Healthcare Reform: Life, Death, And Disinformation

The closer Democrats get to healthcare reform, the more Republicans and the health insurance industry whip up the scare tactics. From Rush Limbaugh claiming that the elderly with be euthanized to the lies spread around by Betsy McCaughey, the battle over healthcare reform is centered on life, death, and disinformation.

Rush Limbaugh has been using his radio show to promote disinformation that the HR bill “America’s Affordable Health Choices Act of 2009” would include provisions for euthanizing the elderly.

It is obvious that Rush is not himself reading the bill, which is available for free on Scribd.com, under Health Bill 2009, to anyone who is curious about checking some of these egregious claims. Given the nature of the statements, and the availability of the bill itself, and the recurring pattern, it is not credible that these errors are accidental. It suggests a calculated and intentional reliance on an audience that will not question what it is told, and will not fact check what it hears, so long as it is told what it wants to hear.

After the question, “why would anyone seriously believe something so ridiculous?”, the next question which presents itself is — “where is he getting such strange ideas?”

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One source for consistent right wing misinformation is Betsy McCaughey. Ms. McCaughey is a former Republican Lieutenant Governor of New York, who switched to become a Democrat in 1997, in anticipation of a run for Democratic candidate for governor in 1998; she lost that candidacy race to another Democrat. McCaughey ran as the Liberal Party candidate for governor of New York in 1998. The New York Liberal Party is a minor party specific to the state of New York and its politics; it has supported an interesting array of both Democrats and sometimes Republicans for a variety of local and state offices in its history.

Looking at McCaughey’s history in politics, it is fair to say her loyalties have had a lot of variety as well, to the point that I find myself as skeptical of her sincerity and integrity, as I am of her accuracy. McCaughey has a BA with distinction from Vassar, and an MA and PhD from Columbia in history. In this regard of being well educated, McCaughey reminds me of our Minnesota representative Bachmann, who holds advanced degrees which demonstrate an ability to perform research and critical thinking, but who seems to consistently fail to use them, or alternatively, deliberately chooses to present false information to serve an extreme political cause.

In the area of health issues, McCaughey has been found on more than one occasion to have misrepresented critical information. Like Bachmann, McCaughey presents and attractive appearance; arguably this is used in a calculated effort to persuade.

McCaughey has appeared all over the mainstream media, including Lou Dobbs program on CNN, back in February of this year, and more recently on the radio show hosted by Mark Levin. That Levin interview, and others, is available on YouTube.

The interview with the false assertions about forcing the elderly to commit suicide opens with an ominous black background, and the frightening words that state:

Page 425 of Obamacare Bill: Mandatory Counseling Sessions pushing SUICIDE for the elderly and seriously ill. Pages 16 – 17: NO NEW private health insurance policies.

Well, no. Page 425 doesn’t say that. Nowhere in the bill does it say anything like that. That someone has read, or at least scanned through nearly a thousand pages (double spaced pages with large margins) to locate a section that does deal with end of life issues, to the point of specifying a single page, and then misrepresents the content, begs an explanation of accident. That Rep. Bachmann would at approximately the same time be caught misrepresenting page 16, cannot be a coincidence.

What IS talked about, on page 425, are things like living wills and health care proxies, end of life planning, and hospice care.

I would refer you to that excellent organization, Fact Check.org, where any number of items of misinformation about this health care plan is addressed; there is a lovely section that addresses an email that I had come across my computer just yesterday. Limbaugh and McCaughey are certainly not the only individuals on the right, with access to a media pulpit, preaching misinformation and messages of fear, who are noted in the Fact Check.org Health Care legislation analysis. It covers a LOT of ground.

It is in all of our interests to be cynical and skeptical, and to check the information supplied to us. This is not a liberal versus conservative matter. It is not a Democrat versus Republican concern. It is AS important to fact check information with which you agree, as it is to check information which is not in agreement with your views.

I feel most compelled to check information presented as fact which promotes an unreasonable fear, or which exaggerates grotesquely. I feel compelled to check and to resist assertions which demonize too broad segments of the political spectrum. I also find myself compelled to check information which appears to be or could be slanted to what someone believes I want to hear, out of concern that it may be manipulative.

Too much of the political discussion that takes place on all levels, local, state, regional and national, is deliberately divisive, too much of that discussion begins with a difference of information, where instead of seeking common ground and greater accuracy, there is a failure to challenge facts, in good faith and with integrity, a s part of a larger effort to achieve a meeting of the minds. I do not like to be lied to; apparently some people thrive on it.

“Please don’t lie to me, unless you’re absolutely sure I’ll never find out the truth.”
Ashleigh Brilliant
English Author and Cartoonist, b.1933

“He who does not need to lie is proud of not being a liar.”
Friedrich Nietzsche
German classical Scholar, Philosopher and Critic of culture,
1844-1900

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