentious attack on Michael Moore’s new documentary Sicko. This tediously protracted diatribe is neither a review nor a balanced examination of the important public policy issues raised by the film.

The article begins with Loder reciting several of the health care horror stories exposed in the film. His tone is deceptively favorable as he describes the purpose of good muckraking. But it doesn’t take long for him to plant his ideological flag. After alleging that Moore is a brazen con man who cherry-picked facts and manipulated interviews, Loder lobs this rhetorical grenade:

“As a proud socialist, the director appears to feel that there are few problems in life that can’t be solved by government regulation…”

Moore regularly articulates his pride in being an American – and one who advocates the fruits of capitalism for himself and all Americans. But Loder doesn’t stop with this ad hominem insult. He continues with the utterly false and unsupported (and prejudicially phrased) assertion that “Americans have never been keen on socialized medicine.” Someone needs to introduce Loder to the most popular government-managed programs ever created – Social Security and Medicare. Additionally, polls show that Americans would overwhelmingly approve of a national health insurance program, even if it would require higher taxes (64% for, 35% opposed).

Still, Loder persists in mischaracterizing the reality of the health care crisis and the response to it in the United States and around the world. In a rebuttal to Sicko, he offers up a short and undistinguished 2005 documentary called Dead Meat.” This film is the flip side of Sicko, recounting alleged horror stories of government-managed health care. Although he devotes six paragraphs to the film, Loder neglects to provide some illuminating facts about Dead Meat and it’s producers.

The film made its debut at the Liberty Film Festival, which describes itself as “a forum in the heart of Hollywood for conservative and libertarian filmmakers.” In 2006 the festival operations merged with ultra-right wing provocateur David Horowitz‘ Freedom Center.

The film’s credits include special thanks to the rightist Manhattan Institute, the Pacific Research Institute, and the Heartland Institute. The latter is particularly notable for its refusal to acknowledge the dangers imposed by global warming or smoking – both of which they feel are frauds based on junk science. All three institutes are partially funded by pharmaceutical companies or lobbies.

The producers have also released films critical of immigration reform protests and what they perceive as a left-wing assault on free thought in U.S. universities.

Health care expert, Loder, doesn’t hesitate to dispense advice on policy matters. His prescription for reform is firmly planted in the free-market medicine camp. And despite the fact that there is nothing identifying this article as an editorial, it is overflowing with opinion and innuendo. Here is another example of his insertion of bias that is presented without context but with the expectation that we accept it on faith:

“When governments attempt to regulate the balance between a limited supply of health care and an unlimited demand for it they’re inevitably forced to ration treatment.”

Loder doesn’t seem to appreciate that there is no system that produces a greater degree of rationing than one that denies care to all but the fortunate. The kind of system that is presently in place in the U.S.

The rest of the article provides incontrovertible evidence that, in addition to being an inferior analyst and a prejudiced observer, he also lacks any sign of a sense of humor. He totally misses the satirical points made in episodes involving French excesses in care and the now famous Guantanamo landing. As such, Loder proves that he is ill-suited for this type of assignment. His readers would be better served if he would just put his sunglasses back on and take his mark on the red carpet in time to welcome back the Spice Girls.

Update: I was just alerted to this column wherein Loder predicted that “An Inconvenient Truth” would win the Oscar for best documentary:

“Actually, the best film in this category is Amy Berg’s devastating “Deliver Us from Evil,” a true investigative report on a shameful cover-up by the Roman Catholic Church of 20 years of child-molesting by one of its priests, Oliver O’Grady. But Al Gore’s environmental alarmism – much of it since heavily questioned – no doubt plays better in Beverly Hills.”

Loder is apparently fully subscribed to the anti-science, free market philosophy of the three institutes cited above (whom I will now refer to as the “Dead Meat Coalition” because that perfectly describes the contents of their craniums).

