As the health care debate continues, the hyperbole gets even worse. At a recent town hall meeting, a woman asked Barney Frank why he supports a “Nazi” health policy. Frank reacted in a fairly extreme way to this question and made an inquiry about what planet the women spends most of her time.
On one hand, Frank’s reaction was quite reasonable. After all, he is Jewish and to suggest to him that Obama’s health care plan is akin to what the Nazis did would certainly strike a nerve. Further, the comparison between what Obama has proposed and what the Nazis did is an absurd piece of hyperbole and fear mongering. As such, this sort of comparison is wrong in two primary ways. First, it serves to stoke the fires of unreasonable fear in people who apparently do not know any better. This is, of course, why it works-people are not sure what the plan truly involves and are worried. Ignorance plus fear creates an easy breeding grown for even greater fear. Second, such comparisons are demeaning to the people who suffered under and those who fought against Nazism. While there are grounds to criticize the health care plans, it is nothing like Nazism and to make that comparison is both logically flawed (it is a crappy analogy) and morally flawed.
The use of such scare tactics and hyperbole is, of course, rather effective. As noted above, people are worried about health care and it is very complex. As such, fear and ignorance are available as exploitable commodities and the various folks who are against health care are exploiting them as effectively as they can. Of course, this is harmful to America. Rather than discussing the real pluses and minuses of various plans, we are being sidetracked by these absurd sort of comparisons. My thought is that if Obama’s health care plan is truly flawed, then the opponents should be able to show that without resorting to absurd Nazi comparisons, scare tactics and what seem to be outright fabrications.
On the other hand, Frank should be aware that some people are genuinely worried that Obama’s health care plan will really be on par with some sort of Nazi plan. Thanks to irresponsible rumors, there are folks who really and sincerely believe that Obama’s plan includes euthanizing old folks.
While it might seem ridiculous that people need to be told that Obama has no plans to kill grandma and grandpa, the fear is there. As such, the Democrats need to (absurdly enough) address those fears. While the fears might be manufactured, they are now genuine fears and hence worthy of some attention.
It does bother me that there are people who are intentionally generating baseless claims that are wasting our time and distracting us from meaningful discussions of the issues. I have no objection against people being critical of Obama’s policies and, in fact, I encourage that (as Socrates argued, gadflies are good). What I am opposed to are these hateful rumors. Those folks who are against Obama’s plans should be presenting reasoned arguments against them and offering alternatives rather than creating and spreading hateful rumors. These rumors do not do America any good and, in fact, hurt us by creating needless fear and dragging the discourse into absurd realms.
For the folks on the right, my comments also apply to rumor mongers on the left as well. As a specific example, George Bush is no more a Nazi than Obama.