Thursday, April 25, 2013

How the GOP's Disinformation Campaign Could Tarnish Obamacare

BY MARC McDONALD

Like many progressives, I've never been a big fan of the Affordable Care Act. After all, in many ways, it's really nothing more than a warmed-up revision of the Heritage Foundation/GOP health care proposal from the 1990s.

However, given the awful state of the current bloated, inefficient U.S. health care system, Obamacare is bound to be an improvement (if only because it's impossible for the system to be much worse than it is now).

And if Obamacare improves access to health care for millions of Americans, it will pose a big problem to the GOP in elections for years to come.

The GOP, of course, is aware of this. And as a result, we can expect the GOP to step up its ongoing disinformation campaign against Obamacare.

You've got to give Republicans credit for one thing: the GOP does a masterful job of spreading disinformation. We saw this in 2003 with the torrent of lies that got the U.S. into the Iraq War fiasco. We also saw this with the Swift Boat lies that helped sink John Kerry's 2004 campaign. We continue to see it with the "Birther" nonsense.

To this day, millions of Americans continue to believe that Obama was born in Kenya and that Saddam attacked the U.S. on 9/11.

The Great GOP Noise Machine excels at spreading lies and disinformation. And it's clear that as Obamacare's full implementation date approaches, we'll see the GOP's lies and propaganda rise to a fever pitch.

I believe this could be devastatingly effective in tarnishing the Affordable Care Act, even if Obamacare turns out to be a success.

The problem is, the current health care system is a terrible mess. Many people are deeply unhappy with it. And now, any time anyone has any problems whatsoever with their health care, Obamacare will become a handy catch-all scapegoat.

A recent incident made me realize the obstacles Obamacare faces in countering the GOP disinformation war.

An elderly woman I know recently visited a hospital here in Texas. She had a routine checkup. There were no problems and everything went well.

However, she said she was upset and angry.

"As I was getting ready to leave the hospital, some agents from Obamacare came and started asking me questions," she told me.

"Agents from Obamacare?" I asked.

"Yeah, they were agents from Obamacare. They wanted to ask me questions. I told them to shove it and I immediately left the hospital."

I was curious. What was she talking about? Granted, this was someone who was a hard-core, Obama-hating Republican. Day after day, she marinated her brain in the toxic stew of Fox News/Drudge/talk radio filth. As is the case with other Tea Baggers, nothing she said ever surprised me.

But agents from Obamacare? That had me wondering.

I wound up calling the hospital in question. It turns out that the hospital had hired a survey company to ask patients a few questions about the quality of their care.

Somehow, in the mind of this Limbaugh-listening woman, this survey company had morphed into sinister "Agents from Obamacare."

How could such amazing disinformation come about? It shouldn't really be surprising. After all, former vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin railed in 2009 on about Obamacare's "death panels." And Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) recently urged a repeal of Obamacare "before it literally kills women, kills children, kills senior citizens."

I'm get the feeling that the "agents from Obamacare" incident could just the tip of an iceberg.

I was further reminded of this during a recent visit to my insurance agent to discuss my health-care plan. My insurance company is one of the largest companies in America. With Obamacare's full implementation nearing, I had a few basic questions about its impact on my current health-care plan.

Incredibly, my insurance agent knew nothing about Obamacare's impact on my policy. He was unable to answer any questions I had. Instead, he quickly steered the conversation to a Rush Limbaugh-like attack on Obamacare and on Obama himself.

"It's a mess," he said. "Mitch McConnell was right when he said Obamacare is a failure."

I thought about asking my insurance agent how he knew the Affordable Care Act was a "failure" if he knew nothing about it. But I let it pass.

Later, with a few clicks on the Web, I was able to quickly get answers to my Obamacare question. But still, it irked me that my insurance agent had made zero effort to educate himself about Obamacare's impact on his customers' health-care plans. Whatever his political views were (and it was obvious he was a Limbaugh Dittohead) he owed it to his customers to inform himself about the law.

These two incidents give a glimpse into what Obamacare is up against. I'm sure similar incidents like this are playing out millions of times a day across the country.

