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"Obamacare", the Word

charleslb
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10/31/2013 6:08:56 PM
Posted: 3 years ago
Well, not to reduce the current debate about how to best guarantee the availability of health care to every American to semantics, but have you noticed that a new term, a bit of polemical political speak has now slyly slithered its way into the slangy vocabulary of American English? I'm of course referring to the nifty neologism "Obamacare". Yes, once a Republican weasel word used to convey their contempt for both the current occupant of the White House, and for the very concept of universal health care, while appearing to merely be an informal bit of shorthand for The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, "Obamacare" has caught on to the extent that one can now tune in CNN and see politicos on both sides of the aisle casually using the term.

Mm-hmm, apparently not even progressive supporters of The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act recognize "Obamacare" as a loaded term originally designed to subconsciously bias the public against Mr. Obama's vision of a better health care system. The word seems to have attained the status of acceptable catchphrase, its partisan etymology no longer being held against it. Alas yes, I've indeed seen Democrats on the news actually employ the term "Obamacare" with apparently no uneasiness, no consciousness that it's a derogatory invention of their philosophical foes in the GOP! It's become merely the in-vogue go-to word when one is speaking about universal health care.

So what? What's the harm? Well, although memories may be short and the conservative origins of the term virtually forgotten by most of the public, it is in point of fact a biased buzzword. It was meant to connote that the system ushered into existence by The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act is merely the deformed brainchild of the "crypto-Marxist" mind of bad ole Barack the bogeyman Obama, not the effort of many decent-minded folks to at long last realize the morally imperative dream of a universal health care system. That is, the term "Obamacare" was originally rightist shorthand for: "Obama"s contribution to "creeping socialism", which must be ridiculed and opposed on general principle, but which we'll dishonestly maintain we oppose for legitimate fiscal reasons'.

I know, its a mouthful, but that's the mindset that the coiners of the term were really communicating every time they said "Obamacare". Now then, has the fact that "Obamacare" has come into common usage somehow rendered it an entirely benign bit of slang, rather than a sardonic slogan expressive of anti-Obama sentiment and sarcasm? Hardly. Just as homosexuals embracing the word "queer" hasn't completely rehabilitated it, and just as the N-word hasn"t become an innocent epithet merely because it's commonly used by African American teens (and by non-hate-filled Whites who stupidly think that it merely means "ignorant"), so too has the popularity of "Obamacare" failed to depoliticize it or make it entirely non-prejudicial. The term still has the power to bias the minds of those who use and hear it, the fact that most of us no longer recognize it as a partisan term merely means that it operates in a more subtle and insidious fashion.

Not that I'm about to share a great revelation that's never occurred to you, but language shapes our thoughts, attitudes, and politics. A scoffing term that originated in the camp of Obama's opposition is never going to be a fair and harmless contribution to public discourse on the topic of health insurance, it's always going to function to some degree to jaundice our perception of our new system, to focus excessive attention on its flaws. It's predictably going to shape our mindset in a way that makes us more susceptible to a negative, conservative point of view on social issues such as health insurance. In other words, every time someone uses the term "Obamacare" he/she is unwittingly playing right into the anti-progressive agenda of the right.

But of course the use of the power of language to advance a political agenda is nothing new, Reagan-era rightists made a major stride toward undoing much of the good works of their progressive predecessors in government by simply turning the word "liberal" into an epithet, not to be uttered without implied repugnance. And now conservatives plant the disparaging nickname they've devised for Mr. Obama's health care system in our vocabulary to subliminally bias us all against the whole concept of universal health insurance. Let's give the devil his due, it's a brilliant, if despicable, tactic.

Okay, but perhaps you're skeptically thinking Come on, "Obamacare" is just a catchy term, what's so inherently biased and biasing about it? Well, aside from its abovementioned beginnings as a partisan polemicism, the term is simply inherently flip. Flip, sarcastic, and disdainful. Combining Mr. Obama's last name with the word "care" is obviously intended to be witty and degage to the point of disrespectful. That is, it inherently makes light of its referent. It's certainly not a signifier that bestows gravitas on its referent! So, the question is can such an intrinsically impudent term ever actually be used in a fashion that won't adversely impact respect for our new system, or for the concept of universal health insurance? I for one think not.

