Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Celebs fall for the false dichotomy

In relation to my previous post about language and manipulating ideas, I'm going to address the recent video put out by Will Ferrell and some guest celebrities.

The video (from Funny Or Die) is a satirical public service ad, in which a bunch of celebrities remind us, sarcastically, to look out for the insurance companies who stand to lose huge profits and the execs who stand to lose their large bonuses and private jets. And of course, they talk about how private insurers will refuse coverage based on contractual terms.

The obvious thing that jumped out at me from this ad was that these celebs have fallen hook, line and sinker for a false choice dichotomy--a decision between only two options. The message in the video is to promote Obama's health care reform by bashing the existing system and playing up one or two points on the reform plan. But this is an oversimplification that goes beyond oversimplification. If I were thinking of oversimplifying the health care question I could come up with no less than four options: free market, lightly regulated, highly regulated (current US system) or fully socialized. In terms of this oversimplification, the celebs in the video are actually not even for reform at all; they want to take a highly regulated system and keep it highly regulated according to the Obama plan, with some minor policy changes within the system.

I could respect these people a lot more if they did a video about the problems with the current system and then actually asked people to think of many alternatives that might help and to debate the merits of each. Dumbing the debate down into Shitty Current System vs. Reform is a false choice and of course, if such a debate is allowed to be narrowed in such a way, reform is always the most seductive option. But reform should not be synonymous with more control, more government and less freedom, particularly without an honest debate.

P.S. Will Ferrell isn't funny and hasn't been for at least 1o years....

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