Wednesday, August 05, 2009


From our own White House blog:

There is a lot of disinformation about health insurance reform out there, spanning from control of personal finances to end of life care. These rumors often travel just below the surface via chain emails or through casual conversation. Since we can’t keep track of all of them here at the White House, we’re asking for your help. If you get an email or see something on the web about health insurance reform that seems fishy, send it to

With that in mind I plan on emailing with the following message:

To whom it may concern;

In the interests of providing economic stiumulus to the publishing industry I would like to suggest that President Obama invest heavily in the Merriam-Webster company by providing dictionaries and thesauruses for all staff members in the executive branch of the government. In a recent blog posting @, the assistance of the American people in thwarting "disinformation" was requested-- I believe the term you are looking for is misinformation.

Also, in the interests of being a politically active citizen of this country I would like to inform you of something I found fishy regarding President Obama's health care plan. If you go to you'll find a request for people to report
"disinformation" to this email address. I find this fishy as this speaks more to the tactics used in Nazi Germany to silence dissent than tactics used in our nation which was founded on many principles-- including free speech.

How are we, the American people, supposed to know what is correct information and what is misinformation? I know that there are various different health care bills on the house floor and some of those bills are hundreds or even thousands of pages
long... Reading through those bills ourselves is prohibitive given their volume
and that many of us are currently employed and need to remain so in order to
continue "stimulating the economy."

In the interests of full disclosure in the simplest to understand form, might I suggest an FAQ that tackles ALL the questions we have about this health care bill in a simple easy to understand format?

Also I submit to you that your appeal for us to report "disinformation" comes across as hostile and fosters more partisanship on this issue-- not less. Most Americans will agree that health care reform is necessary. Where we tend to differ is what needs to be done to reform health care, who should be doing it, and how they should be going about doing it. The concerns of those who disagree with the President's plan are just as valid as the concerns of those who support it.

Lastly, there are those out there who are more extreme and vocal in their opposition to the President's health care plan than I am. These people will have a field day with your request which can be interpreted as squealing on the opposition in order to silence them (see previous paragraph re: Nazi German silencing tactics) and will, at any and every opportunity use that request to illustrate that the current administration would like to curtail the first ammendment rights of the American people.

Best Regards,
(my name here)


Angry said...

Hi Darrin, normally I would introduce myself when I arrive for the first time on someone's blog, but given the comments you made over on Lauren's blog, you seem to think you already know me.

I popped over because I was interested to read your take on the healthcare bill that's causing all sorts of interesting discussions, but alas you haven't posted anything on the subject, well nothing that I found anyway.

This is an interesting post, although I don't agree with your premise, it's quite amusing.

The Fatherhood post is beautiful, congratulations on Samantha's birth.

So I guess I'll leave it at that...


Perplexio said...


Thank you for your comments. I apologize for giving the impression that I already know you on Lauren's blog-- however I'm not sure how that was accomplished as I don't believe any of my comments ever addressed you or your comments directly. If I gave that impression I further apologize as that was never my intent.

As for my issues with the White House asking citizens to report fishy behaviour-- it goes against the very principle of unity that Obama himself seemed to champion when he was running for president last year. Reporting "fishy" behaviour and marginalizing the opposition by insinutating their behaviour is less than genuine will only foster further dissent and greater polarization.

I agree with many of Obama's supporters in that there is a need for health care reform. But knowing what I know about the US Government in general and Congress in particular-- they are the last group of people I would trust with making the decisions on how to reform health care.

How would you feel if you disagreed with your elected official (MP, Senator, Congressman/woman, etc.) and politely expressed dissent via a well worded letter and were completely ignored. And then your elected official decided to hold a meeting in your area to discuss the issues you feel strongly about but as soon as you express disagreement you're marginalized and made to feel your views don't count?

And then on top of that, how would you feel if you disagreed with your government and then found out that your government was requesting that your fellow citizens report dissent-- yours and others to them?

How do these actions foster unity? And if you were a supporter of Obama's health care plan, how do these actions win over the opposition? Since Clinton was in office I've watched this country I was born and raised in grow increasingly more polarized.

