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Reality Check

August 11, 2009

Health Insurance Reform Reality CheckIn response to Sarah Palin’s Facebook rant about death panels and euthanasia and the numerous viral emails she and others sparked, the Obama Administration launched a new “Reality Check” website yesterday.

It’s decently helpful and the main page has short videos of six different experts, each addressing one of the major categories of “misinformation.” (Tangentially: why is it that we can’t just call them lies?)

There are some interesting reactions to the website floating around in the blogosphere.

Matthew Yglesias thinks we should consider the development of a better-informed citizenry to be a personal responsibility:

Once someone becomes convinced that Barack Obama has a secret plan to euthanize their mother, Obama saying “no I don’t” isn’t going to un-convince them. After all,that’s exactly what Obama would say if he did have a secret “death committee” plan. A personal message from a friend, relative, or coworker is likely to have more impact.. You can’t just despair about the state of things, you need to actually try to do something about it.

Ezra Klein writes that the state of the health care reform “debate” is a symptom of a sick democracy. His whole post is worth reading, but the last paragraph is striking:

What we’re seeing here is not merely distrust in the House health-care reform bill. It’s distrust in the political system. A healthy relationship does not require an explicit detailing of the “institutional checks” that will prevent one partner from beating or killing the other. In a healthy relationship, such madness is simply unthinkable. If it was not unthinkable, then no number of institutional checks could repair that relationship. Similarly, the relationship between the protesters and the government is not healthy. The protesters believe the government capable of madness. There is no evidence for that claim, which means that there is no answer for it, either. That claim is not about what is in this bill, or what government has done in Medicare and Medicaid and the VA. It is about what a certain slice of Americans think their government — and by extension, their fellow citizens — capable of.

One thing to add: I found myself a little surprised that the White House was dignifying ridiculous rumors with a response. But after a split second of reflection, I realized that, while that might be fantastic advice for surviving middle school, it’s terrible advice for handling the American public. The reality is that these rumors exist and that they have traction. And amidst very real and very constant information overload and a society-wide difficulty distinguishing between various qualities and reliabilities of information, insisting that “facts are stubborn things,” and refusing to let the accusations go unanswered just might be the right thing to do.

Jonas

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One comment

  1. Dean Baker: blame he-said/she-said journalism instead of real reporting for people like Palin feeling empowered to lie so blatantly: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/dean-baker/governor-palins-crazed-he_b_256136.html



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