To explain, well give you Jon Henke‘s entire post:
If you forward an inaccurate email or write an inaccurate blog post, the White House wants to see it.[:]
There is a lot of disinformation about health insurance reform out there, spanning from control of personal finances to end of life care. These rumors often travel just below the surface via chain emails or through casual conversation. Since we can’t keep track of all of them here at the White House, we’re asking for your help. If you get an email or see something on the web about health insurance reform that seems fishy, send it to email@example.com.
What, exactly, does the White House plan to do with this information?
UPDATE: The White House responds…
“There is a lot of misinformation about health insurance reform circulating on the Internet and elsewhere,” she explains. “Some of it is intentionally misleading.
“We want to be sure people have the facts about health insurance reform that will lower costs, protect consumers from insurance regulations that deny them coverage and assure quality and affordable health care for all Americans,” she adds. “We are not compiling lists or sources of information. We may post fact checks from time to time to be sure Americans know the truth about health insurance reform.’‘
I believe that is the case. This was simply an inartful way of asking people to help them figure out which new claims they need to be addressing. The White House should respond to inaccurate arguments. But I hope they will do so in a transparent way. Instead of responding to private emails, they should be linking and responding to claims made publicly online. Better yet, they should be participating in a dialogue – responding to the better criticisms made by important critics in the internet media and blogosphere. That would be transparent and valuable.
Lots of bloggers are taking part in Operation Go Flag Yourself — flooding the Internet Snitch Brigade with e-mails turning themselves in for health care hate crimes or turning Team Obama in for “fishy” misinformation. I did my part yesterday. How about you?
Meanwhile, in other news, the Obama administration has put out a nationwide request: “If you get an email or see something on the web about health insurance reform that seems fishy, send it to firstname.lastname@example.org.”
What government on earth–or at least, what government that purports to head a free country–could ever countenance such a call? Even if the good people in the White House are completely aboveboard–even if this is the best-intentioned initiative imaginable (I do admit I find that hard to imagine), how in the world is that sort of wording going to do anything other than inspire fear, suspicion, and the worst censorious impulses?
I am reminded of a line drawn from another classic dystopian tale: In The Matrix, Morpheus introduces Neo to the truth of his decidedly unfree world with a key line: “Welcome the the desert of the real.” That phrase, in turn, draws from an essay by French theorist Jean Baudrillard, whose thinking about the simulated, inauthentic character of contemporary life has long made him a favorite pet within academe.
Where are the academics now? Why aren’t they challenging this stuff–hooking it up to the long history and philosophy of freedom, dissenting as a means of showing patriotism, charting with scholarly dedication this administration’s frightening deviations from its own promises, not to mention the principles of liberty? I thought, when they turned that sort of intellectual critique on the Bush administration, that, as partisan as it was, it also bespoke a deeper commitment to intellectual and ethical integrity. I thought they saw themselves as guardians of some sort, as citizens with special obligations to parse Washington’s ideas and place them in context.
Guess I was wrong.
Anyone recall how, after 9/11 -after we’d been attacked in NYC and DC- the Bush Administration said: “If you see anything suspicious, you ought to report it,” causing conniptions on the left? How dare the Bushies ask people to snitch for security reasons! Now, for mere policy, that has become an acceptable, “if you see/hear anything disobedient, be the tattletale.”
Bear in mind that Operation TIPS intended to get data about potential crimes and acts of terrorism. It differed not at all from a myriad of local hotline tip programs used by police around the country to solve or stop crimes. Given the nature of the 9/11 attacks — conducted by infiltrators who lived in the US for months in preparation for their mass murders — the establishment of the same system for a counterterrorist effort seemed like a no-brainer.
Obama, on the other hand, has set up a snitch line not for crimes or terrorism, but for simple political dissent. Where is Pat Leahy now? Shouldn’t he be demanding to know why Obama wants to put people under “undue scrutiny” merely for the horrible crime of disagreeing with the President? For that matter, where is the Village Voice and Nat Hentoff? So far, the Voice has shown little interest in this administration’s snooping by proxy.