Once upon a time, people could politely disagree. That era seems to have passed, unfortunately. There's no more CIVIL discussion or debate. When people disagree on issues rather than try to find common ground they start to resort to ad homenim attacks or discredit the argument by besmirching the character of the person whose views are opposite.

I hope that better explains the hostility that many Americans have over the request to report "fishy" behaviour. In and of itself, it's just a PR faux pas... but with the intensity of the debate on health care reform it has become the straw that broke the camel's back-- it really pissed off a lot of people.

Sorry my reply was so long winded.


Angry said...

Hi again Darrin,

I appreciate you taking the time to respond to my comment, thank you. In the main I agree, and sympathise, with what you've said here. So I'll just add some observations.

That dig in my first comment about you already knowing me was based on your comment, at Lauren's site, that gave a blog recommendation "based on your politics". I wasn't offended by it, just amused. I'm actually very private about my political persuasion, most Australians are, and I don't tell anybody which party I currently prefer. It's a lot different here in Aus, you can go through life here and not even know who your partner votes for, we just don't see a person's politics as being as important a factor as I think is the case in the US. We certainly do engage in lively debate about the government of the day, and as a nation we also divide between two major parties, but when it comes to an individual's politics we generally are unaware/uninterested in it and therefore personal political persuasion is rarely discussed.

I found another of your comments rather interesting... the one in pseudo German-English. I wondered why you chose that stereotype over Russian or Chinese for instance. The point would still have been just as well made. In fact you could have made the same point with an American accented response referring to the McCarthy era. I hasten to add that I'm not making comparisons between the US and other countries, Aus also had an era where informing on others, if not encouraged, was certainly welcomed. I just wondered if Lauren calling me Hitler Youth inspired that comment.

I was attracted to Lauren's blog by her stated goals of dealing only in 'truth, facts and the right of people to express their beliefs', and I'm not here to criticise her and how she runs her blog. She has every right to present content in any way she likes. But in the interest of fairness, I would just like to say that I was misrepresented there because she decided not to post 4 subsequent comments that I had made. She has every right not to post my comments, but comment number 2 was my response to her vitriol to my first comment. By not posting my response, and indeed continuing to run me down, I feel she presented a lie to her readers by manipulating the truth to her own ends. Very disappointing.

I actually agree that there are many worrying aspects about the healthcare bill, and if I was a US citizen I would be quite concerned. However, what I find so difficult to understand is how the likes of Betsy McCaughey can suggest that there is a provision for the government to implement an action for the sole purpose of shortening a patient's life. That's bad enough, but then it gets blindly repeated on blogs (Lauren's) without investigating and/or discussing the claim. Which in turn convinces other people that it must be true. An example of that is also on Lauren's blog where there is a line about how government officials can invoke 'end-of-life plans', 'Mum-me' has commented with horror because she believes it to mean that the patient's life is then brought to an end. 'Murder' as Betsy McCaughey terms it. Anyone reading that section of the bill can see that it's not the case at all.

So it's not 'Mum-me' that the government want to hear about, it's not you, me or Lauren that they're interested in, it's the Betsys and other people with broad influence through broadcasting to the population that the government is interested in, in order that they may counter such misinformation with their actual intentions. Those actual intentions may need to be argued about and maybe even rejected, but at least it's the actual intentions that are being debated rather than the red herrings that keep getting around.

Now I need to apologise for such a long winded response. And in all honesty, Darrin, I would be quite happy if you feel that this is way too long, or there's too much about Lauren in it to post, that you decide not to. It's been nice to find that you're prepared to engage rationally rather than engage in name-calling.

Perplexio said...


Honestly my pseudo German comment on Lauren's blog was in response to her using the Hitler Youth reference. It conjured in my mind a scene from the movie Swing Kids in which the Gestapo came and arrested one of the main character's fathers after he reported his own father at a Hitler Youth gathering.

You raise a good point about McCarthyism. As the request to report the "fishy" behaviour does tend to draw more parallels to that era in America's history than to the Hitler Youth.

I do believe that in the end, unless there are serious and substantial revisions to Obama's plan it will fail. The opposition is just too strong. Leaving my lack of support for the plan aside, I do think the President has gone about this all wrong. If I were a supporter of his brand of health care reform I'd be frustrated with his lack of patience. History has shown that in order to win people over from one extreme to another you have to do so gradually... not all at once as Obama has attempted/is attempting to do.