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38 thoughts on “Kurt Loder: MTV’s Hatchet Man On Sicko

  1. Kurt missed the boat on Sicko. Sicko is a real story about a real problem in America. The only Americans who wouldn’t back Michael’s story are those bought and paid for by the huge corporate interests he threatens. I don’t see how a credible journalist could label Michael’s work on Sicko as only a socialist propaganda stunt. France has just elected a rightwing leader, as did Canada in the last election. The Canadian who talked with Mike in Sicko was a member of Canada’s Conservative Party, not a liberal. The Canadian said all deserved health care, regardless of political affiliation. As a major national need in America, we need to join the rest of the world in assuring Americans that an illness or injury won’t destroy their financial future. And that, I believe, is the true message of Sicko: Americans want, need and deserve a good national health care program, and we are nowhere near getting one.

  2. “…there is no system that produces a greater degree of rationing than one that denies care to all but the fortunate…”

    Thanks for that *awesome* line, Mark!! Talk about succinct!

    Another good one I read today was “they [conservatives] have managed to convince us that greed is good, and altruism is immoral…”

    Also “It’s not socialism, it’s simple… SIMPLE mutual aid – that the strong help the weak knowing that no one is strong forever.”

  3. How could “Dead Meat” be a “flip side” to “Sicko” if it was released in 2005 and, presumably made well before “Sicko” ever came out?

    • By “flip side” I mean that Loder is using the info in it to rebut the info in Sicko.

  4. Loder and the MTV “news” crew don’t seem to want or need any feedback, per their website.

    • There is a form at the bottom of MTV’s article that asks for feedback, but I filled it out and submitted it and can’t find any place where any comments are posted.

      I would suggest that everyone fill it out anyway. Maybe someone is reading them.

  5. There is a simple way to measure the Socialism that Moore seems to gravitate to: where do people go? People want to escape Socialism. People want to escape Cuba. People want to come to the United States. More and more people are avoiding the Socialized systems and are trying to get private doctors.

    There are a ton of articles that point out how backwards Socialized medicine is. Then, in Western countries with Socialized medicine, we see that market reforms are taking place. This means that people are fed up with what Moore advocates and they are forcing countries to adapt more market approaches – i.e. capitalism.

    Here is one quick article:
    http://www.opinionjournal.com/editorial/feature.html?id=110010266

    There are two types of people out there:
    1) those who care about healthcare and want what is best. This means asking a lot of questions and adapting ones opinions to what you learn, and 2) those who push things like Socialized medicine for the sake of power and who just use the subject as cover to gain power.

    If you are in group one, you know that there are still many questions to answer and you know that the people who want to force Socialized medicine down our throats aren’t looking out for our best interests – but they are looking out for their own best interests.

    Sicko is sicko.

    • Thanks for your thoughtful comment. This movie is generating a flame war on the InterTubes and I appreciate your reasonable tone. But I still disagree with you.

      There are certainly people trying to flee socialist dictatorships. However, I don’t think the main reason is because of the health care. I think the dictatorship might have something to do with it.

      The fact that there are some examples of problems where universal care is offered doesn’t mean that the system doesn’t work. It means that it isn’t perfect, which is true for any system. The benefit if a universal system is that nobody is denied care for lack of funds. I believe that is a human right. If our government can protect us from crime (police) or immolation (fire dept), it ought to be able to treat our broken ankles or breast cancers.

      I don’t know who you think would be benefiting from increased power with universal care, but I do know the powerful who benefit from the current system. I just don’t think that saving lives should be a profit center for greedy corporations. And I don’t think we should have to choose heart surgeons the way we choose building contractors – by whoever submits the lowest bid.

    • Right, like the Insurance companies are looking out for your best interests. We already have at least two excellent models for National Health Insurance: Medicare and the VA system. I participate in both. AND THEY WORK!!!! Far better than the idiotic current system that costs way more to administer. Insurance companies have thousands of employees whose sole function is to find ways to deny coverage for the people they insure. That’s why their administrative costs are three times higher than Medicare. This system is sheer lunacy. Free Market dogma doesn’t work everywhere or in every human endeavor and only fools and ideologues refuse to recognize that fact. Free market dogmas promote Social Darwinism and lead to monopolies not to mention governing systems like ours which is Plutocratic. Harry Truman tried to get national health insurance passed in 1949 and was thwarted by Southern bigots angry at his civil rights policies and the hidebound Medical and Insurance industries seeking to protect their gravy train. If he’d been successful we wouldn’t be having this discussion and national health insurance would be woven into our economic system. And our industries would be far more competetive today.

