Racism, Propaganda, And Health Care Reform

Wingnut 2

An attendee at today’s teabagger protest on the D.C. Mall

In the never-ending triumph of form over substance, politics over policy, and emotionally charged food fights over actual debate, the MSM occasionally interjects some reality into their coverage of complex issues like health care reform. Example in a moment.

Take the issue du jour— fictional health care insurance for non-documented immigrants, catapulted into our awareness by a former immigration attorney, South Carolina Congressman Joe Wilson.  Wilson interrupted President Obama’s address to a joint session of Congress Wednesday by shouting at him that he was a liar after Obama said there were nothing in the proposals that would extend coverage to said immigrants.  House Bill 3200, the proxy for the other three bills that have made it out of committee thus far, makes that explicit:


Nothing in this subtitle shall allow Federal payments for affordability credits on behalf of individuals who are not lawfully present in the United States.

As far as I can tell, the arguments being made that such language is ineffectual are two-fold.  The first concerns a bill signed into law by President Ronald Reagan requiring that emergency medical care be provided to anyone in need of it.  In other words, if someone shows up at an emergency room gushing blood they don’t have to provide proof of a citizenship before a tourniquet is applied. In an example of gravity defying mental gymnastics, this essential moral fact of life is abstracted and re-packaged into a symbol that is then linked to other symbols to forge another bogus winger narrative:  Providing Good Samaritan care for the undocumented will somehow magically enroll them into a public option insurance policy,  paid for by cutting Medicare for seniors.

The second concerns the rejection of two Rethug amendments that would also require proof of citizenship before enrollment in any government run program.  This amounts to nothing more than grandstanding and playing to their racist base, given the results of a government study cited in an editorial in yesterday’s NY Times titled Health Care and Lies:

A House oversight committee reviewed six state Medicaid programs in 2007 and found that verification rules had cost the federal government an additional $8.3 million. They caught exactly eight illegal immigrants.

For Rethugs obsessed with illegal immigrants, that has to count as a rare example of GOOD and EFFICIENT government spending.

The editorial also says that it is

Time for a reality check. Illegal immigrants are here. They are not eligible for Medicaid, but many still get sick and many get care, often in emergency rooms.”

Which explains that $500 aspirin that shows up on the bills of the already insured. Their insurance companies pay for it without raising a fuss, because they just raise premiums a thousand bucks to insure their own profit margins, including  $25 million CEO salaries.  So we are already paying for the care of the uninsured, but instead of a paying the money to primary care physicians to prevent expensive illnesses, we spend 10x that in emergency room care. Another example of ass-backwards Rethuglican economics, which have never been anything more than a device to increase the wealth of their ruling class masters.

But back to the kind of magical thinking displayed by Wilson and his ilk. In their fevered imaginations, Democratic proposals for health care reform are designed to help invading brown hordes steal their country. Time and time again, immigrants are used as scapegoats for current problems (not unique to this country, for sure). Prior to the current economic collapse, undocumented immigrants were stealing our jobs. Now, thanks to Reganonomics and the deregulation of the financial industry, there are no jobs left to steal. (It was announced this week that California now has fewer jobs then it did in 1999.)

So undocumented immigrants have to be re-purposed, this time by the Medical Mafia as part of its sophisticated and well-funded efforts to derail health care reform. (Naturally, people with the least amount of power to defend themselves make the best scapegoats.)

More interesting, from a sociological perspective, is the neurological fact that the wingers who believe this crap can’t now believe otherwise. For forty years they have been propagandized by experts using modern media to keep them immersed 24/7 in a state of anxiety and fear. Having crossed what Jacques Ellul called the integration or eduction phase of propaganda to the agitation or activation stage, there’s no turning back. Fear and anxiety are supplemented by hate and anger in increasing doses, helping teh crazy to keep its freak on. (Already simmering in Glenn Beck‘s agi-prop pot are attacks on Obama advisers (czars), a press for criminal racketeering charges against ACORN, and coming legislative battles over energy and labor reform.)

Villains are an essential component of this kind of pernicious political propaganda, necessary to satisfy both the narrative and emotional structures of the brain, as well as to justify the feelings of anger, hate, and violence that the propagandist is trying to arouse and redirect.

As Dr. Bryant Welch points out in his book State of Confusion: Political Manipulation and the Assault on the American Mind (often citing Fox News for examples), the continuous repetition of selected words can turn them into symbols with deep neurological roots, capable of exciting repressed emotions stored in the lizard brain.

When combined with other emotionally charged symbols, these can be twisted into a false narrative which is indistinguishable by the brain from the real thing. Cognitive science has shown that hallucinations use the same neural circuitry as does “objective” reality. That’s why a representation of a thing can become the thing itself.

