Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Journalistic Malpractice on NPR, Bullshit and Assorted Weirdness

I heard two stories on NPR today that made me want to yell at the radio.

The first was prompted by that egregious op-ed by Bill Bradley. Bradley regurgitated some Republican propaganda about the high cost of medical malpractice insurance. (That's the stuff that George W. Bush said, [quoting from memory] "prevents OB/GYNs from practicing their love for women across the country.") Then he argued for negotiating trading opposition to limitations on jury awards for medical malpractice for opposition to health care reform. Bipartisanship!

As we all know, there is no good evidence that medical malpractice insurance is costing consumers much money (it's less than 1% of total health care costs), and capping the awards means people harmed terribly by medical malpractice will not receive sufficient remedy. Nonetheless, as long as you're bargaining with other people's lives, the cost is cheap. Furthermore, Republicans in Congress are as opposed to negotiation as ever. There is exactly no chance than any significant number of Republicans are going to vote for health care reform with any teeth at all. So, Bradley's op-ed lives in its own fairy-world of bipartisan comity along with all the sprites and elves and ogres of fantasy.

But that's not my topic. My topic is NPR's coverage of this, which, if there were justice, would be sufficient for a lawsuit charging them with journalistic malpractice. They introduce the topic, then say something to the effect of: Although the influence of medical malpractice insurance on health care costs is debatable, its political impact may be more important. Thus the dodge: we aren't going to evaluate or otherwise consider evidence about the egregious falsehood (that medical malpractice insurance is significantly driving up the costs of healthcare) but instead are only interested in the "politics" of it, how this influences the chance of some bill being passed. This is the standard shift "reporters" use when they don't want to inform the public, and draw the criticism and shrill cries of "liberal bias" for daring to inform the public accurately about some matter of public interest, but instead to engage in endless speculation about the possible consequences of something. If the speculation were informed by evidence, it wouldn't be completely unacceptable to engage in some of this (provided they also made copiously plain that there was no substance to the Republican claim), but they have a complete aversion to anything involving evidence, evaluation, research or truth. All they want to do is speculate, whether it's based on "death panels" ("Who cares whether there are any? What's the political effect of the belief that they exist?") or fallacious claims about medical malpractice insurance. What a pathetic spectacle NPR has become. . .

But that was not all for my morning NPRing. I did not catch who exactly they were interviewing but it was rapidly clear that he was a shill for the health insurance industry. The interviewer (I forget who. Steve Inskeep??) did actually question him about the possibility that the means of producing these bills had more to do with providing special deals to certain interest groups (he wasn't specific) than it had to do with providing meaningful health care reform for the American people. So, here was the sophistical response: "Do I think that some bills are better than others? Not that these bills will be bad, but that some will not be as good as others are. Yes, of course. Do I think that this legislation can be passed without a large number of components? Of course not. That's simply the nature of complex legislation." [Again, quoting from memory.]

This was a complete non-answer; it was masterful bullshit. Or not so masterful. Imagine if we had such bullshit-artists/lobbyist/PR flacks during the Constitutional Convention.
Interviewer: "Do you think that counting blacks as only 3/5 of a person is perhaps privileging the interests of whites over blacks?"

Response: "Do I think that some ways of constructing a constitution might be fairer than others? Yes. Do I think that it is possible to have a complex piece of legislation without a large number of components? Of course not."

Or how about this. Interviewer: Don't you think that an attempt to murder six million Jews might not be the fairest plan for all Germans?
Response: "Do I think that some ways of planning a social system might be better than others? Yes. Do I think that it is possible to have a demographic plan for society without a lot of components? No, of course not."

So, why do I still listen to NPR? It's better than the guys who think shouting "Queer!" at people is funny.

Final, totally unrelated note: On the way to work today, I saw a van with the worst advertising slogan ever. It said,

Adult Day Care: "Let us pamper your loved ones."

Some images you just do not want associated with your company. Here are some other suggestions:

Let us roto-root your loved ones' plumbing.

Let us be your enema, not your enemy!

We'd rather die, than let you diap-her!

We'll wipe your loved one's ass so you don't have to.

Paging Dr. Kevorkian.

Don't leave your loved ones wandering lost around the neighborhood. Let us.

Have no illusions, this is a cattle car for old people.

Thanks. I'll be here all week. Try the veal. (On second thought. . .)

No comments:

Post a Comment