Friday, August 14, 2009

The Deep Beauty of Conspiracy Theorists

Just how wrong are you now
If you don’t see that cow
That used no steroids or spoon
And leaped joyfully over the moon?
If I lie and you swear it is so
Then where do we go
On our journey to fashion a tale
Of intrigue and sinister woe
When breaths become gales
And minnows are whales
Then just where do we go?

For the past decade or so, it has been fashionable to equate one opinion to another, even when an “opinion” is unsupported with facts. FOX news has made a business out of reporting rumor and then commenting and operating on the assumption that a rumor, or worse, a lie, is true and worthy of further coverage. If we take the “birthers” for example, FOX and now CNN, through Lou Dobbs have extended the life and the strength of the false accusation that Mr. Obama is not a natural born US citizen. True, even Lou Dobbs does not directly say that Obama was not born in Hawaii, but he gives credence to the lie by constant repetition and by asking for proof that has already been provided. More recently, the “deathers” have pumped up the volume, even after being alerted that their statements are false.

Very recently, as congress members and senators have hit the trail to discuss the need for changes in our healthcare system, they have been systematically attacked by shout-down tactics that eerily remind me of the bullying by Stalinists in their early rise to power. Regardless of their heart felt conviction in their cause, their tactics are unconscionable. Instead of soliciting and enabling discussion, the process inculcates fear and shuts down discussion before it can begin. Recent revelations indicate that professional lobbyists have had their fine fingers on the puppet strings of many meetings that have issued “guidelines” to shut down meetings by filling rooms quickly to shout down and to stop politicians from speaking. In addition to being rude, the tactics do not bode well for an improved outcome for the healthcare programs we are trying to improve. Another approach is the old fashioned big lie. One specific example of using a known untruth is the introduction by Sarah Palin of “Death Panels” in the White House proposals. There are no “Death Panels.” Republican Senator Johnny Isakson proposed that there be a provision for end of life counseling that would help the elderly get living wills and similar advice to ease their minds and would help them make care decisions while they were able to do so. While the Palin accusations may sound ludicrous, she has defended her statements by saying that it could happen. So could “free bubble up and rainbow stew,” but making a campaign of either event is suspect and it panders to the lesser side of constituents. And, yes, Palin is campaigning despite quitting her job as governor with half her time to go. She only attacks Obama and not Isakson, so her motive seems more clear than her specific accusation. If you cannot see the conspiracy, then you are simply not looking for it. It must be there…somewhere.

Both the above tactics are simple and as old as politics itself. The elegance of simplicity, however, is overwhelmed by the negative purpose and outcome. This approach confuses and angers people, but will not add much in the way of alternative proposals for healthcare. Of course, there is also a simple elegance in the use of conspiracy theories by politicians and, in fact, any of us. It is impossible to prove a conspiracy theory to be wrong. No matter how much evidence you pile up, the conspiracy theory lives and even thrives. Hawaii has twice published the true extracts of the Obama birth certificates…doing it the second time to dispel the rumors and false statements by Rush Limbaugh and FOX News as well as others who simply want to keep the myth alive. People who insist that the earth is 6,000 years old and scoff at carbon dating and tons of evidence of early life on earth going back millions of years love conspiracies. Conspiracies explain faith. Conspiracies define enemies. Conspiracies define evil in the world. Unfortunately, they also define the holders of the “conspiracies.”

We need to look at the motivations of those who espouse and spread the conspiracies in order to expose them for the frauds that they are. Take, for example, Betsy McCaughey (pronounced McCoy) who has spread outright lies about the living wills recommended for the healthcare legislation. She is a lobbyist for healthcare insurers who want no limitations on their power to provide or deny coverage or charge rates that provide excess profits. Betsy is a member of the Hudson Institute. This is a group of neocons that helped bring you the war in Iraq. If you liked Iraq, you will love Betsy. She has twisted the provision to allow voluntary counseling to create living wills into a mandatory program for seniors to get death counseling to choose a poison or other means for euthanasia. It is not only dishonest, but is being used to scare the hell out of seniors. Others in this sinful cabal include Rush Limbaugh and Newt Gingrich. They are spreading misinformation and doing the bidding of “Freedom Works” headed by Dick Armey. That catchy name is a cover for privatizing Social Security (can you imagine the disaster had that been made law in today’s economic supply side disaster?); also to limit tort liability; to expand school vouchers and otherwise solidify the position of the rich as a permanent and deserving arrangement. In fact, supply side member Jack Kemp hailed the Katrina disaster as an opportunity to make the new economic order permanent. That alone makes the disaster seem caused by deliberate action instead of sheer incompetence. The connections of “Freedomworks” are prolific and include DLA Piper (an international lobbying and law firm) that lobbies for Bristol-Myers Squibb, for example.

If my information sounds like a special conspiracy, I apologize. It is the reality of big bucks calling the tune and FOX and the bobbleheads doing the dance. “Freedomworks” is a Republican pressure group that sends “aggressive” and “disgruntled” healthcare activists to disrupt meetings held by congressional advocates for change in the healthcare system. DLA Piper also employs Dick Armey and, surprisingly, Bristol-Myers Squib stands to lose about $400 Million if it has to negotiate drug prices due to new legislation. Imagine that! The gravy train established by the Bush policy of forbidding drug price negotiation might slosh to a halt. Unforgivable. If you find that my brief research is too bizarre to be accepted, then do your own, but do not accept the claim that these are simply unguided and spontaneous (rude) people expressing themselves in open forums. They have scripts and follow them. The scripts are provided by major lobbies and the Republican party.

Now why would all these folks spend this time, money and energy to kill improvements to healthcare? Their reasons are really simple. Large companies providing drugs or insurance want to dictate terms to maximize profits. Nothing is new there. Politicians on the right also need to prevent changes in healthcare to protect their major donors and to remain relevant in politics. Can you imagine what would happen if Obama succeeds? There would be no place for right-wingers at the money trough and they would have to say something other than “no” and that would mean learning a vocabulary beyond obstruction. Incidentally, they also have a lot invested in stopping the economic recovery for similar reasons. If the recovery plan works, the curtain is drawn open for everybody to see the Wizard of Oz and he is not very pretty. We are seeing some whoppers in print and on the cable news sources, but the whoppers are only red herring minnows that distract us from the goal of improving healthcare and our economy. Set the hook and don’t make this a catch and release program. Make them accountable for engaging in a program of outright lies by calling them on each one and exposing their connections to the lobbies that bought them.

George Giacoppe
15 August 2009

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