Friday, July 31, 2009

How Lies Grow WIngs

Warning to self: I am about to get in hot water.

When my granddaughters were here I told them if I could only teach them one thing it would be to think critically and to think for themselves. I have always been bewildered by people who never delve into important facts that affect their lives; instead they let their friends, talking heads on the media, and hate pieces circulated on the Internet do their thinking for them.

How can adults be so gullible? Is it due to being lazy mentally, culture, ideology or the heat of the South that atrophies their brains when it comes to logic? I make the last statement based on the fact that a recent survey found that 23% of Republicans in the South still believe that Obama was not born in the U. S., in spite of all proven evidence to the contrary. And 32% aren't sure. (Bear in mind, I live in one of those red states in the South - well, southwest - before you southerners get mad at me.) As Jan pointed out on her great blog, Happening HERE, it is obvious that this is not the viewpoint of the blacks in the South; therefore, the percentage of white's that believe this goes up. On Jan's blog you can find a chart that details the areas of the country and the percentage of those who are most gullible.

Paul Krugman cites a recent statement by a man in Florida when he said he wanted the government to keep their hands off of his Medicare. When the Republican Senator pointed out to him that Medicare was a government program the man would have none of it. Facts be damned - my minds made up.

Another lie being circulated (and there are many) is that Seniors will have to sign a pledge that they will commit suicide. This is supposedly to keep the government from having to pay the expensive cost of the last days of an illness. Do you kno
w the origin of this fabrication? It is a clause in the health care bill giving the option of advanced care end of life planning. In other words, it is the option of having a living will directive. I do have one and I hope other elders do, too. But it is not a euthanasia clause as the ones who would defeat this bill claim.

Krugman continues in his op-ed piece by citing that the only thing that keeps our medical care working at all is because of government intervention. Most people who are satisfied with their insurance (I am one of them) are on Medicare or have employer based insurance. The government has rules for the latter that keep the insurance companies in line. Without such mandates, the insurance companies routinely kick the sick out when they need expensive care and deny coverage to the already sick for idiotic reasons. Example: a woman had cancer and was denied coverage because of an acne treatment she had undergone years before. Any excuse will do to let the insurance industry keep their obscene profits.

Insurance companies can deny coverage, kick people off when they require expensive treatment, raise the rates at will and people who are opposed to the Public Option say they don't trust the government. How lame is that? The fact that Veterans, government workers, Medicare recipients and all of our representatives have government insurance doesn't seem to enter the minds of those who decry "Socialized " medicine. Republican representatives are the loudest in using the word 'socialized'. How ironic is that?

Getting back to how and why the anti-reform pundits are so successful in misleading people I want to give an illustration on how it's done.

I have a good friend, a college educated Republican, who gets many e-mails from his friends and family full of these out-and-out lies in the form of hate pieces. Once in awhile he sends them to me to check out the facts. A recent one was a video clip from Betsy McCaughey. Because the clip was long and it would take me over an hour just to download it (that's a problem for another day) I just researched her and didn't watch the clip. The following is the result of my research and what I sent back to my friend about the veracity of Ms. McCaughey.

According to Snopes It seems that Betsy lifted a few words out of an entire sentence in Tom Daschles book, incorporated them into her own sentence and changed the entire meaning of what Daschle had maintained. Of course, she had so distorted his meaning and given the wrong impression that it was bordering on the big lie. She got away with citing him as proof of her assertion by putting his words in quotes in the sentence. How many people reading her claim noticed that little device at deception?

So here's how it works:

Bloomburg published this:

Here is Betsy McCaughey, a staffer at a conservative think tank who also used to be a Republican Lt. Gov. of New York, attacking the economic stimulus plan. Specifically, McCaughey insisted that the policy would create a "new bureaucracy" called the National Coordinator of Health Information Technology, which will "monitor treatments to make sure your doctor is doing what the federal government deems appropriate and cost effective." McCaughey said the federal government would then "'guide' your doctor's decisions," adding, "Keeping doctors informed of the newest medical findings is important, but enforcing uniformity goes too far."

The claim, not surprisingly, isn't true. The National Coordinator for Health Information Technology isn't "new"; it was created by George W. Bush five years ago. More importantly, the measure is about medical records, not limiting physicians' treatments.

In fact, the language in the House bill that McCaughey ... referenced does not establish authority to "monitor treatments" or restrict what "your doctor is doing" with regard to patient care, but rather addresses establishing an electronic records system such that doctors would have complete, accurate information about their patients "to help guide medical decisions at the time and place of care."

