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Tilting at Windmills

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August 19, 2009

CREATING A STRONG INCENTIVE TO LIE.... Following up on the earlier item about the new NBC News poll, the results generally point to widespread "doubts" about health care reform. But the closer one looks, the more it's apparent the doubts are driven by confusion and gullibility.

One of the reasons why it has become tougher is due to misperceptions about the president's plans for reform.

Majorities in the poll believe the plans would give health insurance coverage to illegal immigrants; would lead to a government takeover of the health system; and would use taxpayer dollars to pay for women to have abortions -- all claims that nonpartisan fact-checkers say are untrue about the legislation that has emerged so far from Congress.

Forty-five percent think the reform proposals would allow the government to make decisions about when to stop providing medical care for the elderly.

That also is untrue: The provision in the House legislation that critics have seized on -- raising the specter of "death panels" or euthanasia -- would simply allow Medicare to pay doctors for end-of-life counseling, if the patient wishes.

It's hard to overstate how difficult, if not impossible, it is to have a meaningful national policy discussion when one side launches an aggressive misinformation campaign, and the public struggles to separate fact from fiction.

In this case, 55% believe illegal immigrants will get coverage; 54% believe there will be a "government takeover" of the health care system; 50% expect to see taxpayer-financed abortions, and 45% believe reform will "allow government to make decisions about when to stop providing medical care to the elderly."

That last one is especially jarring. If the poll is accurate, nearly half the country seriously believes government officials seek the authority to pull the plug on grandma. That's insane, and it points to a political discourse that's badly broken.

But more than anything, it creates an enormous incentive to lie, blatantly and repeatedly, to the public. There are no real penalties, and the number of Americans who'll believe nonsense skews the debate in the liars' direction.

Steve Benen 10:10 AM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (38)

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"The closer one looks"? Are you kidding? It's as obvious as the sun in the sky that the numbers are being driven by confusion, misinformation and lies.

Anyone who would dispute that is a mendacious liar who wants nothing more than to further muddy the waters.

Posted by: karen marie on August 19, 2009 at 10:17 AM | PERMALINK

Mark my words: the GOP will take this lesson -- blatant lies work -- and make it their core strategy for 2012. McCain lost not because he wasn't conservative enough, but because he wasn't enough of a liar. The 2012 GOP candidate will run on a platform of how Obama is a Kenyan sleeper terrorist who wants to euthanize your family. Facts? Real issues? They only drag you down.

Posted by: CN on August 19, 2009 at 10:19 AM | PERMALINK

what karen marie sez...

the media still corporate?
BELIEVE NONE OF IT
and then find out why you don't.

works nearly every time.

Posted by: neill on August 19, 2009 at 10:19 AM | PERMALINK

I'm afraid I know some people who are not "struggling to separate fact from fiction." They heard it on Fox and any dissenting information is treated as a lie from the "brain washed One worshipers." It's gotten to the point where ridiculing them as fools is my only recourse.

Posted by: Pat on August 19, 2009 at 10:21 AM | PERMALINK

i think CN that the GOP will then only get 26% strong votes...
i think it will be much more complex... but i'm not a big member of the first framers church of america.

whatever mixture of hate and fear, dogshit and pumped up scandal, they'll go for the 50% + 1 looney dude.

Posted by: neill on August 19, 2009 at 10:23 AM | PERMALINK

And what if we had an honest Media who at every turn actually pointed out the truth ? To confront every lie, every distortion, every deception, and 'report' on it accordingly ? Every time ? And within this the actual reality of all the stories of folks who had their insurance dropped once they made a claim, how many tragedies could the Media document then ?, of the obscene profits that these Insurance companies make as in the CEO of United Health making $100,000 PER FUCKING HOUR, of what the Public Option would actually create for most Americans in terms of how much money they could save not to mention how much more would be covered, and for lot's less, instead of putting on 2 to 1 Repiglicans who stand there and lie thru their teeth, you know an actual Media that honestly educated the American public. What do you think these 'polls' would say then ?

