Health Insurance Reform and Name-Calling

teaparty signsOne of the hallmarks of the opposition to health insurance reform over the last few months has been its lack of substance. The absence of fact from their arguments has made it seem that pundits and fans of Fox news and right wing talk radio oppose health care reform regardless of the facts, simply because it would be a victory for Obama and the Democrats. All you hear are lots of made up stories about stuff that isn’t in any of the bills proposed, accompanied by empty name-calling. Obama and the Democrats are socialists, communists (?), nazis (?!?), etc. etc.

Now some who support reform are taking up the same tactics, calling those who oppose it racists. I don’t doubt that race is a factor in some people’s opposition to health insurance reform. And it’s important to keep an eye out for incitement to violence designed to appeal to racial hostility and fear, and to do what we can to put a stop to it. That’s why I support the boycott of Lou Dobbs‘ and Glenn Beck‘s advertisers. (They can spew all the incendiary garbage they want, I guess, but I’m not going to pay for it.)

The thing is, when it comes to the discussion of reforming health care, opponents’ racial fears are completely beside the point. I understand the impulse to call people names. The hope is that by calling people racists, we can demonize the opposition the same way they’ve demonized us. Name-calling seems to work for them, they’re getting lots of attention for their antics, so why not try to grab some of that attention by calling them names, too? There’s definitely something appealing about fighting fire with fire.

But it’s not worth it, because it makes us stupid and gets us nowhere in terms of the actual discussion of health care reform. Either reform opponents’ ideas have merit, or they don’t. And they really, really don’t. That’s because the opposition is not about ideas, it’s an opposition largely manufactured by those who benefit from the system as it is, designed to prevent the dissemination of ideas that could really change the system for the better. It’s about fear, and anger, and winning a fight, regardless of the consequences for people’s health or their economic well-being.

The last thing we want to do is make our argument about fear and anger, too. Those kinds of tactics can win support in the short term, but they only isolate you in the long term. Witness the shrinking Republican party. Besides, the hard-core opponents of reform are a very small group. There’s a much larger group of possibly persuadable opponents, who have heard these hysterical rants and are afraid that there could be something terrible lurking within health insurance reform bills. These people will not be won over by being called racists.

~ by lolarusa on September 21, 2009.

9 Responses to “Health Insurance Reform and Name-Calling”

  1. While I am here and Dawn is part of the Health care issue.
    CIGNA Insurance Refuses Dawn Smith Treatment For Tumour: Statement of support
    She has been trying for 4 years to get help.

  2. Everybody should be able to get health insurance. It is so important to be covered.

  3. These are the same reasons marijuana is still illegal

  4. Actually, I think we should use fear as an agent for change in this case. Fear of bankruptcy. Fear of being denied life-saving care. Fear that your loved ones will be cared for too. Fear of not being able to provide for your family in a time of the greatest need.

    These are very real fears that are realized all over the country. And fear motivates change better than most.

    I’d like to add that it’s important to separate rational fears from irrational fears. Fear that a government health insurance will cause people to pull the plug on granny is irrational. As you say it’s no where in the bill. Fear that your insurance company will pull the plug on you (granny is covered by medicare) is rational. It happens all the time that the insurance companies weigh your life against profits.

    I think fear is a great agent of change in the discussion on climate change. Our way of life will be affected if we continue to postpone minimizing our impact on the earth. I wish people were more afraid of this.

    Fear works.

    I know you were talking about racial fears but I’m afraid I can’t agree with that. I don’t think liberals are calling the freaks racists because they think it’s a fear tactic that will work. I think they are calling them racists because on some level they really believe that. And I certainly believe that some are racists. Maybe you can give some examples of people using this tactically, because I just don’t see it.

    Of course, we’re usually in agreement so you’ll forgive me for stating my opposition.

  5. I think you’re defending emotional motivations, but I was talking about emotional arguments, name-calling in particular. Fear and anger are valid motivations to action. Fear of the dangers inherent to our health care system are a rational response, and they motivate us to want to change it. That’s not what I’m talking about in my post. I’m talking about what tactics we use to try to achieve that change.