  6. Al –

    First, figure out what “socialized” means. Then, try to find a nation that doesn’t have any socialized programs. See if you’d like to live in any of them. Third, look at who profits from private medical care. Fourth, ask said providers if they are required, by law, to increase shareholder returns as much as possible; and how they plan to do this if not by denying services. Fifth, try to decide what medical coverage does.

    Note that socialized medicine in most nations that have it was instituted by conservative governments and industry. Toyota recently chose to open a manufacturing plant in Ontario instead of the United States because (among other reasons cited) they did not have to pay for a medical plan for their employees. It was simply cheaper for them to open their plant in a “socialized” country.

    The United States government spends more per capita than any other nation – and getting indifferent results. (http://ucatlas.ucsc.edu/spend.php) That is costing taxpayers in inefficient use of funds; it costs companies who try to make up for the failures in poorly run or deliberately corrupt HMOs; and it costs individuals who either have insufficient coverage or who are not covered at all.

    If there is anything that may be considered “previously existing”, you may be hard pressed to find someone to cover you no matter what premiums you’re willing to pay. Over half of declared bankruptcies in 2001 were due to medical emergencies. (http://content.healthaffairs.org/content/vol0/issue2005/images/data/hlthaff.w5.63/DC1/Himmelstein_Ex2.gif

    The systems in the movie are hardly perfect, but that’s no great surprise. It’s not a question of “perfect”: it’s a question of “better”. Is there some way to improve they medical system that is in place in the United States right now?

    The biggest bonus of a single-payer system is that it encourages early detection: a quick visit to a drop-in clinic that finds an abnormality could get put off if it costs you $50. A correction that could have cost a little if caught early enough ends up turning life-threatening if left alone. And that could cost more than money, but money too.

    • I wonder why there isn’t more talk of stories like Toyota’s. The business community should be all over universal care for the savings it would bring them.

    • Piss off Thursday. Al was spot on. Bloody Yanks.

  7. I’m not really sure what people find wrong with the Loder article.

    Do we really believe Moore is presenting an unbiased “truth” as opposed to satire, comedy & poignant tragedy?

    Individual stories, while making for a great film, will always show the bias of the person choosing the particular stories. “Dead Meat” sounds like its a right-wing “Sicko” that takes on the Canadian system. As if Moore isn’t heavily entrenched/supported/etc by the left in this country.

    Moore is a great filmmaker. Loder is correct in reminding us to keep an open-mind as to the realities of socialized healthcare, however rosy a picture Moore paints.

    ps. it’d be nice if Moore had spotlighted some of the “other” problems with our healtchare system, that in many cases, ANYONE (illegal immigrants, criminals, etc) get access to our healthcare that insured people are subsidizing. If all of these uninsureds weren’t getting ostensibly “free” care by racking up $100k bills (that they will never pay), care would cost a helluva lot less for those who actually pay (or get a decent enough job that includes healthcare). If anything (an option Moore would never imply exists), we could mandate all individuals get healtchare or face harsh penalties, just like we do with auto insurance.

    • There’s a big difference between Moore’s self-financed documentary that represents his own opinion, and an anti-health care hit piece financed by corporations that profit from the current system.

      If Loder was merely reminding us to keep an open-mind he would not have called Moore a “proud socialist” and misrepresented other facts about health care.

      And are you advocating that immigrants and criminals not get treatment – just let them get sick and die?

  8. Sorry I mean mandate individuals get health insurance (or face penalties).

    • Mandating health insurance is one of the nuttiest ideas I’ve ever heard. If you can’t afford health insurance, how do you pay the harsh penalties of not getting it? Even worse, If you can’t afford auto insurance you can choose to take a bus or find other transportation. If you can’t afford health insurance you can’t just choose to never need care.