Posted by: stormskies on August 19, 2009 at 10:24 AM | PERMALINK

Dems should start saying health care reform will add 10 years to your life. Over and over and over. It might even be true!

Posted by: Jay on August 19, 2009 at 10:26 AM | PERMALINK

"That's insane, and it points to a political discourse that's badly broken." Mr. Benen

It comes with the territory when you live in the heavily armed United States of "Confusion and Gullibility".

Critical thinking? We don't need no stinkin' critical thinking.

A pistol in every pot. And a brain in every...sock drawer? Freezer? Glove box? Hell, somewhere where they'll be safe and not get all used up.

Posted by: burro on August 19, 2009 at 10:28 AM | PERMALINK

My favorite part of the health reform bill is where anyone who shows a church bulletin at the doctors office gets free treatment. I swear it is really in there - page 673, I think. Pass the word.

Posted by: Th on August 19, 2009 at 10:29 AM | PERMALINK

ObamaCare will lead to euthanization of the elderly!
ObamaCare will lead to forced abortions!
ObamaCare will provide health care for illegals!
ObamaCare will bankrupt the country!
ObamaCare will provide free health care for blacks and browns at the expense of real white Americans!
ObamaCare will provide funding for Acorn!
Obama is a Kenyan!
Obama is the AntiChrist!
Obama is a Muslim terrorist!
Obama is having Acorn round up everyone who disagrees with him and putting them into FEMA re-education camps!
Hillary Clinton murdered Vince Foster with a lesbian bullet!

Of course we lie...
We know that we lie...
There are no ramifications for lying...
And we will continue to lie...

And our corporately owned media will continue to provide an echo chamber and message amplifier for our lies!

Posted by: RepublicanPointOfView on August 19, 2009 at 10:30 AM | PERMALINK

The effectiveness of the "Big Lie" as it applies to politics and the mass media has been pretty well documented since the 1920s-1930s. There really isn't much way for the media to effectively refute such lies because the people who buy the lies generally won't believe the media or do not read newspapers, blogs & magazines that have any credibility.

So its up to the political opponents to not just label a lie a lie, but to act on it. How? Well, Obama and the Democrats are in power, and they have big majorities. Up till now the President has seen fit to act as though the purveyors of the outright lies are credible negotiating partners and in the words of the Senate "friends" and colleagues. They aren't honestly negotiating. They are lying as soon as they get in front of public forums and TV cameras, and they aren't the Democrats friends. This is akin to someone slapping you in the face repeatedly and you saying, "can I have another, sir?"

What if the Democratic leadership acted accordingly? Democrats in Congress control appropriations and the White House has vast powers of its own which it can use in many creative ways. If they don't use power, they are going to continue to get rolled.

Posted by: frank on August 19, 2009 at 10:37 AM | PERMALINK

This is so incredibly frustrating. How stupid would you have to be to believe a political party would commit political suicide by legislating the euthanasia of elderly Americans??? Is it possible that 45% of Americans are complete imbeciles or are they just so breathtakingly gullible that they might just as well be imbeciles? I just donated to Howard Dean's "Democracy for America" ... at this point organizations like his may be our only hope of combating the lies. (And I'm more than a little resentful that I felt compelled to do this -- either Obama and his team have lost control of the message and lost control BADLY or we've been played like violins. Either way, a helluva lot of political capital his gone right into the toilet. If you had told me 6 months ago how disappointed I would be with how this whole thing has been handled I wouldn't have believed you.)

Posted by: 3reddogs on August 19, 2009 at 10:41 AM | PERMALINK

I do not want to believe the opinion of Matt Taibbi that perhaps there was a quid pro quo with Obama's administration and the pharma/insurance guys that if he walked away form SINGLE PAYER right from the start they wouldn't BEAT THEM UP on reform...because if it were true it would seriously chip away my support for all that was inspired by his candidacy...I understood and, although disappointed, agreed with Obama's position on completely redoing our health care system...it makes even more sense when one watches the SPECTACLE that passes for debate/discussion/information sharing here in our FREE COUNTRY!!! My God, they can barely decide how firm to stand on just getting the points he continues to repeat over and over again across...today I checked in to TPM and there is a bit on Rahmn suggesting it's time to GO IT ALONE...DUH!!! They always were alone...I say get er done with the list Obama has had from the beginning and make the REPUGS own the opposition...