Those of us in the “reality-based” community need a better understanding of how and why the wingers are acting the way they are.


  1. Avatar mary b

    I hate to tell these ignorant rethug wing nutters but, when you apply for any kind of government aid, they make you come up with so freakin much documentation, crazy kinds of repeat documentation, that there is no way in hell an illegal could ever get help from our government. No Freakin Way!

    I have been through the process a few times. They make it so difficult. And I am sure they make it really difficult so you’ll give up and not apply. Being stuck in the Bible Belt is even worse than the North East. You also have to be (where I am, in the south) like 200% below federal poverty level in order to get the very minimum of help. If you make $7./hour with 3 children, you make too much money.

    So there you go. Proof positive (as if you needed it) that this is just the outrage du jour. These people honestly make me want to just slap them upside the head. Maybe knock some kind of sense into them.

    I wonder what kind of good lawyer Joe Wilson was? That’s probably why he doesn’t practice immigration law anymore. It’s obvious he hates immigrants, or maybe just the brown and black toned ones. I’ll bet he has a lot of complaints filed against him at the South Carolina Bar.

  2. Propagandee Propagandee

    Just after I sent my response to Zirgar, I read this on Huffpo:

    Producer: Darwin Film Can’t Find US Distributor Because Of Controversial Evolution


    Jeremy Thomas, the Oscar-winning producer of Creation, said he was astonished that such attitudes exist 150 years after On The Origin of Species was published.

    “That’s what we’re up against. In 2009. It’s amazing,” he said.

    “The film has no distributor in America. It has got a deal everywhere else in the world but in the US, and it’s because of what the film is about. People have been saying this is the best film they’ve seen all year, yet nobody in the US has picked it up.

  3. Propagandee Propagandee

    Welcome Zirgar

    Loved your line:

    when that subject isn’t normally reflective, analytical or contemplative to begin with then the changeover to merest instinct becomes almost total.

    Indeed, a dangerous combination. Interesting that their hero, W, is believed to have an IQ in the low 90s, and seemed to pride himself on his anti-intellectualism and general incuriousity about the world. Another of their heroes, Sarah Palin, shares those very same characteristics- couldn’t tell Katie Couric what magazines or newspapers she read, and never had a passport until as governor she visited some AK National Guard troops stationed in Germany and Kuwait. Not surprising that only some 4% of the scientific community self-identifies as Republicans these days.

    I’ll be writing more on the subject in the weeks ahead. We truly are in scary, uncharted territory. Racism seems to be the accelerant.

  4. Brilliant! And amen! Encoded in much of what we say, in the contexts of our lives are things of which we are not even aware, and unless we study, analyze and try to raise those things to a conscious level where we can appropriate them in a sort of self-reflexive intellectual comprehension we will never be rid of them. Conversely, the right has consciously done the very opposite of this by embedding in its discourse a set of tropes and symbols that are sliding down into the realm of the unconscious, lizard brain, as you put it, to where these tropes and symbols are influential, felt and acted upon, but no real cognitive awarenesss of them exists in the subject any longer, and when that subject isn’t normally reflective, analytical or contemplative to begin with then the changeover to merest instinct becomes almost total. Hence the batshit knee-jerk insane responses from many people on the right to appeals to reason, science and to sanity itself. Scary stuff, and not to be taken lightly. Many of these people are dangerous.

  5. Propagandee Propagandee

    Yo H M Bascom

    I’m afraid that the wingers have fallen through the looking glass:

    “”Alice laughed: “There’s no use trying,” she said; “one can’t believe impossible things.”

    I daresay you haven’t had much practice,” said the Queen. “When I was younger, I always did it for half an hour a day. Why, sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast.”

  6. Here is what Cracks me up! You know if you visit reich wing sites, you will note that they are always calling this “Amerika” whenever someone passes or enforces a law that pisses them off. They compare it to “Papers Please!” Nazi Germany. By all accounts, a Hospital could turn down the option of treating anyone who isn’t carrying proper ID. The reason I say this is, that if Hospitals treat White People on the assumption of American Citizenship, but not NonWhites, there will be huge lawsuits that will go federal, because in effect that would be Racial Profiling. So Hospitals will have to turn all improperly IDed people away in order to Cover their Legal Asses and to avoid even the appearance of Impropriety {i.e., Racial Profiling}. So in effect, the Duh-Winger-nuts are going to once again create a self fullfilling prophecy, because they are too fucking stupid to think their ideas all the way through.
    That is full of rich and creamy irony.

    1. Avatar mary b

      @Seeing Eye Chick,

      Same goes if your walking down the street and a cop wants to talk to you. If you don’t show I.D., they can put you in jail. There is a case going on in Nashville right now, the person was minding their own buisness and didn’t have I.D. They are now sitting in jail on an I.N.S. charge.

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