Regarding the Impending Socialist Takeover... Herring Anyone?

The Facts Matter in the healthcare debate.

Here's Fact #1 in my view: the rabid conservative response to health care reform is a bona-fide red herring.

According to this site,

a Red Herring is a fallacy in which an irrelevant topic is presented in order to divert attention from the original issue. The basic idea is to "win" an argument by leading attention away from the argument and to another topic. This sort of "reasoning" has the following form:

  1. Topic A is under discussion.
  2. Topic B is introduced under the guise of being relevant to topic A (when topic B is actually not relevant to topic A).
  3. Topic A is abandoned.
In the recent health care "debate" the discussion has been hijacked with the use of well-played euphemisms, lies, and misinformation that distort the reality and the intent of the health care reform bills being considered in Congress. Rather than talking about the facts of the proposed program we are discussing:
  • "death boards"
  • euthenasia
  • socialism
  • government take-over of the whole country (according to Today's Christian Coalition representative on Warren Olney's To The Point radio program)
And, to my embarrassment, these fallacies are being pushed forth most strongly by Christians.

Isn't it time we had a civil d-e-b-a-t-e and discussion rather than misinformation and shouting? We should be standing up and speaking about our beliefs with people who differ from us, not holding so strongly to our lines that we miss the opportunity to understand the real concerns and positions of the people who we disagree with.

It's time for Christians on all sides to treat each other with respect, and that means first and foremost, listening to the other as we would wish to be listened to. Enough is really enough.


  1. Thanks, Penny. It's difficult to believe (well, not really . . . ) how getting more people to the doctor can be so controversial.

  2. thank you, that's what i've been saying. christians should be a force for truth, not for perpetuating lies and misinformation.

  3. I was listening to "To the Point" today, also, and was blown away by the logic (or lack thereof) from the Christian Coalition. Regardless of one's stance on the healthcare reform, the rep. from the CC seemed to really be missing the point, AND the facts, regarding the proposed bills (or singular, bill, as he stated). I was thankful for Jim Wallis' perspective and level headed representation of the Christian imperative to care for those on the margins, to love our neighbor as ourselves, and to be the good Samaritan.

  4. I have reservations about universal health care. Perhaps, I lean toward the bi-partisan plan.

    But I have been so repeatedly embarrassed by the antics and fearmongering of my party.

  5. testing.

    this is a test of the commenting system.

  6. It's nice to see you writing, Penny.

    I would like to say that I think my "rabid conservative response" to Obama's health care plan is well grounded in Christian principle. The current proposed plans would allow the public plan to cover abortions, and probably eventually mandate that all plans cover abortions. So far, attempts to specifically exclude abortion from federal coverage have been voted down in committee. To me, as a Christian who believes that all human life is sacred and who does not want my own tax dollars to pay for the killing of innocent human beings, this is seriously scary stuff. And probably well worth shouting about.

    I also find it odd to talk about these red herrings obscuring the intent of health care reform, as if the great and lofty ends must justify the means. If we provide universal healthcare but at the same time allow the poor (and the not-so-poor) to kill their unborn children for "free", have we done a good thing? Obama has repeatedly said that he intends to decrease abortion, but he has also repeatedly told Planned Parenthood that he wants to expand abortion access, and he has done so. His staffers are encouraging pro-choice groups to lobby for including abortion coverage in any public plan.

    In July 2007, Obama told Planned Parenthood that "reproductive care is essential care, basic care, so it is at the center, the heart of the plan I propose." And that private insurers will "have to abide by the same rules in terms of providing comprehensive care, including reproductive care...". And of course, when you are talking to Planned Parenthood about reproductive care, you are talking about abortion.

  7. Every party, every political perspective, has its nutjobs, and those are the ones that make the news. Just as its a red herring to say that the Obama healthcare plan would create a Death Panel, it's also possible to be guilty of casting all of us who are against this plan in an unfairly negative light. Most of us know how to express our viewpoints in ways that are not so disturbing, but like I said, people like that don't make the news.

    For my money, i have seen just as much shock-talk from the Left on this, starting with the Speaker of the House.