Posted by: Dancer on August 19, 2009 at 10:41 AM | PERMALINK

What frank said, lies in politics are not new. Lies in health care reform debates are not new. It may be worse now than 1994, particularly because of FOX News, but lies are part of the bargain when you try to create change.

There's got to be an effective strategy to deal with this. Clearly it isn't asking folks to send emails detailing the lies to the White House. Its also not spending a great deal of time explaining that there's not really anything frightening about this reform, really, really, there isn't.

What was Obama's positive message at the beginning? What is it now?

I'm not hearing it, and clearly most of the country isn't.

Posted by: Vicki Linton on August 19, 2009 at 10:45 AM | PERMALINK

Am I wrong in believing that the media should call out the lies? Isn't that their job? They seem to report the "ruckus" but don't deciminate the information between the truth and the lies.

Posted by: Joan McMullen on August 19, 2009 at 10:52 AM | PERMALINK

It's hard to overstate how difficult, if not impossible, it is to have a meaningful national policy discussion when one side launches an aggressive misinformation campaign, and the public struggles to separate fact from fiction.

It's not hard to have this sort of debate and get the truth out if you stay on top of the issue and have people going around the country speaking about it early on, have a president totally focused on it, send one message and don't pussyfoot around about what you want and what you won't accept.

That this poll shows what it does demonstrates that the Obama White House and the Democratic Party have lost control of the debate and are still playing catch-up ball. Hopefully, not too late. If I was Obama, I'd get me an hour of prime time very damn fast.

That their political incompetence could lead to a situation where a bunch of whack jobs could so thoroughly defeat them on this issue is just disgusting.

Posted by: TCinLA on August 19, 2009 at 11:05 AM | PERMALINK

A sustainable health care program must dictate when it is unwilling to pay for treatment for grandma.

The effect is the same for most grandmas. If you can't afford your old high-cost low-benefit treatments, you're out of luck.

Of course, insurance companies don't even pay for high-cost HIGH-benefit procedures, so the big bad ol government is not particularly ghoulish in its effort to put some level of restraint on medical expenses that don't appreciably help anyone.

This point is not being adequately explained. Yes, the government WILL allow the elderly to die sooner than they must.

1) The insurance companies will do this more often than the government
2) If the government DOESN'T do this, the deficit the Republicans claim to worry about now will balloon uncontrollably until we DO limit medical expenses and perhaps a whole lot of more important stuff.... like military expenses.

If the grain of truth behind the lies isn't addressed, it is left to the Republicans to address it and what we're seeing is the result. even President Obama, the guy who loves to go "in the weeds" and explain everything has done a crummy job of admitting this harsh reality to our advantage.

Government will screw some old people. Insurance screws every old person it can. The real faceless "death panels" are writing up policy footnotes and fine print in corporate offices nationwide.

Posted by: toowearyforoutrage on August 19, 2009 at 11:10 AM | PERMALINK

Steve Benen wrote: "But more than anything, it creates an enormous incentive to lie, blatantly and repeatedly, to the public."

I have carefully read your post and you don't really say what "it" is that "creates an enormous incentive to lie".

I would suggest that "it" is the intentional and deliberate complicity of the corporate-owned mass media which treats blatant lies that serve corporate interests as legitimate discourse.

The corporate-shill "lying liars" of the so-called "right wing" know they can lie with impunity. So they do.

Posted by: SecularAnimist on August 19, 2009 at 11:14 AM | PERMALINK

A large part of the blame goes to the administration and the blue dogs, especially baucus and his committee. They all played directly into the gopers plans by *negotiating* in secret and then delaying the reform. The republicans had a field day and accomplished their goals.

