Friday, January 21, 2011

Spin and the Potemkin Village

The DEADLY SPIN doctors are behind the attempt to kill a national health care plan! The health insurance industry’s portrayal of health care in America as the best in the world is nothing but a Potemkin Village.
by Charlie Leck

In his new and super-extraordinary book, DEADLY SPIN, Wendell Potter blows the lid off the spin doctors who want to kill America’s recently established public health care plan. Potter is formerly an insider in the American health care industry and is now turned whistle blower, exposing how the industry wanted to kill the health care plan signed into law last year by President Obama.

Bang! Bang! Bang!

Potter’s book is extraordinary. I opened it yesterday, right after posting my 20 January 2011 blog. I read with a vengeance. I read at my desk, in the bathroom, on my bed (where I even drifted off to sleep for an hour) and in the kitchen (as I prepared the evening’s dinner). Before my wife came up from the farm to enjoy the stuffed peppers and big salad I laid out for her, I had finished the book; and, to tell you the truth, I couldn’t stop trembling.

I’ll tell you, and I beg you to tell your friends, that if you read only one book this year make sure it is DEADLY SPIN. Again, be sure to read DEADLY SPIN by Wendell Potter. You won’t be sorry.

And, as I recommended to you yesterday, be sure to listen to Kerri Miller interview Wendell Potter on Minnesota Public Radio on this past Wednesday.

Potter explains that all the vicious and outrageous lies about this legislation were carefully planted by the spin doctors (PR departments) within the medical insurance industry. He was part of that spin doctoring as the head of public relations for CIGNA Insurance for many years.

Take, for instance, the claim that Congresswoman Michele Bachmann likes to make – that “Obama health care is a government takeover of the health care system.” The exact string of words is a creation of spin doctors who knew it would work to terrorize American citizens who want no more intrusion of the government into their lives.

As Potter says, “People are more concerned with government intrusion into their lives than they are of big business intrusion.”

The PR departments (spin doctors) in these big health insurance companies clearly know this. Therefore, they know they can strike fear into the hearts of the public by just stringing a few words together: “…government takeover of heath care!”

These spin doctors, Potter explains, “discount facts and look for words that work!”

“Companies,” he says, “package for lobbyists, who package for politicians.”

Spin doctors created the bogus claim that there are “death panels” in the federal government’s health care plan. They knew that, repeated enough, the claim would be believed.

Potter explains how the industry’s public relations departments keep feeding the “trigger words” to the lobbyists, who get it to the politicians. Make the words scary and they’ll work even better.

The spin doctors create Potemkin’s Villages and then take lobbyists and politicians on tours of them.

Prince Grigory Aleksandrovich Potemkin was part of the ruling corps behind Catherine the Great of Russia (Catherine II), who ruled there from 1762 to 1796. Catherine is famous in lore (likely ficticious) as the woman who enjoyed having horses mount her. She disposed of her husband, Peter III, within the first six months of his rule by convincing her then current boyfriend, Girory Orlov, to murder him. She then took another love, Prince Grigory Aleksandrovich Potemkin, who she had appointed to various posts in the government. The legend goes that Potemkin had a series of attractive villages created along the riverbanks of the Crimea in 1787 where Catherine was to take a tour. They were nothing more than false fronts, but they were attractive and well done and, supposedly fooled silly Catherine into thinking all was well in her land – that the people were comfortable and prosperous. True? False? Who knows? Spin doctors at work.

The point is that the health insurance industry has erected a great Potemkin Village and it is fooling the fool hardy.

Read Potter’s book and see how he was a part of it; then learn how he had an awakening; and how he turned whistle blower.

His chapter (II) about Michael Moore’s documentary, Sicko, and how the industry attacked and discredited it, will show you in graphic terms how the public relations departments of these big health insurance companies work.

Potter reminds us of the thesis and theme of Vance Packard’s book of nearly 50 years ago, The Hidden Persuaders. The invisible art of persuasion is what we’re talking about here.

“Over the last several decades, through the skillful use of such tactics, the American health insurance industry has created a perception of its role and usefulness – its raison d’être – that obscures its real goal: profits.”

Why was the public option provision, which was so important within the promises that President Obama made during his campaign, pulled from the final version of the legislation that passed? If such legislation was going to be passed, the industry wanted to make sure that it was mandated that people had to buy their insurance from the industry. They did just that and forced Obama to renege on his promises of a public option.

Potter tells the whole story and he provides a blue print for doing it differently.

This is some book! Please read DEADLY SPIN by Wendell Potter
[2010, Bloomsbury Press, New York (ISBN-13: 978-1-60819-281-6)]


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