Perhaps you disagree, but I think that we can all concur that "Obamacare", upon the slightest bit of reflection, appears to be a polemically punning term derived from ideologues hostile to the proposition of a universal healthcare system. So why use it, why not instead discourse and think in terms of a more objective nature? Why persist in using a word that started out as a conservative shibboleth and that promotes a point of view that's clearly slanted? Why help the right by using its tendentious terminology? Are we simply too mentally lazy to express ourselves in anything but snappy catchphrases?

Also, I would like to point out, the popularity of and legitimacy now accorded to the word "Obamacare" helps rightists to cash in on its facileness to gloss over where they're really coming from on the issue of universal health insurance. That is, Tea Party types, "libertarians", and other red staters are in point of fact opposed to the very idea of a public system of universal health insurance for psychological and ideological reasons. They suffer from an uncompassionately, egoistically, downright Darwinianly individualistic mentality and philosophical outlook in which everyone should be on his/her own in the struggle for social, economic, and even medical well-being. According to this far from humanitarian way of thinking, good health and access to the medical care necessary to maintain it is not a universal human right, it's a privilege earned only by those with the money or the private insurance to individualistically secure it for themselves, i.e., survival and health are to be entitlements for the financially fittest. The un- and underinsured can jolly well perish and decrease the surplus population.

The term "Obamacare" allows rightists who share this Scroogian mentality/ideology to diss Mr. Obama's system, or any proposed universal health care system, without too explicitly acknowledging their underlying, inhumane cognitive and emotional orientation. They can simply contemn and condemn "Obamacare" and make it sound as though they're merely fiscally righteous foes of a new boondoggle bureaucracy. Which is to say that "Obamacare" is a term that

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Yo, all of my subliterate conservative criticasters who find perusing and processing the sesquipedalian verbiage of my posts to be such a bothersome brain-taxing chore, I have a new nickname for you. Henceforth you shall be known as Pooh Bears. No, not for the obvious apt reasons, i.e., not because you're full of pooh, and not because of your ursine irritability. Rather, you put me in mind of an A.A. Milne quote, "I am a Bear of Very Little Brain, and long words bother me". Love ya, Pooh Bears.
charleslb
Posts: 4,740
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10/31/2013 6:10:10 PM
Posted: 3 years ago
Conclusion

lends itself to being used euphemistically and dissimulatingly. Am I being too harshly cynical? Well, watch CNN and see how many Republicans are being upfront and honest about their reasons for opposing "Obamacare", how many of them have the good faith to make it explicit that they're philosophically foursquare against any form of universal health care system. Personally, I haven"t seen one yet. They seem to prefer to use the term "Obamacare" as a vague putdown, and then proceed to focus on its flaws.

So, to sum up, What's in a name? To paraphrase Shakespeare, a universal health care system by just about any other name than "Obamacare" would certainly smell a good bit less foul. Well, "Obamacare" is an originally and incorrigibly prejudicial term; a term that makes light and mocks, even if one has no such conscious intention; and a term that helps conservative ideologues facilely fulminate against the invidious "creeping socialism" they perceive universal health insurance to be. It"s a term whose effects on the public's conception of, and its prospect of ever having a genuine universal health care system are negative, counterproductive, and grievous. It"s a term that we would all do quite well to intentionally and conscientiously dispense with using.
Yo, all of my subliterate conservative criticasters who find perusing and processing the sesquipedalian verbiage of my posts to be such a bothersome brain-taxing chore, I have a new nickname for you. Henceforth you shall be known as Pooh Bears. No, not for the obvious apt reasons, i.e., not because you're full of pooh, and not because of your ursine irritability. Rather, you put me in mind of an A.A. Milne quote, "I am a Bear of Very Little Brain, and long words bother me". Love ya, Pooh Bears.
charleslb
Posts: 4,740
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10/31/2013 6:26:10 PM
Posted: 3 years ago
Btw, my usual disclaimer, I genuinely hope that I haven't too deeply wounded any "libertarians". If I have, my apologies.
Yo, all of my subliterate conservative criticasters who find perusing and processing the sesquipedalian verbiage of my posts to be such a bothersome brain-taxing chore, I have a new nickname for you. Henceforth you shall be known as Pooh Bears. No, not for the obvious apt reasons, i.e., not because you're full of pooh, and not because of your ursine irritability. Rather, you put me in mind of an A.A. Milne quote, "I am a Bear of Very Little Brain, and long words bother me". Love ya, Pooh Bears.
Wnope
Posts: 6,924
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10/31/2013 11:26:09 PM
Posted: 3 years ago
Yeah, the Republicans whooped the Democrat's behind when it came to semantic framing of the Affordable Care Act.