I am thoroughly disgusted with the Senate first, baucus second, reid third, and whoever is calling the shots in the administration - doesn't matter if its rahm or obama - obama is ultimately responsible. They've all done a piss-poor job.

Posted by: CDW on August 19, 2009 at 11:54 AM | PERMALINK
It's hard to overstate how difficult, if not impossible, it is to have a meaningful national policy discussion when one side launches an aggressive misinformation campaign, and the public struggles to separate fact from fiction.
Yet this is the situation we're consistently in.

From calling Al Gore a serial liar to WMD or Al-Qaeda ties in Iraq to Swiftboating Kerry to saying waterboarding isnt torture to the current health care debate (and many other instances in between), "aggressive misinformation campaigns" are the SOP of the GOP.

At this point whining about it, or even whining about media complicity, is useless. Democrats have to step up and fight in this battlefield or they will continue to fail. I'm not saying that they should fight misinformation with misinformation, but they do need to frame their policies with emotion-based appeals that will play well in our current media landscape.

I dont like this; I'd much prefer reasoned policy debate. But emotional more-heat-than-light tactics work much better for a number of reasons.

Why couldnt Democrats be talking about how Republicans want to kill grandma by withholding her healthcare because she cant afford it?

Posted by: TG Chicago on August 19, 2009 at 12:08 PM | PERMALINK
What was Obama's positive message at the beginning? What is it now?

I'm not hearing it, and clearly most of the country isn't.

Posted by: Vicki Linton on August 19, 2009 at 10:45 AM


I agree completely. Obama needed to clearly communicate - from the beginning of this process - why it is absolutely essential to get this done and why blocking it would be dangerous and scary. (I guess that wouldnt be entirely a "positive message", but I think both sides of the coin are necessary for something as hard to grasp as healthcare reform) He is capable of doing this. Why didnt he?

Even by the time of his primetime press conference, there was still the opportunity to properly frame the debate. However, he got wonky with details rather than shining the light on the big picture to get the American people aboard. And then the whole thing went to hell with the final question about Prof. Gates, derailing all healthcare talk for a few weeks.

Massive changes to healthcare are always going to seem scary to a lot of Americans. And Republicans are going to stoke those fears. That's why we needed Obama to make it clear why doing nothing was scarier. He didnt do it.

Posted by: TG Chicago on August 19, 2009 at 12:15 PM | PERMALINK

I believe it was a commenter to this blog yesterday who asked how it is possible for liberals to both be "bleeding hearts" yet want to "kill grandma".

Of course the confused 18%'ers will already have figured out some sort of spaghetti "logic" to explain the apparent contradiction.

Posted by: Hannah on August 19, 2009 at 12:18 PM | PERMALINK

Wow, just after posting the above, I went to Digby's blog and saw that she posted this quote from Rick Perlstein's WaPo chat:

You can't "demand" that people be more logical. Emotion is part of the human animal. What I would have liked to have seen, as an advocate of healthcare reform, is for Obama and the rhetoric to COMBINE rational appeals with emotional ones--like FDR and and Truman and LBJ did so effectively in their own attempts to pass progressive legislation. They roused people in their lizard-brains, too, just for progressive ends.

That's what I was getting at. Thanks, Mr. Perlstein!

Posted by: TG Chicago on August 19, 2009 at 12:26 PM | PERMALINK

The media stinks, but the Democrats are at fault for not making the Republicans pay dearly for their lying. Instead of just answering Repbulican lies, the Democrats need to put their opponents on the defensive for being caught telling lies.

The issue should not be "Is Obama going to kill grandma?". It should be "Why are Republicans unwilling to denounce the people who spread such vile lies?" If they will not denounce the liars, how can Republicans be trusted in what they say about anything? That is how the conservatives would handle a simillar situation.

The biggest incentive not to lie is and always has been that you will be exposed and your cause will be hurt because of it.

