I was talking with a colleague yesterday, and we were wondering about the source(s) of all of the crazy misinformation swirling about in the health reform “debate.” Not legitimate conservative reform strategies, mind you, but the kinds of things that well respected conservative institutions, like the Heritage Foundation, readily acknowledge aren’t based in reality.
Who exactly is formulating this strategy? What are they hoping to achieve from it? Who are these people? Well, one of them is Betsy McCaughey, whose interview with Jon Stewart I posted previously. But who are the others, and what are their qualifications? Are they saying these things because they believe them to be true, or are they saying them–knowing that they are false–in a deliberate effort to mislead the people?
It might not be the most “rigorous” way of evaluating people’s backgrounds, but my colleague suggested that I look into the educational backgrounds of the various “Myth-Spawners” as I’ve come to call them. First, though, I felt it necessary to divide the group into the “behind the curtain” puppet masters, and the face of the misinformation (i.e., the talking heads). Notably absent are any current politicians (although a couple of former ones are here), because–let’s face it–bending the truth is inherent in the work of any politician.
Without further ado, here are the lists, with names and degrees:
- Betsy McCaughey – BA, Vassar; MA & PhD, Columbia; 4 years as Lt. Gov. of New York
- Bill Kristol – BA & PhD, Harvard; Ivy League Professor with long career in government
- Karl Rove – U of Utah dropout; U of Texas Austin dropout; Long career in politics
- Newt Gingrich – BA, Emory; MA & PhD, Tulane; 21 years in Congress, Former House Speaker
- Sarah Palin – 5 colleges in 6 years leading to BS, U of Idaho; Former Gov. of Alaska, Former sportscaster, Commercial Fishing
Faces of Misinformation
- Rush Limbaugh- Southeast Missouri State University dropout; Radio Personality
- Sean Hannity – NYU dropout; Adelphi University dropout; TV & Radio Personality
- Bill O’Reilly – BA, Marist; MA, Boston U; MPA Harvard; TV & Radio Personality
- Glenn Beck – No college (1 course at Yale); TV Host
- Lou Dobbs – BS, Harvard; TV Host
So, there you have it. Of the 10 most influential people behind the misinformation campaign, note that 4 of them never got a bachelor’s degree. Now, I don’t think that a college education is necessarily a prerequisite for a career, but I do think that the people at the top who are providing the masses with their information, should be well-educated. What’s especially telling is that two of the biggest mouthpieces on conservative radio and television, Limbaugh and Hannity, are college dropouts. It isn’t like they never had the opportunity to get an education, they started school and never finished it. It strikes me as ironic that these people are so “anti-handout” when, if millions of Americans didn’t support them by watching their programs, they would find themselves with few, if any, marketable skills.
So, excluding O’Reilly and Dobbs, the right-wing media actually does appear vulnerable to the labels of both stupid and evil. But, the “puppet masters” are anything but stupid. On that list, we have everyone but Rove and Palin with a graduate degree. These people know the truth about health reform, but they choose to spin it in self-serving ways by telling lies to the public. They could–and probably do–support serious conservative approaches to health reform, but when they oppose the current proposals, they are choosing to do so in the least productive way possible: Not by proposing their own workable alternatives, but by scaring people with nonsense.
Even though the need for health reform is widely accepted by members of both parties (e.g., watch re-runs of the McCain-Obama debates), these masterminds have chosen to place political gain ahead of the well-being of the American people. Rather than suggesting a better way to do things, these Myth-Spawners seem to care only about derailing Democratic proposals. The unfortunate thing is, there is more to this debate than mere political gain. People’s lives literally hang in the balance of the current debate. Opposing health reform–rather than working to find a better alternative–will wind up killing people, but no one wants to inject issues of morality into a “policy” debate.
I think it’s time we treat health reform not only as a policy issue, but also as a moral issue. So, let me be the first to say it: The Myth-Spawners aren’t stupid, they’re just evil.