A perfect example of just how closely they fall in line with GOP talking points can be seen in a Republican memo outlining their attacks on ObamaCare, via the New York Times.
From providing sample op-eds (nothing says grassroots like a sample op-ed) to instructions to use social media to spread the message, the document lays out a shock and awe campaign against ObamaCare. The main messages are: “Because of Obamacare, I Lost My Insurance”, “Obamacare Increases Health Care Costs” and “The Exchanges May Not Be Secure, Putting Personal Information at Risk”.
They order their troops to “Continue Collecting Constituent Stories” — aka, provide anecdotal backup to the claims they are making so the media has someone to parade in front of the public.
These instructions read exactly like a script for an ad campaign, except the difference is that our media is passing the script off as news. We’ve already seen the news pick up on all three of the Republican ObamaCare narratives, and this is after they got taken in by Republican media plants concern trolling about the website, when it turned out they never even tried to use the website.
Republicans are doing anything they can to sabotage ObamaCare. They’ve sabotaged the website rollout and the website itself by refusing to run the state exchanges and then refusing to fund the federal exchange to handle the added burden. Then they spread instructions on how to DDOS the website, while decrying its lack of safety and instability.
Steve Benen rounded up the Republicans’ scary movie talking points designed to sabotage a law and all of these fit right in with the script:
The quotes from House GOP leaders are rather remarkable. Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) said health care reform may lead to identity theft; Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) falsely claimed “premiums are going right through the roof”; Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) warned that consumers who visit healthcare.gov may become victims of fraud; and Caucus Chair Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Wash.) said vulnerable constituents may be put “on the casualty list.”
All they need to make this a news story is a person willing to say that this happened to them. They have plenty of those, and the media doesn’t bother to vet them to see if they even tried to use the website or if they can get a cheaper plan via the exchanges.
The media hops from one outrage to the next while never turning on the GOP to ask a question about why these stories feed their political agenda and so consistently turn out to be lacking in credibility. That’s not to say there aren’t problems with the rollout — but there is no need to waste space discussing something that was already repeating what any sane person would have expected.
This is a coordinated effort to sabotage a law. Republicans aren’t hiding their efforts, but why should they? Instead of fact-checking Republicans or even showing an ounce of skepticism no matter how many times they are burned by Republican aides leaking a false story to them, the media laps up the GOP’s drama-filled tales.
Each one of these talking points has been a news narrative.
While I can understand why they fell for the IRS and Benghazi fictions, to fall for sabotaging a law is different. And this is a law, not an event or a bill. It’s already been debated, vetted, and double vetted.
The nasty contempt with which the media reports on the alleged failures of this law has been stunning. The sneering reports of failure, the craven jumping from one talking point to another as soon as the first collapses with no accountability while declaring themselves to be the arbiters of accountability reveals just how closely the media falls in line with Republican talking points.
All they need is an actor to get a few quotes from and they’re off to round out the edges of their GOP narrative. That is the formula — the GOP slips them a “story” and an anecdotal actor — with the IRS story, the anecdotal actor turned out to have been a group already found guilty of illegally helping Republicans — but the media still ran with them as the example of Tea Party groups being targeted.
Take that formula and apply it to an already confusing change (all big change is confusing, by the way — see Medicare Part D, which wasn’t nearly so big a change). Groups that wanted to help explain the law to the public were threatened by the Republicans not to get involved or they’d be investigated. The media is totally uninterested in investigating this abuse of power, as they sift through ObamaCare crumbs to see if what stray piece of negativity might have been missed.
Not to worry, media, you’ve only to wait for Republicans to craft your next story and hand it to you on a silver platter so you can feed it to the masses as proof that you really didn’t fail us under Bush. You are very, very important people who take pushing back on a law designed to help protect the people from corporate greed very seriously. We know.
We don’t need the media anymore. Why not just go straight to the source and pass out GOP talking points every morning as the news.
Ms. Jones is the co-founder/ editor-in-chief of PoliticusUSA and a member of the White House press pool.
Sarah hosts Politicus News and co-hosts Politicus Radio. Her analysis has been featured on several national radio, television news programs and talk shows, and print outlets including Stateside with David Shuster, as well as The Washington Post, The Atlantic Wire, CNN, MSNBC, The Week, The Hollywood Reporter, and more.
Sarah is a member of the Society of Professional Journalists.