  8. I have to say that the comment about abortion boggles my mind. Could anyone actually oppose health care for close to 50 million Americans (about 9 million of them children) because of something that MIGHT be funded?

    For a historical sense of how Christians got so bogged down by distracting hot button issues, take a look at http://www.alternet.org/story/141925/.


  9. By the way, Penny: of your 4 bullet points, the 3rd one is an apt description. I think it is fair to use the word socialism when describing this plan. And I know of at least one liberal, who's in favor of the plan, who agrees.

  10. This comment has been removed by the author.

  11. Morf, that article was a bit on the ridiculous side. Not just full of fallacies, but inconsistencies. That is, it perpetuated the same type of behavior that it was supposedly against. It gave me the impression that the author excuses certain behaviors when they are performed by those on the Left, and slams those same or similar actions when coming from the Right.

    1. The subheadline claims that the insurance industry is behind the protests against the govt takeover of healthcare. The implication is that those on the Left can think for themselves, and those on the Right are doing the bidding for big business. This ignores the fact that abortion is a huge industry, and it has lobbyists who are hired to make sure that lawmakers do its bidding, too. In fact, I can think of no big business or industry which will benefit if all babies are allowed to be born. Well, except for Babies R Us and Gerber. I seriously doubt they are behind the pro-life movement. I think it's based not on a bunch of pinheads duped by big business, but individuals who cannot stomach the idea of legalized abortion.

    2. He argues against the pro-life assertions that legalized abortion will lead into other things--the "slippery slope" argument. But then he closes the piece by issuing a warning that "you can then also see where this might lead." Errr... are you warning us of a slippery slope, Frank?

    3. He complains of rhetoric about abortion doctors and Obama being linked with Hitler. I wonder if, when leftists called Bush and Cheney "fascists" for eight years, he was as concerned about the inappropriate and unfair name-calling, and linking us with the Third Reich.

    I do agree with his main point, though--we pro-lifers should have stuck with the main idea that abortion is wrong because it's taking the life of a living, defenseless baby who has already attained personhood, and we should not have issued all those warnings about where it might lead. Such arguments have been more hurtful to the cause than helpful. It's a shame he felt he had to surround that valid point with so much mush.

  12. Dear Jogger Mom,
    You said well, "To me, as a Christian who believes that all human life is sacred and who does not want my own tax dollars to pay for the killing of innocent human beings, this is seriously scary stuff. And probably well worth shouting about."

    However, one can also ask, "Where were these shouting, conservative Christian voices when the most powerful nation on earth was led by lies to fight a war that killed over a hundred thousand sacred, civilian human lives, many of whom were children?" Our tax dollars funded that, too.

    Our "pro-life" platform needs to be more consistent.

    Also, I do not think it is truthful to say that reproductive care when you are talking to Planned Parenthood is primarily about abortion. 3% of the total services Planned Parenthood offers are abortion services, which means 97% of their reproductive care services are not about abortion. In fact, 82% of their clients receive help to prevent unintended pregnancies. I am not saying you shouldn't be outraged by the abortion rates in our country or the abortions done by PP (the numbers for abortion in the U.S. and done by PP are frighteningly high), but it is important not to bear false witness in this discussion. It is still true that most of Planned Parenthood's extensive work focuses on screening for cancer and STDs, as well as providing women with contraception.*

    *And as far as the contraception they offer, I am aware that some research shows birth control as potentially acting as an abortifacient. However, again, many Christians seem inconsistent on this point—having strong views on abortion or the "day after" pill but perhaps not seriously considering their own practices. I know that you have spoken out on this very issue in your writing. My point again is how utterly inconsistent many, many Christians are in their moral passions. (And just to be clear, I am not at all accusing you of this hypocrisy. I am accusing powerful, political Christians who are myopic in their judgments of others!) )

    Thanks for bringing your voice and perspectives.

  13. This is interesting: http://www.facebook.com/note.php?note_id=116471698434

    It's written by Sarah Palin, the first to use the term Death Panel. While that term is a bit on the inflammatory side, she quotes several Democrats and liberal-friendly voices, with references and footnotes, who voice the same concerns. So those of you who are against the vigorous rhetoric being used about this might want to look on your own side of the fence and see what's being said there.