As the Affordable Care Act comes into force, anyone who ever has had any complaint at all about their health care will tend to instinctively blame Obamacare. And (as the "agents of Obamacare" incident shows) even people who don't have any problems with their health care coverage will still find reasons to attack Obamacare.

The whole thing could become a public relations nightmare for Obama and the Democrats.

After all, the woman who told me about "Obamacare agents" herself actually had no complaints about her health care coverage. She was, after all, covered by Medicare. Although after talking to her, I realized that she (like many Tea Party types) had no idea that Medicare is a government program.

Sigh. So much ignorance, so little time.

The problem is, a lot of Americans simply aren't very bright. Blame it on our abysmal public schools. Blame it on our terrible news media. But whatever the reason, the fact is, tens of millions of America are likely to blame Obamacare for anything and everything (even if they benefit from its provisions).

In the battle of public opinion, Obamacare still faces a steep uphill battle. Thanks to GOP lies and disinformation, a lot of Americans could well be convinced that Obamacare is a bad thing, even if the program succeeds.

Obamacare should be a signature victory for President Obama and the Democrats to rally voters in future elections. But, instead, it could well be a millstone around the necks of the Democrats for years to come.

Such is life in 21st century America: a nation in decline, where tens of millions of Americans are profoundly misinformed---and where the GOP does its utmost to ensure that people remain ignorant.

18 comments:

dave said...

I would have let the dumbass insurance salesman have it. what an asshole.

dave said...

should have told your insurance sales to fuckoff

Cthulhu said...

I hope like hell you changed your insurance agent after this.

The one you have doesn't deserve your business. And Hey! If he's a true Rethuglican Ditto head, he's fine with the market losing him business, right?

Cthulhu said...

Please tell me you changed Insurance agents, because that one doesn't deserve your business. And hey, if he really is a Rethuglican dittohead, he'll be fine with the market losing him business based on his ignorance.

Marc McDonald said...

Hi Cthulu, thanks for your comment. Yes, I'm shopping around for a new agent. But frankly, my current agent's comments weren't that unusual. Here in Texas, I'm surrounded by people who have extreme hatred for Obama. I really don't fit in here and my goal is to relocate, preferably to another nation. I'm tired of dealing with people who make remarks like, "The n*gger in the White House is coming for our guns!" (which is something I hear all the time in Texas).

Batocchio said...

So much ignorance, so little time.

Unfortunately, yes. It puts additional pressure on making the ACA work as well as possible. (True universal single-payer would be better, but in the meantime...)

Marc McDonald said...

Hi Batocchio, thanks for your comment.
re:
>>It puts additional pressure on
>>making the ACA work as well as
>>possible

Yes, and the Dems really need to do a better job of explaining the ACA. They need to keep the message simple and short and just hammer away at it until people get the message. I wish they'd start pointing out to people that the ACA is actually LESS socialist than the system we have now. I personally know a number of people who make good money and who choose to not buy health insurance. These people (most of who are Rush Ditto-heads, incidentally) would finally be forced to buy their own insurance under ACA. Obama needs to play this sort of thing up, to counter those right-wing retards who say Obamacare is "socialist."

northierthanthou said...

I still remember the report on right wing terrorist groups that came out a month or so after Obama took office, and the proto-Teapublicans were outraged. It didn't bother them that it had been commissioned by Bush, or that there was another report on lefty terrorism, or that both reports were largely accurate descriptions of probably trends at the fringes, this was proof that Obama was the tyrant the had feared. ....and I knew it was going to b a long and painful administration. Obama's mere presence in the white house is still causing insanity for millions of idiot-Americans. They like to call themselves 'conservatives'.

Marc McDonald said...

Hi Northierthanthou, thanks for your comment and thanks for reminding me about that report. I'd forgotten about that.
re:
>>Obama's mere presence in the white
>>house is still causing insanity for
>>millions of idiot-Americans

Here in Texas, I'm reminded of that daily. People I know on Facebook will casually make references to things like Obama "choking on a watermelon seed."
Hmmm, let me see: making extremely racist references to Obama dying is no big deal to these people. These are the same people who loudly condemned anyone who said anything in the slightest bit negative about their hero, Bush. In fact, we were told by the Fox crowd, "you're not allowed to criticize the Commander-in-Chief while our troops are in harm's way."
That little rule sure seemed to have been forgotten rather quickly once Obama entered the White House.

