Friday, February 10, 2006

an open letter to Mary Shomon

Note: I emailed this to Mary Shomon today, including a link to this post.

Dear Mary,
I have subscribed to your thyroid newsletter since 2001, and have at various times been an active participant on your Thyroid site. I have been enlightened, encouraged, and entertained by your newsletters over the years, and the information and support in the thyroid forums was invaluable to me in the months following my diagnosis with hypothyroidism. I have purchased your books, and recommended both your books and your websites to others, and have always held you in high esteem for the work you've done as a patient advocate.

Therefore, I was distressed to see the following in today's newsletter:
Send Your Health Care Horror Stories to Michael Moore
Controversial documentary filmmaker Michael Moore is looking for health care horror stories for his next film, and I have no doubt that the thyroid patient community has many to share. From Moore's site: "All we need now is to put a few of you in the movie and let the world see what the greatest country ever in the history of the universe does to its own people, simply because they have the misfortune of getting sick. Because getting sick, unless you are rich, is a crime - a crime for which you must pay, sometimes with your own life...So, if you'd like me to know what you've been through with your insurance company, or what it's been like to have no insurance at all, or how the hospitals and doctors wouldn't treat you (or if they did, how they sent you into poverty trying to pay their crazy bills) ...if you have been abused in any way by this sick, greedy, grubby system and it has caused you or your loved ones great sorrow and pain, let me know. " Find out how to share your story now...
I understand that, as a patient advocate, you want to help patients obtain better medical care. I also understand that, as an Oscar-winning documentary film maker, Michael Moore has the power to reach millions of people and to influence societal change as a result.

But what I do not understand is why you would encourage members of the thyroid community to put themselves and their stories in the hands of a man who has been shown to consistently omit and distort facts, and to manipulate the stories of the people he interviews. I'm not talking about politics. I'm talking about vulnerable people being offered up to be used by a film-maker who has repeatedly shown no respect for the subjects he is covering. Ask the family of Maj. Gregory Stone what they think of Michael Moore's tactics. How do you think that Kayla Rolland's family felt when Moore's Bowling for Columbine portrayed her killer as a sympathetic figure from a troubled family, rather than revealing that the boy had previously been suspended for stabbing another child with a pencil, had fought with Kayla prior to the shooting, and that the gun used to shoot her was obtained from his drug-dealer uncle?

Moore manipulates everyone and everything to advance his agenda. He is a powerful storyteller, but don't be lulled into believing that, if you volunteer yourself up to him, that he will be telling your story. He has demonstrated in every single one of his films that he will mangle the truth or just leave it out altogether if it contradicts the point he is trying to make. His skill in the editing booth is such that he can make you appear to say whatever he wants you to, regardless of what you actually said and the context in which you said it.

I would strongly discourage anyone from working with Michael Moore, but if you choose to do so, at least be aware that the material you provide will not be presented to the public in its original condition. After Moore has massaged and recut it, who knows what you'll end up saying or doing, and who can guess what story Moore will present to frame it?

I don't think it's worth the risk. I am astonished that you featured this item in your newsletter and encouraged thyroid patients to work with him. At the very least, you could've included a caveat as to the risks inherent in such an undertaking. By simply passing on Moore's request, you appear to be endorsing both his methods and his films. I find this level of irresponsibility uncharacteristic of you, and I hope you'll considering amending the feature to add a caution to anyone who chooses to volunteer his story to Moore.

With best regards.

No comments: