I only read Jeff Ackerman’s Op-Ed today (“Mailbox filled with bills, lies“) after my wife tried to explain it to me, and her explanation didn’t make any sense. It sounded like she was describing several unrelated editorials shuffled together. One about elderscam, one about lying government officials, one about the federal deficit, and one about poor insurance companies maligned by hypocritical government officials.
Now that I’ve read the editorial myself, I see that although it appears to discuss a number of unrelated lies and scams, it’s actually organized around a single overriding theme: No matter how badly you are harmed by private scammers and insurance companies, you should direct your anger primarily at the government.
Ackerman writes that “lying politicians, who have been stealing from the Social Security fund, now have the audacity to call insurance company liars.”
He also says, “the irony here, of course, is the notion that government is concerned about misleading information in the first place. Part of government’s job is to mislead its citizens.”
There’s an important difference between the banal observation that government often makes mistakes, often acts in a venal or murderous fashion, and the categorical assertion that government is always wrong, can never do anything right, is relentless in lying to us. The second idea is propaganda, made plausible by the grain of truth expressed by the first statement.
What’s most insidious in this propaganda/conservative talking point is the fallacy that government is an other, that it is — in fact — other than us, other than “we the people.” Pogo’s observation — “We have met the enemy and he is us” — is not liberal pap, but rather an expression of a deep and fundamental principle upon which our form of government is based.
The harm in such propaganda is that it teaches people that government is an other, an enemy to be hated and reviled, it encourages people to reach for their pitchforks rather than to seek the bully pulpit.
Government is “we the people.” The extent to which this sounds like a romantic fantasy is precisely the extent to which this insidious conservative propaganda has been effective.
Ackerman’s editorial merely parrots this tired propaganda.
Ironically, the long central section of his editorial, in which he describes the vulnerability of the elderly in our community to scams and fraud, could — if separated from the tired anti-government rhetoric — stand by itself as a separate essay on that important subject.
Too bad Jeff Ackerman didn’t write that editorial instead of this confused and confusing one.