The history books are going to call this "Obamacare."
airmax1227
Posts: 13,244
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10/31/2013 11:59:00 PM
Posted: 3 years ago
I use the term "ACA" when I'm discussing the law with people that are specifically supporters of it so I don't get bogged down into the issues brought up here or inadvertently offend someone.

But otherwise, even in a professional setting where a discussion relates to how the health care law will effect my work, using the term "Obamacare" just speeds things up because people are familiar with it.

I recognize that the verbiage used is important (some recent poll showed some percent of people, like 14% or more, approve of the affordable care act versus "Obamacare"). Nonetheless in my professional conversations it's not specifically meant to denigrate the law and is just used for convenience. I will say though that I intentionally simply call it "the health care law" when having casual conversations with most people I'm not close with personally or associated with professionally.
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airmax1227
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11/1/2013 12:03:25 AM
Posted: 3 years ago
At 10/31/2013 11:26:09 PM, Wnope wrote:
Yeah, the Republicans whooped the Democrat's behind when it came to semantic framing of the Affordable Care Act.

The history books are going to call this "Obamacare."

Yeah pretty much. It's much easier to type into the history books "Obamacare" than "The patient protection and affordable care act" also.

These bills all get nicknames by necessity. If the administration wanted to avoid it becoming known as Obamacare they shouldn't have titled it as half a novel (though that usually is unavoidable). Also every health care initiative becomes named after its principal supporter. During the Clinton administration, Hillary Clinton was actively working on HC reform, and it too was referred to as HillaryCare.
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charleslb
Posts: 4,740
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11/1/2013 11:51:40 PM
Posted: 3 years ago
At 10/31/2013 11:59:00 PM, airmax1227 wrote:
I use the term "ACA" when I'm discussing the law with people that are specifically supporters of it so I don't get bogged down into the issues brought up here or inadvertently offend someone.

Unfortunately it seems that the ranks of those who realize that "Obamacare" is an intrinsically prejudicial and mocking moniker for "the health care law" - one which should give offense - have become rather thin. But the fact that most people no longer recognize the loadedness of the term doesn't diminish its power to bias their attitudes, rather it makes the biasing effect more subtle and effective.

But otherwise, even in a professional setting where a discussion relates to how the health care law will effect my work, using the term "Obamacare" just speeds things up because people are familiar with it.

This is precisely the temptation of terms like "Obamacare".

... Nonetheless in my professional conversations it's not specifically meant to denigrate the law and is just used for convenience.

Because you have no intention to denigrate doesn't negate the fact that the term is inherently denigrating and that you are unwittingly channeling its bias.

I will say though that I intentionally simply call it "the health care law" when having casual conversations with most people I'm not close with personally or associated with professionally.

But when you converse with people who share your political attitudes you casually fall into using cliched catchphrases and biased buzzwords such as "Obamacare"?
Yo, all of my subliterate conservative criticasters who find perusing and processing the sesquipedalian verbiage of my posts to be such a bothersome brain-taxing chore, I have a new nickname for you. Henceforth you shall be known as Pooh Bears. No, not for the obvious apt reasons, i.e., not because you're full of pooh, and not because of your ursine irritability. Rather, you put me in mind of an A.A. Milne quote, "I am a Bear of Very Little Brain, and long words bother me". Love ya, Pooh Bears.
airmax1227
Posts: 13,244
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11/2/2013 12:08:24 AM
Posted: 3 years ago
At 11/1/2013 11:51:40 PM, charleslb wrote:
At 10/31/2013 11:59:00 PM, airmax1227 wrote:
I use the term "ACA" when I'm discussing the law with people that are specifically supporters of it so I don't get bogged down into the issues brought up here or inadvertently offend someone.

Unfortunately it seems that the ranks of those who realize that "Obamacare" is an intrinsically prejudicial and mocking moniker for "the health care law" - one which should give offense - have become rather thin. But the fact that most people no longer recognize the loadedness of the term doesn't diminish its power to bias their attitudes, rather it makes the biasing effect more subtle and effective.

yeah maybe, but it's no more politically loaded than say "The patient protection and affordable care act", which inherently implies that it protects patients and creates through the act, affordable care. If we just called it "the thing" we could have a conversation about it without any pretenses based on its title.

