How to fool the masses

It’s ridiculous to see how easily many people are manipulated. One thing that comes to mind is all of those commercials that the car insurance companies keep running. People who switch to _____ save a average of ____ dollars. It’s so simple isn’t it? If I switch to them I’ll save money! Yet, a few different companies make the same claim. I brought this up to my brother, who has suffered from a life-long gullible streak and all he could muster was that if they said it, it must be true. Yes it’s true, but they’re leaving out the biggest thing. Of course people would switch to save money! Why else would they bother? Here you have company after company bragging that people who switch to their insurance save money, all the while failing to provide the consumer with any meaningful information to base a decisions on. They are inferring that they are cheaper, but they provide nothing to back that up. By only telling part of the truth, they’re basically telling a lie.

I visited a site that I occasionally drop by, primarily because I used to be a moderator on their forum. I neglected my duties, but I feel I at least owe it to them to drop by now and then. Upon arrival there I remembered why I didn’t have the stomach to stick around. On the front page, there was a story with this headline: “U.S. scores dead last again in healthcare study“. The poster offered a short excerpt and a link to this Reuters article. Alarmingly, neither the article or the responses seemed to be very concerned with the fact that the list of only 7 countries was a rather odd one: United States, Britain, Canada, Germany, Netherlands, Australia and New Zealand. I instantly saw this is a ridiculous list, but that was not what I found alarming. What I found alarming was how this study was being treated, as though it actually had merit.

There were over 4 pages of replies, some discussing the stats or health care in general but sadly not a single person questioned the source, the “Commonwealth Fund” and beyond questioning a few criteria no one bothered to ask how on earth such a group of countries were selected in the first place. Reuters did acknowledge the Commonwealth Fund’s role, but rather than truly revealing their motives, they instead revealed the level that this entity has corrupted our political process:

Previous reports by the nonprofit fund, which conducts research into healthcare performance and promotes changes in the U.S. system, have been heavily used by policymakers and politicians pressing for healthcare reform.

After my initial reaction to the list, I looked for the true motives of this entity. I clicked one link, then another, and another. Then I hastily wrote a response on the forum (I’ll spare some of the rhetoric):

…the level of absolute and pathetically idiotic b.s. makes it hard to bring myself to discuss such idiocy. It’s like seriously contemplating sex with a cactus…

This report came from “The Commonwealth Fund”…
The Commonwealth Fund is a private foundation that aims to promote a high performing health care system that achieves better access, improved quality, and greater efficiency, particularly for society’s most vulnerable, including low-income people, the uninsured, minority Americans, young children, and elderly adults. Allow me to quote Wikipedia: The Fund is currently led by president Karen Davis, a nationally recognized progressive economist.

These are not unbiased observers, they have a obvious and overt agenda and are led by a progressive…

This is pure propaganda, it should be treated as such. It’s a opinion piece, it’s not a scientific study.

The only rebuttal that could be mustered to my post was this:

Attacking the source… and providing absolutely no dissenting evidence… How typical.

I responded with this:

It’s a entity with a stated purpose regarding health care led by a progressive. It’s like referring to a report on economics with “America has the weakest economy!” and withholding the report was done by the Cuban government…

Open up a map, find the countries and try to find a logical reason they chose those particular countries. There isn’t one, they obviously chose them because they met their predetermined criteria…

Let’s be clear, Karen Davis, the president of “The Commonwealth Fund” is both a public supporter of public health care and Obama’s health care plan. This was not a scientifically objective study.

After one more inference I had no evidence, I broke down and decided to spell out what should have been painfully obvious. The overt and egregious manner in which this so called “study” manipulated things to give a misleading impression of American health care:

This is a incredibly random list, setting aside the obvious bias of the “Commonwealth Fund”, let’s try to come up with a purely objective reason to choose the countries they did. Perhaps they chose nations which spoke English. No, that can’t be, Germany and the Netherlands are not considered English speaking countries. Perhaps Commonwealth countries? No…. Highly populated countries? New Zealand has a paltry population of 4.2 million, a absolutely absurd choice to compare to the likes of Germany, Britain, and the United States. Largest economies? Richest per capita? Nope and nope. If you look at a map you will see that they have countries in three different areas from east to west, but they have failed to provide even a representative sample of countries in several geographic regions.

This is a horrid farce, they didn’t even do a good job of pretending to be scientific. They included New Zealand! The state I live in is larger than New Zealand, what possible logical purpose it is to include New Zealand when they are the 123rd most populous country…

It’s clearly not a random sample since it’s a study by a American group and America was included and no poor countries were. Why exclude poorer countries? It’s that much harder to try to say America is dead last when compared to people seeking medical care via rusty instruments in a dirt floor hut. Why chose the countries they did? Since there’s no scientifically objective excuse to choose those other countries, then clearly the people behind the report (which a overt bias as I already demonstrated) chose the other countries because of how they met the carefully chosen criteria. This isn’t enough though, they’ve been using that same group of countries for a few years and there’s something else that’s going on.

They keep changing the criteria!!!
I’m going off the 2007 and 2006 (as well as the current one) reports because they provide pictures with their rankings (I see no reports other than 2004 reports but haven’t looked hard either). In 2006, there’s no reference to healthy lives at all. Patient safety becomes quality care, right care (2006) and effectiveness (2007) are removed and coincidentally are the only things they graded the United States as being #1 at. The access criteria didn’t exist in 2006, etc, etc, etc… Another interesting tidbit is that they decided to count health expenditures against the respective countries, making the United States #7 instead of #1. This makes no logical sense at all since it’s essentially arguing that additional spending makes health care worse and counts it against the United States. Oh and one other thing, there wasn’t a #7 in 2007 and 2006. They “randomly” added the Netherlands. Why would they do that? The Netherlands rank #1 on their new list. What a coincidence seeing as they had to have been a randomly selected country, right??? New Zealand’s almost inexplicable inclusion could also be answered as well, in 2006 they placed #2 (but have gradually slipped as they monkeyed with the numbers, that or their health care has taken a huge plunge over the past 4 years, going from #2 to #5 on a list of only 7 countries).

…You say you’re not surprised, well why should you be? You went out and found a joke of a study to back up your beliefs, just like they found criteria and countries to back up their arguments.

To summarize, this so called “study” with a overt bias against the current American health care system and with a desire to change it to cater to specific groups, was not in the least bit scientific! They intentionally and obviously manipulated their criteria to have the desired outcome. This reminds me of the scientists that deliberately manipulated data to make a case for global warming. If they had a valid argument, they destroyed it when they chose to abandon the scientific method in favor of false and misleading information. They removed criteria that favored the United States and deliberately chose criteria that did not favor the United States. This wasn’t enough though, they chose at least some of those countries simply because they ranked ahead of the United States based on their chosen criteria. The data is helplessly corrupted, it doesn’t matter if their numbers are true or not, their conclusion is based on deception. I could go further and point out a regional bias (Canada, despite their nationalized health care finishes next to last in each “study” as well) but what point is there in further dissecting flawed data?

On one hand, we have insurance companies trying to manipulate us by giving partial truths. On the other hand, we have people trying to shape a essential part of our lives by giving us deliberately manipulated information. They have succeeded! They have be party to depriving us of our ability to analyze true and objective information. The problem is not even that they have a agenda, the problem is that we are such sheep by nature that we don’t think to stop and question them. We are fooled because we are willing to be fools.

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