Ted Cruz revealed, last week, that he, himself, would be signing up for health coverage under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, aka, Obamacare. Yes, the same Ted Cruz who compared Obamacare to Nazism and said: “I intend to speak about defunding Obamacare until I am no longer able to stand.”
“But…but…but,” many of us sputtered as our rational brains short-circuited on their way to complete implosion, “ his whole reason for political existence is demagoguing on repealing Obamacare because he says it’s the most evilest thing ever! How can this much hypocrisy fit into the universe??? AAARRRGGGGGG!!!!”
But by now our minds shouldn’t be blown at all. For the millions who have disappeared down the right-wing media rabbit hole, it’s just another day in bizarro world.
One of the built-in features of the “Fox/Talk Radio Effect,” that Tea Partiers like Cruz benefit from and help perpetuate is cognitive dissonance (on steroids), which means that contradictory notions can be held in the brain without any need being felt to reconcile them using one’s critical faculties. It also means never having to say, “God, what an incredibly repugnant hypocrite I am!”
Recall the woman with Graves’ disease featured in the NYTimes article from last September who was thrilled that her daughter and herself were able to get covered through the Affordable Care Act. She gushed: “I’m tickled to death with it…It’s helped me out a bunch.” And then she comes around with the cognitive sucker punch, when in her next breath she says of President Obama, “Nobody don’t care for nobody no more, and I think he’s got a lot to do with that…”
Um, excuse me, what? So the guy who put his political butt on the line to get you the disease treatment you desperately need and also healthcare for your daughter (along with 16 million other Americans) is responsible for a culture of uncaring, but the Republicans who tooth-and-nail opposed the lifesaving law and who still want to repeal it, even as good news keeps rolling in, are epitomes of empathy?
A benefit of buying into the right-wing media cult is you are given license to embrace extreme ideological positions that provide instant psychological gratification and catharsis. And — as a bonus — you are never expected to actually adhere to inconvenient principles implied by those positions that would bring unpleasant consequences to you personally.
So you can take full advantage of the thing your favorite pundit denounces as pure evil as long as you maintain Cognitive Dissonance enough to keep your real-world experience from popping the bubble of extremist ideological delusion. And be sure to keep on repeating those echo chamber approved talking points! — even when they contradict your direct experience.
There’s always a rhetorical maneuver or rationalization on hand to release bubble-dwellers from personal accountability. Fox-style propaganda exists to malign and demonize external situations, people, and institutions with fingers ever pointing outward. Self-reflection and adherence to intellectual consistency are not on the to-do list.
That’s how Fox-addled seniors can keep straight faces while hoisting signs at Tea Party rallies that demand, “Keep Your Government Hands Off My Medicare.”
The summation: “FREEDOM” means I claim the right to do whatever I damn well please, no matter how riddled with contradictions, while blaming and flaming others as treasonous and vile. Self-absorbed righteousness becomes its own twisted reward.
Their “religious” and “patriotic” “principles” boil down to: It’s fine for me but to hell with thee.
And Ayn Rand, the high-priestess of the right-wing cult of anti-government zealotry, took Social Security. And Medicare. Amen.
On our recent radio segments, we’ve been talking about Toxic Town Halls, the right-wing media misinformation bubble, and how the crack pots who spew vitriol at these venues are not only not challenged by Tea Party members of Congress but are affirmed and encouraged in their insanity.
Last August, Representative Martha Roby of Montgomery Alabama held an event for Tea Partiers to sound off in what was really a conspiracy theory echo chamber that she endorsed and participated in.
It was the usual recitation of hoax scandals that have been destroyed by the light of real-world scrutiny but inside the RWM bubble they are shielded from this light and live on as zombie notions.
Zombies of legend are dead bodies brought back to a shambling shell of life by dark magic. The zombie notions still circulating in these town halls are reanimated by the dark magic of media, money and propaganda. Both kinds of zombies want to eat your brains.
What is sold as “grassroots” citizens’ uprising is in reality “Astro Turfing,” funded by big money corporate shadow groups and heavily promoted by media like Fox and round the clock right-wing talk radio.
As organizers and advocates on health care reform, we have witnessed this phenomena first hand.
Last August, The Heritage Foundation, an extreme right organization headed by former Tea Party Senator Jim DeMint, staged a national “Defund Obamacare” tour in a doomed effort to press Congress to refuse funding to the Affordable Care Act by shutting down the government.
In that it was nothing but a replay of debunked smear and misinformation the tour could have been called “Gullible’s Travels.” Even Politifact, which tends to contort itself to give rightward misinformation the benefit of the doubt, went out of its way to call out the blatant dishonesty of the tour.
And yet when we attended the event staged in Pittsburgh the room was packed with people raring to hear yet another round of such nonsense.
Like the recent town hall in Oklahoma, those in attendance weren’t there just to talk about health care policy, they were itching to express their irrational hatred. This woman caught on tape casually bemoans the lost era of “assassins” in America.
