Nonsense Feedback Loop

August 10, 2009 7:31 p.m.
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From TPM Reader CS

I just saw the clips of Mike Sola and have to say that the Democratic Party has completely lost the message war. Social Security Disability Insurance and Medicaid were created by the Democratic Party for the sole purpose of allowing people with disabilities and retired people to live their lives with independence and dignity–against fierce opposition from the Republican Party. The Democrats have allowed the right [to claim] that the left now wants to kill those people they fought so hard to protect. Can some Democrat please–please call the right out on this and pass some bill, even if only a token, to assure the solvency of SSI and Medicare? Something, anything, please! I am a civil rights attorney who specializes in disability rights and there is no–NO civil right legislation that is Republican.

Let me start by saying that while I share the sentiment, I don’t agree as a matter of fact. While the president’s plan may be in rough waters, I don’t think they’ve lost the message war. Because I think the number of people who actually believe this stuff is really, really small.

But that doesn’t mean it is insignificant.

I’ve spent the last day or so trying to get my head around just where the health care debate is right now because it’s clearly in a place where any sort of logic is incapable of making sense of what’s going on.Let’s start with Mike Sola, who angrily confronted Rep. Dingell (D-MI) at a townhall last week with his son who has cerebral palsy. It’s hard to see Sola in the same light as your garden variety teabag whackjob since clearly raising and caring for a severely handicapped child makes these issues very real for him. But here you’ve got this surreal situation in which the Rushs and the Palins, the Gingrichs and the Armeys, all the professional liars and freak show ringleaders have gotten a lot of people to actually believe that the Obama health plan will mandate euthanizing the old, the handicapped and the infirm. So Sola’s on TV completely going out of his head demanding to be heard before Obama and his minions “put [him and his son] down.” And in his appearance on Fox this morning he’s got this story about how Nancy Pelosi and Steny Hoyer sent “thugs” (presumably ones tasked to deal with the health care debate) to his home late at night to threaten his family for speaking out at the town hall.

I mean, let’s all collectively throw a little cold water on our faces and just realize that this is some really crazy stuff.

The health care debate is now being driven by a perverse nonsense feedback loop in which the Palin/Limbaugh crowd says all sorts of completely insane lies, gets a lot of … how shall we put it, impressionable people totally jacked up over a bunch of complete nonsense, and then Fox brings one of them, Mike Sola, on the air to basically lose his mind on camera.

And then Mike becomes evidence of popular fear, terror, outrage at the president’s plan. Which becomes more grist.

I don’t think the Democrats have lost the message war because I see no evidence that even close to a majority of Americans believe completely preposterous things like this. But journalists have no capacity to deal with this stuff. In any sane civic discourse Sarah Palin’s comments about ‘death panels’ would have permanently written her out of any public debate about anything. But even though very few people actually believe this stuff, the entire debate gets knocked off the rails by this sort of freak show which allows the organized interests who want to prevent reform to gain the upper hand.

Not that I’m necessarily pessimistic. I see some signs that this latest outburst of freakery may be starting to backfire on the GOP. We’ll have to watch and see.

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