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"[a|the][strong|robust|triggered]? public [health insurance]? [option|plan]" and the value of fuzzy semantics

The various media outlets attempting to fact check Obama's campaign position on [a|the][strong|robust|triggered]? public [health insurance]? [option|plan] are missing one very essential point:

There are no facts to check! Only blurry and ever shifting semantics -- as single payer advocates pointed out at the time, vociferously, and were excoriated by access bloggers for so doing, when they weren't treated as unpersons. I mean, seriously: What kind of public policy can survive being marketed as having 130 million enrollees, end up with 10 million, and still have the same name? One that's got fuzzy edges? Or one that's all fuzz?

I mean, look at the examples Think ProgressMR SUBLIMINAL Haw cites. Let me annotate them slightly:

[a|the][strong|robust|triggered]? new public [health insurance]? [option|plan]

... needs to be [a|the][strong|robust|triggered]? public [health insurance]? [option|plan] ...

... “any plan” he signs “must include… [a|the][strong|robust|triggered]? public [health insurance]? [option|plan].” ...

... a [a|the][strong|robust|triggered]? public [health insurance]? [option|plan] would be ...

... "I absolutely do not believe that [a|the][strong|robust|triggered]? it public [health insurance]? [option|plan]'s dead," ...

Of course, single payer advocates have been crystal clear on the policy they advocate, and for that reason, can show that it works through evidence and reasoning. From their perspective, clarity is a feature: For one thing, it's unethical to make health decisions for patients without their informed consent. The public option folks, by contrast, are and have been more than happy to do so.

What's a feature to honest single payer advocates is a bug in Versailles. Let's imagine for a moment that you were a thoroughly corrupt and ruthless pol whose permanent constituency was all the Bigs -- Big Banks, Big Pharma, Big Health Insurance -- and you'd sold your soul to them before the election* for all the usual reasons. And let's also imagine that you'd successfully, and expensively, marketed yourself to the wing of your party that conceived of itself, and not entirely without justification, as being idealistic, yet conscious of the tension between idealism and pragmatism. How would you handle the contradiction between selling yourself as a change agent, when you'd already sold yourself to the Bigs? Well, first you'd temporize. You'd kick the can down the road as far as you could. After all, maybe the contradiction will resolve itself! And how would you so that? Why, bullshit, of course! That is, "fuzzy semantics." Start out with a reasonable sounding plan, tell your people to tell anyone who asks to "check the website," and sell, sell, sell the idealism so people will think you'll make your plan better (and not worse). At the same time, have your access bloggers set people up for the fall by giving their (influential) readership an intensive course on how the game of Inside Baseball is played, so they can start understanding the virtues of pragmatism.

Lehman having coincidentally and helpfully collapsed, win the election.Have a health care lobbyist write the baseline bill you promised the Bigs. Over the course of the next year, gradually degrade your plan to the baseline, while the access bloggers helpfully justify each and every degradation based on the lessons of pragmatism you so carefully taught them. If the final bill turns into a Christmas tree as you buy off the necesssary Senators, well and good.

Mission accomplished! Bigs happy. Liberals whipped. Progressives whipped. "Progressives" whipped. And nobody fucked who wasn't already under the bus or going there. And a drop in the polls -- heck, a split in the party -- is a small price to pay, since elective office is really only an unpaid internship anyhow, at least for a smart guy who knows how to turn opportunity into advantage.


NOTE * Perhaps well before the election, but by mid-2008 at the very latest; that is, when the access bloggers got their marching orders to give single payer advocates no oxygen. (Sorry, I didn't mean to say "marching orders"; I meant to say "opportunities to participate in the historic yadda yadda yadda...")

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DCblogger's picture
Submitted by DCblogger on

not so long ago I would have said that was harsh, not now.

S Brennan's picture
Submitted by S Brennan on

That's a pretty good wrap-up.

I am going to point out again, the real villains in this piece are the A-List bloggers.

For the first time in my memory, we had a tool for bringing a good candidate forward, but the A-List bloggers nullified that by going out and shamelessly whoring themselves.

That pretty blue dress they got for getting down on their collective knees and using their mouths to please our dear leader has a pretty big stain on it...the blood of millions who will die & suffer because the A-List bloggers put their personal interests ahead of all other considerations?

BDBlue's picture
Submitted by BDBlue on

Relatively few people read blogs, even the A-list ones. The real problem is the media generally (which includes blogs, but more importantly includes television, radio and newspapers). Obama didn't win because the blogs liked him, he won because the media, including the debate moderators favored him, and so did Democratic leadership and Wall Street donors. The blogs played a part, but, IMO, it was a relatively minor one (which is reflected in what they've gotten from him since he's become President, not a lot).

madamab's picture
Submitted by madamab on

but please keep in mind that many of these bloggers have made it to TeeVee and the well-read paper media. Arianna Huffington, Kos and Ezra Klein are just the ones I can think of off the top of my head.

