Friday, September 04, 2009

The "Emily Litella" Approach to Advocacy Strikes Again

Last month I wrote a little about the "Emily Litella" approach to advocacy (generational alert -- if you don't know who Emily Litella is, go immediately to this video of her from SNL titled "violins on television.") The Litella-syndrome happens when someone gets all outraged about a policy issue and calls their legislators all in a huff -- only to find out that they misunderstood some fundamental aspect of the proposal. Having been on the receiving end of some of these calls myself, their response is usually something along the lines of "Oh. That's different then. Well, never mind."

I am reminded of Emily Litella when reading this article in the Washington Post on where the "Death Panels" rumor got started. For those living under a rock for the last month, this is the idea that health care proposals put forth by Democrats would establish death panels for rationing care to the elderly. Couple interesting points about the death panel phenomenon:
  • The hospital in Wisconsin where all this started is actually seen as a leader in identifying ways for people to have a very specific say about their own end-of-life issues, INSTEAD of having other people decide for them when they are incapacitated. Kind of sounds like the opposite of death panels to me.
  • Allowing healthy people to be more clear about their wishes also helps save money. According to the article, there's about $40 billion a year spent on Medicare services in the last month of the recipient's life. Apparently, letting people have directives about how much effort they want put in to their end-of-life experience results in lower costs. I thought the Republicans were for reduced spending?
  • Finally, and most important, Sarah Palin was, as has been widely reported, the one who "raised the alarm" about the death panels. Seriously? We're taking our national health care advice from the woman who reads "... all [the newspapers] -- any of them that have been in front of me over the years" (as she told Katie Couric)
When I'm at the grocery store, the National Enquirer is in front of me, but I don't usually believe what it has to say about federal policy (it's usually right on about aliens, though).
Palin-bashing aside (sorry, it's so easy), the point is that the death panel argument is one of the most aggregious examples of the Litella syndrome I've seen in the last 10 years. I call on all effective advocates to resist the urge to get all fired up about something they know nothing about -- and instead take some time to learn about the issues. THEN get fired up.

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