Posted by: David1234 on August 19, 2009 at 12:39 PM | PERMALINK

If the media had a concept of "Rules Of Evidence" like courtrooms have they could play a role in preventing public debate being debased in such a manner. Of course "He said, She said" objective reporting is such a ratings grabber and circulation booster.

Posted by: Rip Van Mongo on August 19, 2009 at 12:51 PM | PERMALINK
...But more than anything, it creates an enormous incentive to lie, blatantly and repeatedly, to the public. There are no real penalties, and the number of Americans who'll believe nonsense skews the debate in the liars' direction.

Then we need to bring the penalties back, or make them harsher. There used to be enforceable laws in this country: libel, defamation, fraud. Why can't we use any of them to get the liars to go away?

The First Amendment is supposed to be a shield for the Truth, not Lies. Lies are NOT protected speech.

Posted by: PaulW on August 19, 2009 at 12:59 PM | PERMALINK

If the poll is accurate, nearly half the country seriously believes government officials seek the authority to pull the plug on grandma. That's insane, and it points to a political discourse that's badly broken.

I predict that before the year is out, Obama will throw up his hands in disgust, resign and immigrate to run for the leadership of a less insane, more well-educated country. Someplace that would be grateful to have him, such as say Canada. Because I don't know how he can stand to be in charge of this lot of imbeciles.

Posted by: Stefan on August 19, 2009 at 4:46 PM | PERMALINK

Neither the original story nor any commenters have quoted the concurrent poll that shows that Fox News is the source of this misinformation and that it lives primarily among Republicans. Those who watch CNN or MSNBC reflect the truth of these outrageous lies. So it's not "all media" but Fox and its willingness to repeat Republican and conservative think tank talking points. Glen Beck went too far when he called Obama a racist and a fascist. So far, due to pressure, 20 advertisers have withdrawn their support for his show, most recently State Farm. However, they will probably residtribute the ad buys with Fox. Advertisers have to be held accountable for the vast misinformation on this network. Turn off the spigot.

Posted by: Sarajane on August 19, 2009 at 4:48 PM | PERMALINK

PaulW said "The First Amemdment is supposed to be a shield for the Truth, not Lies. Lies are NOT protected speech."

PaulW, with all due respect I think you have misinterpreted the intent of the First Amendment.

It is to be a shield for SPEECH, period.

There are very limited instances where that right is curtailed, but there exists a clear tradition that political speech is to be protected.

Imagine a country where it is illegal to lie about the government's policies (which is apparently what you are upset about here).

If the government ever became corrupt, how would regime change ever happen?

How could reform-minded candidates ever get elected if the incumbent had the power to penalize them for 'lying'?

There could never be regime change, because the incumbents will be the ones in charge of deciding which political slogans or speeches are 'lies' and also who is jailed for lying about the government!

In the end, it is up to the American People to find out the Truth for themselves. That is one area in which the internet is a shining beacon of hope!

Posted by: Truth Junkie on August 19, 2009 at 4:58 PM | PERMALINK

Hitler???? I believe those right wing nuts should be called Goebbels. And if you don't know who he was, look him up along with Hitler. Goebble's incendenary lies were told so often the Germans believed him. Deathpanels, Socialism, forced abortions, Uncle Sam telling you what you can do. What BS. The insurance companies are telling us what you can do.Its not health care these nuts are concerned about, its about destroying a black president. If he said white they would say black. The party of NO. Disgusting! I'm a 78 year old white Korean War Veteran and I'm NOT worried my country wants to knock me off to save a buck. God Bless this wonderful country. Dont let the idiots destroy it.

Posted by: Roy on August 19, 2009 at 5:09 PM | PERMALINK

3reddogs said "How stupid would you have to be to believe a political party would commit political suicide by legislating the euthanasia of elderly Americans???"

In fairness, I would answer:
"Just as stupid as you would have to be to believe an administration would commit political suicide by murdering over 3,000 of its citizens on 9/11 and covering it up."