So, I do think they had quite a bit of influence.

sisterkenney's picture
Submitted by sisterkenney on

That site was absolutely toxic to SPers..the characterizations bandied about there, eg "Naderites, Truthers, Naive, Ineffective, Stupid, Quakers, Unrealistic, Complainers, Whiners, Soft-spoken intellectual Brainiacs (my fav)", makes the MSM media look positively supportive.

madamab's picture
Submitted by madamab on

Sounds like SP supporters went through the same thing Hillary supporters did. What a horrible couple of years it's been!

madamab's picture
Submitted by madamab on

but I'll bet you get crickets from Jane.

It's her loss.

I just feel lucky to have found Corrente and to be able to read all of you on the topic of universal health care/single-payer/Medicare for All. It is both educational and inspiring.

I had to laugh that one person in the FDL comments thought that Kos was "too winky wonky." WOW. To me, the Great Orange Satan is where wonkiness goes to die. (The word fogs, false equivalence, Obama worship and CDS do tend to create an atmosphere where wonkiness cannot survive.)

letsgetitdone's picture
Submitted by letsgetitdone on

I blogged SP at FDL seminal for months. I've been invited off, but never been thrown off, and I have given the PO people a continuing hard time. There's a truce presently because they all want to kill the Senate bill, but I expect the conflict will start up again, if the fig leaf PO that will cover 4 million folks is resurrected in the conference committee, because I'll certainly call BS on that one.

Submitted by lambert on

1. The environment is toxic, and

2. I've blogged there for months

can both be true, eh? I blogged at The Obama 527 Formerly Known As Daily Kos for months, and it was as toxic as anything I've ever encountered.

letsgetitdone's picture
Submitted by letsgetitdone on

But what I'm saying is that I haven't been treated half as badly at FiredogLake as I've been at some Knowledge Management list servs I've been active on in the past. Most criticisms I easily handled. I did get a few zingers from, Jane, but when I went I went back at her, she always seemed to withdraw. Finally we had some real exchanges around some of my diaries. I got at least as well supported by my friends as she was by her many, many admirers, and while I thought the exchanges were a tad personal and certainly vigorous, they were nothing I couldn't easily handle.

Perhaps I'm not sensitive enough to negative treatment, and so didn't realize how poisonous the atmosphere was. I guess, also, that you were actually banned rather than invited off, as was sisterkenney, and perhaps some other folks here. Wonder why the FDL haven't gone and gotten me? Maybe it's because I'm a nobody.

Submitted by lambert on

... for toxicity is KM*, that may explain our differing interpretations.

No, I wasn't invited to leave, I was banned. Posting one minute, comments removed and no access the next. And if you go back to that thread, you'll see that I threw her a total softball and, to mix metaphors, an olive branch. So IMNSHO the whole thing just part of a checklist for project rollout. I didn't really view it as a personal loss, since I'm not really a community member. That may be the difference between the cases -- Jane might have had compunctions about heaving you over the side because of internal networking considerations at FDL.

UPDATE * To be clear, I enjoy your posts, and don't know how you can survive.

sisterkenney's picture
Submitted by sisterkenney on

I'm just astonished at this about-face on the Hamster's part. Welcoming tea-baggers is fine, but banning people from posting when they are defending the PO? ( I was banned after I tried to post in response to her attack on me, that, at my age, I require a certain amount of respect and civility in any discourse. ) I don't mind disagreement, that's after all how my head gets its exercise, but one does one's cause no good when the background noise is a loud hum of approval and the top notes are all ferocious knee-jerk attacks. But, then, you get the conversation you require, and no other, hmm?

BTW, I, too, enjoy your posts at FDL immensely, lets. And, Selise, I consider your efforts to "civilise" the site honorable. (but don't hold your breath)

Valhalla's picture
Submitted by Valhalla on

but I think Jane withdrawing had more to do with the fact that you're fairly well-regarded at FDL in general and that you were well-supported by others. I had that thought back Jane was kicking SP folks off FDL just reading through the comments between you and her and she and some of the other commenters to whom she was nastier and more peremptory.