Once the program began a small group of us infiltrators were ready with small signs, the word “LIE “ written on sheets of paper, which we silently held up each time a bright line falsity was spoken from the stage. We felt it was our responsibility to provide real time fact-checking as a public service, given the unlikelihood that Jim DeMint’s pants would actually burst into flames as they certainly should have.
It only took a few minutes and much mendacity for the private security guards to escort us toward the doors as attendees booed at us and a few hissed, “Communists” as we exited.
The Heritage Foundation received $500,000 in 2012 from a Koch Brothers funded front group, Freedom Partners. Koch funding is a many tendriled beast which animates a host of organizations which join in with RWM to amplify misinformation, distortion and inflammatory false narratives on health care, energy, education and many other issues.
This onslaught of fantasy has a very real impact on real world policy as we saw when the Tea Party in Congress did manage to force a government shut down to try and extort its demands.
When you talk about “Astro-turf” and the manufacturing of outrage, many folks caught up in this furor will push back saying: “My outrage is REAL, its not manufactured!” But it isn’t that they’re faking or not really feeling what they feel, it’s that they are victims of a strategy to deceive and mobilize through emotional manipulation. The whole point is to whip-up raw emotions that will cause people to react outside of reason.
In an ABC report describing a 2009 Congressional event that was disrupted by angry Tea Partiers, one woman in attendance summed it up by saying what she heard was an echo of what is preached everyday on Fox and talk radio…” If it’s not manufactured, they’re brainwashed.”
In truth, it’s both.
RWM roundup: It’s been a big, crazy week in media crazy talk.
Reality-based viewers were left to starve as Bill O’Reilly shoveled chunks of red meat to the Fox “News” base during the Super Bowl pre-game interview with President Obama.
It was all hoax and conspiracy all the time as O’Reilly interrupted the President dozens of times, beating the dead horses of IRS and Benghazi while completely ignoring pressing issues of jobs, minimum wage and unemployment insurance extension.
It was as if he were speaking from an alternate bizzarro dimension… perhaps from a twisted wormhole reality created by a right-wing cable channel and amplified by hundreds if not thousands of talk radio voices across America. I expected Rod Serling to walk onto the set at any moment.
For his part, President Obama refused to let the exchange be sucked into O’Reilly’s netherworld of conspiracy and pushed back against Fox’s fantasy-based broadcast model saying, “These kinds of things keep on surfacing in part because you and your TV station will promote them.”
Meanwhile in Oklahoma, Congressman Jim Bridenstine (R) held a town hall event to get some feed back from his constituents. What he got was a face full of “Obama derangement” flamer insanity.
One woman called for the execution of the President as an “enemy combatant.” Another more moderately, wants impeachment. She doesn’t elaborate for what crime. Because MuslimKenyanMarxist, I guess.
If you assume the Congressman pushed back against or attempted to tamp down this ugliness, you’d be way wrong. 180 degrees wrong in fact, because he jumped right in the crazy pot with them declaring the “lawlessness” of the President.
Its almost like him and his unhinged, crack pot constituents and Bill O’Reilly are all trapped together in a bubble of festering madness and malicious misinformation that’s been designed for some radical political agenda! Could it be?
Of course its not just Fox that’s guilty of perpetuating unreality. In this digital era of “report first and ask questions later” just about every outlet is jumping on the misinform America bandwagon.
This week the CBO released numbers on the Affordable Care Act’s effect on the economy and the media immediately set its hair on fire sensationalizing the stats.
Almost everybody got it wrong.
The stats described a positive aspect of the ACA in that folks who are working jobs just to hang on to health care would be free to opt out and start their own businesses or take better care of their families. This would also free up jobs which are in short supply for other seekers.
Instead the media overwhelmingly misreported that the CBO was talking about a loss of jobs to the economy not an opting out of workers.
Chuck “It’s-not-my-job-to-fact-check” Todd predictably lodged this totally wrong report: “CBO essentially reaffirms GOP talking points on health care. Says it will cost jobs…”
This is another glaring case in point of why we fight for journalistic standards of truth and accuracy over sensationalism and report-it-first mania.
One more example is WTAE in Pittsburgh’s “Obamacare” hit piece from last week. Sign the petition here to call for a correction of this bogus and biased reporting.
Charlene signed and commented:
This is important to me because if you present yourself as a news program, then you should present the news–not someone’s opinion. When people want to be told what to think, they listen to Fox “News” or Rush Limbaugh. I expect better from WTAE. If you continue to sensationalize the news, I will stop watching.
There has been a rash of Obamacare “horror stories” making headlines across the country that, when exposed to a little scrutiny, are revealed to be completely bogus.
It started when Sean Hannity trotted out three couples with easily debunkable claims, then there was the case of a reporter in Texas who was punked by Tea Partisans and last week, in Cathy McMorris Rodgers’ Republican SOTU response the distressing tale of “Bette” from Spokane was touted who turned out to be not at all in the predicament that was claimed.
