Vail Daily letter: Instantaneous misinformation
Avon, CO Colorado
I think it was a Reagan administration staffer who made the statement, “If you tell the same story five times, it’s true.” Today, you can send that story to millions of people in a millisecond.
A Tea Party friend of mine (yes, I actually have a few) recently forwarded a broadcast e-mail to me that had an address list about the size of a small-town phone directory. The e-mail was a copy of a rant published in a Marble Falls, Texas, newspaper in December 2009. The author, Judge David Kithil (a former county judge), had extracted “direct” quotes, citing pages and sections, from a proposed House bill (HB 3200) to reform health care.
Here’s a sampling from the quotes: one, “provides insurance to all non-U.S. residents even if illegal”; two, “government will have real-time access to an individual’s bank account and have authority to make electronic fund transfers from those accounts”; three, “plan will be subsidized (by the government) for all union members, union retirees and for community organizers such as ACORN” and so on.
As I read down the list of quotations I thought, this is hogwash. But there’s more. HB 3200 is an obsolete bill introduced in August 2009 that never made it out of committee. What was the point?
I pulled up a copy of HB 3200 and checked the referenced pages and sections. Kithil’s direct quotes were all lies! Most of Kithil’s citations didn’t even address the same topics as found in the bill’s referenced sections. One that did – electronic transfers – addressed reconciling claims and payments between providers and insurers. It didn’t have anything to do with individual patients and their bank accounts.
Welcome to the world of instantaneous misinformation. I wondered how many people on the address list believed this garbage and would proceed to fulfill the GIGO equation (garbage in, garbage out) by forwarding it to their address lists. A Google search on Judge Kithil produced a lengthy chronology of his letter being forwarded and re-forwarded to numerous blogs filled with readers’ comments who swallowed the fabrication, hook, line and sinker. Worse, it is still floating around as if the enacted Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (HB 3590) actually contains the language invented by Kithil.
Our political dialogue is filled with lies and partial truths, the delivery of which has become an art form. Many of our elected officials can stand in front of a crowd or TV camera and recite a lie without blinking an eye.
The Repubs seem to be particularly skilled in this, as well as demonstrating an uncanny ability of singing from the same hymn book. They never break ranks or vary from the script. No discovered misinformation is ever acknowledged or admitted. Just carry on as if nothing happened. If all else fails, just refuse to answer the embarrassing questions. Stonewall. Bridge back to stay on message.
Oh, I’m pretty sure the Dems would like to be equally as proficient in this war of winning the hearts and minds of those easily duped. There are a lot of votes here. Problem is, they don’t have the right skill set. For starters, they don’t have poker faces when caught in a bluff.
And what are the other required elements? Well, certainly repetition. Tell it five times … but five thousand will be much more effective. Volume is important. Then there is tone and attitude. The public identifies with passion and outrage. Forget the scholarly, intellectual crap. That’s not them. The guy in the unmuffled pickup truck in front of me today whose entire tailgate was painted as the Confederate flag knows what I am talking about. His bumper sticker sported the same flag with the words, “It ain’t over.”
It has often been said that in a democracy, the citizenry always gets the government it deserves. That’s not working for me right now.