Fallacious Journalism, Circa 2013

About the news business, G. K. Chesterton once wrote:

GK ChestertonIt is the one great weakness of journalism as a picture of our modern existence, that it must be a picture made up entirely of exceptions. We announce on flaring posters that a man has fallen off a scaffolding. We do not announce on flaring posters that a man has not fallen off a scaffolding…Busy editors cannot be expected to put on their posters, “Mr. Wilkinson Still Safe,” or “Mr. Jones, of Worthing, Not Dead Yet”…They cannot describe all the forks that are not stolen, or all the marriages that are not judiciously dissolved. Hence the complete picture they give of life is of necessity fallacious; they can only represent what is unusual.

That was written in 1910. If, like Ivy League-educated Ted Cruz, you have trouble with arithmetic, that’s more than 100 years ago. But I thought about that quote today, about the fact that journalists aren’t really in the business of reporting the usual or the unexceptional, after I read an article on Politico, a news outlet that has become the flagship of group-think Beltway journalism. The headline of the article was this:

At Kentucky state fair, fear and confusion over Obamacare

Now, the article was as much about the dedicated and earnest folks in Kentucky trying to give people accurate information and “sell Obamacare at the state fair,” as it was about the fear and confusion people are experiencing over the new law. But the headline was written to emphasize the “fear and confusion,” rather than champion those who are trying to allay the fear and clear up the confusion. Get it?

But that isn’t my biggest gripe about the article. In a piece that was obviously meant to highlight the real fear and confusion that exists over a fairly complicated government effort to help citizens get insurance and to prevent private insurers from screwing them at every turn, in a piece that ran over 900 words, there was one sentence—14 words!—about why there is so much fear and confusion about the law. And that one sentence was the next-to-last sentence in the piece:

And the opponents of the law are doing ample advertising on the other side.

That was it. After nearly 900 words about all the fear and confusion surrounding ObamaCare, that was all the writer had to say about what has undoubtedly caused much of that fear and confusion. That’s all the writer had to say about a massive and expensive disinformation campaign that various conservative interest groups and various right-wing pundits and various Republican politicians have waged for years now.

And the writer didn’t even bother to identify who “the opponents of the law” are, or mention that the “ample advertising” has been, at best, speculations about the horrors to come or, at worst, outright lies about what the law means. It’s as if a journalist was reporting on all those fleeing folks in Nairobi, Kenya, people frantically exiting a shopping mall full of fear and confusion, and the journalist never mentioned what the fuss was all about, never mentioned that terrorists had been shooting up the place.

I suppose the only excuse for such shoddy journalism is that right-wingers have been so diligent, so persistent in their war against ObamaCare, that it isn’t worth reporting on anymore. It’s commonplace. It’s mundane. The campaign of disinformation and lies against the Affordable Care Act is so normal and unnewsworthy that journalists don’t even bother to highlight it, much less identify the perpetrators or offer readers any details about how effective and destructive the campaign has been.

Right-wingers lying about ObamaCare is now like Chesterton’s man who has not fallen off a scaffolding, an event so usual, so ordinary, so run-of-the-mill, that it is ignored by journalists:

Hence the complete picture they give of life is of necessity fallacious.

[Chesterton photo credit: Hulton Archive/Getty Images]


  1. High cost of healthcare? Nothing new there. Republicans are against the ACA but have nothing to replace it. Ho hum. What else is new? Fear, loathing and bad journalism in Kentucky. Hasn’t it always been that way? Got it. Take two aspirin and call the papers after November 2016. 🙄


  2. Politico – “Proudly Weakening Journalistic Standards Since . . . what, 2009?” When did these vermin show up anyway?

    Of course they’re doubled up on a.m. teevvee with Chuck Todd, so things are proceeding much more quickly than they dared imagine.


    • Politico’s Mike Allen is on Morning Joe nearly every day, as far as I can tell. Which works out well for Joe Scarborough, since he is a Politico columnist. And other Politico journalists appear throughout the day on MSNBC. So, I guess someone at the network likes what they do. For better or worse, Politico is a buzz-generator these days, which, as you suggest, is strange for an outfit that has only been around for a few years.


  3. ansonburlingame

     /  September 25, 2013

    But more to the substance of ACA, is not the real issue all about how to pay for HC for all Americans today? NO ONE knows how to do so, today.

    HC for “working people” was almost a “given”, during my professional years. People that had a job generally received HC benefits as part of their “unseen” pay, at least in the 70’s and into the 80’s. Medicare took care of old people. Only those without reasonably good jobs were left in the lurch and we the people began to worry abou them, over time. Thus Medicaid, among other things, until……..

