Astroturf swiftboaters on death panels

There is a lot of talk about “Republican Astroturfers” (Robert Reich) swiftboating the health care debate. Palin’s “death panels” is one of the topics. In all of these there is a distortion and even downright dishonesty.

The Swiftboat Veterans were a group of peers of a candidate who did not think he was fit to lead. They specified their reasons. Some were admitted and none were shown to be off base. Yet the opposed candidate’s friends use swiftboating as a pejorative with the assumption that the reasons and charges of the peer veterans were false and slanderous. It is easy to see that it is those slandering the swiftboat veterans are the ones that should be held in contempt but that doesn’t get through the muck.

Astroturfing is a term applied to what the administration and its friends are doing in the health care debate. That is a technique of advertising, or even hiring, people to show up at citizen’s meetings to present a point of view. Astroturf is fake grass and the idea is that the people that show up at town hall meetings are not the ‘grass roots’ expressing their political views but rather paid partisans with no real stake in the issue. Again, those using the “astroturfing” label are clearly wrong but that also doesn’t seem to get past the muck that they are in.

An example of a label that does seem to penetrate the muck is Palin’s “death panel” label. She highlighted a fundamental truth in government based health care as an only option. When you remove health decisions from the individual, you get into the ugly business of making decisions about life and death for others. An individual can decide that some health care option is more important to him than, say, a new house. He can put out a plea for others to help him as well. If the government undertakes responsibility for all health care, though, it will have to make that decision about how far to go in medical treatments for what circumstances. Those decisions are life and death decisions and will have to be made by some form of committee or panel. That is the fundamental truth behind Palin’s “death panel” that is as clear as sharp steel. The efforts to blunt that edge and the sharp contrast with the muck are telling in themselves. All the techniques are there for anyone to observe and they say reams about the nature of the debate.

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