Anonymous said...

To the GOP it is better to leave the uninsured to die in the streets. This Ayn Rand philosophy of the virtue of selfishness sickens me. This is not who most Americans really are.

Frank Moraes said...

Hi Marc. Here I am in 108 degree Northern California (they say it will be 122 on Tuesday--I kid you not), and my internet connection has been really flaky. But I hope I can get this out.

I share your concern, but I think things will work out well. For one thing, the marketing campaign for Obamacare just started. For another, the right wing freaks would hate the program if it gave out ice cream for children on hot days without costing tax payers a cent. In 20 years, they will be waving signs that say, "Government hands off my Obamacare!" But for now they will hate it.

Most people won't see any change at all. The main people who will see change are people who don't have health insurance who will be willing to put up with a little inconvenience to get it.

Like you, I would prefer a single payer system. And interestingly, most conservatives I talk to would prefer that too. "Why does this program have to be so complicated and giving money to insurance companies?!" Because all you asshole conservatives required it. In my experience, if Fox News isn't hammering away against a liberal policy, most conservatives are quite open to it. Scary stuff.

I just wrote an article about my most beloved conservative idiot:

More Idiocy from the Deer Lady

But we can't assume that she really matters. As liberals, we must see ourselves as Johnny Appleseed: spreading facts wherever we go. The more reasonable conservatives will pick up on them. I expect Josh Barro to change parties within 5 years. You heard it here first!

As for your insurance agent: I've found that most of them are conservative and ignorant. They are basically rentiers. But they think they work real hard. Just ask them!

Marc McDonald said...

Hi Frank, thanks for your comments. I enjoyed your "More idiocy from the Deer Lady" piece.
re:
>>Like you, I would prefer a single
>>payer system. And interestingly,
>>most conservatives I talk to would
>>prefer that too.

Really? The Conservatives must be different where you live. All Conservatives I've talked to here in Texas would basically like to completely shut down all non-Pentagon government programs. I've never met a "moderate" Republican here. All of them are extreme Far Right Rush Limbaugh fanatics who are the on verge of picking up their guns and "taking back" America.

Frank Moraes said...

@Mark - It's interesting. My experience is if you get conservatives away from their rhetoric machines (Fox News and even more so the radio haters), they can be reasoned with. While there was debate on Obamacare, they all hated it. Most of them still do because it's on the radar. But the biggest complaint I get is that it's complex and 15,000 pages blah, blah, blah. So I bring up single payer--but not by that name. Most conservatives think it makes a lot of sense.

Of course, if it ever came to a vote, there would be Fox News pundits screaming "Socialism!" And the the conservatives would fall right in line. Conservatives far more than liberals have a Pavlovian response to politics. They like a lot of socialist ideas but the moment someone labels them as socialist, they are dead.

But it probably is true that you have a different kind of conservative there. I live in California, just outside of San Francisco. And now that I write that, I realize I really do have a skewed view of conservatives. You mean they're even worse elsewhere?! God help us!

Marc McDonald said...

Hi, Frank,
re:
>>It's interesting. My experience
>>is if you get conservatives away
>>from their rhetoric machines
>>(Fox News and even more so the
>>radio haters), they can be
>>reasoned with

