If there’s anything consistent in politics, it’s that talking points seemingly never die.
Try as we might to eradicate those based on falsehoods, they just keep sticking around because someone still believes them and wants to spread them far and wide. God forbid you comment on the agenda behind them. Then you’re just a hater persecuting those who don’t agree with you.
You didn’t need your sanity, did you?
Sometimes the letters we receive are so full of debunked talking points that I feel the urge to play Talking Point Bingo. The problem is that I’d lose my voice from shouting “Bingo!” so much. Turning it into a drinking game (water for me, thanks) would be even worse, and hospitalization would likely result (yes, even from water; you can drink too much).
My eyes roll every time I see the same tired tropes of Barack Obama being a golfin’, teleprompter-lovin’, Murica-hatin’ Commie Kenyan Moooslim who’s always gallivantin’ around on vacation. I cringe every time I see any gun argument, pro or con, simply because both sides have the tendency to go overboard (one more than the other, though).
All the parties do it—as do the various sides to topics such as climate change and abortion—and when these talking points are repeated ad nauseam, they become gospel and the party line. Never mind if it’s true. All that matters is selling it as the truth.
So no, last year’s claim that 9 million previously uncovered people gained insurance due to the Affordable Care Act is not quite true. That number included people who’d renewed existing plans through Medicaid or SCHIP or switched to plans on the state or federal exchanges, and young adults under 26 who were added to their parents’ policies, according to FactCheck. While millions did gain coverage, that number was inflated, as was the claim of the millions who lost coverage.
And no, abortions do not make up 94 percent of Planned Parenthood’s pregnancy services. FactCheck found that that number counted only certain services (abortion, prenatal services and adoption referrals); that leaves out “family practice services,” pregnancy tests, and other medical services for low-income pregnant women provided through WIC. Planned Parenthood told FactCheck that it doesn’t track the total number of pregnant women it serves, all the services provided, or referrals to other providers when the clinic doesn’t offer prenatal care. Without the total number of pregnant women served, statistics purporting to represent the percentage of abortions are basically meaningless.
Straightforward math is thus a huge casualty in talking points. Have pity on the math teachers of America, please. Just say no to bad math. Damn math-heads.
Another of the unfortunate side effects of this talking-point bonanza—besides contributing to some editors’ migraines—is that people have the tendency to pay attention only to the surface details, like titles. Sometimes only the titles … and then they spout off, regardless of facts.
Conservationist William deBuys, who wrote the Perspective cover, “Mega-droughts” (printed in the Los Angeles Times, and reprinted Sept. 13 by the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette), responded to a letter printed on the Voices page from a reader who judged his book by its … uh, title. I thought it only fair to print that response.
“What a brilliant, witty, and incisive riposte to my column on climate change you posted from your reader Bill Tucker Jr. of Lonsdale … . With deep insight he points out that anyone who publishes a book with the word “unicorn” in the title is not to be trusted: ‘Does Mr. William deBuys have any books out about Bigfoot as well? Or maybe the Loch Ness monster? These guys crack me up!’
“Very funny! Except that my use of ‘unicorn’ in The Last Unicorn: A Search for One of Earth’s Rarest Creatures is actually—stop the presses!—a metaphor. The book concerns a wildlife expedition in central Laos in search of a very real animal called the saola (Pseudoryx nghetinhensis).
“A previous book was A Great Aridness: Climate Change and the Future of the American Southwest. It doesn’t mention Bigfoot. In truth, all of my eight books deal with serious matters, which Mr. Tucker can easily discover if he knows how to use the Internet.”
That goes along with one of the things I’m firmly behind: Research. Taking something as truth without checking it out is just asking to be fooled. If someone makes a claim, especially one that seems overly controversial, find out the real story before you go off the deep end.
(And just so you know, The House of Mirth is not a hilarious read … unless you find humor in tales of desperation that end in lonely death. If you do, lose my number.)
As long as people keep using political talking points (especially those that are false), we’ll continue to have mindless drivel endlessly repeated, and actual thought will be rare indeed. That’s not a world I want, especially since that means we’ll keep making the same mistakes over and over.
And that’s not entertaining, unlike John McCain makin’ like a zombie.
Print subscribers might have noticed something amiss on the Voices page last week, with Friday and Saturday’s columns switched. No, we’re not changing our schedule, so no need to worry about that.
The Saturday page was inadvertently pasted onto the Friday page, so that was why Mike Masterson appeared on Friday, and Dana Kelley appeared Saturday. No conspiracy was afoot (and what a boring conspiracy that would be; it’s much more exciting to watch Luke attempt to evade his daily steroid gel in the ear).
It was a mistake, we learned from it, we’ve moved on.
Too bad that doesn’t often happen in politics.
What am I saying? More like never happens.