Austin Hill: Could you be on President Barack Obama's "enemies list" and not even know it? If you dare to disagree with him, you might be.
Could you be on President Barack Obama's "enemies list" and not even know it?
If you dare to disagree with him, you might be.
By now you've probably learned about an apparent attempt by the Obama administration to gather details about Americans who are allegedly "spreading disinformation" in the midst of the national health care reform debate. The controversy stems from some language posted at the official Web site of the White House (whitehouse.gov), where Linda Douglas, the communications director for the White House Health Reform Office, attempts to refute the claims that Obama prefers a "single payer" approach (that is, an all-government-run system) for health insurance.
In part of Douglas' presentation she writes:
"There is a lot of disinformation about health insurance reform out there, spanning from control of personal finances to end-of-life care. These rumors often travel just below the surface via chain e-mails or through casual conversation. Since we can't keep track of all of them here at the White House, we're asking for your help. If you get an e-mail or see something on the Web about health insurance reform that seems fishy, send it to firstname.lastname@example.org."
Now, to put this incident into broader context, you need to first understand that Douglas' remarks appear to have been made in response to content posted on another Web site. Adjacent to her text, Douglas provided a video greeting recorded while she sat at a desk. In the video, she says many of the same things that were written on the Web site.
But at the desk where Douglas is seated is a computer, and on the computer screen is, quite vividly, the home page for Drudgereport.com. And it just so happened that, earlier in the week, Drudge Report posted links to video recordings, one dating back to 2003 and the other to 2007, in whichObama stated before two live audiences (and in no uncertain terms) that he wants our country to adopt a single-payer, universal health insurance system. That's not what Obama is promoting today. He insists that he envisions a government-run health care plan to be only one among many options available to Americans. Yet, there he was - six years ago, and two years ago, respectively - saying the opposite of what he is saying now.
For her part, Douglas attempts to refute the single-payer concern in her own video by introducing a clip of Obama from July 28 of this year, in which he reassured an audience that government-run health care will not supplant private health care.
But that fails to address the fact that before becoming president, Obama argued for the elimination of private health insurance altogether (on the 2003 video clip, Obama even lamented that it would probably take 10 to 15 years to get private insurers out of the health care market completely).
It's nothing new to see political spin emerging from the White House. Spokespersons for presidents are always attempting to quell controversies and avoid negative attention, all the while advancing the president's message. And while Douglas is not the official press spokesperson for Obama (that job belongs to Robert Gibbs), she is nonetheless fulfilling a similar role.
What is disturbing, however, about Douglas' message, is her apparent attempt to have Americans "snitching" on each other. She is, quite literally, asking you, if you identify something on the Web about health insurance that is "fishy," to "report" what you encountered to the U.S. government. If you happen to have published a blog entry, or an opinion piece, or even a "letter to the editor" that expressed an opinion about the health care debate that may have been different from Obama's, well, perhaps your government has collected data on you.
Where does that data go? What will our government do with it? Need us dissenters prepare forretaliation?
Austin Hill of Gilbert comments on political and social issues every Sunday. Contact him at info@Austinhill.net.