Getting Healthcare News from People Who Told You Second Hand Smoke was Harmless

Baby doll smoking a cigarette
Back in the '90s, one of Rush Limbaugh's big issues was the "junk science" that held that second hand tobacco smoke was bad for you. Never mind the obvious; that if first hand smoke was bad for you, the idea that second hand smoke was not is absurd. But Limbaugh was and is an expert in making endless gullible people believe patently ridiculous things, which made him the perfect propagandist to rile up dopes into thinking you had some sort of a right to smoke around the baby and that the liberal nanny state was taking that right away -- not because of health concerns, but because they're all commies who hate big business. Limbaugh continued the fight long after the battle was lost, insisting as recently as 2010 that "second hand smoke is harmless."

This campaign wasn't exactly Limbaugh's idea. Tobacco giant R.J. Reynolds enlisted him and others in a big PR push that included the arguments that nicotine was "NOT addictive,"  to "point out 'victimhood' of smokers--outside in wind and cold--as pariahs." The idea was to "create fear of loss of liberty" and to "incite smokers to rebel and spread that rebellion to nonsmokers now!" Who would be more perfect than Limbaugh's audience of "dittoheads"  -- a group of constantly whining conservatives completely convinced of their perpetual victimhood? Always quick to reactionary rage and never prone to deep thinking, the far right talk radio base has always been a herd of buffalo that corporations could panic into a stampede and send to trample (or try to anyway) anyone they wanted. They became the "town hall mobs," which in turn became the Tea Party.

This, I believe, is essential background in understand the furor around this:

Talking Points Memo: Donna received the letter canceling her insurance plan on Sept. 16. Her insurance company, LifeWise of Washington, told her that they'd identified a new plan for her. If she did nothing, she'd be covered.

A 56-year-old Seattle resident with a 57-year-old husband and 15-year-old daughter, Donna had been looking forward to the savings that the Affordable Care Act had to offer.

But that's not what she found. Instead, she'd be paying an additional $300 a month for coverage. The letter made no mention of the health insurance marketplace that would soon open in Washington, where she could shop for competitive plans, and only an oblique reference to financial help that she might qualify for, if she made the effort to call and find out.

Otherwise, she'd be automatically rolled over to a new plan -- and, as the letter said, "If you're happy with this plan, do nothing."

If Donna had done nothing, she would have ended up spending about $1,000 more a month for insurance than she will now that she went to the marketplace, picked the best plan for her family and accessed tax credits at the heart of the health care reform law.

"The info that we were sent by LifeWise was totally bogus. Why the heck did they try to screw us?" Donna told TPM's Dylan Scott. "People who are afraid of the ACA should be much more afraid of the insurance companies who will exploit their fear and end up overcharging them."


The outrage over these letters isn't that corporations are lying to customers in an attempt to rip them off (i.e., anger directed at the right people), the outrage is from the gullible chumps who are falling for this con. And they're the same people who always fall for corporate cons, who believed Limbaugh when he told them that burning a pack a day around the kids was fine, who believe that the jury's still out on asbestos and global warming and nuclear waste. They actually are perpetual victims, just not victims to the people they believe they are. They're victims to corporate lies and they rarely learn anything from this recurring mistake.

So as the rightwing media reports half the story -- and a carefully selected, edited, and redacted half at that -- the base eats it up. You take a story of insurance policies canceled because they're so lousy that they're now illegal, you cut out a few facts here and there, add a little outrage and stridency, and presto -- a story about pretty much everyone in America seeing their insurance situation worsen under Obamacare. These are the same people who'd tell you it's fine to keep an ashtray by the crib and we're supposed to take them seriously.

Personally, I don't trust them any farther than I can throw them -- and, as a former smoker, that's probably not very far. They've shown over and over again how untrustworthy they are; as have the corporations who fax them their talking points every morning.


[photo by Eli Duke]

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