Monday, February 15, 2010

Worlds Meet

Wag The Healthcare Dog

“You could talk a dog off a meat truck.” The words were meant as a compliment in the banter between spin master Conrad Brean and Hollywood producer Stanley Motss in the movie, Wag the Dog. Unfortunately, the words show the strength of propaganda in distracting people from the actual facts and resemble the ways the opposition speaks about healthcare reform. The political satire that was aimed at the Clinton Administration could equally hit a target with terms we have heard recently that concern the Obama Administration’s attempts at health care reform. The words of propaganda have painted a picture that healthcare reform is bad because we would have government control of the services, and the president ought to compromise. Of course, the idea that reforms will cause increased taxes is enough to scare many in the public.

However, maybe the public is being treated as though they were in, Wag the Dog. In the movie, Brean needed a threat to distract the public from the president’s sex scandal so he decided to produce a fictional war with Albania, claiming that some of their terrorists were sneaking a nuclear weapon into America. In the real world, to avoid a scandal by displaying the profits in the health insurance firms, the opposition to reform points at a threat that the government will control health care services. The misuse of propaganda in the movie stopped the public from questioning how the Albanians could acquire, fit and build a nuclear weapon. In the real world, the propaganda has the public afraid to ask how control occurs when the government would have simply been aiding those unable to pay for their coverage.

Propaganda distraction stops people from seeing the history of an event. In Wag the Dog, the promotion of the song about a lost shoe riled up crowds to storm into the face of cameras to support the poor lost American detained in Albania. That activity allowed them to forget that the president had not been honest with the people. That activity allowed them to forget that the president was facing an election. In today’s world, the opposition’s propaganda incensed Tea Party activity and spurred the action to storm the debates about the reform. Much shouting has made it possible to forget the many compromises the president has already made. The concept of universal care changed to that of using a public option. But that changed into using a partial public option, which shifted to no public option. Then the idea of having Medicare and Medicaid to pick up some people emerged. But that was also changed because votes were missing. At each step, the president has been forced to back away. Yet we keep seeing the images of crowds demanding the president should compromise.

Propaganda hides and distorts the real crime. In Brean’s case in Wag the Dog, he created a super hero of a war vet with the name Schumann to link the soldier with the lost shoe concept of the war effort against Albania. The neat package of the image hid the real facts that Schumann was a sex offender and the president also had to answer for a sex crime. With the reform issue in the real world, we only hear about the dangers of increased taxes that would happen with reform. Little mention is made about the 20 to 30 percent jump in insurance premiums that health firms charge. Little mention is made that a patient’s total costs include both taxes and healthcare premiums. Increasing taxes to lower premiums could lower the total cost for the person. But that would interfere with the dog’s tail.

Dare we ask how we can avoid the sounds of the propaganda machine? The shouts from the dog kept a group in political power, while the screams of tea goers could keep the average person enslaved to the insurance industry. But those results only came when the producer’s tale wagged. That result could also occur when the Senate’s 41 votes controls the majority or acts like a tail to wag the national dog. The propaganda machine is powerful, but maybe we should continue the grassroots activity that aided the President. If that grassroots activity showed the flaws in the propaganda, then it could be the tail to wag the tea party machinery.

Wag the Dog image courtesy of
Barack Obama image courtesy of

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