White House Blog Seeking Snitches
The Obama administration is starting to look more like Castro's Cuba by the day. Here they claim they're not concerned about protests against ObamaCare, but still, just in case, feel free to snitch on your neighbors.
There is a lot of disinformation about health insurance reform out there, spanning from control of personal finances to end of life care. These rumors often travel just below the surface via chain emails or through casual conversation. Since we can't keep track of all of them here at the White House, we're asking for your help. If you get an email or see something on the web about health insurance reform that seems fishy, send it to email@example.com.
So if you find someone who disagrees with Dear Leader, rat them out.
Now I've long been bothered by the excessive use of the terms "snitch," "rat," and so on (see, for instance, here and here). Some reporting of bad conduct to the government is bad. Some may be socially good, but might still reflect badly on the person doing it (for instance, someone who turns state's evidence simply to get a lower sentence may be doing a public service, but shouldn't get much praise for it). Much may be socially good and not reflect at all badly on the reporter -- consider people's reporting serious criminal conduct (especially conduct that we agree should probably be considered criminal). Likewise, while some government attempts to gather information about bad conduct are bad, others are perfectly proper.
In this instance, it strikes me that the terms "snitch" and "rat" are entirely misplaced (even allowing for some facetiousness on the poster's part), as is the criticism of the government. The Administration is trying to promote a particular political agenda. They are naturally and reasonably interested in hearing what the arguments against it are, and doubtless sincerely believe that many of the arguments may be unsound or even factually false. They want to rebut such arguments, but they can't do so promptly unless they hear about it promptly.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org 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.