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Joe Klein's Fatuous Fantasy

Michael Collins

Also published here and here.

Time
Magazine's Joe Klein is having an allergic reaction to free speech and
public debate. The title of his latest column says it all:   The Left's Idiocy on Health Reform. It's an ex cathedra pronouncement from a made man at one of the nation's oldest media properties.

What's got Joe so worked up?

Two
things. He's upset at the lack of respect that internet based writers
show for the mainstream media and Washington insiders. He's also beside
himself that people are actually finding fault with the health care
reform bill which many bloggers have the nerve to describe as just
another government bailout for big business.

In the snarkier precincts of the left-wing blogosphere, mainstream journalists like me are often called villagers. Joe Klein, Dec. 30

That's some pretty nasty name calling isn't it. "Hey villager!" Accusing an entire class of people of idiocy pales by comparison.  If I've ever read the term villager,
I didn't pay enough attention to remember it.   But let's take Joe's
word that it's out there in all its rhetorical glory. According to
Klein, leftist bloggers see villagers as "regurgitating spin spoon-fed
by our sources or conjuring a witless conventional wisdom that has
nothing to do with reality as it is lived outside the village." Now
there's some idiocy – from Joe's keyboard to our screens.

What Joe is doing at the start is an old trick called setting up a straw man.
You create the perceived problem on your own but label it as your
opponent's position.   You tailor it for your purposes with a little
accuracy added for effect. Then you blast the straw man to smithereens
in a self righteous rejoinder. Those who fabricate a straw man are
essentially talking to themselves. The straw man fallacy is one of the
first taught in logic classes because it is so easy to spot and so far
afield from any form of serious dialog.

It's a good thing Joe
did this. Had he paid serious attention, he would have noted that over
and over, on blogs and web sites of many persuasions, citizens refer to
Joe's kind of mainstream journalism as … the corporate media. It's a dispassionate descriptor that invokes nearly immediate understanding.

Corporations
almost never tolerate public criticisms or critiques of the corporate
products and services from their employees. Corporate employees are
aware of this rule. You go along or you find someone else to pay your
salary. There are eight major corporations
that "dominate" the United States news media. The obvious conclusion is
that opinion journalists and reporters, to a lesser degree, have
certain clear limits in their expression of opinions and reporting.

Given the problems with monopolistic behavior, predatory business practices, rigging regulations through bought and sold members of Congress, and the ultimate goal, the transfer of wealth from just about everybody to the financial elite
running the major corporations, the corporate injunction against going
after the company results in a corporate media that often fails to get
to the bottom of our current troubles. It's not a secret or a veiled
conspiracy . It's just the way parent corporations treat their
subsidiaries and employees. But Joe doesn't want to go there.

Joe
takes down the straw man of his own creation by accusing the leftists
of living in a "claustrophobic hamlet," emulating Fox News, and a few
other asides. However, once you know the straw man trick, it's hard to
take the author's rebuttal seriously.

Actually, both the left and right opponents of health care reform are drinking from the same watercooler. Joe Klein, Dec. 30

After
creating an interior dialog that he says represents a reality that he
calls idiocy, Joe gets around to talking about health reform. He feels
the need to explalin why there is so much opposition by citizens, his
leftists.  Klein offers this.

"The dyspepsia of the left
blogosphere is less easily explained, though. It has its roots in an
issue the left got right and almost everyone else got wrong: the war in
Iraq."

This statement is factually incorrect. It was not only
the left that got Iraq right, it was the left, the right (the
paleocons, Ron Paul and his  supporters), a majority of Democrats, and a majority of Republicans. Some of those good citizens were swayed by the scare tactics of a president we now know lied repeatedly
about weapons of mass destruction and much more. This occurred with the
support of Klein's mainstream media which failed to ask the tough
questions we'd like from journalists.

Klein's argument about
Iraq and the left is simply wrong. The public has serious problems
trust those in power that create pervasive doubts about this
legislation.

One key element in the distrust of the corporate
media and the perpetual insiders who run our capitol concerns the Wall
Street bailouts, a topic Klein avoids entirely. The intital bailout
of 2008 was defeated after the most intense public outcry on any piece
of legislation in memory. Wall Street mobilized quickly and with the
help of both 2008 presidential candidates
got the first of many bailouts. When administrations changed, the new
president continued the tradition and opened up the full credit of the
United States to the failed Wall Street enterprises to the tune of $23.7 trillion.

In the mean time, the people got virtually nothing. Facing record foreclosures, soaring unemployment (17% real unemployment, see "U-6"),
and a constant fear of losing the ability to care for their families,
health coverage included, many citizens have noticed a consistent
pattern. We are always the last in line and there's nothing but scraps
left over when it is our turn to use our own contributions to the
Treasury to help the nation as a whole.

The bipartisan coalition
in Washington, DC, representing the vested interests of the very
wealthiest individuals and firms consistently neglects citizens while
it rewards the perpetrators of our current economic collapse. That's
why the people have little trust those who claim to represent them. The
distrust is not limited to just "leftists." It is pervasive.

Klein
brushes aside the real winners in health care reform, the nation's
health insurance companies. The bill bails out an industry that adds no
value to health care. However, the industry does take value from the
health care consumer with a 12% to 30% overhead on the direct cost of insurance. In addition, companies extract huge added fees by their constant meddling
with health care providers; something Medicare manages to avoid as
evidenced by its low overhead. The "reform"  proposal gives the
insurance companies new customers by the millions, citizens will be
forced to buy  insurance with only the promise of cost containing
regulations.

Klein avoids the key question -- why are health
insurance companies placed at the center of citizen health care? He
also avoids the consistent support of citizens, as high as 65%,
for a program with the federal government as the payer of claims. It's
called "single payer," "Medicare for all," etc. and has strong public
support despite hardly any coverage by the mainstream media.

"populist exaggeration — the idea that Washington is controlled by crooks and sellouts" Joe Klein, Dec. 30

Klein's
essay isn't about health care reform. It's an attack on those in the
Democratic Party and others who dare to speak out against what they
perceive as the poor performance and neglect of the majority by the
president and Congress.

In his closing, Klein says "those of the
left blogosphere consider themselves the Democratic base" then quickly
points out that the base is really "African Americans, union members,
Jews, women and Latinos."  Klein's transparent and somewhat ugly
divide-and-conquer ploy ignores the important fact that all of those
groups are heavily represented on the same "blogosphere" that is
providing such troubling criticism of an overly sensitive national
government that promises much but delivers just about nothing.

The
source of increasing criticism is not an irrational response to the
alleged good our leaders offer us. It's the reality of getting nothing
while those who created the problems reap untold rewards … every single
day without any end in sight.

END

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Comments

No Avatar
Pen on January 1, 2010 - 16:58

Collins SCORES!

No Avatar
luaptifer on January 1, 2010 - 22:42

One key element in the distrust of the corporate media and the perpetual insiders who run our capitol concerns the Wall Street bailouts, a topic Klein avoids entirely.

I just needed to make that point as one of the assumptions implicit in your decision to take up this topic, I'm certain. At least it's one of the answers to the questions begged in your discussion (nicely done, btw!). 

Happy New Year!

Oh and by the way, did you hear that there's evidence for a heart inside of Rush Limbaugh?  Wonders really do never cease.

 

 

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"I hope we shall crush in its birth the aristocracy of our moneyed corporations which dare already to challenge our government in a trial of strength, and bid defiance to the laws of our country." - Thomas Jefferson