If you don't mind my asking how are things going for you in Australia? Are you happy with the changes PM Kevin Rudd has made since defeating John Howard? No need to get into specifics as I respect that Australians tend to be more private about their politics than we Americans.

I regularly read a blog by Sam de Brito which appears on the websites for several Fairfax News owned newspapers (including The Melbourne Age) to the extent where de Brito's musings have inspired a handful of my prior blog postings. I try to read at least the headlines from some of those sites as well as The Globe and Mail (a national newspaper in Canada) not just to find out what's going on beyond the US's national borders, but to also see what the foreign perspective is on events within the United States.


Angry said...

Hi Darrin,

At around the same time as your McCarthy period, we had a big 'Reds under the beds' scare campaign and there was a lot of 'dobbing in' (an Aussie term to mean 'informing on') going on. Both our nations can easily be seen as among the 'best' nations from many aspects, but alas, we both have some pretty dark, and even shameful, eras.

I agree with what you say about winning people over from one extreme to the other, yet we have a classic case where the decision was made on the thinnest of margins to radically change our wholesale tax system and introduce a goods and services tax, a bit like the UK's VAT. Man were there some heavy debates and scurrilous statements during that process. But I must admit, even though I opposed the change, I do believe it has been a good move.

On the matter of John Howard and Kevin Rudd... Liberal (being just right of centre) and Labor (being just left of centre) are the parties behind these two men. Over recent years, 15 years or so, the two parties have become a slightly different flavour of the same lolly (candy) and in my opinion, depending on what's being pushed at the time, the nation could safely elect either to lead our country.

Fortunately we are one of the few advanced economies that hasn't as yet gone into recession and our unemployment figure is 5.8% or so. To us, anything under 5% is considered 'full' employment. (Don't ask me, that's just how it is.) Domestically, as a nation, we had very little exposure to the practices that have been identified as the cause, or at least the catalyst, for the downturn. That's largely because our 'free' market is more highly regulated than most. (I see the oxymoron in that statement, so no need to point it out, Darrin... tehe) But what I'm getting at is the fact that our systems are the result of successive governments tweaking it all just enough not to bugger it up, but also enough to get re-elected.

So there you go... all is pretty good here at the moment, it usually is, I'm glad to say.

Oh by the way, I do read de Brito occasionally, when he hits his mark, he hits it bang on.



Perplexio said...


I agree about our respective nations having dark chapters in our past but I tend to believe that the character of a nation should be judged not on its dark chapters or misdeed but by how it has corrected, overcome, and risen above those dark chapters and misdeeds.

I would argue that much of the anger in the current health care debate isn't so much at the health care issue itself but at how our elected leaders are choosing to marginalise the opposition to make us seem petty and vindictive... like we're acting at the behest of special interests. In doing so they're trying to portray our very legitimate concerns as illegitimate or less than worthy of acknowledgment. The more our elected representatives do that the less this feels like a legitimate health care debate and the more it feels like we're being railroaded into this health care plan against our wills.

It's funny you mention how Australia is faring better than other nations right now... Last fall right after things started going wrong I read an article on the healthiest banks in the world and the safest places to keep your money... Canada and Australia were rated as having the safest banks in the world.

One of my wife's former co-workers is Australian. This woman became like a second mother to my wife. She had come over here with her family in the late 80s or early 90s for what was supposed to be a short term situation (I believe 3 years). Instead her then husband turned down a promotion and opportunity to return to Australia. He also cheated on her. So they divorced and her 2 sons eventually moved back to Oz (Brizzy to be specific) and last winter-- she ended up moving back herself to be closer to her 2 boys. She's given my wife & I an open invite to stay with her when we someday are able to venture down there. I'm partially afraid to go down there... Not because I'm afraid of Australia-- quite the opposite. I'm afraid I'd get there and never want to leave. I've ALWAYS been fascinated with Australia, for as long as I can remember. In more recent years I've gone out of my way to grow more familiar with Australian culture (music, literature, etc.-- but predominantly music). I have read John Birmingham's He Died With a Felafel In His Hand and A.B. Facey's A Fortunate Life and quite enjoyed both books but I know those are just barely scratching the surface.