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Don't Fret Your 'Fishy' Complaints About Health Care Reform

Are we then at the mercy of a totalitarian regime gathering up an enemys list? Law professor Eugene Volokh, for whom I have great respect, argues we are not:

There's nothing totalitarian about asking supporters to gather this information. And there's nothing morally contemptible (as the terms "snitch" and "rat" suggest) in passing along this information, if you genuinely think that the information is misleading.

Now of course if you think that the Administration would prosecute your friend for e-mailing you supposed "disinformation about health insurance reform," then indeed you shouldn't help the Administration do it. But, seriously, is that really likely? JammieWearingFool and the Administration's other critics seem not to worry that their criticisms of the Administration will get them thrown in prison, or even will lead to any harassment from the FBI or the like. (To be sure, some criticisms, for instance ones that contain threats against the President, might yield that, but I assume that this isn't what the information reported to [email protected] is likely to contain.) I take it that they think, as do I, that blog posts or e-mails to friends about health insurance reform are pretty safe from legal punishment and governmental harassment. And that makes it pretty likely that alerting people on your political side of the aisle in the Administration will simply lead to public rebuttal. It's hardly "look[ing] more like Castro's Cuba" for that to happen, nor is it "snitch[ing]" or "rat[ing people] out" when someone facilitates it.

Finally, I recognize that it's possible that some "disinformation about health insurance reform" might indeed lead to prosecution or administrative action. For instance if the information appears in messages that urge the support or defeat of a candidate, and those messages are put out by 501(c)(3) tax-exempt organizations, the organization could potentially lose its tax exemption for the electioneering communication. Likewise, there are restrictions (which I agree are quite substantively troubling) on corporations' conveying similar messages related to candidates near election time; violation of those restrictions could lead to legal punishment. But such organizational communications seem already likely to be pretty high-profile, and likely to come to the government's attention in any event. I don't think that someone who gets a possibly tax-law-violating or election-law-violating mass mailing from (say) the Sierra Club and alerts the government to the possible violation can be reasonably said to be "snitch[ing]" on the Sierra Club. The force of the "snitch" / "rat ... out" / "Castro's Cuba" argument, I take it, comes from the suggestion that there's something improper in passing along communications from friends or neighbors -- rather than public press release or fundraising letters from organizations -- to the Administration, which is trying to rebut such communications. And that strikes me as quite mistaken, for the reasons I gave above.

Maybe instead of litigation or “hair on fire” blog posts to each other about a White House snitch program we ought to simply hold the president to his word. During the campaign he said:

To reduce bills rushed through Congress and to the president before the public has the opportunity to review them, Obama "will not sign any non-emergency bill without giving the American public an opportunity to review and comment on the White House website for five days.

Given that the legislation he’s trying to force down our gullets is a work in progress which none of the solons seems to have read in its reported 1000 page format, we ought to demand a full thirty days online to see it before anyone signs it. How does “Don’t sign before thirty days online!” sound as a rallying cry to you?

It makes more sense to me than Pelosi’s imaginary swastika-carrying opponents or notions of a huge enemy database in the White House. As the White House’s Macon Phillips noted, "facts are stubborn things."

What about giving us some?