  9. I’m not sure what is more puzzling:

    An ancient vee-jay is writing neo-con attacks on Moore’s film; or

    You take him seriously enough to waste time rebutting his arguments.

    • I’m not sure what is more puzzling:

      That you’re baffled that I would rebut a neocon attack on Sicko published on one of the most highly trafficked web sites in the world; or

      You would waste time replying to something you think is a waste of time.

  10. well i like to see all the neo-cons question themselfs about this issue. oh never mind it dosn’t matter to them because they have didvidens from the stock market. which they can afford any kind of health care they want. plus all the “lazy free loaders” such as anybody making less then $200,000 a year get another job and die while you work. thanks for listening to my ranting..

  11. I can’t imagine why anyone would flee from “socialized medicine” just to pay an enormous portion of their paycheck for medical care. It’s not like you improve on your options that way.

    I grew up in America at a time when the healthcare industry hadn’t gone over the top yet, and I remember American medical care at its best in what was then the wealthiest county in the wealthiest country in the world.

    It wasn’t bad, but even so it had its problems. Still, it was pretty decent for most middle-class people, and no one spent much time worrying about going broke for the sake of healthcare. Even if you didn’t have health insurance, you didn’t much sweat the costs of a visit to the doctor and a few tests. You certainly didn’t stay in a job you hated because you were terrified to lose your insurance.

    But that was then. America no longer has that healthcare system.

    Fortunately, I don’t have to put up with America’s substandard health insurance industry, having moved to England in 1987. Although I don’t live in anywhere near as nice a neighborhood as I did in Maryland, I still get pretty good medical care, definitely no worse than what I had back in the DC area. This is despite the fact that Thatcher and Blair have been “modernizing” (i.e., trying to screw it up) pretty much since I’ve lived here. The system is certainly underfunded and they spend less per person than any other industrialized country, but my local doctor is at least as good as any GP I ever had in the States, and I can’t see how I could have had better care when I needed eye surgery than I got at Moorefield’s.

    Why would I go back to America when I can live in a country that treats me so much better? Oh, sure, the occasional visit to enjoy a proper BLT and a real pizza, but even the shoes aren’t as good as they used to be in America anymore. It’s a nice place to visit, but I wouldn’t want to live there.

    The taxes? I don’t notice ‘em. They actually aren’t any higher than what I paid in Maryland, anyway.

  12. 65% of healthcare in the US is already paid for by government agencies. We are now fighting over the 35% which CEOs want to maintain their high bonus by increasing primiums to keep their stock holders happy plus increase their annual bonus. Just remember, when this country goes completely to universal (soalized as the neo-cons want to call it which is a total word play on their part)healthcare with or without private input, it is going to be these greedy corportate people who have turned the gun upon themselves. Don’t blame Liberals or the government. Corporate America has already decided it is cheaper to pay their healthcare thru the governement which is going to be supported by the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court has already ruled screwing the worker over the corporate desires is the tax payers responsiblity. We individual taxpayers have to pick up corportate premiums. Again, look at the loudest complainers as they are going to fulfill their own self filled prophecy.

  13. the bottom line for insurance companies is THE BOTTOM LINE. they don’t give a rat’s a$$ about anything other than providing their shareholders $$$. and they’ve greased those slimeball Congressmen/women to pass laws blocking any lawsuits for NOT providing care. the problem with health care in this country is the middlemen: insurance companies.

  14. Loder lobs this rhetorical grenade:

    “As a proud socialist, the director appears to feel that there are few problems in life that can’t be solved by government regulation…”

    Moore regularly articulates his pride in being an American – and one who advocates the fruits of capitalism for himself and all Americans. But Loder doesn’t stop with this ad hominem insult.

    —-an “ad hominem” insult would be calling moore a “fat slob”, not correctly summing up moore’s beliefs and actual words. Also when has moore ever embraced capitalism in ANY of his films (you can be an American and a socialist at the same time, capitalism and American are not the same thing)? Loder also provided real facts about concerns about the NHS and other socialized medicine programs. Why the hell do you think the French election went the way it did?

