Tuesday, August 11, 2009

NY Times Phones In Health Care Primer

I know I've been writing about health care a lot lately, but August is, um, how do you say, "a month where absolutely nothing happens"? Case in point, CNN ran with a story about Hillary Clinton reacting "testily" to a mistranslated question in Congo. They report that she was "visibly angry" after a question was mistakenly translated as "what does your husband think?" The subtext of this report, if you can call it that, is "ha ha ha look at that uptight bitch!" which is, I suppose, a story that CNN would run any time of the year, not just the slow news days of August. The Post and the Daily News are all over that earth-shattering scoop too.

Remember how when Sonia Sotomayor was first selected as a nominee to the Supreme Court, the media breathlessly wondered if she had the right "temperament?" You know, because she's [stage-whispered] a Latina! Gender roles and ethnic stereotypes are just falling by the wayside every day. Anyhoo.

So, yeah, fuck CNN! I want REAL news, so I read the New York Times! Haha, just kidding. The Times really outdid itself a few days ago in its attempt to be "objective," by which I mean: misleading and factually dubious. If you want a pitch-perfect example of how the media sets the limits of appropriate dialogue by excluding relevant information that runs contradictory to establishment consensus, and valuing other information that has no factual basis, you won't find a more perfect example than the Health Care Primer they published on the 9th. It just came to my attention today because it's in the "Most Read" sidebar, which is really most unfortunate. Not only does it not provide critical information, it actually denegrates the conversation as a whole.

The piece begins innocently enough, vaguely describing how complicated this whole process is, and how this primer will explain the basic facts to you. Ok, fine.

The disinformation begins at the end of the second paragraph.

"It can be difficult to sort fact from fiction, as angry protesters denounce the legislation at raucous public forums."

Oh man, it sounds like THE PEOPLE are angry. Conveniently absent from this sentence is any mention of the AstroTurf organizations who are paying the stooges to disrupt the town halls. So, a casual reader would be lead to think that these "angry protesters" are a sign that, throughout the country, people are spontaneously organizing against the Democratic proposal. This is just simply not the case.

The third paragraph begins with this substance-free sentence.

"President Obama and his Democratic allies in Congress have made the health care overhaul their top priority, putting their political futures on the line."

OH MY GOD! Between all those protesters, and desperate political situation of the Democrats, it might just be better for everyone if we just kept things just like they are, amIrite?

The paragraph continues, apparently irony free:

"Democrats had hoped to spend the month whipping up support for the legislation, but instead find themselves on the defensive, responding to what Mr. Obama describes as “outlandish rumors” spread by critics."

Rumors! What rumors?! Might it be helpful for the concerned citizen to have these rumors identified and debunked? Well, let's not rush ourselves. The authors do mention one of the most idiotic rumors, concerning forced euthanasia, a mere 25 paragraphs later.

So, as it stands after three paragraphs, the citizenry is appalled, and the Democrats are on the defensive, trying to debunk what they refer to as "rumors." The authors, because they are journalists, can't call a lie a lie. That is simply not their job. They write down what the big fancy people say, and then send it along.

In the interest of time, I'm going to highlight one more passage that deserves special attention, though we could go through the entire piece line by line like this.

The following passage should really be inscribed on a PR Wall-of-Fame somewhere, or circulated to journalism students with a note attached that reads, "stay independent you fucks, or this will be your job." Deep breath, let's go:

"The insurance industry does oppose a government-run insurance plan and could eventually mobilize against the overhaul. But insurers appear to be less of an obstacle than public apprehension over such sweeping change and skittishness among lawmakers, including centrist Democrats from Republican-leaning districts."[don't click that link; it plays into my argument later]

Yeah, thanks New York Times. I had no idea that the fucking INSURERS weren't yet mobilizing, and that, even if they did, they aren't really the main obstacle. That's such fantastic news! I guess the millions of dollars they donate to campaigns and spend on lobbying don't count. I guess it's actually the PEOPLE (remember them from earlier?) who are opposed to all this rig-a-ma-role.

Ok, so that link I told you not to click on. If you had to bet, wouldn't you bet that it would link to, oh, I don't know, a poll about how anxious the people are? Or at least some sort of supporting information to the claim that public apprehension is the main obstacle? You would, but you probably don't work at the Times.

That link, in fact, goes to the general topic of "apprehension." HEY, yeah, real fucking helpful! Man, my levels of anxiety are through the roof right now! Maybe it's because the goddamn paper of record reads like a fucking insurance pamphlet! Someone get me some Xanax! Oh, I bet the company that makes that isn't standing in the way either!

What would be helpful, and, oh, I don't know, informative, is if they linked to a poll like this one, from Nate Silver, that guy who's right about shit all the time.

He describes that how the question of government provided health care is asked can drastically affect the results. He writes:

"It turn out that when you take a poll, most Americans don't want the government to provide health care coverage. But the idea of government providing health care insurance: a lot of folks think that's a pretty swell idea!"

Then he provides this fantastic chart.

If you have a chance, read his whole post.

But hey, remember how Hillary Clinton and that Latina women are bitches?

1 comment:

Riva said...

This is interesting. My question is, are CATS covered under Obama family health care plan?