  14. What bothers me so much about the hype over a "socialized" health care plan that would cover all the uninsured is the paranoia over what the government is suposedly going to control in our lives. This bothers me for two reasons:

    1. Where was all this concern when the Patriot Act was signed?

    2. When I lived in Germany, a SOCIAL DEMOCRACY, I experienced the best, most thorough health care EVER. For a much, much better price than our high premium, insanely high deductible, in or out of network care is affording us now. Our premiums were fair and we had no or insanely litle copays. And, before I moved there permanently, I was insured by the German government insurance, AOK, as a student and had excellent care. In my experience, the government never intervened, and the doctors did the job they vowed to do when they took their oath.

  15. Kim, I hear that argument (how can one be against abortion and for the war in Iraq?) all the time, and it's got lots of holes in it.

    For one, many of us have been against the war since Day One. Not everyone is as inconsistent as you think.
    On the inconsistency front, many on the left are much more likely to defend the slaughter of cows for hamburger, or whales or spotted owls, while defending a woman's right to kill a baby.

    My point is that those on the right don't have a monopoly on seemingly inconsistent beliefs.

  16. Kim G: It's not paranoia. Many of us who don't shout in front of the cameras are against this plan for sound reasons, well thought-out. I for one would appreciate it if you didn't pigeon-hole us and act as if we haven't put a lot of thought into our position on this very important topic.

  17. Last comment was to Kim Gottschild, and the one before that was to Kimberly George.

  18. James, I fully believe that the intent of the Red Herrings, the actual topic of Penny's post, is to scare the wits out of people and detract from the goal at hand in order to purport a different agenda. I think "scare the wits out of" and "paranoia" are closely linked. Or?

    I have received numerous chain e-mails with intensely scary claims regarding the social health legislature (The government will determine your end of life care!!). I am pretty sure you did not write these e-mails yourself, so please do not take offense that I see these e-mails as paranoid propaganda. I have pigeon-holed no one, as my opinion is based on my factual experiences.

    And frankly, I feel that the reply to my comment could be seen as a Red Herring in itself, as the claim that I pigeon holed people distracted from my actual comments.

    James, didn't you once say that you lived in Germany? I'd like to hear about your experience with the health care system there.

  19. I think since we're tackled homosexuality, health care, and abortion, we should move on to a less controversial topic.

    Like peanut butter.

  20. Lively, this is! Thanks for the comments.

    So, listen, I need to apologize. While I feel that "rabid" does aptly describe the actions of many people at the Town Hall debates, I should not have used "rabid" and "Republican" in the same sentence. I do not believe that just because you have problems with the bills presented that you fall into this camp (and just to clarify, I don't approve of everything that's included, like how veterans will be covered, or federal funding for abortion, which, by the way, is currently illegal, and no real plans exist for changing that (even though Obama did say he would publicly fund "family planning" in 2007).

    As Kim Gottschild pointed out, the point of this post has nothing to do with whether or not I agree with someone's opinions on the health care debate. Rather, it has everything to do with the way the debate is being conducted, which is a ridiculous spectacle that detracts from a truthful conversation about what is being proposed.

    I don't actually care whether you're Democrat or Republican or Libertarian or anywhere in between. What I care about is a truthful, respectful debate where we discuss the facts rather than the political antics and outright distortions of those who would rather misrepresent the facts and even lie rather than talk about the real issues.

    As far as the completely false "death panel" distortions go, this first came out of Betsy McCaughey's mouth, the same person behind the downfall of the health reform package in 1993-4. She said (and this was a total fabrication), on Fred Thompson's show on July 17, the House Bill "would make it mandatory - absolutely require - that every five years, people in Medicare have a required counseling session that will tell them how to end their life sooner, how to decline nutrition, how to decline being hydrated, how to go into hospice care." Then, on July 23 John Boehner, House Republican leader, said the provision that would, in truth, fund optional consultations that explain life-sustaining treatments and end-of-life services, would actually "encourage euthenasia."

    These are red herrings and distortions. If I was a senior hearing this stuff I would be scared, I would be calling my representative demanding to know what's going on. I understand that. The unfortunate problem, though, is that there's NO NEED because these are lies.

