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Lying for the Cause in the New York Times

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I've written before on how leftist propagandists and even mainstream media sources lie and manipulate facts to distort the truth and I can't pass up a great opportunity to illustrate how this is done from a source which many view as unimpeachable and above this sort of chicanery. In yesterday's New York Times there is an article by David Kirkpatrick called "Health Lobby Takes Fight to the States," which attempts to make the case that the reason why state legislatures are trying to pass laws to protect consumers in their states from federal health care legislation is that these legislators and these particular states have received disproportionately large donations from the health care and insurance industries and have essentially been bought off and are doing their masters' bidding on this issue.

Of course the article completely ignores the fact that these various state proposals were largely initiated by citizen petitions and call-in programs arising entirely from grassroots activists from groups like the Republican Liberty Caucus and the tea party movement. It also doesn't consider the fact that in many of the states taking this action public opposition to the health care bills polls at over 70%. It also doesn't mention that consumer groups like Consumers Union, which absolutely do not work for the health care or insurance industries, are pushing legislatures to do this to protect consumers. None of that is featured in Kirkpatrick's article because it doesn't fit in with the left's official message that the evil corporations are trying to keep you from getting health care.

But let's put the part of the story they want to ignore aside and look at the misrepresentations in what they do actually say. Based on data from the anti-lobbyist group Follow the Money, which is far from impartial and as suspect in its way as any health care industry lobbyists, Kirkpatrick says, "Over the last six years, health care interests have spent $394 million on contributions in states around the country; about $73 million of that went to those 14 states. Of that, health insurance companies spent $18.2 million, according to the institute."

Now consider those figures for a moment. $394 million averages out to $7.9 million per state. Then take the $73 milion the lobbyists spent in these 14 states and divide it by the number of states. That's an average of $5.2 million per state. So the national average spent per state was $7.9 million and the amount spent on these 14 states on average was $5.2 million, considerably less. Kirkpatrick's argument is that health care lobbyists used money to influence these particular states to oppose federal health care legislation, but if you check the numbers the truth is that these states which are raising objections actually received 35% less money from lobbyists on average than the states which are not challenging the federal legislation. So the math suggests that Kirkpatrick's thesis is exactly opposite the truth.

Then, discussing Florida, which he is using as his main example in the article, he goes on to say that, "In Florida, where health interests have given a total of about $32 million over the last six years, the state medical association has become an especially important backer of the proposed amendment."

And again, although $32 million looks like a large figure, if you divide it by six years, it once again comes out to be about $5.3 million a year, very close to the average amount of lobbying money spent by insurance companies on a state by state basis. And given the large population in Florida and their particularly high level of health care spending, $5.3 million is actually substantially less than one would expect lobbyists to be spending if they wanted to have special influence there that they don't need in other states.

So what you see in this New York Times article is a classic example of a journalist throwing out large numbers and then claiming that they have a particular significance, when in reality if you do the math and check what those figures really mean, they actually disprove the argument which he is trying to make. The truth is that the states which are trying to protect their citizens from the federal health care plan are not ones in which insurance and health care lobbyists have been spending extra to buy off legislators, and other more legitimate forces like hostility to federal health care from concerned consumers are likely to be the real motivation behind these actions.

Kirkpatrick is an experienced journalist at a reputable paper. Most distressingly, this is not an editorial or a blog entry, but what is supposedly a straight news story. So you have to ask yourself, is he really this careless and are his editors really this incompetent, or are he and they simply lying to you out of political partisanship? In either case, how much should you trust anything they tell you in the future?

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About Dave Nalle

  • Glenn Contrarian

    Let’s assume that everything’s as you say it is with the story. You know what that means?

    When the New York Times publishes something false, that’s NEWS! But when Fox News broadcasts something false, that’s just business as usual…which attitude has led to mediamatters.org’s 200-some-odd-pages-long list of inaccuracies and outright falsehoods by Fox News. “Lying for the Cause”, indeed!

    But you’ve shown that matters of degree don’t matter to you, so of course this comment will mean exactly squat in your eyes.

