Saturday, August 08, 2009

We Distort, You Decide

Here are two more great articles about health care reform, one from The Nation and one from Nobel laureate Paul Krugman, each dealing with all the disinformation that's out there.

The first piece is from The Nation and is about the negative effect television is having on the health care debate in this country:

Ezra Klein links to some interesting polling today that shows a (slim) plurality saying Obama's health care reform proposals are a "bad idea," but a strong majority supporting the actual content of the bill when "when the interviewer read an accurate, neutrally phrased description of the main features of the plan."

The reason for the difference, of course, is the tremendous amount of lies, distortions and misinformation being thrown up by opponents of reform, the most extreme of which would be funny if they weren't so macabre: the government is going kill off the elderly! They'll mandate you give up your organs when you turn 67! You'll have to pay for gay married couples' abortions!

The article's author, Christopher Hayes, goes on to describe a joint-interview he did with a conservative who shared faulty statistics. While this particular conservative later realized his error and apologized, Hayes argues that the incident shows just how easy it is to purposefully spread bad information.

The second piece is from New York Times columnist Paul Krugman, who decries the disinformation and tactics used by ring-wing reactionaries at recent Congressional town hall meetings and suggests that these protesters may have a lot in common with the birthers:

People who don’t know that Medicare is a government program probably aren’t reacting to what President Obama is actually proposing. They may believe some of the disinformation opponents of health care reform are spreading, like the claim that the Obama plan will lead to euthanasia for the elderly. (That particular claim is coming straight from House Republican leaders.) But they’re probably reacting less to what Mr. Obama is doing, or even to what they’ve heard about what he’s doing, than to who he is.

That is, the driving force behind the town hall mobs is probably the same cultural and racial anxiety that’s behind the “birther” movement, which denies Mr. Obama’s citizenship. Senator Dick Durbin has suggested that the birthers and the health care protesters are one and the same; we don’t know how many of the protesters are birthers, but it wouldn’t be surprising if it’s a substantial fraction.

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