Jeff Duntemann's Contrapositive Diary Rotating Header Image

September 20th, 2009:

Rant: The Case for Killing Newsweek

newsweek09212009.jpgI am aghast. Yesterday afternoon I was at Barnes & Noble, and at the checkout stand I saw what must be the most appalling magazine cover ever to appear on a mainstream US magazine. It wasn’t on Hustler or Soldier of Fortune. It was on the latest Newsweek.

I don’t dabble in politics much here, and I haven’t had much to say about the health care debate that others haven’t said many times, and probably better than I would. But I want to make my position clear: If health insurance reform collapses, it won’t be due to any vast, right-wing conspiracy, not with ol’ Newsweek leading the charge. Salon ran this piece back in August. Same gist. Similar stupid title.

There is a meme abroad, and while I don’t know if it has a name, I call it “Lammism.” The gist of the meme is that the elderly are an expensive extravagance, and money spent on them would be far better spent on younger people. This is not a new thing. I gave the meme its name in honor of former Democratic Colorado governor Richard Lamm, who famously said in 1984 that the ill elderly “have a duty to die…and let our kids build a reasonable life.” I guess it’s us or them, Dick, right?

It doesn’t matter that the Newsweek article is far more nuanced than its moronic title suggests. It doesn’t matter if “society needs to have this conversation with itself.” All that matters is that we are scaring the living crap out of our elderly, and if the elderly don’t sign on to health insurance reform, we don’t have a bill. Furthermore, if we dismiss their fears out of hand and pass a bill anyway, there could well be another party in control of Congress after the next election.

The elderly are not simply being paranoid. They know that Medicare is a very sweet deal, especially compared to the insurance situation of a great many younger people. They know that the government spends a huge amount of money on their care and sustenance. Given articles like those I mention above, they can be forgiven for fearing that when the government goes looking for health care cost savings and “waste,” that they will be first in line for close examination. They know that without fairly constant and often expensive medical intervention (paid for through Medicare) many of them would be disabled, dependent and suffering, and a great many more would simply be dead. Small wonder that they’re willing to believe the fearmongering lies of death panels that do not exist.

(The elderly might wave the magazine and reply: Yet.)

In Newsweek, we have a classic example of a print publication floundering to survive, and willing to risk it all on a misleading and alarmist cover line that bears little connection to the cover story. The plug on the cover of the latest issue isn’t connected to Granny. It’s connected to Newsweek.

Please join me while I pull it.