  • Lumpy

    I thought we expectedsomewhat better from the “gray lady” than from fox news

  • Clavos

    Not any more, Lumpy. The Gray Lady is just another broadsheet these days…

  • http://www.republicofdave.com Dave Nalle

    Glenn, you can check the story yourself. I’m amazed the NYT hasn’t been called on it and printed a retraction yet.

    You also seem to have the odd impression that I give a rat’s ass about your opinion of Fox News. It is what it is. No one is surprised when it makes a mistake or tells a whopper. It’s almost entirely opinion and really hasn’t fooled anyone into thinking it is anything else.

    You bring it up as a strawman to distract from the real issue, which is that a straight journalist at what’s supposed to be our most respected newspaper is basically writing propaganda and trying to pass it off as news.

    Dave

  • Tony

    The propaganda machine works both ways. Government healthcare=socialism=Hitler.
    Out of those 70% of people polled you mentioned and all the “tea baggers” (I love that one), I’m sure about a 1/3 (and that’s being generous could even explain what the plan that is purposed entails. All they know is that they would rather have privatized companies who profit off them being sick and denying claims running our healthcare system rather than our elected officials.

    In Michigan, where I live, the supposedly non-proift Blue Cross Blue Shield kept continually raising my rates to the point where I had to let my insurance lapse and be uninsured for the first time in my life. Better yet, I have a pre-condition that, while requiring no medical treatment or medications, disqualifies me from cheaper plans. I own my own restaurant, contribute the economy, but I can’t afford health insurance because I own a restaurant and the economy in Michigan is terrible.

    Its pathetic that people in this country are so conditioned to think that doctors, insurance companies, and pharmaceutical companies that literally make money off of people being sick as often as possible, that they trust these people with their healthcare over their elected officials. If our elected officials are so incompetent that they can’t look out for the welfare of the people what is the point of their existence. I guess its time to tear down the whole government and start over again because the only thing we trust them to do in this proud, anti-socialist country, is run pointless, expensive wars. We’ll put the lives of our children in their hands, just not their health.

    I agree that inaccurate articles like this hurt the arguments they are trying to help but this healthcare debate is absurd. Both sides have been conditioned against original, problem solving thought. That’s why this country is such a disaster. The Republicans had their demi-god and the dems now have theirs and they are both frauds.

  • http://marksaleski.com Mark Saleski

    No one is surprised when it makes a mistake or tells a whopper. It’s almost entirely opinion and really hasn’t fooled anyone into thinking it is anything else.

    apparently, you’re not kidding. the same talking points pushed out by fox are the very same things sprayed out by everybody that the supposed grass roots events like the tea parties.

    socialism! government takeover of healthcare!

    it’s opinion presented as fact and plenty of people take it seriously.

    not a straw man at all.

  • Mark

    …goes to show what an empty statistic a mean can be.

  • http://www.republicofdave.com Dave Nalle

    Mark, it’s not propaganda, it’s a truth which lots of us can see but which some choose to ignore. The Democrats are bought and sold by the healthcare lobby. It is the state support of corporate interests which has let our health care system become rapacious and abusive and the current legislation continues and expands tht pattern.

    This is bloody obvious to most of us, including tea party activists, Republicans and Fox News. Anyone who looks at the content of these bills rather than accepting them as gospel ends up with the same conclusion. They are for the benefit of the corporations and for the expansion of government bureaucracy and not for the good of the people.

    Take the blinders off.

    Dave

  • John Lake

    Mark Salesky:
    //socialism! government takeover of healthcare!//
    No politician with half a brain would EVER say anything positive about socialism, but when impossible situations arise, impossible solutions are required. Call it Neo-Socialism. The Government in order to keep a strong economy may find it necessary to takeover temporarily some parts of the economic environment. This takeover should probably be temporary, and characterized by transparency and accountability. But the point is, it may be necessary.
    When transparency is brought to Medical tests, procedures, and referrals, everyone gains except the Medical Community. Thats why they spend millions to prevent such transparency.
    If the NYT makes mention of that situation, it is acting with bravery and courage.