But otherwise, even in a professional setting where a discussion relates to how the health care law will effect my work, using the term "Obamacare" just speeds things up because people are familiar with it.

This is precisely the temptation of terms like "Obamacare".


... Nonetheless in my professional conversations it's not specifically meant to denigrate the law and is just used for convenience.

Because you have no intention to denigrate doesn't negate the fact that the term is inherently denigrating and that you are unwittingly channeling its bias.

Perhaps. I'll blame it's actual name for that then as I have to call it something people are familiar with.

I will say though that I intentionally simply call it "the health care law" when having casual conversations with most people I'm not close with personally or associated with professionally.

But when you converse with people who share your political attitudes you casually fall into using cliched catchphrases and biased buzzwords such as "Obamacare"?

I wouldn't say it's necessarily people who share my political views. Just people that I've had some conversation about it with already professionally or personally. We're able to move on to more substantive issues without having to spend so much time on calling it something particular.
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charleslb
Posts: 4,740
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11/2/2013 12:39:50 AM
Posted: 3 years ago
At 11/2/2013 12:08:24 AM, airmax1227 wrote:
At 11/1/2013 11:51:40 PM, charleslb wrote:
At 10/31/2013 11:59:00 PM, airmax1227 wrote:
I use the term "ACA" when I'm discussing the law with people that are specifically supporters of it so I don't get bogged down into the issues brought up here or inadvertently offend someone.

Unfortunately it seems that the ranks of those who realize that "Obamacare" is an intrinsically prejudicial and mocking moniker for "the health care law" - one which should give offense - have become rather thin. But the fact that most people no longer recognize the loadedness of the term doesn't diminish its power to bias their attitudes, rather it makes the biasing effect more subtle and effective.

yeah maybe, but it's no more politically loaded than say "The patient protection and affordable care act", which inherently implies that it protects patients and creates through the act, affordable care. If we just called it "the thing" we could have a conversation about it without any pretenses based on its title.

"The patient protection and affordable care act" may be longish and inaccurate, but at least it doesn't involve one in the commission of a fallacy, i.e. it isn't a one-word example of the appeal to mockery, which the term "Obamacare" indeed is. And no, we needn't go to the extreme of referring to "the thing", "the health care law" will do just fine.

But otherwise, even in a professional setting where a discussion relates to how the health care law will effect my work, using the term "Obamacare" just speeds things up because people are familiar with it.

This is precisely the temptation of terms like "Obamacare".


... Nonetheless in my professional conversations it's not specifically meant to denigrate the law and is just used for convenience.

Because you have no intention to denigrate doesn't negate the fact that the term is inherently denigrating and that you are unwittingly channeling its bias.

Perhaps. I'll blame it's actual name for that then as I have to call it something people are familiar with.

Again, one could simply refer to it as the new health care law.

I will say though that I intentionally simply call it "the health care law" when having casual conversations with most people I'm not close with personally or associated with professionally.

But when you converse with people who share your political attitudes you casually fall into using cliched catchphrases and biased buzzwords such as "Obamacare"?

I wouldn't say it's necessarily people who share my political views. Just people that I've had some conversation about it with already professionally or personally. We're able to move on to more substantive issues without having to spend so much time on calling it something particular.

Nomenclature and semantics aren't nonsubstantive aspects of an issue to be made short work of so that one can get to the meat of an issue posthaste.
Yo, all of my subliterate conservative criticasters who find perusing and processing the sesquipedalian verbiage of my posts to be such a bothersome brain-taxing chore, I have a new nickname for you. Henceforth you shall be known as Pooh Bears. No, not for the obvious apt reasons, i.e., not because you're full of pooh, and not because of your ursine irritability. Rather, you put me in mind of an A.A. Milne quote, "I am a Bear of Very Little Brain, and long words bother me". Love ya, Pooh Bears.
Eitan_Zohar
Posts: 2,697
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11/3/2013 1:31:25 PM
Posted: 3 years ago
When did you come back? Why did you forsake us?
"It is my ambition to say in ten sentences what others say in a whole book."