    It only takes a small leap of imagination to realize that those who oppose reform are in fact motivated by many of the same fears that we are. It also isn’t hard to imagine that they aren’t going to be convinced that the reforms we advocate are in their interests if our arguments are based on fear and anger toward those who oppose it. They won’t come around by being referred to as racists, let alone freaks.

    Such name-calling can easily turn off even those who would otherwise agree with you. I know that I’m suspicious of the opinions of anyone who calls others names, because they sound like they haven’t thought things out. It sounds like they’re demonizing their opponent because they can’t win a fair argument on the facts alone. The facts in this case are overwhelmingly in favor of reform. Surely, even if you weren’t opposed to name-calling on principal, as I am, you’d have to agree that it’s a risky tactic that should be used only as a last resort.

    What in the world can be accomplished by calling people freaks? Nothing. It’s just fun to call people freaks. It’s fun to be angry and call people names, and if fun is all your looking for, then go ahead. But if you really hope to influence the opinions of people who may or may not agree with you, I think it makes sense to approach the matter differently, like someone who respects all opinions and assumes that others are acting out of a sincere effort to do what’s right. If you don’t believe they are trying to do what’s right, fine. Say so. But if you call them names, you’re not going to get very far. It makes much more sense to be the expert, someone who has looked at the issues objectively and made a rational decision.

  6. You know, in my mind when I say freaks I don’t think of it as name-calling at all. I had to re-read my post to see what you were talking about. I still don’t think it’s name calling. It’s how I feel. People carrying posters that link Hitler and Stalin and Obama are in my mind kind of freakish. And people who are kind of freakish, I think of as freaks. First of all, can it be name-calling when said freak is not there? So far as I know, I’ve never said “Jonolan you are a freak.”

    I think the right takes advantage of people not willing to fight back and call things as they are. You can’t control their behavior with respectful arguments. They care nothing of the sort. They don’t care about respect and they certainly don’t care about factual evidence. As for pushing away people who might agree otherwise with me, I say that the facts speak for themselves. And I don’t think anyone has been pushed away by something I’ve said. I’m not so vain that I think people are going to make huge decisions based on my little opinions.

    I’ve had a lot of practice trying to use reason and evidence in a respectful way with my father. Hell, this past year I did the same with my mother. My opinion is that it was wasted effort. Neither of them displayed the same respect back. Neither of them changed their opinions despite having very comparable opinions that seem to fly in opposition to their other opinions. Having this pointed out to them did not help.

    I respect candor and I respect honesty, and I don’t really care what specific words people use in order to go about saying it. A great example of this is Margaret and Helen which you have linked here on this site. I can’t tell you how refreshing it is to read someone say the things that are staring us in the face, but the main stream guys are too afraid to say it. Too afraid of offending people.

  7. Did I say freaks? I didn’t even notice. I don’t really think of that as name-calling, though. It’s just a sincere expression of how I’m feeling. I respect people who express their feelings candidly. If someone called me a freak, it would probably only increase my respect for them. I wouldn’t like it, I suppose, if they were addressing me directly, but this is just a conversation between you and me. None of those freaks are reading this. Except maybe you, Janolan, you freak.

    Besides, you can’t talk to these people. They have no interest in reason or evidence. I know, because I’ve tried to talk to some of them (my parents), and I was completely unable to make them see the error of their ways.

    Look at Margaret and Helen. You like them, and they call people names all the time. That’s what makes them so refreshing.

    I think the only reason most people don’t use ad-hominem attacks is because they’re afraid. They’re afraid to express what they truly feel, because they don’t want to offend people – as if that were important.

  8. Just trying to paraphrase. Is sarcasm better or worse than name-calling?

  9. I’m really not having the last word. Really. Now that that is off my chest, I think that sarcasm is a lot more subtle. Especially your sarcasm. At least when I’m reading it.

    Isn’t it funny that our argument is playing out in the news as we speak? Rep. Alan Grayson (D) said conservatives who don’t want health care reform want people to die and to die quick, and all of a sudden the GOP is up in arms. Matt Yglesias says that Grayson is just using the same dirty politics as the Republicans. I’m paraphrasing of course. And I read liberals like Dan Savage saying it’s about time liberals start standing up for themselves and that he’s sending Grayson a check. I have to say, I’m leaning towards Dan’s impulse on that one. Which I suppose should give me pause.

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