  • http://marksaleski.com Mark Saleski

    i did not for one second deny that the democrats are in bed with industry. in fact, i didn’t broach the subject.

    what i did point out is this idea that it’s only “the left” engaging in these sorts of things. as if republicans wear halos and you hear the angelic choir in the background as one walks into the room.

    there may very well be propaganda/misinformation in the times article, but there’s just as much coming out of fox news and people do take it very seriously.

    heck, the very idea that the teabaggers were/are a grassroots phenomenon has the whif of propaganda since the bagger/fox news connection is well-documented.

    personally, i’d love it if we could somehow get the money completely out of our campaign process but it seems that most proposals to do so end up going over the constitutional line.

  • Glenn Contrarian

    Dave –

    Maybe you don’t give a rat’s hind end about Fox News…but you SHOULD.

    Why?

    Because which has more influence on the American people? The NYT? Or Fox News? I think you know very well that Fox has MUCH more influence than the NYT.

    So what’s happened here is that you’re complaining about the NYT – which DOES normally strive for honestly and DOES normally hold its reporting to a high standard, but does NOT have as much influence as a major news network…

    …yet you are NOT complaining about a major news network that has a VERY bad reputation for dishonesty, yet has FAR more influence than any newspaper in America.

    In other words, Dave, I’m trying to get you to work on the biggest problems first, and THEN take on the smaller problems…

    …but I suspect you won’t attack Fox News even if you wanted to, because you’re heading up a certain organization whose members are FAR more likely to be hard-core adherents to Fox News than to the somewhat left-leaning NYT…and you really don’t want to tick off your organization’s members, right?

    Or you could prove me wrong about you and attack Fox News.

  • http://www.futonreport.net/ Matthew T. Sussman

    This article isn’t criticizing former Texas Tech football coach Mike Leach! Why not?

    Glenn, you’ve been with Blogcritics for well over a year. So you should understand by now that, for a community-based online magazine, it’s pretty silly to complain or act shocked that someone that isn’t you is writing an article that you wouldn’t write.

    All you’ve proven is that Dave Nalle has a bias (Did the remake of Sherlock Holmes inspire you to crack this shrouded mystery?) much like, well, just about everyone else around here. So write your own article about Fox News or Sarah Palin and the ridiculous stuff they do. It’s not like you haven’t.

  • Glenn Contrarian

    MTS –

    You didn’t get the point, no, not at all. My comment was yet another in a long, long series of pointing out how the Right complains about something the Left does, all the while ignoring how much worse are the things they themselves have done.

    It’s a matter of degree, MTS. I’ve seen very, very few issues come up against the Left where I couldn’t find a much worse example committed by (or supported by) the Right.

    It’s just like Dave’s tirades against ACORN…all those fraudulent voter registrations, but not a single fraudulent VOTE was cast due to those fraudulent voter registrations. The ‘matter of degree’ comes into play when I point out where GOP operatives wrongfully disenfranchised thousands – perhaps tens of thousands – of registered voters through ‘voter caging’.

    So I’ll extend a challenge to you, MTS – can you point out, say, even three Democratic scandals of a type that the Republicans haven’t done much the same thing, but to a greater degreee? Go ahead! Sex, war, economy, elections…but let’s keep it since 1900, shall we? Have fun!

  • http://www.republicofdave.com Dave Nalle

    Ok, let me explain this one more time. I don’t watch Fox News. I don’t get information from Fox News. Apparently from what I’ve seen here their main viewers are on the left.

    Ad hominems against Fox or against Republicans are just distractions. This article is about one specific example of media distortion.

    If you don’t like my choice of targets you can go back less than a month in my articles and find one where I call out Rush Limbaugh for something similar.

    Dave

  • http://www.futonreport.net/ Matthew T. Sussman

    Glenn, you seem to be exponentially more interested in the answer to your question. Here’s an Internet.

  • http://www.republicofdave.com Dave Nalle

    Perhaps Glenn should write an article so we can ignore his thesis and ask him irrelevant questions about unrelated topics.

    Dave

  • zingzing

    “unrelated” is a bit of a stretch there, dave. or else you have no clue how relationships work. i love you.

  • http://marksaleski.com Mark Saleski

    Perhaps Glenn should write an article so we can ignore his thesis and ask him irrelevant questions about unrelated topics.

    sure, why not? people point out how your ‘facts’ are not so on a regular basis and you ignore them. it’ll provide symmetry.

