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Posted by on Aug 12, 2009 in Health, Media, Politics, Society | 23 comments

Of Right-Wing Lies and the Obligation To Be Informed

I never, ever, ever, thought I would be coming to the defense of right-wing liars, but I have to do so a little bit with regard to this truly astounding talk, coming from a townhall meeting in New Hampshire (emphasis mine):

The Wall Street Journal had an interesting item today on President Obama’s town-hall event in New Hampshire. It noted, among other things, the gathering of protestors outside the event that “verged on a street brawl,” with “opposing forces lined up like screaming armies on either side of the street.”

One of the protestors, in particular, brought a unique perspective.

Diane Campbell of Kingston, N.H., held a sign with Mr. Obama’s face superimposed on a Nazi storm trooper, a sign, she said, that was made by her chronically ill mother.

Her mother’s hereditary autoimmune disease is treated with expensive transfusions of gamma globulin, paid for by Medicare. Her sister, Louise, was born with no arms and one leg, and is also covered by Medicare, the government-run, health-insurance program for the elderly and disabled.

“Adolf Hitler was for exterminating the weak, not just the Jews and stuff, and socialism — that’s what’s going to happen.”

Now, my goal is not to pick on Diane Campbell, whom I do not know. She’s quite clearly confused, though, and has come to believe some ridiculous lies. Campbell has apparently been so enraged by the right-wing nonsense she’s been told, she feels entirely comfortable going out in public with signs comparing the president to a Nazi, and telling a reporter, on the record, that health care reform is comparable to Hitler’s Holocaust.

But let’s not overlook the irony of Diane Campbell’s situation. Government-run, taxpayer-financed health care has kept her mother alive. Government-run, taxpayer-financed health care provides treatment and care to her sister. Based on the descriptions, it’s safe to assume the costs associated with treatments for Campbell’s mother and sister are enormous, but taxpayers and a socialized health care system pick up the tab. What’s wrong with that? Not a thing.

Except, of course, that Diane Campbell is now trying to convince people that health care reform is both radical and dangerous.

I’m reminded once again of something Josh Marshall said the other day, about a different right-wing protestor: “[L]et’s all collectively throw a little cold water on our faces and just realize that this is some really crazy stuff. The health care debate is now being driven by a perverse nonsense feedback loop in which the Palin/Limbaugh crowd says all sorts of completely insane lies, gets a lot of … how shall we put it, impressionable people totally jacked up over a bunch of complete nonsense.”

That is all too true. But note the corollary that is implicit in what Josh and Steve wrote: The media personalities, lawmakers, and other far right Republican political operatives who are getting all these “impressionable [euphemism alert] people totally jacked up over a bunch of complete nonsense” could not do this successfully if those “impressionable” people did not allow them to do so.

My point, if it’s not already clear, is that, as unscrupulous and cynical as certain Republicans are being in pushing transparent lies and distortions on the gullible and the uninformed, there is really no excuse for anyone to be that gullible and uninformed. Taking calculated advantage of widespread ignorance on the subject of health care reform is contemptible — but it’s inexcusable to be so uneducated about your own country’s political, social, and economic policies that you don’t know the Medicare benefits that are keeping your loved ones alive are the same “socialistic” government programs you scream against in the street; or that you believe Rush Limbaugh when he says that Barack Obama is adopting the policies of Hitler and the Nazis by supporting a euthanasia proposal that does not, in fact, exist.

Democracy requires an informed citizenry to function — indeed, to survive. We don’t all have to be health care experts or policy wonks, but we do have to have a basic working knowledge of the U.S. political system — enough to know, at minimum, that Medicare and Medicaid are government programs, and that government programs are not synonymous with socialism or communism — and we do have to use the diverse information sources available to us to become at least knowledgeable enough to know that there is no euthanasia provision in the Democrats’ health care reform plan, and that it’s obscene beyond words to compare either the Democrats’ or the Republicans’ health care reform proposals to the genocidal policies of a regime that murdered millions, including the vast majority of Europe’s Jewish population.