Thursday, August 13, 2009

Healthcare Debate in the Infortainment Age

I think I understand a little bit about political outrage. I lived through the Bush years where my opinion was that the Iraq War was unjustified, that the government illegally spied on its own citizens through warrantless wiretaps, that our government engaged in despicable torture, and on and on. So I have a pretty solid history, along with other liberals, of feelings of anger directed towards our government. The beauty of America is that we can disagree, feel outrage, and argue the merits, all while feeling safe from oppression and remaining friends with those with whom we disagree.

What I can't understand and accept are lies and intimidation. Those are anti-democratic. And those are now the preferred tactics of the right on the healthcare debate. Andrew posted a great link that gave a taste of the lies being spread by the anti-healthcare reform activists, and how easy they are to debunk. Some of the more prominent lies are that there will be a bureaucratic death panel which, I guess, decides who gets treatment and who dies, government-sponsored euthanasia, and bureaucratic boards which decide which kind of healthcare you will receive. These are all lies, and they are firing up the conservative base.

The lies alone are bad enough, but now conservatives are showing up at townhall meetings and being disruptive and intimidating. They are shouting down anyone that disagrees with them. Here are some examples:

There is also the great picture on the front page of the New York Times of the heckler right in Arlen Spector's face.

This is as distasteful as it is anti-democratic, and I think it is a product of two problems that we face that are interrelated. First, this is the inevitable byproduct of the Information Age: 24-hour news channels, internet, Twitter, etc. In the mad dash to compete in this new market, news outlets must fill hours and hours, and pages and pages, of open space with something, anything, that viewers and readers might find interesting. So what we get is hours and hours and pages and pages of excruciating minutia and over-analysis.

And because the news outlets simply can't fill up all that open space with actual news, in all its boring and staid glory, the line between news and entertainment is so blurred it doesn't even exist anymore. The Information Age is now the Entertainment Age. We have to be constantly entertained, outraged, moved to fear or tears, in order to be satisfied.

Which leads to the second big problem: a lack of critical thinking. We rarely have time to sit and reflect anymore, to think through issues on our own, to remove ourselves from the ever-present hum of infortainment and take an objective look. We are spoon-fed (actually shovel-fed) everything we need and we no longer take the time to prepare our own meals.

We are urged as a church to be self-sufficient in our temporal concerns. We should have food storage, money in savings, little or no debt, grow a garden. But are we also self-sufficient in our ability to analyze the world and inform our opinions? Would we really have the same opinions and passions if CNN, MSNBC, and Fox, all stopped broadcasting? Has the Infortainment Age created a world of extremism? I'm not smart enough to answer these questions.

King Mosiah in the Book of Mormon taught us:
And see that all these things are done in wisdom and order; for it is not requisite that a man should run faster than he has strength. And again, it is expedient that he should be diligent, that thereby he might win the prize; therefore, all things must be done in order.
The Lord in Doctrine and Covenants taught us: "yea, seek ye out of the best books words of wisdom; seek learning, even by study and also by faith."

I think we would all do better to apply these scriptures to the Infortainment Age. To slow down the amount of input in our lives, but diligently seek truth through reading, study, and faith, as opposed to TV, internet, and radio. Maybe if we did we would find that we treasure our commonalities and kinship more than our differences. We would also likely all be liberals.

The healthcare debate is just one symptom of this problem. We are being fed gross lies and stirred up to anger and outrage by the infortainers who want nothing more than ratings and power. We certainly have disagreements, but these could be dealt with with respect and tact if we only took time to be a little more discerning in our personal filters.

The Mormon Left is as guilty as anyone, but this whole healthcare debate, with its screaming and lies and intimidation and overreactions, has opened my eyes a little bit. This is not healthy discussion and this is not democracy in action. This is kind of scary.


Daniel H said...

I agree with you entirely. For this very reason I don't have cable at home. I like having respite from the constant barrage. And I think we really do need to step back and think -- the constant barrage doesn't let us form our own opinions. We're asked to accept the conveniently predigested opinions of pundits from both sides, rather than form our own.

peter said...

You're right, too many people don't question what they are told by the "news media." I worry about whether people are still able to think critically or if they take everything at face value.

I know we don't see eye to eye on how to fix healthcare and I worry about the bill that is going through...whether it fixes the right problems or if it ends up being a band-aid that plays into the pharmaceutical/medical industry coffers or is a massive government powergrab. Either option I think is wrong. However, I am also bothered by the people who are saying that everything is great and we shouldn't touch the healthcare system at all. That isn't true either.


Paul said...

It’s funny we hear Republicans say that they do not want “faceless bureaucrats” making medical decisions but they have no problem with “private sector” “faceless bureaucrats” daily declining medical coverage and financially ruining good hard working people (honestly where can they go with a pre-condition). And who says that the “private sector” is always right, do we forget failures like Long-Term Capital, WorldCom, Global Crossing, Enron, Tyco, AIG and Lehman Brothers. Of course the federal government will destroy heathcare by getting involved, Oh but wait, Medicare and Medicaid and our military men and women and the Senate and Congress get the best heathcare in the world, and oh, that’s right, its run by our federal government. I can understand why some may think that the federal government will fail, if you look at the past eight years as a current history, with failures like the financial meltdown and Katrina but the facts is they can and if we support them they will succeed.