So, the opinion piece Bloomberg ran was wrong. Ordinarily, that's hardly worth getting excited about; news outlets run misleading opinion pieces every day. But what's interesting about this particular story is they way in which it spread.

Step One: Rush Limbaugh told his minions audience on Monday about McCaughey's piece, insisting that a "national coordinator of health information technology will monitor treatments that your doctor gives you to make sure your doctor is doing what the federal government deems appropriate and cost-effective."

Step Two: By late Monday, Drudge was trumpeting McCaughey's mistake with this headline: "'National Coordinator of Health Information Technology' Slipped in to Stimulus..."

Step Three: Fox News and members of the Wall Street Journal editorial board got in on the act on Tuesday morning, arguing that the government will "essentially dictate treatments," thanks to the "secret" provisions in the stimulus bill. FNC's Megan Kelly said the non-existent language "sounds dangerously like socialized medicine," while FNC's Bill Hemmer said the recovery plan includes "new rules guiding decisions your doctor can make about your health care." All of this, of course, is patently and demonstrably false.

Step Four: Limbaugh took a bow yesterday, taking credit for the misinformation campaign, and telling listeners that his show "uncovered" all of this. "I found it," Limbaugh said. "I detailed it for you, and now it's all over mainstream media."

Remember, McCaughey got it wrong. Limbaugh and Drudge took the wrong information and exaggerated it further. Then Fox News took Limbaugh's lies, and stretched them even further still. That none of this is grounded in reality in any way was of no importance to any of these clowns. Untold thousands of Americans, who don't know better, get their "news" from these people, and have no idea they've been lied to.

"This is how the conventional wisdom often gets set in Washington -- an article that 'the right people' read builds among the chattering class and then is distilled out to the people, no matter its veracity. While zombies like McCaughey are still churning out the lies, there's a whole new set -- Rush, Drudge, Fox -- of opinion leaders that get to set the agenda on these matters."


These lies grow wings and are repeatedly churned out by other reporters and viewers until they are taken as absolute fact by the uninformed. Words have consequences and these lies are about to defeat any real health care reform. I sometimes weep for my country when money talks so much louder than truth.


Vagabonde said...

I think that you are very brave to talk about all this. I live in the South, and I have given up. When I was at work, all the people around me watched Fox News and believed every word. They are not bad people; they are just somnolent when it comes to ideas other than their own. Their politics and faith won’t let them out of their closed boxes. I have been in this country since the 60s and can see great changes and a real dumbing-down. Most of them are true believers in Talk Radio and Faux news. Rush Limbaugh knows that his listeners won’t check what he says, and he actually pursue the deliberate dumbing-down of America because an intelligent public will not listen to him. He knows his public is stupid, so he treats it that way. Watch TV at night, it’s full of pharmaceutical ads and insurance ads. TV channels make their money with these ads – they surely won’t air shows to educate the public. Bill Moyers has a show tonight explaining what the insurance companies are doing to defeat or slow down any good health care program. Well, the Educational Channels in our area (there are two) don’t show this program, instead they have a re-run on an old Elvis program, I kid you not. The Birthers are ignorant hate mongers, they just don’t want Obama there and anything will do to try to get him out. It’s pathetic. I still hope that it will get better some day.

20th Century Woman said...

If only every person who listens to Rush or watches Fox would read this post! But, alas, all they want is sensational sound bites. I think there is still hope for health care legislation, but not much. The lies are easy and thrilling, the truth is so much less exciting and so much more complex.

kenju said...

Darlene, I wish that 3-4 of my friends who send me those hateful emails could read your post. I would send it to them, but they are of the "My mind is made up" variety and it would do no good.

Rain said...

It is shocking to me what Republicans believe and how they think and we should not take it lightly. Bill Maher mentioned that last night and said Kerry misunderstood how this all worked when he ignored the swift boaters assuming they would not be taken seriously given the record. There are those who still tell me what a coward Kerry was and they will never believe any of the facts. It is very upsetting to me that so many people choose (and it has to be a choice) to be that ignorant. :(

Darlene said...

*Vagabone - I love your 'faux' news. I have to remember that. It must be tough living in the Bible belt being so intelligent. Yes, they are not bad people, but have closed minds and, like a closed door, nothing can get through it. I did watch Bill Moyer's Journal last night. It was good but he is usually preaching to the Choir.

*20th Century Woman - Alas, they still wouldn't believe I am right.

*Kenju - Sadly, you are right.

*Rain - You and I are in complete agreement. Facts are stubborn things, but they have little impact on some people. I keep trying, as do you, to educate them.