    All I'm saying is we should be discussing the facts and the facts alone.

  21. Yes, I lived in Germany, but I was in the Army at the time, so I don't have health care experience from my time there.
    Dang! A Christian in the army! Another hot-button topic! Oh well. If it makes anyone feel better, I never shot anyone.

    Penny, I said what I said because, like you, I badly want to hear reasonable, well-thought-out discourse on this topic. We all have certain things that are important to us, and for me, division among Christians is at the top of my list. It aches me to see the kind of hatefulness that has gotten into politics the last 30 years, and the healthcare debate is just the latest example of division which is clearly unbiblical.

    That's why my posts on this page have been targeted at that very topic. While you brought up, and for good reason, the divisive behavior of those on the Right, I simply pointed out that every one of the things you mentioned--red herrings, scare tactics, lumping groups together, minimizing the effects of one's own desired outcome, name-calling, false data, misinformation, demonizing the people on the other side of the debate--was contained, in various ways, in the original post and in the subsequent comments.

    This thing will get resolved peacefully when: (a) those against the plan will acknowledge that Obama isn't trying to intentionally take away our freedom; and (b) the leftists acknowledge that those against this plan don't disagree that the current system is bad; we just don't think applying a bad solution is the best way to resolve it.

  22. personally, i find that a good way of healing division among christians is to argue with everything anybody posts on the burnside blog, and accuse them of sowing division.

  23. Wow, Aaron.
    Man, that was uncalled for.

  24. Perhaps we all have a lot more to learn than we are willing to admit, and a lot more healing to do before we can see the "other" as human (especially online). But this is a human condition, to build categories and be distrustful of the other. Wars are fought over this issue, and I think you are right, James, to say that we should all be working for unity. Unfortunately, an online forum is generally not a great place for that.

    As for your thoughts on the debate, James, I think those are really good points. And the way we get there is to stop the fear-mongering and politicization of the process and get down to the facts. I hope the media and the politicians will get there soon.

    On a personal note, the reason I am blogging about this is because my in-laws sent me an email from the American Family Association that highlighted Betsy McCaughey. As you may know, the AFA is a Christian group whose stated goal is to stand up for families. In writing this I am hoping to point out that good people of faith (like my in-laws) are being hoodwinked by fabrications and distortions and I think that is wrong. We need real discussion of what's in the proposed bills if we're going to get anywhere. We all know the system is broken.

    It's probably time to cut off this debate here at BWC. It's probably unhelpful for me to just spout off my opinion about such a charged issue and not expect some blowback. It's just a shame there's not a better forum to air some of these thoughts face-to-face.

  25. Penny, I respect your wishes to not debate about this anymore. I will comment on one other thing you just mentioned: I share your disdain regarding the AFA. They drive me nuts.

  26. Yeah, I just couldn't believe they would propagate lies like that.

    Also, James, your voice is welcome here. Just in case you weren't sure. : )

  27. Actually, I wasn't sure. Thanks.

    And Aaron, I'd stop being so argumentative if you'd just post something I agree with!


    (made myself laugh with that one)

  28. Just another lie that would be funny if it were not so sad....

    "In perhaps the most amusing effort to discredit US President Barack Obama's plan for nationalized health care - if not the most ridiculous - US financial newspaper Investor's Business Daily has said that if Stephen Hawking were British, he would be dead."



  29. Penny, just to clarify, it's just not true that there are no real plans to change abortion to be federally funded. Obama himself requested in May that abortions be federally funded in DC, and they will be starting in 2010 (the amendment to stop him from federally funding abortion was blocked from getting voted on).

    Also, whether or not abortion will be covered by any federal plan is not a 'maybe' - it will be unless there is specific language that excludes abortion from coverage because it is a legal medical procedure, and many pro-choice experts have acknowledged this, even though the White House is remaining silent.

    As for current federal restrictions on funding abortions, they will not apply to the health care bill because it will create new revenue streams that are not subject to the restrictions. Also, Obama would like to appeal the Hyde amendment (which currently prohibits federal abortion funding under medicaid, but won't apply to any newly created public health plans).