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.