Nancy said...


You are doing a wonderful service in exposing these people who KNOW they are spreading misinformation but continue to do it.

My husband is a great fan of MSNBC,watching Chris,Ed,Keith and Rachel all evening.He keeps shouting that he hopes the "Birthers" in the South are listening to the truth as told by his favorites.

Unfortunately, I know the MSNBC crew are "Preaching to the choir" as they say, because the "Know nothings" we are talking about are all watching Bill,Sean,Glenn and Co. on Fox Noise.They will never learn anything because they
are positive they are right and do their part by sending crazy Emails around that "prove" that President Obama is not an American citizen.
How can anybody born in Hawaii be an American? Sheesh...

I also received the "Tell us what day you want the government to kill you" letter from several of them. I tried to explain it is not about them killing you, it is about them alerting us to have our wishes carried out by making a living will and having a Power of Attorney selected who will have our best interests at heart.

They honestly don't believe you because that is not what Betsy ,Rush or Glenn said and what they say is the TRUTH...

Thank God they are in the minority in this Country...

Sylvia K said...

Great post, Darlene, and 100% correct! I couldn't agree more and continue to be amazed at the things Republicans are saying and doing. And what is worse is the number of people who think they are right on the money! Never understand it!

Hope you're having a great weekend!


Darlene said...

*Nancy - I guess I am preaching to the Choir, also. I never get comments from those who might disagree. I hope a few obstructionist ones read my post anyhow. I am a born "converter". I want everyone to see the truth, but I am afraid it's hopeless.

*Sylvia - I share your bewilderment. I hope you are having a great weekend, too and I am sure you are.

Anonymous said...

Darlene--Yes, we are your choir. Your posting made me think back to 58 years ago when I learned that the Emperor of Japan believed that he was the son of God, because that is what he had been taught. That was enough to convince me that people can be taught to believe anything and I have been agnostic/atheistic since. The gullibility of people is astounding!
Cop Car

Darlene said...

*Cop Car - Thank you for your comment. It's really hard for me to take any statement as fact based on faith and I see you share my skepticism.

Anonymous said...

I just discovered this blog and am looking forward to reading more.

Not just in the US, but across the world, people are grappling with information overload and information source overload. Your post makes it clear how misinformation spreads like wildfire. We can find our 'news' from thousands of different sources and don't always have the time to verify these sources. The technology is changing society in fundamental ways and we haven't yet figured out how to educate a technology savvy population to critically examine all of the info that is coming its way.
How do we do it?

Darlene said...

*vietkhmerexperience - Thank you for your visit. I do hope you will return. The way I try to filter out the misinformation is by using Snopes often on stuff that comes through e-mail. Then I read some reliable news sources who have proven to be right most of the time. I also read news from the conservative columnists to balance my liberal leanings. Then I just ask questions: What does this person have to gain by this viewpoint? Is it logical? Can it be proven? Where did they get the information? After that, you have to go with your innate common sense. Black is never white no matter how often someone my say it is.

la peregrina said...

Great post, Darlene. Well done, thanks for putting the time and energy into to it that you did. Good stuff there.

possumlady said...

Hi Darlene,
Just checking out your blog from Time Goes By. Great post! Was it Mark Twain that said something like: A lie can run around the world quicker than the truth can get it's shoes on?

But you are right, that for some the truth doesn't matter if it goes against their bigoted beliefs.

Looking to the Stars said...

Good Post, Darlene. The Republicans are playing out an old game (and they have done it for over 40 years). They take a lie and have it repeated till people believe it's the truth. That is Rush Boobhead's job, I dislike that man, he wouldn't say the truth if his life depended on it.

Darlene said...

*la peregrina - thank you for the compliment.

*possum lady - thank you for your visit. I do hope you will come back again. Mark Twain quotes are favorite's of mine. Thanks for citing this one. You are correct; bigots have closed minds and, like closed doors, nothing can get through.

*Looking to --- Thank you, Lois. It's always nice to have your opinion that backs up my thoughts.

Xtreme English said...

thank god for you, darlene....i'm glad to see that somebody normal and rational is pointing out the vicious lies and stupidity going around about health care and our president. i fear as a white person that we shall be made part of something execrable without our wanting to or even being told that it's coming. name-calling, swastikas, the idiotic birther stuff, policemen running unauthorized background checks on the president. this is truly loopy stuff. how can we combat this? how can we convince these wingnuts and their elderly dupes that they are mistaken? badly mistaken. heaven help us all.