  • http://www.republicofdave.com Dave Nalle

    Mark, as I’m sure you are smart enough to realize, I ignore them because I am secure enough in what I write to know what the facts are and where they come from and that the burden of proof is on those who dispute them, not on me.

    Dave

  • http://marksaleski.com Mark Saleski

    oh puleeze dave. it’s has been pointed out to you on many occasions where you haven gotten things totally wrong and you will never admit it, preferring to either change the subject or walk away.

    it’s that very trait that you share with politicians of all stripes.

  • zingzing

    dave, if you say something is true and someone proves you wrong, it’s about time to realize the burden of proof is on you.

    you can’t just say something and then watch it be refuted without refuting the refutation. that’s the nature of discourse.

    out of everyone on this site, you’re the worst at this. you disappear as soon as someone has something against what you said.

    and you are one of the more prolific contributors to this site, so let’s see you up your game to a more respectable level.

    don’t ignore your critics. you only give them fire.

  • Glenn Contrarian

    Dave –

    Ever hear of the logical fallacy of ‘proving a negative’? That’s precisely what you’re demanding we do by claiming that the burden of proof is on us to prove you wrong.

    No, sir, the burden of proof is ALWAYS on the claimant. Always, always, ALWAYS. If you’re too, um, ‘busy’ to provide proof of your claims, then don’t make your claims. Otherwise, there is such a thing as journalistic integrity. Hold yourself to that high standard…AND hold others (including me) to the same standard.

  • http://www.republicofdave.com Dave Nalle

    For all his flaws Glenn here has admitted before that I’m one of the few writers on here who has actually admitted mistakes when made.

    That said, why is this an issue here? There are no factual errors in this article. It’s just misdirection and an attempt to turn discussion to an attack on me rather than addressing the issues raised in the article.

    Glenn, in the context which I was commenting, YOU were the claimant, not me. I wrote this article. It has links to the sources. That’s what I’m here to discuss.

    I am not here to defend Fox News. I have no association with Fox News. I have no obligation to respond to criticisms of Fox News.

    The attempt to establish a relationship between my criticism of this NYT article and the failures and misbehavior of Fox News is nothing but a misdirection tactic and a kind of ad hominem attack on me for being a conservative with no basis in anything I’ve said or done.

    It’s a remarkably cheap and manipulative tactic.

    Dave

  • Clavos

    It’s a remarkably cheap and manipulative tactic.

    But not unprecedented.

  • Mark

    Actually, the author of the article in question never draws the comparison on which Dave bases his complaint. All that is said is that the states with proposals are states where the health industry lobbyists have spent heavily. Whether or not this is in some way deceptive depends on one’s reading — not surprisingly, Dave sees fraud.

  • http://marksaleski.com Mark Saleski

    Whether or not this is in some way deceptive depends on one’s reading — not surprisingly, Dave sees fraud.

    and this is exactly what i’m talking about. dave serves up opinion as fact, people call him on it…and somehow that’s being manipulative. right.

  • http://www.republicofdave.com Dave Nalle

    If he actually drew the comparison directly then even the NYT wouldn’t have been able to publish the article as news.

    However, you can’t possibly argue that the way he presents the information clearly implies what I took from it and what every reader would come away thinking.

    Dave

  • Mark

    …you can’t possibly argue that the way he presents the information [doesn’t?] clearly implies what I took from it…

    Sure I can if I don’t assume an intention to mislead. Again, imo your use of the mean statistic in your accusation has led you down a dead end.

    happy new year

  • http://www.republicofdave.com Dave Nalle

    Mark, I’m confident that if I researched each state individually the results would be more glaringly contradictory of his thesis than using the mean was.

    Dave

  • http://www.maskedmoviesnobs.com El Bicho

    Wouldn’t it better to actually do the research rather then presume what it is? Of course, that’s assuming getting it right is more important than being right.

  • http://blogcritics.org/writers/tom-carter/ Tom Carter

    Good article, Dave, and not the only example of this kind from the NYT.

    Funny that all the hissing, clawing, scratching, and spitting in comments hasn’t actually refuted anything you said.