Wednesday, November 30, 2011

A "Brownshirt Police Force" with Stethoscopes and Scalpels?

Here's a "Frequently Emailed theme" that my father has recently sent in the form of a video.

Essentially, this viral theme boils down to the accusation that, in the recent health care bills that have passed Congress, President Obama has somehow sneaked in provisions allowing him to have a domestic police force that will allow him to enforce the law as he sees fit.

Okay... considering that Congressional leaders actually wrote the law and sent it to the president for his signature, it seems a little unlikely that the President "secretly" did anything.  But if you want to look at my father's video, you can see it here on YouTube at

To the videographer's credit:  This is slightly less hysterical than most right-wing viral nonsense.  This vlogger acknowledges that the new health care bill doesn't actually create a new "civilian army".  He acknowledges that this is an expansion of an already existing agency - the United States Public Health Service.  And he acknowledges that this expansion is set aside for "reserve officers" that will serve in times of national emergency.

And after that... he goes into a long-winded fantasy about how these "reserve officers", under President Obama, will be used to enforce left-wing political orthodoxy.  With guns and police powers, if the need arises.

Well, let's get our facts straight here.  The United States Public Health Service was created in 1798, under our second president, John Adams.  Over 200 years ago.

And for over 200 years, no president has attempted to use this force for anything other than providing health care.  So there's no clear reason to believe that such an "expansion" of the Health Service's mission (published here) would start now.

They only recruit health care professionals, veterinarians, engineers capable of working on public health projects, and information technology specialists.  Making this service very poorly suited for the recruitment of "political police" officers.  And much less suitable for the task than any current military service, intelligence agency, or law enforcement agency.

And the idea that people would want to create a "reserve force" for "national emergencies" seems very reasonable - considering that part of their mission is to "Provide urgently needed public health and clinical expertise in response to large-scale local, regional, and national public health emergencies and disasters".  As they've recently done in recent hurricanes, earthquakes, and other man-made disasters.

So, overall, a request for a "reserve force" for such emergencies sounds very reasonable.

Okay, I suppose a skeptical reader might ask, "How do we know that the Public Health Service might be transformed into a civilian police force some time in the future?"

Okay, I suppose that the leader of this service is called the "Surgeon General", just like the Post Office used the title "Postmaster General" a few years back.  But, in order to be a police force, this service will either need to:

  • Start hiring police, intelligence, and/or military officers.
  • Start training it's cadre of physicians, nurses, scientists, and health care statisticians in law enforcement.
None of these things can happen invisibly.  People need to be hired.  Training manuals need to be written.  Training centers need to be established.

If anyone finds any evidence that any of these things are happening - I'll admit I was wrong.

Until then... there's no reason to call this "conspiracy theory" anything other than baseless hysteria.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Our 2011 "Turkey of the Year"

As Americans settle down for their turkey dinners, and give thanks for the gifts they have received...  I'm going to set aside a little time... and present an award to the Viral Right-Wing "Turkey of the Year".

A special "thank you" to the foulest of the foul.  Containing the most baseless character assassinations, and the biggest lies.  Originating from the deepest pits of human corruption, evil, and hatred.

The kind of right-wing rumors that make my blog so easy to write.

The winner of our first annual "Turkey of the Year"?  A right-wing email that goes so low that it doesn't even criticize Barack Obama's policies or his management of the government.

Instead, it supposedly presents a psychologist's view that our Commander in Chief is mentally ill.

One problem:  This "psychologist" is a convicted white-collar criminal who doesn't even have a bachelor's degree in the field.  But he'll be happy to sell you his collection of ebooks for the low, low price of $79.90.

Once again:  Here it is.  Our Turkey of the Year.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Obama said it... In My Imagination

Over time, viral right-wing claims are becoming more and more unbelievable.

