Nick Cohen

Michael and Me

Michael and Me
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I have had an email from someone called webguy @ – who may be the great propagandist himself or perhaps one of his "people" – saying that the US State Department’s claim that the Cuban communists banned Sicko is false. (“Nick, The government cable's claim that Sicko was banned in Cuba is false. Would appreciate a correction whenever you have a moment. thanks,”)

For what it is worth, I believe Moore. Why would a dictatorship not want to show a flattering description of life in its country? Even though the captive audience would know it was not true, the sight of foreigners repeating the regime’s propaganda could only serve to bolster the Communist Party and demoralise the opposition.

I only mentioned the Wikileaks’ claim in passing, and devoted nearly all of yesterday’s piece to talking about Moore’s promiscuous willingness to indulge tyrannies of whatever stripe – fascist in the case of Saddam’s Iraq, Communist in the case of the Castro family’s Cuba. So I wrote back: “What about the argument that you filmed a hospital for the party elite rather than the masses?”

I waited 12 hours for a reply, but none was forthcoming, so let us see what we can discover. On my own visits to Cuba, I have noticed that doctors are as easy for tourists to buy as prostitutes. Cuban refugee sites maintain that there is a three-tier health service: one for tourists paying in dollars; one for the nomenklatura; and one for the wretched proles. I am sure Moore will counter that Cuban exiles have willingly fled a socialist paradise, and must be deranged conservatives, who are probably in the pay of the CIA.

But at some point you have to listen to people who are free to speak without fear, rather than those who must parrot the party line on pain of imprisonment.

When Sicko came out Reuters did just that and found a doctor who seemed to have all the relevant experience.

'In Cuba, the elite hospitals are as good as here, if not better," said Leonel Cordova, a Cuban doctor who works as a emergency room physician at Miami's Baptist Hospital. The hospitals dedicated to the health of regular citizens are a disaster," said Cordova, who was sent to work in Zimbabwe and defected in 2000. At these hospitals, Cubans bring personal items such as towels, bed sheets, soap and even food.'

None of the above is meant to deny that Cuban scientists have developed important new drugs and preventative treatments, although I would be very careful indeed about believing the life expectancy figures Havana produces, they may well turn out to be as reliable as the statistics on pig iron and steel production from Stalin’s glorious Soviet Union. Nor do I want to pretend that American health care did not shame the nation by denying cover to tens of millions of American citizens. Yet Obama has secured his place in history by reforming the system and introducing universal cover. Alert readers will have noticed that he has done so without introducing a military dictatorship, banning the opposition, imprisoning dissidents, and abolishing freedom of speech and freedom of the press.

Needless to add, the same American leftists who giggle at Moore’s films now denounce Obama as a “sell-out”.

Written byNick Cohen

Nick Cohen is a columnist for the Observer and author of What's Left and You Can't Read This Book.

Topics in this articleSociety