MY POINT … AND I DO HAVE ONE: A disingenuous debate

The American health care “debate” has been doomed from the beginning.

Rooting their campaign in blatant lies, the American Right came out swinging the moment the massive profits of certain special interests – namely the Medical Insurance/Pharmaceutical Industrial Complex – were put into question. These profiteers have for years been spending more on lobbying and bribing in Washington than even the oil and war industries. These select few who profit at the expense of millions have poured millions of dollars into spreading their lies and have successfully duped a large portion of the American public into believing that their best interests lie with those who have been profiting off of illness and poor healthcare for decades. Otherwise rational people have come to believe that providing healthcare for the millions of working Americans who cannot afford to buy in to the for-profit system will bankrupt the country, lead to government bureaucrats choosing life or death for every last patient, and be the harbinger of modern-day Bolshevism. These arguments come from on high (members of government), from below (right-wing protest groups), and even from those designated to moderate debate in our society (the media).

Of course, there is a debate to be had. The choice to provide health care or allow people to die and suffer en masse is a political one – although it seems like a rather obvious choice to most people. Nonetheless, if one is truly convinced that unnecessary death and suffering is preferable to empowering the state to restrict the profits of private insurance companies, let them say so. But please, let’s be upfront – such a position is not about stopping Islamo-Kenyan-Canadian-Communist-conspiracies, it is about prioritizing greed over human need.

On our campus a similar “debate” filled with half-truths and blatant falsehoods has been raging thanks to the “Opt-out of QPIRG” campaign. (Full disclosure: I am a member of the QPIRG Board of Directors.)

Based on the principles of democracy and consensus, the founders of the McGill chapter of the Quebec Public Interest Research Group wanted to make sure that no student who disagreed with QPIRG’s mandate of social and environmental justice should be forced to pay for its activities. To facilitate this mode of conscientious objection they created the opt-out mechanism – a procedure that allows students to obtain a refund of the $3.75 per semester student fee that they pay to QPIRG – that has subsequently been copied by many other student groups at McGill.

Today that good-faith decision by QPIRG has come back to bite it – and all of us students who care even minimally about the world around us – in the ass thanks to a campaign of misinformation and lies. Students are currently bombarded – on Facebook, via flyers in the library and in residence rooms, and on the email lists of otherwise respectable organizations – with blatant lies: QPIRG-McGill is all about radicalism, pursues an extremist agenda, and does not represent the majority of students on campus. This campaign began on high, with the administration’s questionably legal decision to take the opt-out system out of the hands of those who designed it – QPIRG – and place it under their control on Minerva. It has been pushed from below by a small group of students on the far right of campus opinion masquerading as “moderates.” And it has been reinforced by sensationalist commentary that is rooted in blatant falsehoods.

Of course, as with America health care, there is a debate to be had about the values of QPIRG. If you think that the McGill Global AIDS Coalition, Campus Crops, Greening McGill and KANATA (the Journal of Indigenous Studies at McGill) are truly representative of a fringe, radical agenda that disturbs you to the core, you should not be paying for them. However, most classmates that I’ve spoken to who have opted-out did not know that these and similar groups are the recipients of the majority of QPIRG’s resources and time. Instead, these classmates were duped by McGill’s far right into believing that the majority of QPIRG’s time is devoted to smashing bank windows, making Jewish students (like myself) feel unsafe on campus, and generally bringing about a new Russian Revolution. Rush Limbaugh and Bill O’Reilly would be proud.

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