Now local Pittsburgh station WTAE has jumped on the bandwagon with a story that ran last Wednesday, Jan. 29th.
Anchor Wendy Bell reported from Simonetta’s Collision Repair Center where insurance broker Charles Moore delivered “devastating” news to the owner and assembled employees: “Obamacare” was making their health care costs explode.
The piece had all the bells and whistles, including dramatic graphics to highlight the numbers presented by the broker creating an impression of indisputable validity.
The cameras rolled as Ms. Bell asked one employee how she would afford her health care… “I don’t know,” she said seeming on the verge of tears.
Another employee said, “They call it the affordable health plan, there’s nothing affordable about it.”
Quite the powerful story. And its gotten plenty of exposure, especially in the right-wing media circuit. Republican members of Congress have shared it extensively on social media and used it to reinforce their anti-Obamacare talking points.
The problem is, despite the sensationalized graphics the story is void of crucial facts and information.
First, the story leaves out the fact that small business with fewer than 50 full-time employees — the Simonetta’s have 7 — are not required to offer insurance under Obamacare. If the “best” their broker could find was this plan employees are so unhappy with, they could decide to stop offering coverage — and give employees the chance to go into the Health Insurance Marketplace individually, giving them access to income-based premium credits and help lowering their out-of-pocket expenses.
Second, there is no mention of the small business tax credit (available since 2010!) in Obamacare that could save the Simonetta’s thousands of dollars. To qualify, a business has to have fewer than 25 FT employees, making less than $50,000, where the employer contributes at least 50% to workers’ health coverage and use the new Small Business Marketplace.
Third, there’s no way for viewers to know whether the numbers given by the broker are “the best” he could do, but there’s every reason to think not. A quick search on Healthcare.Gov’s window-shopping tool for business owners reveals a number of plans that are much better than the plan presented by the broker and WTAE as the Simonetta’s only option.
If you assumed that WTAE verified the broker’s numbers, you would be wrong. WTAE simply broadcast Mr. Moore’s damning numbers uncritically and presented them as solid fact.
These numbers seem very dubious to many and not enough information is provided in the story for viewers to perform a proper analysis. The report does not reference this lack of detail or question the broker on this point.
It turns out that there is also plenty of reason to be concerned about the source of these numbers. Mr. Charles Moore is presented in the report to be an unbiased professional.
In reality he is an outspoken far-right ideologue who publicly opposes the ACA.
One example is this blog where he opposes preexisting condition protections including for children.
Justin Antoniotti, news director at WTAE said the station is willing to run another story from a “different perspective.” But this only perpetuates the “he-said/she-said” reporting style that is the root of the problem, i.e. that facts and accuracy are sacrificed to emotional, contentious and ratings-driven coverage.
We have stressed to him and other WTAE news staff, including Wendy Bell, the importance of following up on the Simonetta’s story to clarify for their viewers that:
- The numbers used were the broker’s alone and were not verified by any journalistic due diligence or checking
- The broker is an extreme and public ideological opponent of the health care law and
- Due to critical factual omissions, viewers were left with an overall misrepresentation of the law and its impact.
The station has received numerous responses from members of the public who have expressed their concerns about this story. So far WTAE has not agreed to run any sort of follow up to address the issues in their reporting.
Tell WTAE that it is not enough to run another story without acknowledging the glaring problems in the Simonetta story.
SIGN OUR PETITION TO WTAE HERE.
You can contact WTAE publicly, on their Twitter feed, email their news department here or call them at 412-244-4444 to demand accountability.
We all understand the importance of contacting our politicians when they fail to represent our interests and the public good.
We also must demand accountability from news outlets when they are guilty of media malpractice to demand that they not shred journalistic standards in a rush to sell out to sensationalism.
[Meet the Obama-hating Tea Partisan who WTAE presented as a neutral, credible source on Obamacare]:
Recently, the Heritage Foundation held a “town hall meeting” in Pittsburgh. I was one of eight there with a small sign that simply said “LIE” because if I heard a lie, I intended to hold it up. My intention was not to disrupt or make any kind of scene. I simply wanted to let the group know that they were being given misinformation (“Obamacare Battle Scenes,” Early Returns, Aug. 29). We all need to make decisions about health care in the future and we should make those decisions based on accurate information.
…Groups like Heritage have a lot of money to spread lies, but the truth always prevails. Obamacare works; it’s already saving lives and it will save many more when it’s fully in place.
[read the full letter over at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette]
HearYourselfThink Project was there to help call out the lies of Jim DeMint and the Heritage Foundation at their healthcare smear-and-fear event in Pittsburgh.
Right-wing groups like Heritage are completely comfortable misleading, twisting facts and whipping up the darkest aspects of their base supporters. When their tactics repeatedly appear in stories as more or less equal but opposite from supporters of reform, their extreme and dangerous messages and practices become normalized. Case in point:
Listen here as a woman in line crazily waxes nostalgic about the lost age of assassins in America and calls for the death of President Obama. This was on the same day as the 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King’s “I have a dream” speech.