Thursday, May 21, 2009

The Silly Season

I am fed up with fear mongering. I am sick and tired of people passing along rumor, half-truth and flat-out lies as truth. We heard a lot of it during the election, we always hear it during campaign season. When I used to work on political campaigns, we came up with all kinds of crazy ideas to exaggerate the foibles of our opponents. Most of it had some basis in fact, but we pushed the truth almost over the edge. But it seems to me that we used to move out of what we called "the silly season" when the election was over. Lately, that "silly season" seems to be endless. Let me give you a couple of examples.
Right after the election, one of my friends was totally distraught, almost in a panic because "Obama is going to regulate vitamin sales and people will have to go to a government-chosen doctor to get a prescription for vitamin C." She even passed along to me emails she got from organizations stating this half-cocked idea as the gospel truth. Meanwhile, I combed everything I could find of Obama's campaign speeches to see if I could find any references in his speeches to this drastic plan. The closest I could come were statements about the current health care system not working as well as it should and about a need for health care reform. None of the white papers posted on the Obama web site had the specificity to indicate that they had even considered regulating vitamins or even health supplements. My friend is still convinced she will have to get government approval to buy her health care supplements.
Shortly after the stimulus package passed and I read the whole 1,000-plus pages, another friend showed me an email she received that indicated senior health care was cut under the stimulus plan. I didn't remember anything like that and it didn't seem stimulative to me so I searched the stimulus plan and found nothing about cutting senior health care. My friend was able to tear up the email and her worries about her elderly mother were reduced.
Earlier this week, my husband was telling me one of his co-workers was all worked up because Obama issued an executive order forcing the military to shred rather than recycle spent ammunition cases. A quick scan on the National Archives revealed no such EO.
This morning, former Vice-President Cheney pulled out the old Saddam Hussein-al-Qa'ida link and axis of terror lines. He told us that "advanced interrogation techniques" kept us safe from another terrorist attack for the past 7+ years, even though his own administration discontinued those techniques with in the past four years.
Facts, cold hard facts. Simple enough to get the facts. When I was a young high school debater, we would have killed for the ready access to information that we have today on the Internet. I can hardly believe we got our precious quotes without being able to do a simple Internet search. We actually had to read through magazines and newspapers and the Federal Record. Today, I can run a couple of searches on my computer and have the complete text of this morning's speeches in Washington, D.C, straight from the teleprompter. If someone tells me that Gitmo detainees brought into the United States have to be released into the general population before they can be tried, I can know, within minutes, that the source is making things up as he goes along.
If it is so simple to find the cold hard facts, why are organizations sending fear mongering emails to their members? Because they work. My friends are all people of above average intelligence who could do the same searches I do. They did not do so because they have allegiance to the organizations that misinformed them, because they are busy people who do not have my luxury of time to research, because the information they got fed their preconceived notions of what was possible.
So long as Speaker of the House Pelosi can say "They always lie to us," we each need to be vigilant. We need to think about the reasonableness of information before we pass it along. We need to reject the fear mongering, the half-truths and the self-serving rumors.

1 comment:

  1. Ah, high school debate. Pouring over Time and Newsweek and US News ... buying "packages" of topic quote to cut and paste onto 4x6 cards (still have a huge stock of them) ... good times ...

    Hell, I still draw on stuff I learned in those days to discuss national health care, energy policy, and penal reform.