Here's a huge whopper:

Yes, he told us in advance what he planned to do. Few were listening. 
The following is a narrative taken from a 2008 Sunday morning televised "Meet The Press'. 
From Sunday's 07 Sept. 2008 11:48:04 EST, Televised "Meet the Press" THE THEN Senator Obama was asked about his stance on the American Flag.  General Bill Ginn' USAF (ret.) asked Obama to explain WHY he doesn't follow protocol when the National Anthem is played.  The General stated to Obama that according to the United States Code, Title 36, Chapter 10, Sec. 171...During rendition of the national anthem, when the flag is displayed, all present (except those in uniform) are expected to stand at attention facing the flag with the right hand over the heart. Or, at the very least, "Stand and Face It". 
'Senator' Obama replied: 
"As I've said about the flag pin, I don't want to be perceived as taking sides".. "There are a lot of people in the world to whom the American flag is a symbol of oppression.." "The anthem itself conveys a war-like message. You know, the bombs bursting in air and all that sort of thing." 
Obama continued: "The National Anthem should be 'swapped' for something less parochial and less bellicose. I like the song 'I'd Like To Teach the World To Sing'. If that were our anthem, then, I might salute it. In my opinion, we should consider reinventing our National Anthem as well as 'redesign' our Flag to better offer our enemies hope and love. It's my intention, if elected, to disarm America to the level of acceptance to our Middle East Brethren. If we, as a Nation of waring people, conduct ourselves like the nations of Islam, where peace prevails - - - perhaps a state or period of mutual accord could exist between our governments ....." 
When I become President, I will seek a pact of agreement to end hostilities between those who have been at war or in a state of enmity, and a freedom from disquieting oppressive thoughts. We as a Nation, have placed upon the nations of Islam, an unfair injustice which is WHY my wife disrespects the Flag and she and I have attended several flag burning ceremonies in the past". 
"Of course now, I have found myself about to become the President of the United States and I have put my hatred aside. I will use my power to bring CHANGE to this Nation, and offer the people a new path..My wife and I look forward to becoming our Country's First black Family. Indeed, CHANGE is about to overwhelm the United States of America " 
WHAAAAAAAT, the H**l is that??? 
Yes, you read it right. 
I, for one, am speechless!!! 
Of course, in the years since Obama's election, we're all aware of his immediate withdrawal from all military action, and his famous proposals to redesign the American flag and to replace the National Anthem with a Pepsi slogan.

Oh, wait.  None of these things actually happened.

So, what about these supposed sources?

Well, the transcript to the September 7th 2008 "Meet the Press" is available on-line.  And neither Barack Obama nor General Ginn were on it.

Politifact went further, and discovered that no Dale Lindsborg was found on the Washington Post directory, either.

In other words - it's a fabricated quote made out of some right-wing liar's basement.  And it deserves no further attention.  Or forwarding.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

How to Deal With Your Father's Right-Wing Emails

It seems like one of the most frequent ways that my blog is used is to email articles to others.  And some readers have written me email to thank me for providing the information necessary to help their friends and relatives in putting these viral untruths in their proper place.

That's a good thing.  Some folks respond to facts and reason.  If forwarding my research helps your family - I'm happy.

However, there are a few folks (including my father) who don't respond well to this approach.

If you confront them with the facts, they will ignore whatever you present.

Usually, they'll just continue to quote random lines from right-wing talk radio.

Occasionally, they'll challenge your source.  With lines like, "Snopes isn't always right."  Or, "You can't trust the mainstream media."

And, if your father (or anyone else) acts like mine... facts are just a distraction.  Their beliefs are set and unchangeable.  And, fortunately, unlikely to be heard except by fellow extremists.

So, what can you do?

Give Your Inbox a Break

Fortunately, most serial right-wing emailers don't spend a lot of effort in formatting their forwards.  They'll follow a pattern.

For example, my father still uses America OnLine as his email provider.  (Yes, I know what that says about him.  And you're probably right.)

Forwards from America OnLine almost always contain "FW:".  So, it's easy to set a mail filter to manage his forwards.

Simple, and worry-free.

When You're Forced to Talk About His Emails

But, when you're dealing with family, these emails will sometimes become topics of conversation.

Again, countering with facts rarely works.  And usually leads to more unpleasant conversation.

Here's what's worked best for me.

Step One:  When faced with viral untruths, simply ask:  "Where did you hear this?"

Step Two:  When he confirms someone sent him an email, laugh, and jokingly say, "Yeah, everything's true on the internet... really.  Did you really check to see if it were true?"

Usually, that will stop the conversation.  It creates a seed of doubt, and doesn't resort to shaming your friend or relative.

And that's what's worked best for me.