Sanjay Gupta Problem: Paul Krugman

02/07/2009 05:12 am 05:12:01 | Updated May 25, 2011

Lest you think the appointment of dreamboat doctor Sanjay Gupta as Surgeon General was going to be all peaches and cream, direct your attention today to the New York Times Paul Krugman, who reminds his readers of the famous beef that Gupta got into with documentary filmmaker Michael Moore over his movie, Sicko:

You don't have to like Moore or his film; but Gupta specifically claimed that Moore "fudged his facts", when the truth was that on every one of the allegedly fudged facts, Moore was actually right and CNN was wrong.

What bothered me about the incident was that it was what Digby would call Village behavior: Moore is an outsider, he's uncouth, so he gets smeared as unreliable even though he actually got it right. It's sort of a minor-league version of the way people who pointed out in real time that Bush was misleading us into war are to this day considered less "serious" than people who waited until it was fashionable to reach that conclusion. And appointing Gupta now, although it's a small thing, is just another example of the lack of accountability that always seems to be the rule when you get things wrong in a socially acceptable way.

I did like Moore's film, up to a point -- specifically the point at which I was presented with the thought exercise that I could have good universal health care if I was willing to live like a Cuban, a premise that a) I am not prepared to accept and b) undermined the logical point of highlighting the health management success of places like Canada and England. But I am with Krugman on "getting things wrong in a socially acceptable way." It is, for example, the inane belief of Ruth Marcus that torture is the sort of thing an upright citizen can also get "wrong in a socially acceptable way." This, too, is a premise I am not prepared to accept!

In reviving the Gupta/Moore tiff, Krugman's point might have been better served if he had delved into the facts of the dispute, which was resolved when CNN issued various retractions and Moore called a truce. For the thorough exegesis of the spat, I direct your attention to our own Rachel Sklar, who gave a detailed accounting of the matter back in July of 2007 -- which I assure you, I could not improve upon, beginning with the first line: "Does it compromise my journalistic objectivity to say that Dr. Sanjay Gupta is a dick?"

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