Although I support a single-payer system, or at least a public option, in health care reform, I admit that there are probably reasonable arguments against them. So why aren’t we hearing any? Instead, we’re inundated by ludicrous claims that Obama will institute “death panels” and so on. Sharon Begley at Newsweek provides some interesting analysis about why this kind of fear mongering is working. Some key quotes from her article:
The power of “death panels” as a phrase and a scare tactic also works because Americans are deeply uncomfortable with death… As a result of that discomfort, reminding people of death sends them off the deep end, into the part of the neuronal pool where reason cowers behind existential terror. And we’re particularly vulnerable to scaremongering in the atmosphere of dread created by the economic meltdown. When people are already scared about losing their jobs and their homes and paying for health care, it doesn’t take a lot to make them afraid of one more thing. We’re living with “free-floating anxiety” every day, says psychiatrist Louann Brizendine of the University of California, San Francisco. “The brain is signaling ‘danger’ right now. Whenever that happens, the brain typically loses its logical reasoning power.”…
Health care stirs powerful emotions, and because the subject is so complicated, people are unable to balance their emotional reactions with rational ones. Moreover, appeals to fear, anger, and hate really gain traction when ignorance is wide and deep.
What kind of ignorance does she mean? This kind:
At a recent town-hall meeting in suburban Simpsonville, a man stood up and told(R-S.C.) to “keep your government hands off my Medicare.”
As Daniel Gross points out:
This is a something of a Churchillian moment. Never before have so many known so little about so much. The meme… about Medicare not being a government program has two sources: ignorance and mendacity. Some people may really not know that Medicare is taxpayer-funded health care. That’s ignorance. Many more people know it—and know the degree to which taxpayers are already funding lots of health care for them and their loved ones—and argue otherwise. That’s mendacity.
There are two ways to counter this ignorance and fear mongering. First, with facts such as those found here and here. Second, and perhaps more important, supporters of health care reform need better rhetoric. To this end, I was happy to hear the following quote from Obama this morning:
“These are fabrications that have been put out there in order to discourage people from meeting what I consider to be a core ethical and moral obligation and that is that we look out for one another,” he said. “That I am my brother’s keeper, I am my sister’s keeper and in the wealthiest nation on Earth right now, we are neglecting to live up to that call.”