Welcome Back to Denialism Blog

Despite rumors to the contrary, I am not dead. Instead I've been working hard as a new surgical intern and sadly not finding the time to write for the denialism blog. However, now more than ever, it seems that we need to talk about the problem of denialism.

Two major new issues for denialism have cropped up, and both are major new forms of political denialism. The first, I'll broadly describe as Obama-denialism. Obama is a muslim, Obama was not born in the US, there is a giant conspiracy involving the Hawaii Secretary of State, the Democratic Party and muslims worldwide to take over the US government with a madrassa-trained presidential double agent etc. These are of course nonsense. FighttheSmears a website created by Obama supporters has most of the more ridiculous rumors debunked, including the absurd birth certificate/birther conspiracy theory. appropriately mocking LA Times blog entry. Whatever. As readers of denialism blog, it should have been clear from the get-go that this is just the usual conspiracist-drivel propagated by people who are upset at having a black president, and, just like the truthers, holocaust deniers, AIDS denialists, or any other group driven by racism, paranoia or just plain stupidity they won't be satisfied by any evidence that contradicts their illogical conclusions. The format of the arguments is prima-facie absurd. The conspiracies are non-parsimonious, and lead immediately to more questions that just don't make any sense. Despite this, bigots and crackpots like Fox News and Lou Dobbs "cover the controversy" to keep it stirred up. We must address it for what it is, closet racism and sour grapes over losing an election.

The second major issue, even more distressing to me now that I'm fully immersed in our health-care system, is that of universal health care denialism. Most upsetting to me was pronouncements like that of Sarah Palin that health care reform will lead to "death panels". This is where the political opponents of progressive governance have crossed the line from the usual political ignorance and lies to truly despicable tactics designed to sink health care reform at any cost. The reality of the language originally in the bill was that it was designed to encourage physicians to have end-of-life discussions with their patients by paying them for such consultations. This is an area in which our health system currently fails miserably to the detriment of our patients. We truly need to have all patients interacting with our health system to have frank discussions about their wishes at the end of their lives, to have living wills, and make their desires for their level of intervention clear before they end up in the ICU, on a ventilator, and having invasive treatments performed ad nauseum that they may or may not approve of if they were able to communicate their wishes. But no, the political opponents of health care reform have instigated a scorched-earth policy, and even something as noncontroversial as asking people what they want their physicians to do when they're sick has been thrown under the bus by the denialists. Other lies? Universal health care reform will turn us into communist Russia! A belief inconsistent with the fact that every other country in the industrialized world has survived the conversion to universal systems without requiring Stalinist dictatorships to enforce the dastardly public option. These arguments transcend mere denialism and can only be described as ideological insanity.

There is a legitimate debate to be had over health care, but we clearly are not having it. One legitimate question is how do we pay for it? I'm confident that reform will pay for itself and it is more expensive not to have universal access. As we discussed in our health care series, every other country in the world has accomplished this feat, provide equivalent or measurably better care in terms of access, health of populations, and life expectancy. Despite their universal coverage they all spend less than half as much per capita than the US on health coverage. Having people access the system in our ERs, lacking preventative care, and failing to provide the universal inexpensive interventions costs more than just providing care to people. After all, we already pay for the uninsured, hospitals and doctors are ethically obligated to provide care for everyone who walks in the door, insured or not. The costs of covering the uninsured are already built into our excess costs. Worse, having a administrative system designed to deny care is costly and unnecessary. The "privatization" or "subcontracting' of medicare administration under Bush increased the cost of healthcare administration by 30% in three years despite the number of patients covered increasing by only about 4%. Paying for things in a planned, thoughtful and systematic way is cheaper than allowing problems to stew and boil over. I've already had way too many patients showing up in the ER with disastrous and expensive health problems requiring a huge expenditure of resources that if they had been addressed early would have cost next to nothing. And yes, they always tell me they didn't get it addressed before it was critical because they lacked insurance. This is stupid and not the kind of care I want to be providing. Another legitimate question is will universality damage our technological and research prowess? Again I believe the answer is no. The US has excellent technology and research because we pay for it through government agencies like the NIH. The technology won't go away because that has more to do with the culture of our healthcare system than the fact that we have oodles of money to pay for it (because we don't really). It's also not a fact that our technology necessarily makes our care better. CT scans, and MRIs are not as important to provision of health care as having ready access to services and adequate access to primary care physicians and preventative care. Another good question, is a public option necessary? Again I believe not. While I believe countries that provide a public option like Australia are ones on which we may model our system, other countries such as the Netherlands or Germany have developed excellent healthcare systems through insurers by tightly regulating them and not letting them screw their citizens. Here's a great question, would anyone under these systems choose the US one? As evinced by the commentary from our health system, the critics of universal healthcare are speaking from ignorance when they claim citizens of other countries are suffering in their systems. The data we presented, and reinforced by commentary from all over the world, was that these systems have problems, but no one in their right mind would trade them for the US system.

