Friday, August 28, 2009
During the 2004 campaign, I was having a discussion with a friend of mine who was on the fence about voting for Bush or Kerry; she's a social conservative but had grown opposed to the war in Iraq.
Eventually, she decided to vote for Bush, the reason being her inability to escape something she had heard at her conservative Christian church, that Kerry was trying to ban the Bible.
I did the best I could to disabuse her of this idea (Kerry's Catholic, every elected federal official professes religion, the free exercise clause would be a complete barrier to this, the United States is the most religious western nation and this would be unpopular, what in the hell does ban the Bible even mean in the first place?) and while she recognized intellectually the logic of my case, in the end, I think it just wasn't worth the risk to her. If I tell you "Tom's a child molester" even if I have no evidence, you're going to think twice about letting Tom babysit for you if you can just as easily choose non child molester Ernie.
I have a student, a bright student - engaged in the issues, open, inquisitive - who passed along to me with complete seriousness a forwarded email that purported to be a news report quoting Obama as calling American troops whiners for wanting supplies that he was rejecting - "they're an all volunteer army, they knew what they were getting when they signed up, they should quit whining".
She wasn't asking if it was true. She knew it to be true and was disturbed by it.
My reponse was a little simpler than was it 4 years prior. "There's youtube. If Obama said the US military was composed of "whiners" that's an easy thing to find. Go find it."
Now - you know that Kerry wasn't advocating banning the Bible. And you know Obama didn't say the military was made up of whining volunteers.
But not everyone does.
The willingness to tell any sort of lie coupled with the ability to now live in a hermetically sealed bubble of propaganda through multimedia platforms just allows these lies to grow and fester and exist in an uncontradicted way gives rise to, well, to people bringing guns to health care debates.
Look at this. That's an RNC mailer.
I get DNC mailers, so I'm not unfamiliar with partisan language like in question 3 that is clearly slanted in a way to draw the answer most beneficial to the cause. That's politics. I don't love it, but it's politics.
But that's not the question I want you to look at.
Look at question 4.
"It has been suggested that the government could use voter registration to determine a person's political affiliation, prompting fears that GOP voters might be discriminated against for medical treatment in a Democrat-imposed health care rationing system. Does this possibility concern you?"
This isn't some leaflet passed out on the street by a guy in a tin foil hat; this is from the Republican Party.
How many people will read this and believe there must be some truth to it - otherwise, how could the Republicans say it?
How many people will believe it's not raising the possibility, but flat asserting that the Democrats must be trying to take away health care for Republicans?
How many people will pass it on, through the internet or talk radio or at church?
How is it that rumors get started? When you see the real passionate anger people had at those McCain campaign rallies, calling Obama a terrorist - when you see the rage people have at town hall health care meetings - rage directed at...stopping people from getting health care - it just seems baffling. How could someone quake with anger at the following prospect -
Americans who don't have health care will now have health care and you won't lose anything.
It's because that's not what they're mad at.
They listen to Rush and Hannity and Simple Jack and everyone in between.
Obama's not only a racist Nazi Muslim. He not only has death panels to decide to kill off the down's syndrome kids.
But he will keep the Republicans from getting to see doctors when they're sick.
It must be true. I read it someplace.