Scott Johnson at Powerline:
As a student of history, I think I know how this works. I want to spare my family and friends the pressure they may feel they are under to turn me in. I confess. I harbor a number of thoughts the Obama White House and Ms. Douglass deem highly fishy. I’m turning myself in.
Whatever President Obama says to induce support of his desired health care — excuse me, I mean health insurance — reform, I believe exactly the opposite. I believe he says what he says because he knows his desired reform is unpopular. I believe what Obama says bears no relationship to what the legislation he supports would do.
Thus when President Obama says if you like your insurance plan, your doctor, or both, you will be able to keep them, I believe he is slinging it. I harbor the guilty thought that the legislation he supports would create incentives for employers to dump employees who like their health insurance into a government plan.
When President Obama says that health care — excuse me, health insurance — reform is necessary to get budget deficits under control, I believe he is slinging it. I harbor the guilty thought that the legislation he supports would create deficits so large it would turn the United States into a banana republic.
When President Obama denies that he supports a Canadian-style single payer health care system, I believe he is slinging it. I believe what he seems to have said frequently in the past to the effect that he supports a system of single payer universal insurance. I harbor the guilty thought that he supports legislation that will inevitably lead to this result incrementally.
When President Obama says what he says to promote health care — excuse me, health insurance — reform, I believe he is slinging it. I harbor the guilty thought that he wants a government takeover of the health care system to turn citizens into supplicants and wards of the state.
I confess. I am guilty of fishy thoughts.
Byron York at The Examiner:
Senate Judiciary Committee lawyers studying the proposal say that although there is no absolutely settled law on the matter, the White House plan is likely not covered by the Privacy Act, which prohibits government agencies from keeping any records “describing how any individual exercises rights guaranteed by the First Amendment unless expressly authorized by statute or by the individual about whom the record is maintained.” Therefore, it appears the White House can legally keep records of the emails and other communications it receives in response to Phillips’ request.
Those lawyers also point out that the White House is not covered by the Freedom of Information Act, which means it would not have to release any information on the plan to members of the public who make a request.
In addition, the lawyers say the collected emails likely will be covered by the Presidential Records Act, which requires the White House to preserve and maintain its records for permanent storage in a government database. Phillips’ request suggests that whatever information the White House receives on health-care reform “disinformation” will be used to further the goal of passing a national health-care makeover, which is, of course, one of the president’s main policy initiatives. Such material, and whatever the White House does with it, would qualify as presidential records. Only after more than a decade would such records be publicly available.
“So the White House, whether by design or accident, has requested information from the public that will become ‘records’ under the Presidential Records Act, yet would be impermissible for any government to otherwise collect under the Privacy Act,” writes one Judiciary Committee source. “Where were the lawyers in all of this? What is their legal basis for authorizing the collection of these records?”
Jake Tapper at ABC
Eight minutes here from today’s presser, with things getting good a little past the halfway mark as Major Garrett tries and fails to grasp why a media operation as sophisticated as The One’s needs public input to address myths about ObamaCare. I can’t remember where but I saw some lefty blog today scoffing at the very idea that there might be something untoward about a government tip line for “fishy” information. Combine that with the fact that we now have liberals complaining about protesters comparing them to Nazis and we’ve arrived in Bizarro World circa 2003.
My dear friends, the kind of response I was hoping for when I wrote that previous post was something like this:
Well, Alan, I hardly think we’re in for another Night of the Long Knives or a re-run of the McCarthy era — that’s not what you’re suggesting, is it? — but that really wasn’t the smartest thing for the White House staff to say. They should have known that a request to report to the White House anything “fishy” was bound to get spun as the first steps towards totalitarianism.
See, wouldn’t that have been reasonable and constructive? Instead I got a bunch of rotten eggs flung at my door.
People. Seriously. This isn’t the Daily Kos or No Left Turns. This is The American Scene — the Scene, man! — an oasis — yeah, I know I’m changing metaphors, just bear with me — an oasis of civilized discourse in the vast desert of the political blogosphere. Granted, it’s an oasis with a few putrid patches, but we know how to step over those, don’t we?
Really, I’m disappointed in you folks. Try to do better the next time, okay?
UPDATE: Keith Hennessey
UPDATE: #2: DiA at The Economist
UPDATE #3: The program is over?