MICHAEL MOORE: NOW APPEARING IN A LEDE NEAR YOU. Forget the box office, Michael Moore and Sicko have unquestionably conquered one battle -- becoming shorthand for “American health care crisis” for news writers everywhere.

Take a look around: in the Kansas City Star, columnist Rhonda Chriss Lokeman cites Moore’s film to tell the story of Kansan Julia Slaven’s battle with cancer, over in the St. Petersburg Times, Robyn Blumner uses Moore to question what we’ve lost in the Bush era, and today in TAP Online, Helaine Olen employs one of Moore’s health crisis victims to discuss health credit cards. Even the New York Times is in on the game -- this Sunday’s editorial on WHO country health care rankings invoked Moore in the second graph.

In a July Talk of the Town piece New Yorker writer Atul Gawande helped explain the attraction:

The documentary filmmaker Michael Moore has more than a few insufferable traits. He is manipulative, smug, and self-righteous. He has no interest in complexity. And he mocks the weak as well as the powerful. (Recall his derision, in "Roger and Me," for an impoverished woman in Flint, Michigan, who slaughtered rabbits to make ends meet.) For all that, his movie about the American health-care system, "Sicko," is a revelation. And what makes this especially odd to say is that the movie brings to light nothing that the media haven't covered extensively for years.

Few will be surprised, surely, to learn that insurance companies routinely deny people individual coverage, or jack up applicants' rates, if they have diabetes or are obese or produced a weird blood-test result in the sixth grade. It's just that a lot of us haven't met those people, or seen what happens to them afterward. Moore makes sure that we do.

Score one for insufferableness.

--Phoebe Connelly