Thursday, June 21, 2012

Disinformation Please

According to an email from the Columbia Journalism Review:

“In April 2010, a Kaiser Family Foundation survey found that 75 percent of Americans understood that the Affordable Care Act provided for subsidies to help people buy insurance. Roughly two years later, a follow-up survey found that only 56 percent of Americans understood the same. Why is the act so poorly understood?

As Trudy Lieberman explains, President Barack Obama and those representatives have failed to adequately explain the act and its individual coverage mandate, now under consideration by the U.S. Supreme Court. Too frequently, reporters take their lead from those politicians and miss opportunities to explain how the health insurance market changes under their readers' feet.”

This article also demonstrates how the press can, through inattention, inadvertently become an echo chamber for naysayers who are wealthy and nimble enough to mount an effective juggernaut of carefully crafted disinformation. Hapless proponents who have failed to present their case effectively are drowned out by the static.

This sort of thing has, of course, been going on in political America since scurrilous attacks on George Washington’s ability and integrity were rampant. Since WWII, the press has become more disciplined than it was in the 18th and 19th centuries, but it still too frequently functions – however unwittingly – as a sounding board for extreme partisans who can pass the smell test of being legitimate sources while peddling disinformation.

Needless to say, all political players take advantage of the press when they can, and the press cannot be expected to rescue those policymakers who drown in their own convoluted rhetoric (read Democrats) while the artful dodgers (Republicans) regularly outflank and out-message them.

See also Huffington blogger Adam McKay on this subject.

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