That's how bullies operate; they push until they come up against the limits of their "power." Lambert she could throw off because he wasn't a regular poster/commenter over there and didn't have personal support circles.

selise's picture
Submitted by selise on

i know i have a thin skin, but i don't think that's the only reason i've felt so strongly about the personal attacks. first, because i have a serious amount of time and personal investment in the fdl community (having put in hundreds and hundreds of off line hours volunteering and having made friends among people i first met online at fdl, but later met offline). second, because i'm getting worn down (it's been going on a lot longer than you've been blogging at fdl, lets). third, because this is the first time i've seen a long term attempt at fdl to get rid of a group of people (via bullying, banning, etc) over an honest difference of opinion with absolutely no prior attempt to persuade, explain or in any way make the case. worse, it's bringing out the inner bully in others and changing the way people interact (from one of mutual support and respect to one of attacks, egging on attacks and tolerating or even encouraging lies and misinformation).

i keep hoping it's only temporary, but the longer it continues the harder it is to keep that hope.

selise's picture
Submitted by selise on

because I'll certainly call BS on that one.

i'm counting on that, lets.

gqmartinez's picture
Submitted by gqmartinez on

Even non-blogging Obama supporters were spewing vitriol with reckless abandon. The hateful, cheating mentality permeated everywhere. So much so that I had to quit many Democratic organizations I was a member and recently an office holder for. Even today, when criticizing Obama, I'm asked if I'm "still bitter" about the election...from people who don't even know Kos.

I don't give a-listers a large amount of credit for the outcome, but their behavior was replicated everywhere. I also have a hard time believing that the Clintons as racists would have been a widespread smear if the proggers weren't some of the first to start pushing their Obama campaign directives on that. It was the same way the right-wing propagated their smears: have some little known, little read crazies say something outlandish and let the media "report" a controversy. The media needs smut peddlers in order to further peddle smut. And on that, I wouldn't underestimate the proggers. They served a very useful smut peddling role.

BDBlue's picture
Submitted by BDBlue on

so much as I see the A-list as acting just like everyone else. IMO, it was a deliberate tactic of the Obama campaign (the "Obama conversion" tactic was destined to make it a personality-based campaign and those are always the nastiest, IMO) that trickled down to a lot - but not all - of his supporters. And we still don't know how many of the on-line swarms in comments were initiated - at least in the early stages of the campaign - by astroturfers.

Valhalla's picture
Submitted by Valhalla on

or maybe I mean symbiotic; but many of the memes I heard first on the blogs I heard or read later from the "news" channels and RL folks around me. Once picked up in general, the most effectively toxic memes were then distilled into propaganda banners and endlessly reinforced, with bullying and shouting. I have never seen anything quite like it, not even during the Reagan-love years. The progblogs served as sort of a large market-testing area.

Anyway, even if their influence was truly negligible, there's still no excuse whatsoever for the propagation of lies, truthiness, misogyny and bullying. If this is how access blogger (wannabees) act when they're only one small cog in a giant brownshirting operation, how would they act if their influence was actually significant?

BDBlue's picture
Submitted by BDBlue on

I wasn't trying to absolve anyone. Bad conduct is still bad conduct. And certainly if you were abused on a blog (and many of us were), it's not a small thing. I just wanted to make clear that it was all part of a larger picture. In that regard, symbiotic is a good word to describe it.

Submitted by lambert on

... did exactly what blogs do, and did 2003-2006: Devise and propagate talking points. Kos is about the size of a small cable station, and if each Kos reader propagates the same talking point to a circle of 10 people, and they propagate... It adds up quickly. In addition, I would argue that Versailles, especially staffers, are disproportionately blog readers, so there's a mass readership, and an influential readership as well. To focus only on blog readership counts is to ignore the structural function. (Think of them as TNR, except instead of being supported by a rich donor, they're supported, mostly, by digital sharecroppers.)

As for Kos being Astroturfed, and with Kos's knowledge, I believe it, though proof will have to come from the campaign memoirs.

scoutt's picture
Submitted by scoutt on

Everything he says has a soft gel over it. No crisp lines. No high contrast. This way he can slide around to whatever pose he chooses.
Jeezus I made the mistake of going over to the cheesetoes site and there's a rec'd diary about Obama's transformational position on disarmament. "If he does nothing else, his intentions on disarmament make him the most moral president we've ever had".
I swear, the worship and excuse making is like a religion. I surrender all standards and judgement because I know he is a good man.
That reminds me - I had an old college friend who is a pretty intense Christian. In 2004, we got into a discussion of the election. In spite of everything Bush did, she was going to vote for him because he had good intentions (led by God) so the things he did were for the best.
The people that still worship and surrender to Obama leave me just as speechless.

madamab's picture
Submitted by madamab on

I never got that gene, or whatever it is, that makes people ignore what they see in favor of what they believe.

It sometimes makes me feel the Obama/Bush/Palin worshipers are the same people, even though I know it's not true. They're just similar in tone.

Submitted by Anne on

been vaccinated, or perhaps I am missing a gene mutation that causes people to lose vital and critical thinking skills, but I have never, ever been taken in by Obama. Ever.

I don't know - maybe life is easier to live when one can surrender the ability to think, but I seem to be incapable of channeling my inner ignorance, so am resigned to having to deal with reality.

A blessing and a curse, for sure.