    Starting in about the 90’s, maybe a little later, the wheels came off the wagon to pay for HC for everyone. Costs for such care went through the roof and have not stopped doing so.

    Now everyone must budget for their HC costs, a budget item that can approach, or even exceed, the cost of a mortgage payment, each month.

    I noticed a clip of Cruz’s filibuster wherein he said if ACA continues the private insurance industry will collapse. Is that a possibility? Maybe it is but I’m not sure. But IF it is true, well then what? Of course the answer is universal HC paid by government, very similar to Europe today. Is that not the dream of progressives, universal HC funded by government for all Americans. Sure seems to be the case when I read this blog on that HC topic.

    I only wonder what everyone’s tax bill will look like when that comes to pass. Might the needed tax INCREASES be similar to another mortgage payment, each month?? The only other choice is borrow the money or just expect HC providers to work for middle class (at best) wages, each and every one of them. Then watch the quality of HC go down the drain and the lines to receive HC to reach the moon.



  4. Duane,

    Well, the real headline would be the GOP presenting a detailed, cost-effective, GAO reviewed, alternative to ObamaCare. Unless and until the party of Lincoln does that, their objections and faux outrage should be exposed for what they are — brainless political posturing.

    There’s a really good article that just came out today in The Atlantic called “The Fall of the Heritage Foundation and the Death of Republican Ideas,” by Molly Ball. Among many other things, Ms. Ball writes:

    “The foundation’s president, the confrontational former Senator Jim DeMint, spent the last month touring the country, drawing cheering crowds as he demanded that Republican politicians insist that Obamacare be defunded — and denouncing those who wouldn’t go along. “Republicans are afraid,” DeMint told NPR. “And if they are, they need to be replaced.” The foundation’s three-year-old activism arm, Heritage Action, spent half a million dollars on online ads targeting 100 Republican House members who didn’t sign on to the defund crusade (“Tell Representative Tom Cole to Stop Funding Obamacare”).”

    No reason is offered as to why the ACA should be defunded. Perhaps that’s because Republicans are assumed, by DeMint and his like-minded right wing extremists, to be brain-dead zombies, scouring the neighborhoods and keeping those in need of medical care from leaving their houses.

    Is it too early for scotch?



    • Well, the real headline would be the GOP presenting a detailed, cost-effective, GAO reviewed, alternative to ObamaCare.

      Right, Herb. And we can see by Anson’s reply that he and virtually every other conservative have abandoned thinking that way. Instead they embrace bumper-sticker analysis: “We Can’t Afford ObamaCare”, a theme that’s been repeated so incessantly that it’s now accepted as fact, never mind that the initial insurance premiums to be offered are coming in under estimates. The healthcare system has been without any meaningful competition for so long that even a hint that costs might influence patient choice is having an effect. And when the medical establishment worries, as Anson notes,

      I noticed a clip of Cruz’s filibuster wherein he said if ACA continues the private insurance industry will collapse.

      they are worrying that the goodie bag of unfettered greed is about to deflate. It is predicted, according to last night’s news, that those parts of the medical insurance industry that fail to be competitive in the bidding will indeed go belly up. Flash for you, Senator Cruz: that’s the way competition is supposed to work.


    • Herb,

      Thanks for mentioning that excellent article.

      I had the pleasure of watching one of DeMint’s “town halls” in which he rattled off lie after lie before a crowd of white people, the average age of which was probably 75 or so. Now, what I found amazing about the whole thing was that when DeMint was attacking big government, and saying things like “we need to get to get government off our backs,” the crowd of Social Security and Medicare recipients was orgasmically applauding.

      I’m guessing that it was the first time many of them had climaxed in years.




  5. ansonburlingame

     /  September 26, 2013


    I for sure cannot speak for the GOP but in terms of, “No reason is offered as to why the ACA should be defunded”, I certainly offer a reason. We cannot pay for it, or at least many people absolutely refuse to pay for it, particularly the bottom 50%. Of course the progressive position is to get the rich to fund it, I suppose, along with everything else.

    Redistribute all income to the point of “equality” in income. Then tack on a “mortgage payment” for HC for each and every American. Hmmmm?



    • If you would get your head out of right-wing media’s ass, Anson, you would know that ObamaCare, unlike the GOP’s prescription drug plan of years ago, has its own funding mechanisms. And the main reason that those who should sign up for insurance won’t sign up for it–which is partially how the thing is funded–is because your side, full of ignorance and bloated with arrogance, are encouraging them not to via a well-funded disinformation campaign.


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