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Monday, August 03, 2009

The Village Idiots Fall In Line

by digby

Dday talks about how the misinformation gets into the ether below.

And here's the way the overarching media narrative that supports it gets set:

Matthews: What do you make of this firestorm that's going on across the country. We've got pictures from Texas and Long Island and Philly. Every time a congressman calls a town meeting now, the people show up and it's like -- I don't know --- it's like Iran! It's like the streets of Tehran!

Michael Smerconish: People are hot. I sense it in the phone calls that I get every day. I think they're very nervous about what's going to come out of this debate about national health care, and Chris if I've heard once in the last couple of days, I've heard it 50 times: "if they can't get cash for clunkers straight, what in the world are they going to do with my national health insurance?"

Matthews: You mean they won't get the numbers right?

Smericonish: Yeah they won't get the numbers right and it smacks of bureaucratic ineptitude, that the federal government has blown through this money so quickly on a plan that seems so straighforward.

I also think that what going on is that many people don't understand the elements of this debate, so what do they know? They know that they have health insurance and they know that this enormous price tag is being assigned for the 45 million or so who don't have it. And frankly what they saying is, why can't we just write them a check and pay for it. It sounds like it could be less expensive.

Ok, neither Smericonish, a conservative, or Matthews, a Village dullard, mention that the "riots" are not exactly spontaneous uprisings, but are rather the result of well-financed astroturfing enterprises, much like the ones that were done to disrupt the Clinton rallies back in 1994. (In fact, the threat of violence was so great that they ended up cancelling them, which is something we may yet see this month.) Matthews who prides himself on being an historian of arcane political strategy throughout the ages seems to know nothing of what's happenening now or then.

Meanwhile, he lets Smerconish disseminate this summers "drill, baby, drill" --- that insipid "cash for clunkers" line that Jim Demint cloddishly threw out there on the Sabbath Gasbag shows --- with no explanation as to why it makes no sense at all. (After all, the program proved to be so popular that they need to extend it -- that's usually thought of as a success, not a failure. Everywhere but in the village, that is.)

It goes on. Surely Jonathan Martin of the Politico will straighten all this out, right?

Matthews: Ok , that's the question, for Jonathan, for years now, ever since Harry Truman, the Democrats have said let's have health insurance. Every poll that's been taken saying we ought to insure the people who are uninsured in thiscountry, the number keeps growing. So in principle, everybody wants to do this, at least the majority does. What happened?

Martin: It's hard to understand, given that. You have 60 Democrats in the senate and obviously the House is a lock too.

Matthews: And they all ran on promising health care.

Martin: The devil is in the detail on these things and the fact is that you've got a disparate party in the House on these things. As you know Chris, some of these Blue Dogs are not going to go along with the conventional liberal line of the party and that is causing problems.

Now the Democratic strategy right now is to try to blame the insurance companies, try to blame the Repub licans. I think the hard reality right now is that this is a Democratic problem and they've got to figure it out on their own.

Let me just speak real fast to the passion we're seeing at some of these town hall rallies. It seems to me that for the first time we're seeing maybe even in four years, we're finally seeing some real fire and some real passion. You didn't see it last year during the McCain campaign. I think folks now are finally fired up.

Ah, so this is all about the rebirth of the Republicans, I forgot. The fact that these same talk radio robots killed immigration reform under the GOP president apparently escaped Martin's notice.

And again, no mention of the fact that this is an astroturfing effort, replete with what is sure to be paid "volunteers" filming the events for Youtube, so as to look more like "the streets of Tehran." (Look for a full blown twitter campaign, if they can teach the dittoheads how to do it.) There has never been a more gullible clown than Chris Matthews.

Matthews: Well, the dog that hasn't barked here as we say in Sherlock Holmes lingo Michael, is where the hell are the people who want health care, the people who work hard but don't have health care, the union people. I haven't seen one placard, one protest for health care

Smerconish: No, and I don't hear from them either as radio callers. You hear from those who say maybe in retrospect maybe my insurance isn't so bad, heck, I'll take what I've already got if I can maintain the status quo because I'm so concerned about the cost of whatever this change is going to bring.

Matthews: But Michael Moore, I don't care what you think of Michael Moore, but his movie Sicko was really smart because it didn't focus on the uninsured, it focused on the middle class person who is underinsured. You know all about this Michael, they found out that there's geniuses working at headquarters who kept them from getting their coverage.

Smericonish: I think that's legitimate, but how many people have been to that situation and consequently found out what they really have or don't have. I think the vast majority, thank God, haven't found themselves in that position yet.

Martin: Also, it takes somebody who is very passionate about the issue, in the middle of the summer, vacation,work what have you, to show up in a townhall meeting with a politician. most normal people just don't do that kind of thing and those events drive people who are passionate about the issue on one side or the other.

