The Guardian reports:
Cuba banned Michael Moore’s 2007 documentary, Sicko, because it painted such a “mythically” favourable picture of Cuba’s healthcare system that the authorities feared it could lead to a “popular backlash”, according to US diplomats in Havana.
The revelation, contained in a confidential US embassy cable released by WikiLeaks , is surprising, given that the film attempted to discredit the US healthcare system by highlighting what it claimed was the excellence of the Cuban system.
But the memo reveals that when the film was shown to a group of Cuban doctors, some became so “disturbed at the blatant misrepresentation of healthcare in Cuba that they left the room”.
Castro’s government apparently went on to ban the film because, the leaked cable claims, it “knows the film is a myth and does not want to risk a popular backlash by showing to Cubans facilities that are clearly not available to the vast majority of them.”
Michael Moore says it isn’t true, that his film was shown widely in Cuba, and he provides links that convince Outside the Beltway. (I haven’t bothered to click through myself.) Now, it wouldn’t be remotely unheard of for diplomats to be wrong, but there’s also no reason that both stories can’t be true. Cuba could have shown the film and then banned it after they saw the public’s reaction.
That sort of propaganda miscalculation used to happen to the Soviets. They would screen anti-American films from the West and it would backfire: the audience would brush off whatever political malfeasance the film alleged and focus instead on all the great stuff Americans owned. The Soviet nomenklatura made this mistake easily; they weren’t denied cars, food, toilet paper, etc., so they would miss the material implications of the films. In the same way, the Cuban nomenklatura isn’t denied quality health care, so they could fail to anticipate how the public would react.
UPDATE: Apparently stories of Cuba banning Sicko predate the date at which Moore claims the movie was shown. I don’t know what the truth is. It is pretty funny, though, to see Michael Moore’s indignation, given his strong support for WikiLeaks.