There is no accounting for what people will believe if they wish to.

Truth is the antidote, not vitriol.

Posted by: Truth Junkie on August 19, 2009 at 5:31 PM | PERMALINK

In fairness, I would answer:
"Just as stupid as you would have to be to believe an administration would commit political suicide by murdering over 3,000 of its citizens on 9/11 and covering it up."

Ah. Well, in that case, the kind of abject stupidity suffered by the both ignorant and paranoid is quite rare among Democrats. Meanwhile, it has completely invaded the Republican party -- to the extent that a solid majority of Republicans either believe in or are not sure about the "death panels," your party leaders are flogging this issue in the media, and your favorite pundits spend hours a day insisting that they're true.

Drop the false equivalences. They just make a fool of you.

Posted by: shortstop on August 19, 2009 at 6:19 PM | PERMALINK

Trust busting would take care of a lot of these things. Fox News, CNN and other corporate media would be broken up as well as these insurance companies. Simple solutions to simple problems.

I wouldn't worry about FOX News viewers since most of them are old and their viewership is declining. Youngsters are smarter than that and most of them get their news from Jon Stewart. So there is hope.

Posted by: Always Hopeful on August 19, 2009 at 8:47 PM | PERMALINK

The war against public education that the GOP has been waging for the last three decades is really starting to pay off for them. It's been a long, tough fight but the battle flag of ignorance flies high.

Posted by: Mandy Cat on August 20, 2009 at 10:04 AM | PERMALINK

Shortstop said "Well, in that case, the kind of abject stupidity suffered by the both ignorant and paranoid is quite rare among Democrats."

Really, shortstop? Where is your proof of that?

After 5 minutes of searching, I found this Quote from Rasmussen regarding a poll asking whether President Bush knew about the 9-11 terrorist attacks in advance:
Thirty-five percent (35%) of Democrats believe he did know, 39% say he did not know, and 26% are not sure.
Republicans reject that view and, by a 7-to-1 margin, say the President did not know in advance about the attacks.
Here's the link: http://www.rasmussenreports.com/public_content/politics/current_events/bush_administration/22_believe_bush_knew_about_9_11_attacks_in_advance


Tell me again how 61% means 'quite rare'?

I would call that a TRUE equivalence - backed up with proof.

Drop the arrogant dismissal of actual equivalence, it makes a fool of you.

Also, I said that Truth was the antidote, not vitriol.

Next time, try responding with Truth instead of vitriol.

Posted by: Truth Junkie on August 20, 2009 at 11:28 AM | PERMALINK

While it is painfully true that the GOP and their media allies are deliberately misleading on health care reform--among other issues--it has to be said that the Obama government have reacted in an inept and wishy washy manner that is driving progressives nuts.Now we are told,the government has no problem with folks packing assault rifles to town hall events.I mean,COME ON already.
Are Liberals really that spineless and ineffectual?
It's embarrassing.

Posted by: scott on August 20, 2009 at 1:38 PM | PERMALINK


"Just as stupid as you would have to be to believe an administration would commit political suicide by murdering over 3,000 of its citizens on 9/11 and covering it up."

Well such an act is certainly not without precedent.911 was the gift that kept on giving as far as the Bush Cartel was concerned,and they exploited it shamelessly and in an almost wholly illegal manner for years..conspiracies aside.

Posted by: scott on August 20, 2009 at 1:52 PM | PERMALINK

Dear Republicans, next time you speak please remember to wipe the B.S. off your lips when finished. After listening to all the FAUX NEWS, I've made it a point to let my kids and grand kids know that if a Republican said it.."IT'S A LIE". You have lost any and all credibility with the American People. If you can't have a legitimate conversation regarding issues you are no better than a pundit. (A pundit is nothing more than a political gossip columnist).
Sign me Former Republican

Posted by: Ret. Gulf War Vet on August 23, 2009 at 6:25 PM | PERMALINK




 

 

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