Let's get back to having a public debate that is not overwhelmed by the ideological fanatics and deniers and instead focus on the very real and critical problems that this president was elected to address. The denialists and their scorched earth tactics have done a great deal of harm to our debate on reform. Now more than ever, we need to talk about the difference between denialism and debate.

More like this

Right Wing Watch is a great site to follow to track the latest conspiratorial craziness coming from the right. It seems every single day there is some new bizarre claim about homosexuals trying to enslave America and institute sharia law (that makes sense right?), or how Obama is a muslim, yada…
Via Brayton I caught this disturbing video of the new right-wing fringe movement: Now, if you guys have been following along for the last few years of denialism blog, you know you should immediately be suspicious of people alleging conspiracy theories. This one is a doozy. The administration as…
We've written quite a bit about single payer health care systems as well as other models that are a mixture of public and private spending. We've also analyzed some of the sources of excess cost of US healthcare to other countries. What is uniformly true about universal health care systems is…
The mayor of Fort Mill, South Carolina forwarded one of those stupid chain emails that throws around absurd accusations — in this case, the Bible predicted that the anti-christ would be a Muslim in his 40s, and that Barack Obama was therefore the anti-christ. There is so much wrong there; Obama is…

Now that the goons are actually waging riots against universal healthcare, and forging letterheads to fake dissent over the Waxman-Markey climate bill, there can be no doubt that they can't even be bothered now to give the appearance of wanting reasoned debate.

The question is, how should we respond? Can we continue to try to have a 'reasoned debate'? Should we? If not, then what do we do?

-- bi

i've watched that video several dozen times already and i come away every time wondering if wingnuts actually know how fucking insane they sound? and how wingnuts can justify their other-planetary world view on this planet without sounding like they've been drinking some seriously purple kool-aide?

Barney Frank understands denialism. When he said trying to have a discussion with her would be like arguing with the dining room table, he hit the nail on the head. There is no arguing with insanity, it is insane to argue with the insane. These people should be ignored and if engaged, ridiculed. Obama won the election to reform health care. They lost. A stand must be taken and we must reject these peons and their absurd hyperbole.

"As readers of denialism blog, it should have been clear from the get-go that this is just the usual conspiracist-drivel propagated by people who are upset at having a black president, and, just like the truthers, holocaust deniers, AIDS denialists, or any other group driven by racism, paranoia or just plain stupidity they won't be satisfied by any evidence that contradicts their illogical conclusions."

He was asked to document his eligibility, and he refused. A legit candidate doesn't act that way. He needs to explain the unprecedented lockdown on all his citizenship records.

No need for namecalling. Questions like "How did he afford Harvard?" or "Is dual-citizenship the same as natural-born?" deserve an answer.

He was asked to document his eligibility, and he refused. A legit candidate doesn't act that way. He needs to explain the unprecedented lockdown on all his citizenship records.

#1: Bullshit. #2: No one else has ever been "asked to document his eligibility."

@a reader, what exactly is your endgame with this? So, Obama isn't native born, thus he cannot become president. Therefore Biden is invested with the purple. So, under that outcome, would you stop your craziness? What's next? How is Biden similarly constitutionally infirm? Are you really animated by concern over Obama's birth, or is this some general, ideological objection to the democratic victory? Democracy for that matter?

