It was Mark Twain who said "A lie can travel halfway around the world while the truth is putting on its shoes". With the internet, that is more true than ever, as would-be journalists try to out-scoop each other posting "news" items they find without taking a moment to verify their veracity.
Thus we get the recent Jon Bon Jovi death hoax. That one was easy enough to fact-check, and in fact was debunked within hours. It's when other stories break (and I do mean "stories") - particularly involving politics - that those who want to believe them will - even when the truth finally does get its shoes on and make an appearance.
When the Affordable Health Care Act was still only a bill, the lies were rampant. It was bad enough that Raine and I created the HealthcareReformMyths.org
website to help debunk all the lies that the right-wing was putting out. As it got closer to being passed, we also had to debunk lies from the Left as well. Where the mere election of Barack Obama to the presidency seemed to create the Tea Party, it was this piece of legislation and what Democrats in Congress had to do to get it to pass that seemed to galvinize a tiny vocal minority on the left against the President. Sure some of them were PUMAs already, but after that point, the hate was set in stone, and no story was going to be too ridiculous to not believe, and no accomplishment was going to be good enough.
Fast-forward 2 years from all the Angry Left cries of "insurance company giveaway", and we find the truth: The Affordable Health Care Act has provided a means for 2.5 million young adults to get health insurance
where they couldn't before. Lives are being saved for people with pre-existing conditions. Sure there isn't "single-payer"... but is this a good first step? I am certain these millions of people would say "YES!" Despite the anger and the lies, the bill was passed into law, and has been battered by critics from both sides ever since. The truth, though, is that it has accomplished what it was meant to do: Make sure that American people can get, keep, and afford health care insurance.
Since that passed, the House has come under control of the Republicans, and the Senate is split nearly 50-50 (not that it matters much with Republicans filibustering EVERYTHING). Yet somehow, every bit of watered-down legislation that comes out of this mess still seems to be the president's fault, and if he signs a bill that mostly helps Americans, the Angry Left focuses entirely on the poison pill the Republicans have put into it. The Republicans may not be good at governing, but they understand politics, and they know that every time they slide something unpleasent across President Obama's desk, he loses more votes.
The recent payroll tax cut fiasco is another fine example. Sure, the Republicans will agree to extending the tax cut - but only if the Keystone Pipeline gets a green light. Naturally, the environmental single-issue voters are outraged. But is it as bad as it seems? It never is
The two-month payroll tax break extension bill passed by the Senate on Saturday included language that would make Obama decide within 60 days whether TransCanada Corp's 700,000 barrel-a-day Keystone XL oil sands pipeline is in the country's national interest.
But the U.S. State Department, which must approve the cross-border project, has said it will not be rushed into a decision before it has time to consider the environmental impact of alternative routes. That could leave Obama room to approve the project in principle but still keep construction at bay.
An Obama administration official who briefed reporters said the State Department would "almost certainly" have to turn down an approval because there would not be enough time to complete its review of alternate pipeline routes through Nebraska's fragile Sand Hills region.
"The foundation for plausible deniability has been laid already," said Kevin Book, an analyst at ClearView Energy Partners in Washington.
"The Obama administration has already said they won't be rushed, but they don't have to rush to say no, either."
It certainly seems likely that President Obama told Senate Democrats it was okay to agree to this, since it wasn't the President himself that would shoot the pipeline down later. The Republicans got played, yet the Angry Left don't see the truth. Of course - all this is moot since the House refused to vote on the Senate bill
, then left town, assuring that taxes will go up for millions of American middle-class families in January.
The other recent legislation-related story that got the Angry Left so incensed was the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) that gets passed every year to extend and authorize our bloated military for another year. The original bill contained some language that seemed to authorize the military to incarcerate American citizens. President Obama threatened veto if the language wasn't changed. The language WAS changed, and it was getting passed by the Senate. Senator Carl Levin was talking on the floor, and a small snippet of it was posted online purporting to show that the President asked for the language to be put back in.
Naturally - the outrage was of the high spittle-and-foam variety, and the usual suspects reported on this video snippet as if it was Divine Truth. More and more people began pointing out the language that said otherwise, and the fixation came down to the word "required" (as opposed to "allowed", I suppose), even though other sections clarified this. Apparently, it's too much to ask to have people understand that legislation has numerous sections that often reference other sections and clarify their meanings. Eventually, the focus migrated to "indefinite detention", even though that law was already on the books and unaffected by this bill.
The immediate questions I had when I saw the video snippet were:
- Where is the rest of the video? I want to see this in context
- Who posted this video?
- What are their motivations?
These are simple questions that ANYONE should ask when they read something or watch something. Knowing the source of the story - and, indeed, the WHOLE story - is critically important. Fortunately, someone DID do the research, and determined that this was put out by a spammer
. Once the Carl Levin video is seen in context (and the post-vote news entry on his website is read) it's pretty clear that the law does not apply to American citizens, and Carl Levin knew that, and was NOT saying otherwise.
The video was essentially a lie, designed to create website hits and rile up the President's supporters, and it worked. I am quite certain that there are still people out there for whom the truth still hasn't laced up and jogged on over for a visit.
It's a shame that people are so quick to bestow the mantle of credibility to false stories because they tell a tale that we want to believe or confirms our suspicions. We should ALWAYS strive to learn the truth (from various sources), especially before passing the story on. We deserve it.