Lies, Damn Lies and Public Relations

I wish I hadn’t been driving to work this morning when I heard this on the radio. That’s because I could not write down any names, including the individual making the claim or the PAC/think tank where he’s now working, “Democracy” somethingorother. Fortunately, I was able to find a similar story from UPI.

Former Public Relations executive at CIGNA Wendell Potter, who now works for the Center for Media and Democracy, is claiming he saw the insurance industry’s fingerprints all over the protests at the Democrat town halls. He says that this is just like 1993, and that the talking points are the same. The protesters are lying or have been mislead, spewing falsehoods.

Actually, that sounds an awful lot like Democrat talking points.

This looks like another so-called “progressive” making a series of accusations for which he has little proof and a lot of inference and innuendo. He has insurance industry experience which to the uninformed gives him some credibility. However he now works for the Center for Media and Democracy, a high-sounding name that triggers all the right emotions in our subconscious but in actuality means very little.

While claiming to be “non-partisan,” the CMD’s website asserts its mission is to:

[P]romote transparency and an informed debate by exposing corporate spin and government propaganda and by engaging the public in collaborative, fair and accurate reporting.

However, a quick look at CMD’s publication list shows a decidedly different spin:

  • The Best War Ever: Lies, Damned Lies and the Mess in Iraq
  • Toxic Sludge Is Good For You: Lies, Damn Lies and the Public Relations Industry
  • Mad Cow USA, which documents the PR coverup of human and animal health risks from mad cow disease
  • Trust Us, We’re Experts: How Industry Manipulates Science and Gambles With Your Future [because government doesn’t manipulate anything –auth.]
  • Weapons of Mass Deception: The Uses of Propaganda in Bush’s War on Iraq
  • Banana Republicans: How the Right Wing is Turning America Into a One-Party State [yeah, ‘cause that one worked out so well…–auth.]

Not much there attacking the liberal agenda, is there? And from CMD’s list of “services”:

Informing and assisting grassroots citizen activism that promotes public health, economic justice, ecological sustainability and human rights.

Those all sound well and good until one realizes that it is the same kind of Orwellian language used by other supposedly “non-partisan” groups with a liberal agenda. Site blog posts include, “The Ultimate Irony: Health Care Industry Adopts Big Tobacco’s PR Tactics,” “President Obama and Congress: If You Missed Wise County, Join Me in L.A.,” and “Big Insurance, Big Tobacco and You.”

Now there is an interesting PR trick: Take one group that is universally distrusted (Big Tobacco) and associate it with your target (health insurance companies). The same thing is done with conservatives, as I documented yesterday on the issue of militias. All sorts of lobbying groups and PR firms use this tactic, and they use it to great effect thanks to our subconscious desire to see connections.

Quick perusal of the Center for Media and Democracy website indicates that the organization is anything but non-partisan. Rather, the CMD is a liberal group similar to Media Matters or MoveOn.org, but without the name recognition.

Oh, did I just use their little PR inference trick against them by associating CMD with two well-known and highly disliked liberal activist groups?

Nothing Potter’s statements from the press reports indicate he has even a modicum of proof for his accusations. Perhaps he provided something, but in our sound-byte-driven media, it was lost. The quotations from WSB and UPI indicate he is relying on his personal experience as a former insurance executive to make the accusation that insurance companies are behind the kafuffle. Exploring CMD’s website has revealed no evidence. He has no bank records, no e-mails to group lists detailing the talking points of the day, no insider memos and no whistle-blowers to back up his assertions.

Of course, I have no proof that Potter is making false accusations. Then again, I’m only asserting that he has no proof. I am not saying that the insurance industry isn’t conducting a public relations campaign. They are of course, and would be stupid not to do so, as the very survival of their industry depends upon it. I am simply asserting that Potter has offered no proof that the protests are a direct result of any campaign by the insurance industry.

Rather than being an agent of revealing the spin of public relations information, Wendell Potter appears to have taken on the role of propagandist, pushing a liberal agenda all in the name of “non-partisan” spin control.

Maybe, though… Maybe he’s right.

Maybe Americans don’t really see a threat in this steady march toward socialism or state capitalism or fascism or whatever methodology the Obama Administration and the Democrats have in mind. Perhaps they don’t believe that government bureaucracy is slow, costly and inefficient. It is possible Americans haven’t examined examples like the Post Office, Social Security and Medicare/Medicaid and determined that government isn’t the best option. Perhaps they aren’t so upset about massive deficits and the increase in government power over our daily lives. Maybe it is all just insurance industry propaganda.

Or maybe Wendell Potter knows who is buttering his bread. After all, the Center for Media and Democracy seems to have opposed just about everything conservative or “free market” for at least the last several years.

The fact that the protests all have the same basic message of “too much spending,” “too much government” and “slippery-slope to single-payer” does not have to be a product of any one industry PR campaign, talking points or any coordinated attack on “health care reform.” While possible, this viewpoint discounts entirely the intelligence of the American people as a group to reason as individuals that a “public option” might not be the best option.

After all, these same Americans have seen the failures of the TARP program, the stimulus and most recently the CARS program. They have been educated about how poorly the government estimates costs, as Medicare/Medicaid ballooned far above their expected budgets. They experience government bureaucratic inefficiency with every trip to the Department of Motor Vehicles and when dealing with the IRS.

Perhaps, just perhaps, Americans really are fed up with too much spending we cannot afford and too much government in our daily lives.

Cross-posted at Seeking Liberty.