By Chris Hoofnagle (not verified) on 22 Aug 2009 #permalink

Barney Frank's comment was insulting to dining room tables -- they, at least, have a leg to stand on.

Obama's eligibility no longer matters now that he's president. Per the constitution, the only way to remove him now is through impeachment, which would take a two thirds supermajority from both the House and Senate.
That's just not gonna happen!
Birthers could prove that he was born on planet Vulcan and he'd still be president.

Fred Magyar, Chris Hoofnagle:

OK, they go around smashing other people's cars and forging letterheads of NGOs, and the most we can do is ... mock them?

Reader is a retard. The birth certificate was provided. The Hawaii Secretary of State has confirmed he has a legit birth certificate. The conversation is over. There is no use arguing with these lame bigots.

I love you Frank, but are you suggesting we should meet them in the streets and fight them with clubs? Their thuggishness will be their downfall.

> are you suggesting we should meet them in the streets and fight them with clubs? Their thuggishness will be their downfall. <

Perhaps not, given that one of the effects of the general thuggishness is precisely to hinder any reasoned debate from taking place at all, and media outlets like the WSJ are spinning the riots as some sort of spontaneous grassroots uprising (see Michael Tobis's blog entry on "Denialist Denial of Service").

So no, I'm not saying we should fight them with clubs. But there should be a way to cut through the denialists' methodology of "information sharing" and "coordinated local activism" (as PR hack Tom Harris puts it). And I'm not sure that merely mocking them from time to time will be enough to do the job.

So... You think the public option is not really needed and that good regulation would work, yet... you look at the insane madness of the right, and at what Bush and others on that side did to "deregulate" everything to the point where we had an economic collapse and actually *think* these same people will a) vote for such effective regulation, thus weakening the magic "business world", and b) not repeal everything the next time we elect one of them?

Sorry but it needs work. Toss in a few claims that public option would be Nazi like, and promote cannibalism and you might have a shot at looking properly nuts. lol

No, the *correct* statement is, "the public option **shouldn't** be necessary.", but its not hard to find many reasons why, at least in the US, its the only damn way we are going to get insurance companies to behave, without passing legislation that some idiot will repeal on the basis of some irrational Libertarian, "It worked so well before you told me I couldn't charge 40 cents to a dollar for an X-ray!", BS. I just don't see any way the current political climate would "allow" for effective regulation, and thus allow for the removal of that aspect, and still work.

The birth certificate was provided. The Hawaii Secretary of State has confirmed he has a legit birth certificate.

Why didn't he show it? Why take his word for it? Just because he said so makes it true? Your the fucking retard.

He didn't show it because the tactic of questioning his word about his citizenship is clearly the work of such nickering nabobs that only are interested in blocking the election of a black man to the presidency. It is despicable, low, and a sign of moral defect. Eventually the document was provided with the hope that such morons would ever be appeased (there's a laugh). It is at the linked site. It has been confirmed by the Hawaii Secretary of State. This debate is over, it is now denialism. You're (ahem) still the retard.

Obama's birth certificate was good enough for the State Department to give him a passport and both the CIA and FBI have cleared him for top-secret briefings. In short, he's legit.

Someone needs to explain to the birther movement there is a reason Obama is the president and the people who work for the FBI and CIA have their jobs, and they are consigned to rant on websites.

You guys are breaking the rules by even talking to the birther clown. Ignore the ignorance.

By Cousin Andy (not verified) on 24 Aug 2009 #permalink

Yay! Welcome back, MarkH!

Can we actually have a conversation without the spammers now? W00T!

@Angelo: Go see Barney Frank's statement about arguing this nonsense. That's all the response you deserve.

