August 6th, 2009

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#66 – Dick Bernard: The practice of the viral lie.

Thursday, August 6th, 2009

Note comment following this post.

Other posts on this topic: July 24,26,27,29,30,31,August 1,2,5,7,10,15.

In #60, posted July 29th, I commented on an e-list I somehow found myself on.  The list sends what could only be described as hysterical fear-mongering, mostly against Health Care Reform, and offers to send faxes to all 535 members of Congress for members for only $25 a month.  July 29, I reported having received six e-mails from this source.  This morning it is up to 15.  I am keeping them all in my ‘junk’ file.  Each e-mail includes a disclaimer at the end.  The disclaimer is reprinted in full at the end of this post.  The outfit works out of a PO Box in Orange CA.

July 25, in the morning, I received the first more-or-less “normal” salvo in the Health Care Reform lie campaign of 2009.  It was a YouTube segment of an undated, apparently recent, radio talk show.  The audio had, helpfully, a cover gallery of Nazi photos as wallpaper background on the YouTube screen, doubtless to remind the viewer/listener where we were headed if we didn’t stop this Health Care Reform business.  I didn’t know who the talk show host was – it turned out to be former Senator Fred Thompson.  The guest was identified as Betsy McCaughey, purporting to give the truth about the Health Care Reform proposals, especially about euthanasia for old people. 

The e-mail came to me and two others; the sender of the e-mail had been one of four who had received it the previous evening.  It came with a note “shocking if true”.  The subject line said “A warrior for Health Care”.  It was a viral e-mail.

At the time I viewed the YouTube segment it had been watched 36000 times. 

In between July 25 and today, McCaughey’s arguments have been outed as more than dishonest – well, let’s call them what they are: lies.  No less than an editorial in USA Today commented on their dishonesty.  Yes, they are carefully worded lies, but if one intends to deceive, it is a lie nonetheless, and that is what McCaughey, and her ilk, are doing. 

When I last looked, today, 11 days after the initial mailing, the YouTube segment has been viewed 180,000 times – about 10,000 per day.  One of those viewers is me.   I also sent it to my own e-list.  Perhaps some of them watched it as well.

Many (but by no means all) of those forwarding and watching the video will accept it as the truth, even though it is untrue. 

That is how it goes in the land of the viral lie.

So, what to do?

I simply pointed out the dishonest facts about the segment to the person who sent it on to me, actually sending additional documentation about the dishonesty in past days.

Beyond doing that, I don’t know that there is much more that can be done.

You hope, hopefully not in vain, that the recipient of the corrected information will pass it back on up the line as these are people who he/she knows in person, and they have no idea who I am. 

Assuming the worst – that there will be no clarifying going back up the line – (the most likely scenario), the only thing I think we can do is to continue to slog on, doing our best to be truth tellers in a time when truth is an extraordinarily scarce, and even despised, virtue.   

If polls are at all accurate, the vast majority of Americans believe there are very serious problems with our current system of Health Care delivery.  Most people know the system is broke and they its current or potential victims.  The vast majority of Americans are perhaps sufficiently skeptical to not “buy the [dishonest] kool-aid” of the outrageous claims made by the enemies of reform.  But lies are enticing, and can be made believable.

I will keep checking in on that YouTube segment to see how the numbers grow over the coming weeks (occasionally I’ll post updates).  It would be reasonable to expect that it will go over 1,000,000 – by no means will all of those who watch it, believe it.  And even if everyone who watches it believes it, they remain a tiny drop-in-a-bucket of the total U.S. population, and they are the type who’ll be on that other e-list I described at the beginning of this post, and trying to shout out dialogue at town hall forums.  It is important to keep that fact in mind. 

Meanwhile, I know that for anyone who has even the tiniest bit of interest, there are multitudes of sources out there which respond to all of the charges which have been made.  With sophisticated search engines, and a tiny bit of care in what search words one uses, truth-telling information is available, particularly on the internet.

Here’s the disclaimer referred to in the first paragraph of this post: “This mail cannot be considered spam as long as we include contact information and remove instructions.  This message is being sent to you in compliance with the current Federal Legislation for commercial e-mail (H.R. 4176 – SECTION 101 Paragraph (e)(1)(a) AND Bill s. 1618 TITLE III passed by the 105th Congress.”