    • ad hominem: attacking an opponent’s character rather than answering his argument.

      Loder provides no support for his proud Socialist” remark. He meant it purely pejoratively.

      Moore is obviously a Capitalist who enjoys the financial rewards of his successful film career.

    • If you think the results of the french election has anything to do with socialized medicine, you’re one of the most deluded man on Earth.

      I will remind you (funny how people just forget that) that Sarkozy was the most important minister after Villepin when Chirac was president, and that it is the same party, Chiracàs party, governing since 2002, that won the election.

  15. 1) someone should up kurt’s alzheimer’s meds…an inconvenient truth WON, months ago.

    2) who gives a flying crap what that vidiot thinks? i was watching when the Buggles opened the show, and Loder really should grow up, and get a real job. my God, what is he? 60?

    he’s about as relevant today as Dick Cheney.

  16. Dear Friends:

    I knew Kurt Loder when he was a dope blowing “rock and roll” columnist for the “Overseas Weekly” in Germany during the 70s.
    I did the “ski column” for the same rag exposing scandals in the U.S. Army in Germany.

    As we “boomers” go into the 60s, my suggestion to Kurt is maybe like “stop smoking” whatever it is you habitually smoked in the 70s as a “pseudo-revolutionary”, face reality, and finally grow up out of obnoxious, middle class brat, pugnaceous puberty.
    Grow up and grow old graciously. Or does Kurt want to continue his act of being a male Ann Coulter with a permanent p.m.s.?

    Kent O. Doering

  17. All I have to say is that my brother had full medical insurance and a job, pays his taxes and his baby cost 3000 dollars. Where as my friend who is illegal had a baby for free in this country. I think there is already free health care. It was a los angeles hospital.

  18. Kurt seems to think that “The Department of Motor Vehicles” isn’t actually 50+ separate offices run by the states.

    Good grief, he’s literally as ignorant about government as Bush. That seems to be a requirement to serve in or comment about public affairs these days.

  19. Eat my balls, Loder, you spineless corporate hooker.

  20. I remember when MTV used to show nothing but music videos and anything related to music before they decided to crap it up w/ reality shows and soft porn programs starring horny half naked teens.

    MTV has long since been dead and I’m surprised that Kurt loder is still there. Isn’t he old enough to take Doans Pills and Geritol to get high?

    Kurt, give it up. You know nothing. Michael Moore has been a real journalist before he started making documentaries. You’re just a has-been pop music journalist who is only interested in trying to remain hip w/ the kids. Give it up.

    • I think the FCC should make them remove the “M” from MTV.

  21. Holy crap! Kurt Loder is STILL ALIVE??

  22. I always figured MTV was pretty much one of the arms of the beast. I wonder who’s paying him to say that crap?

  23. From my blog http://cmhmd.blogspot.com

    I think the chief straw man Loder has thrown up here is that Moore holds up the Canadian, French or British systems as “utopia,” to use his word. SICKO showed some of the serious flaws in our system and showed some of the serious benefits to others. That really is the bottom line. I’ve been following the media coverage closely, interviews with various experts, MM himself in interviews, etc. There are lots of complaints about what he “left out.” Well, it’s only a two hour movie and I think it is not his job nor his role to be the health care czar and review every nuance of health care here and abroad. He had a lot of points to make and he made them very well, very humorously and sometimes heart-breakingly poignantly. If you see it, you’ll know that he didn’t tell the downsides of universal access in other countries, but, frankly, as we health care providers know (I’m a critical care physician) better than the average viewer, neither did he scratch the surface of the problems so widespread in our “system.” But he always says in interviews that of course other systems have problems. Our goal should be to take the best parts of each of those systems and craft an American system better than all the others. But, he makes no bones that this needs to be a single payer system at its core. He seems to have no bone to pick with physicians – he believes the focus of reform should be getting rid of private health insurance as we know it.
    And finally, if you want to make the debate solely on health care horror anecdotes, you’ll lose. Badly.
    Cheers,

  24. To the critical care physician above, glad to see you support national health care. I assume you have no problem with making $50,000 a year from now on, right?

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