This is definitely true. Limbaugh and the rest of these NeoCon propagandists have refined their art to a frightening degree in their ability to poison the national political dialogue.
I'll give an example. A right-wing, Rush-listening friend of mine a few years ago went to see Michael Moore's "Sicko" movie. (He was no doubt dragged along to it by his wife, a doctor, who is politically independent).
The next day, I talked to my friend. He had nothing but good words for "Sicko" (despite the fact that he'd always hated Michael Moore in the past). On this issue, my friend said, Moore was right.
However, I knew that my friend's newfound appreciation for Moore and "Sicko" wouldn't last. I knew that my friend would go back to his daily dose of Limbaugh and he'd be singing a different tune in a few months.
So instead of telling my friend, "Hey, I'm glad you enjoyed 'Sicko' and that, on this issue at least, we are in agreement" I told my friend: "Today, you may agree with 'Sicko.' But I don't believe your viewpoint on this will last. I believe Rush will change your mind."
Sure enough, when I talked to my friend a few months later, he was blasting Michael Moore and "Sicko" and spewing the usual Rush lies about universal health care as "communism." It's that viewpoint that he continues to hold to this day.
In fact, knowing him and the usual mindset of Rush devotees, I'd bet money that if I asked him about his brief "conversion" to agreeing with Moore, he'd simply deny it and claim that I "misunderstood" him. In this regard, the Limbaugh fanbase eerily imitates their leader's methods. That is: attack, attack, attack, never apologize, never admit you're wrong, re-write your views when necessary (claiming you were misquoted), and then attack some more.

David said...

I look forward to what folks like you have to say when (not if, but when) Obamacare does turn out to be a failure...at least in regards to making healthcare better and more affordable for all.

As a means of giving the government more dictatorial power over one's personal life, I expect it to be a big success...for a time.

And to eliminate your most probable retort, I hate the gop almost as much as I hate the democrats.

Marc McDonald said...

Hi David, you Limbaugh types NEVER have a single original thought in your brains, do you? Everything you state is just regurgitated from your hero, the Fat Man, Limbaugh.
Regarding your predictions on Obamacare, I do find it pretty laughable that the wingnuts still think that anyone takes their predictions seriously. I mean, the wingnuts' track record isn't exactly stellar:
"Saddam has WMDs!"
"Obama's birth certificate will be exposed as fake!"
"We'll be greeted as liberators in Iraq!"
Etc.

David said...

And yet again, you fall back on the "Anyone who disagrees with me is a victim of my enemies' propaganda", the retort of cowards who can't defend their own views against criticism. Continue to deny that people can and will disagree with you out of intelligence and you're in for a very rude awakening one day.

So far, this is what Obamacare has to its name:

A hacked website that many people still can't access.

Increased premiums and lower coverage (have you heard about the woman who Obama himself trumpeted as a success story being hit with a higher premium?)

Loss of plans that people did like and did want to keep (myself included).

More government control over a person's private life, not to mention ensuring that one could lose one's health insurance any time the government decides one's plan isn't good enough (where exactly does the government get the right to decide that, rather than the person actually using it?)

Continued subsidized health insurance for members of the government, who mostly make six figures.

And Obama has had to backtrack on many of the key parts of the law, conveniently putting many of them off until after the 2014 elections.

Sorry, Marc, but Rush didn't tell me any of that. All I had to do was listen to the news and read the papers.

Marc McDonald said...

re:
>>So far, this is what Obamacare has
>>to its name: A hacked website that
>>many people still can't access.

I beg to differ. Obamacare forced the crooks who run my "health insurance" company to refund some of the money that they owe me.
Incidentally, I personally know dozens of people have access the Web site with no problems. Yeah, there have been some glitches. But they're getting sorted out.

re:
>>More government control over a
>>person's private life

You are a retard. The basic idea for Obamacare was originally proposed by Republicans back in the 1990s. It's a free market system. Hell, the law was pretty much written by the "health insurance" industry. It is NOT "socialism." (I think you wingnuts really don't have any idea of what socialism is).

re:
>>Sorry, Marc, but Rush didn't
>>tell me any of that.

Hmmm, that's strange: every "point" you made is B.S. straight from the mouth of Limbaugh.

Incidentally, none of the progressives I've ever talked to is a fan of Obamacare. We all wanted single payer (or at the very least, a public option). But given the choice between the current horrific system and Obamacare, we reluctantly support the latter.
Repukes, by contrast, aren't opposing Obamacare because they believe it won't work. And they're not opposing it because it is supposedly "socialism." No, they're just opposing it because they've opposed everything Obama has supported. The Repukes don't actually even give a shit about the U.S. health care crisis. They have no solutions. They are scum. If they all dropped dead tomorrow, that'd make my fucking day.