How does shouting down to stop the conversation of the healthcare debate at town hall meetings, endears them to anyone. Especially when the organizations that are telling them where to go and what to do and say are Republicans political operatives, not real grassroots. How does shouting someone down or chasing them out like a “lynch mob” advanced the debate, it does not. So I think the American people will see through all of this and know, like the teabagger, the birthers, these lynch mobs types AKA “screamers” are just the same, people who have to resort to these tactics because they have no leadership to articulate what they real want. It’s easy to pickup a bus load of people who hate, and that’s all I been seeing, they hate and can’t debate. Too bad.

Josh said...

It's distasteful to demand answers from a lying, coniving government? No distasteful is a president, setting the police on protesters for disagreeing with his administration, and lying to our faces about this health care legislation. I believe as heartily as the next guy that the health care/insurance system needs to be overhauled. The current, Socialist plan, though, is not the way.

Kengo Biddles said...

Josh -- they're not demanding answers. They're showing up with every intent of stopping the representatives and senators from presenting their side of the argument. A proper debate, a proper CONVERSATION is both sides talking to each other. Not one side badgering the other into shutting up. That's not conversation. That's bullying.

The whole thing smacks of sour grapes.

I'm all for getting answers from the government. But these "protestors" aren't there to get answers. They're there to cause trouble. Period.

Jacob S. said...

"It's distasteful to demand answers from a lying, coniving government?"

If the only way to do so is to shout down government representatives, bully and intimidate those with opposing viewpoints, and generally cause disruption, then yes, its distasteful.

I've heard a lot of arguments about the healthcare plan, but what I haven't heard yet is that Pres. Obama is lying about it. What, specifically, has he lied about?

And how is providing a public option socialist? Wouldn't a plan that competes in the open market be capitalist? Why should the tens of millions of people that can't afford private health insurance, or who have been denied coverage because of a pre-existing condition, not have a choice to be covered? Is it just capitalism if those tens of millions are denied the option, the choice, of coverage?

You know this isn't government takeover of healthcare. Its true there is a government option, but there are lots of legitimate private options as well. People just cry "Socialism" when they want to scare the public without providing any real analysis.

Andrew said...

A well-timed post, I'm sort of in the middle of an "unplugged" period myself. I'm trying to take time out to read a book instead, in this case I'm re-reading "Move Your Shadow" by Joseph Lelyveld (highly recommended, by the way). I think South Africa's plight may be instructive; as demographics change and those who were once in power (WASPs) will be in the minority in a few years, some of the same kind of thinking is starting to pop up. Anyways, I agree that we need to step back from the 'net and/or TV (I don't have cable) to think about things. In the latest issue of the USC alumni magazine there's an article about a study suggesting that the "higher" emotions (i.e., anything beyond anger or pain or sadness) take as long as 8 seconds to develop, while the "baser" emotions set in almost instantaneously. The researchers even mentioned the possible ramifications in our world, dominated as it is by fast news. With that, I'm off to read.

peter said...

"And how is providing a public option socialist? Wouldn't a plan that competes in the open market be capitalist?"

How can a plan that is run by the government (with it's coffers and leverage) not have an advantage over the other insurance companies? Is it only a public option in that it is not-for-profit or is it a government organization? I have yet to have anyone explain what exactly a public option is.

And why aren't people jumping on the drug companies more? They have played their own huge share in running up medical expenses. They market expensive drugs (we're the only country to allow drug companies to market directly to consumers) to people who don't really understand whether they need the drugs or not, but like the feel good emotions emanating from the TV when they watch the commercial. The drug companies also "sponsor" and pay for a large part of medical research and are way to cozy with the FDA and other "authorities" of medical knowledge. (I really would recommend the book Overdo$ed America by John was enlightening.)

And as for the current insurance run by the government as being the best...yeah, employees get great coverage, can't deny that. It wouldn't be the same plan they offer to the rest of the country. And Medicare and Medicaid are great for for a lot of things, but government reimbursement for physicians through these programs is almost too low right now to cover costs and they are talking about cutting physician reimbursement for these programs as a cost saving measure in this bill. Not to mention that at least Medicaid decided to not pay a couple of physicians here for a couple of months because they were short on funds...Not my idea of an ideal business model. And the VA? The care is pretty good, but they definitely have the "waiting" that is experienced in countries with single-payer systems. The VA is also full of beaurocrasy and is no where as efficient as the hospitals and system most Americans are used to.

It's getting late, I could say more, but I won't.


Henline said...

I didn't have time to read your post. It was way too long and not even remotely entertaining like CNN or Fox News. But I will say this, I can tell immediately without even thinking about it that your post is without merits. If you ever post another story supporting the democrats and their crappy healthcare I will punch you in the face dozens of times. You better watch out, because I'm comin' after you sucker.

Jacob S. said...

Lets see. Too lazy to read a short post. Uncontrollable temper. Lack of sophistication and nuance.

Must be a Broncos fan.