This is three or four days old, but anyone who saw/liked/was aroused by Michael Moore‘s Sicko absolutely needs to watch this scalding Bill Moyers Journal interview with Wendell Potter, former vp corporate communications for CIGNA and current health-care activist with the Center for Media and Democracy. Part #1 is below; here‘s part #2.
Bill Moyers: So what did you think when you saw that film?
Wendell Potter: I thought that he hit the nail on the head with his movie. But the industry, from the moment that the industry learned that Michael Moore was taking on the health care industry, it was really concerned.
Moyers: What were they afraid of?
Potter: They were afraid that people would believe Michael Moore.
Moyers: We obtained a copy of the game plan that was adopted by the industry’s trade association, AHIP. And it spells out the industry strategies in gold letters. It says, “Highlight horror stories of government-run systems.” What was that about?
Potter: The industry has always tried to make Americans think that government-run systems are the worst thing that could possibly happen to them, that if you even consider that, you’re heading down on the slippery slope towards socialism. So they have used scare tactics for years and years and years, to keep that from happening. If there were a broader program like our Medicare program, it could potentially reduce the profits of these big companies. So that is their biggest concern.
Moyers: And there was a political strategy. “Position Sicko as a threat to Democrats’ larger agenda.” What does that mean?
Potter: That means that part of the effort to discredit this film was to use lobbyists and their own staff to go onto Capitol Hill and say, “Look, you don’t want to believe this movie. You don’t want to talk about it. You don’t want to endorse it. And if you do, we can make things tough for you.”
Potter: By running ads, commercials in your home district when you’re running for reelection, not contributing to your campaigns again, or contributing to your competitor.
Moyers: This is fascinating. You know, “Build awareness among centrist Democratic policy organizations…”
Moyers: “…including the Democratic Leadership Council.”
Moyers: Then it says, “Message to Democratic insiders. Embracing Moore is one-way ticket back to minority party status.”
Moyers: Now, that’s exactly what they did, didn’t they? They…
Moyers: …radicalized Moore, so that his message was discredited because the messenger was seen to be radical.
Potter: Absolutely. In memos that would go back within the industry — he was never, by the way, mentioned by name in any memos, because we didn’t want to inadvertently write something that would wind up in his hands. So the memos would usually — the subject line would be — the emails would be, “Hollywood.” And as we would do the media training, we would always have someone refer to him as Hollywood entertainer or Hollywood moviemaker Michael Moore.
Potter: Well, just to — Hollywood, I think people think that’s entertainment, that’s movie-making. That’s not a real documentary. They don’t want you to think that it was a documentary that had some truth. They would want you to see this as just some fantasy that a Hollywood filmmaker had come up with. That’s part of the strategy.
Moyers: So you would actually hear politicians mouth the talking points that had been circulated by the industry to discredit Michael Moore.
Moyers: You’d hear ordinary people talking that. And politicians as well, right?
Moyers: So your plan worked.
Potter: It worked beautifully.
Moyers: The film was blunted, right?
Potter: The film was blunted.