Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Maddow: The Republican Miniverse

NBC actually did a poll exposing their competitor Fox News for materially misinforming its viewers (or just plain attracting a fringe who cling to false assumptions about "the facts") and the results are striking. Among self-identified Republicans (albeit that's a dwindling base), 60% get their news from Fox News. Fox News viewers are most likely to think that the President wasn't born in Hawaii, they think in surprising numbers that health care reform is about killing off citizens, and they are most likely to think flat false facts about what is (and is actually not) in the health care reform drafts circulating in Congress, such as whether the bill will cover illegal aliens (emergency care subsidized by taxpayers already covers illegals, by the way, by default), that it will fund abortions with taxpayer dollars, and other just flat insane ideas that would and could never be a part of health reform legislation at this point in our history.

But the most fascinating part of it all is something I myself have been grappling with for about a year now: how do you have an honest debate with people who just flat can't get reality correct? Forget precise. Forget honest disagreements. Forget even a bizarre debate about an issue and the facts of that issue. Increasingly this nation is trying to have a debate between people who know the facts (even if only a general set) and others who fall hook-line-and-sinker for special interest lies. This is a conversation from last night definitely worth watching - and feeling good that it happened on national news cable on an increasingly popular and influential program.

And my favorite congress person, and easily the smartest politician in congress (even if a bit gruff), Rep. Barney Frank slices and dices a woman who - to the Jewish Barney Frank - accuses health care reform of being a Nazi effort to exterminate American citizens. This is an answer to Rachel Maddow's brilliant discussion above. Choice quote from Frank: "Arguing with you is like arguing with a dining room table. I just don't want to do it." It's worth remembering in these bizarro political times. Just because someone has an opinion doesn't make it based in fact or worthy of an honest and fact-based response. Sometimes you just have to walk away from, as Frank describes, "the table."