Fifteen Eighty Four

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Jonathan Weiler on "Healthcare Propaganda"

Jonathan Weiler

Jonathan Weiler, co-author of Authoritarianism and Polarization in American Politics, writes on the healthcare debate in the Huffington Post.


The New York Times has a front-screen story this morning about Bob Collier, a 62-year old American from rural Georgia who, according to the Times, was moved to speak out at a recent town hall meeting about his worries concerning health care reform.

Here’s what appears on the Times’ front-screen:

Calm, But Moved to be Heard on Healthcare


In the health care discussion, the respectful questioners like Bob Collier — those expressing discomfiting fears and legitimate concerns — may have the most impact.

So, the set-up is clear — Bob Collier is respectable, not like those gun-toting, Nazi name-calling crazies who’ve been showing up to town hall meetings. And he’s got “legitimate concerns” about health care reform.

Sack tells us in the opening grafs that Collier was never interested in politics. Instead, he’s built a “quiet life” for himself in rural Georgia, involving family, church, hunting and fishing.

So, what “legitimate concerns” moved Bob Collier to speak, “to his wife’s astonishment,” at a recent town hall meeting? Well, his wife of thirty six years, Susan, survived breast cancer through “early detection and treatment” and, in Collier’s considered opinion, none of that could happen if health care reform with a public option passed Congress.

Instead, Collier’s wife would be on a “waiting list.” And this calm, considered, thoughtful citizen firmly believes that everything is at stake in the debate about health care reform:

“This is about the future of our country as we know it,” Mr. Collier warned, “and may mean the end of our country as we know it.”

You can argue that part of the Times’ responsibility to its readers is to provide a panoramic view of public opinion on this, as on other issues. But you cannot argue that that’s really what they’re doing here. Instead, the main outcome of this article is to portray Bob Collier as the reasoned everyman, offering good old common sense in a plain old vernacular that egghead Washington politicians have a hard time answering.

It’s almost too tiresome to point out that Collier is entirely uninformed about the issues. But because he did not articulate this utter nonsense in a “high decibel rant,” the Times saw fit to put his version of health care reform on the front page of its newspaper.

Continue reading at The Huffington Post >>

About The Author

Jonathan Weiler

Jonathan Weiler is the co-author of Authoritarianism and Polarization in American Politics (2009). Weiler is currently Director of Undergraduate Studies and Adjunct Assistant Profe...

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