By LanceR, JSG (not verified) on 24 Aug 2009 #permalink

I actually went to a town hall meeting last night, and it was clear that health care deniers didn't even want to hear the facts. They constantly booed and interrupted our speakers, but they were the same ones who then complained that he talked too long. I just wish there was some way to get through to them, and help them to realize that they shouldn't believe everything they hear from Fox News or Limbaugh. What I realized is that they have their myths in their heads, and they have no intention of seeing reality. If someone tries to present reality to them, they just yell loud enough to drown it out. I don't really know what the solution is, but these people are in the minority with their beliefs. The vast majority of Americans want health care reform, so it's unpatriotic to keep caving to the loud, angry deniers. I realize that politicians are trying to be diplomatic, but there's a point when we just have to do what's best for America even if it hurts the feelings of a few misinformed people.

Hi, I stumbled on this blog while looking for something else, as you do.

I'm British, an ordained pastor who now works for Britain's National Health Service as a chaplain. I'd like to say it's wholly wonderful; it certainly isn't, but it's based on a very sound principle. Universal healthcare free at the point of need, funded through taxation. As an organisation it creaks and groans and is overly bureaucratic: we face staff shortages in some key areas: some of its current problems stem from the importation of business models into what is still, essentially not a business at all but a (what it says) SERVICE. But it still works. People are cared for, on the whole, better than in the US, which spends far more money to occupy a rather lowly place in the international league table of health indicators. Continental European nations do better than Britain, but their healthcare is similarly, with some qualifications, a government-provided service. What exactly is the problem with that?

We pay a (heavily subsidised) price for prescribed drugs, and don't get me started on dental care - well we Brits are notorious for our teeth, and you should see mine! - but that's it. We don't pay to see a doctor, for hospital appointments, for operations or care on the wards. My work is with the mentally ill - psychotics, depressives, self-harmers, alcoholics, bipolar sufferers, and increasingly with the elderly demented. They get, if they need it, counselling, occupational therapy, aftercare in the community. Their needs are often long-term, and although it's much less costly than acute care because it doesn't need loads of expensive equipment, it's very demanding of staff. And it doesn't cost the patients anything. I'm proud to be able to say that. The taxpayer even pays for the likes of me to explore with patients their ideas about God, life, the universe and everything - and pretty strange some of them are - say prayers with them if they want, listen to them when other people don't have the time or have given up on them.

I am highly p**** off with hearing the lies that are going round in the US about our healthcare: that's been a big story over here. You guys can lie all you like about your own country but please leave Britain out of it. We've got a healthcare system that delivers a good enough service to nearly all the people nearly all the time; at its worst it's cumbersome, at it's best it's world class. But no-one would ever have to sell their car, their house or anything else to get the car they need, because the state provides. And, as the statistics prove, we are a healthier nation than you, so we must be doing something right. Just get the deniers told, will you? Thanks.

By Richard B (not verified) on 27 Aug 2009 #permalink

Something I've been thinking about is that people don't think of tax and government spending in all-inclusive terms.

Right now, a lot of the total spending on healthcare is 'hidden' - employers pay for it. To pay for it, they have to reduce wages. So the employes don't realise that they are being indirectly billed - they just view it as money tricked out of someone else. If that same amount of money comes from tax, it's going to be less popular. It doesn't matter that (If total spending remains the same, and employers pass on any savings) on average people will see a rise in their wage exactly equal to the increase in their tax burden: In their minds it'll have turned from 'free money' into 'government stealing my wages.'

Interesting speculation. But probably not important - I expect the poor-economics stupidity will be far outweighed in effect by other forms of stupidity. Primarily the parisan factors - people who will object to anything at all if it's done by a political party they loathe.

I stopped reading when you had the balls to pretend that death panels aren't the logical conclusion to bureaucratic and "science based" medicine.

Laughable, really, that you even bother pretending that death panels aren't inevitable in Obamakare.

C'mon, Limp Willy! Is that all you've got? After all the months you've been gone, sucking your burnt fingers and whining about how *mean* everyone here and at ERV are to you? A whine about a thoroughly discredited lie?

Did you stop beating your wife yet?

By LanceR, JSG (not verified) on 29 Sep 2009 #permalink

Such is the extreme censorship and apathy of mainstream media; that documenting, criticizing or questioning "doctors" or "scientists" is arguably be viewed as "extremism".