As we reported previously, the administration is stepping up a program to counter health care misinformation before falsehoods become conventional wisdom. As part of that effort, the White House’s new media director, Macon Phillips, has asked supporters to let him know if they “get…email or see something on the web about health insurance reform that seems fishy.” That way, the White House can explain, publicly, why this or that incorrect allegation is in fact incorrect.
For Sen. John Cornyn, though, this is all straight out of 1984. “I write to express my concern about a new White House program to monitor American citizens’ speech opposing your health care policies,” writes Cornyn (who, cough, supported President Bush’s warrantless wiretapping program) in a letter to President Obama.
By requesting that citizens send “fishy” emails to the White House, it is inevitable that the names, email addresses, IP addresses, and private speech of U.S. citizens will be reported to the White House. You should not be surprised that these actions taken by your White House raise the specter of a data collection program. As Congress debates health care reform and other critical policy matters, citizen engagement must not be chilled by fear of government monitoring the exercise of free speech rights.
You can read the letter here. Presumably, the White House is interested in the misinformation itself, and not the names and email addresses of the people propagating it. But, of course, in politics, clumsy phrasing can cause a major head ache, and I smell a new conservative meme brewing.