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Land Shark

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Member since: Thu Dec 30, 2004, 05:48 PM
Number of posts: 6,344

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RW meta-Talking Point: Those Who Pay Get to Control (Limbaugh, et al) is a Framing Trap


Is the provision of any financial assistance (say, for contraceptives) a COMPLETE WAIVER OF PRIVACY?

Aside from Limbaugh's patent offensiveness, this is the "argument" he is making when he suggests posting sex tapes online for all (taxpayers) to see if the government pays for a woman's contraception. Of course, there are lots of medical records and procedures one would not want posted online for legitimate privacy reasons.

Similarly, FoxNews recently queried if parents should not be allowed to view the text messages of their teenagers IF THE PARENTS PAY FOR the cell phone service. But. it seems that the authority and right to know what one's children are doing comes from the status of being a parent, not from PAYING for a cell phone service. Does Fox really mean to suggest that kids with their own income or job may never be supervised by their parents?

Other examples could be given, but the meta-talking point is "those who pay, get to control."

It's easy to push back on that in the context of private medical and sexual matters, but unless we are careful doing so just lands us into the trap of supporting a principle of non-accountability to taxpayers, which implicates everything from overbroad FOIA denials to black ops and secret government programs. Just as with contraception, information of a "sensitive, private or embarrassing nature" should arguably NOT be open to public view, for the same reasons the tapes of sexual activities arguably made possible by government funding should not be aired.

I think the RW talking point writers would be happy to abandon the current Limbaugh position in favor of the likely progressive response: Just because taxpayers pay for something, doesn't mean taxpayers have a right to know. (citing contraceptives as one example)

These Republicans may think they can win with the Limbaugh feint either way (and that's why they tried it in the first place). Given that progressives can reasonably be expected to push back on Limbaugh, right wingers may be expecting a form of victory no matter what happens, and even if it costs Rush a few advertisers. Note how they can at least try to have their cake and eat it too, because one or both of the following is likely to be the apparent outcome of this otherwise ridiculous episode:

1. Denying/deterring Health care (we shouldn't have the government pay for health care, because it's a waiver of privacy)

2. Protecting government unaccountability and secrecy (just because the taxpayer pays, doesn't mean that embarrassing information should be posted on the internet. i.e. there is no taxpayer right to know)

Right wingers are smart enough to know that what flies under the radar and is largely or totally unexamined intellectually is the most powerful "persuader" or reinforcement. This "under the radar" concept, or subintelligitur, in this case is that Paying gives one the right to know.

But when progressives push back on this issue and argue for limits on the right of taxpayers to know how their tax money is spent (such as the case of contraception), republicans will be happy to seize on that "point of agreement" and apply it elsewhere, such as protecting the Bush administration's activities from coming to any further light. The argument then will be that paying taxes does not establish ANY kind of a right to know about embarrassing uses of that tax money.

This is worth thinking about, at least. I'm sure that for Rush Limbaugh it is not simply the testimony of Ms. Fluke that motivates both his ire and his willingness to go out on a limb. But in case it's really just as simple as that, that won't stop the fallout from this issue being used to hurt progressive causes in other contexts, such as those mentioned above.
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