About a month ago, I attended a pro-health care reform rally in Portland, Maine. It was the largest health care rally Maine had ever seen, with over 600 people (it’s Maine) showing up to voice their support for drastic and immediate reform: a public insurance option, and before the Congressional August break. We cheered for speeches and performers advocating change; we marched en masse through the streets shouting “Health Care Now!” People grinningly stared at us and took pictures with their cell phones; cars honked their support. About 10 people dropped by holding anti-reform signs, but nobody paid them any attention.
That is, of course, except for the media. Almost every station covering the event that day described it as a health reform rally vs. a significant “counter-rally,” with “dozens” of people bringing demands equally as urgent as those with no access to health care. On one station’s coverage, the only person interviewed for the story was an anti-reformer.
At the time, the blatantly inaccurate representation of this one event seemed an irksome but relatively minor occurrence. But in the ensuing month, the media has turned what began as a desperate, overwhelmingly popular cry for health care reform into a shameless, Jerry Springer-style cat fight. I have a hard time believing that before FOX, CNN, and their overzealous news brethren started hand feeding the country the outlandish suggestions of a paranoid, delusional few, there was any such thing as an impassioned opponent of health care reform. Right now in the rural state of Maine, the price of an individual insurance plan with a $1500 deductible for a single non-smoker with no preexisting conditions is $900 a month. No rational person would passionately support this. And yet anti-reformers now dominate the airwaves shouting socialism, rationing and death camps; comparing Barack Obama to Hitler and Stalin for ardently trying to fix this terrible problem. And people are starting to believe.
This is not right. The media needs to stop giving an open floor to anti-reform extremists for the sake of cheap drama and ratings and when extremists on tv say crazy, irrational things, people need to stop taking them seriously.