The news media everywhere covered a survey released this week by Indiana University that shows that a majority of Americans believe the lies—excuse me, myths— about health care reform that have been polluting the airwaves, virtual space, blogosphere, print pages and other public forums for months. These myths, all false, include:
- The federal government will be directly involved in making decisions about care: 50% believe this lie.
- Taxpayers will have to pay for abortions: 55%
- Illegal aliens will be covered: 46%
- Waits for medical services will increase: 67%
Some people who believe the myths are surely frightened seniors or those who usually don’t get involved in political or social issues and therefore have not learned which media they can trust and which routinely distorts.
But I’m going to postulate that the people who believe these myths largely coincide with the same “true believers” who have swallowed the many falsities promulgated by the religious right. I call them “true believers,” because they mostly decide matters of fact with anecdotes and beliefs and not facts; the origin of the expression is Eric Hofer, I believe. The fact that many more Republicans than Democrats came down on the “lie side” of the IU survey supports that supposition.
The true believers are not bad people, but they do tend to believe a subset of the news media prone to lying and distorting facts, even when the truth is readily available. These lying media, which include websites, some print media and a lot of talk radio, first ingratiated themselves with the true believers by tapping into their prejudices regarding religion, social issues such as abortion (and, for a while, gay marriage) and race, and connecting these core “true-believer” beliefs with a free-market, anti-government bias which I believe was always the true agenda of the right-wing media. As the IU survey demonstrates, years of feeding prejudices with lies and distortions continue to pay off.