So the people who don't have health insurance aren't passionate about getting it, but people who don't want them to have health insurance are passionate about making sure they don't get it. It's probably true, but it's sad. The people who are underinsured or living with pre-existing conditions are passionate about keeping their jobs. The uninsured are working at low level shit jobs if they aren't standing in the unemployment lines. Going to rallies probably isn't in the job description.

I guess I just can't wrap my mind around what kind of people feel "passionately" about denying people needed medical care. It kind of makes me feel sick.

And again, nobody mentions who and what might be behind these so-called spontaneous uprisings.

But there are other reasons that Matthews sees as to why feel people feel so passionately:

Matthews: How much of this is about people coming to you about end of life decision spooked people Michael. This thing, this provision that you get to talk about a living will. but it sounds to some people like you're getting a little ill and somebody shows up at your door like you're a missionary and says let's talk about how you're going to save the goivernment money and the burden on your family by continuing to live. That's the way it hits some people.

Smerconish: Yeah, and I think Chris what you're really saying that there are some soundbites out there and you've got to sift through the urban lore that attached to the health care debate. but the soundbites are what people repeat. I'll give you another one. It's that perpetual question of "to what extent is there going to be some level of funding for abortion?" So I hear a lot about abortion, and I hear a lot about the end of life as well.

Matthews: That's legitimate by the way. The abortion thing is legitimate. The Hyde Amendment, which all know about said that no federal dollars can be paid for abortion for the obvious reason, people are opposed to abortion don't want to have to pay for it as taxpayers. I don't know why the Democrats just don't say that not a dollar of this bill's going to pay for abortion. But Jonathan, they won't say that.

Martin: Well I think there are all competing interests here. But as you say Chris, there are polls ...

Matthews: But the government says you can't spend money on abortion.

Martin: The, those polarizing issues, the issue about euthanasia, however credible it might be, the abortion issue, are causing Democrats problems right now because the average American hears those things and they sort of flinch, whether or not they're true or not and that's what slowing this bill down are these kinds of flash point issues out there that Republicans are exploiting.

I guess Chris and the boys didn't have time to point out that the "euthanasia" thing is complete fiction or that the public plan as conceived would be paid for by premiums and therefore abortion wouldn't be "taxpayer" funded at all. The facts clearly don't matter in this. It's about "urban lore" which is something journalists and talk show pundits have no obligation to refute. (And needless to say, the idea that the Democrats have to pander to a minority of anti-choice zealots who never vote for them anyway is accepted as a matter of course. No word on when the Republicans will be required to do the same with the NRA.)

Never once in this entire exchange did anyone mention where this spontaneous outbreak of enthusiasm for keeping people uninsured is coming from, and unless Jonathan Martin doesn't read his own site, he certainly knew better. They disseminated the misinformation, even mentioning that the "debate" is driven by soundbites, then failed to refute any of it and proceeded to speculate wildly that the whole thing is being driven by culture war issues, which they also fail to put into proper perspective and correct the record.

And to top it off they seemed to think this was all just a terrific illustration of the conservatives' commitment and passion for their beliefs. If the shoe were on the other foot, it would be characterized as the liberal fringe once again destroying the credibility of the Democratic Party.

I've noticed the change coming for weeks. The village has clearly turned ---- they want to see health care reform fail. After all, as Mark Halperin said, just like all those people at the protests who think the uninsured and underinsured should just go die, they have health insurance. To hell with a bunch of losers who can't even get the time off work or get out of their sick beds to come and protest with the teabaggers. They obviously just don't have enough "passion."

Set in a supply of cold beer and ice tea, folks. This is going to be a long, hot August.

Update: Up from the comments, by Carter:

I attended the Philly townhall meeting yesterday with a couple friends. The behavior of these RW nuts was incredible; it was like they were tripping on heroin. They were well organized & comprised about a third of the audience. I had the impression they were bused in - they had the signs taped to their chests & the little placards. They booed loudly regularly, starting with when Sebaelius (sic) & Specter were introduced & whenever either answered a question that indicated support for healthcare reform. Their task, as they saw it, was to disrupt the entire event.

They had their instructions and they followed them.

Update II: I see. Cokie's Law is in effect:

Here's Lawrence O'Donnell sitting in for Ed Schultz:

O'Donnell: AB, does it matter if these protests are organized or spontaneous? I mean, isn't it true that it's just the video that ends up on the local news that does the damage here?

AB Stoddard: It doesn't matter at all, and the fact is that the only goal for the Republicans right now is to scare people off this, to depress voter support for this so that when they come back in September it's even harder for the Democratic Party than the chaoes we just just witnessed on capitol Hill this month. All they have to do is just say, "this is going to be terrifying, this is a risky experiment." They don't have to be constructive right now. Remember who turns out in mid-term elections: the angry, ok? African Americans are not going to turn out at the rate they did last year and neither are young people. The people who carried marginal Democrats in in formerly Republican districts .. . It's going to be a vey tough year for Democrats.

There you have it. The future is foretold. Journamalism isn't there to give the facts or tell the truth. It doesn't matter anyway, because "it's out there."

Update III: Jamison Foser catches the same show.